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Superstitious tales of beans, socks and and dead skin

Gavin Strachan | 20:58 UK time, Wednesday, 18 February 2009

It is no secret that footballers, not to mention managers, are a superstitious bunch, but I am sure many of you would still be surprised at some of the rituals we adopt.

Throughout my career, I have come across a lot of strange behaviour in the run-up to a game. Indeed, the best known habits, such as deliberately putting on one sock before the other, only scratch the surface of what really goes on in footballers' minds.

I have never regarded myself as someone who could be classed as superstitious, although there may be some things that I do on a match day or leading up to a match day that could be viewed as falling loosely into this category.

pilkington_getty.jpg

For the most part, they centre around the physical preparation for a game. I like to have a pasta meal and an early night on the Friday before a game, then try to have a lie-in, which, as those of us with young children will know, is about 8am. As for the day of the game, I try to take on as much fluid as possible, listen to music that I know will get me motivated for the match and then have beans on toast as a pre-match meal.

What differentiates this behaviour from superstition is that if we run out of beans, I will not become a gibbering wreck and race to the shop to buy another tin!

While some would argue this is where I have been going wrong all these years, I would hate to become as consumed by superstitions as a few of the players I have come across. Take goalkeeper Kevin Pilkington, my current Notts County team-mate.

During his time at Mansfield, Kevin had to have the same meal on a Friday night - on the same plate and with the same cutlery. This behaviour continued on the day of the game. He had to wear the same pants and the same socks, with the left sock always going on before the right one. We are assuming they got washed!

It seemed to work for him in the season Mansfield reached the play-offs. However, he openly admits that it got to the point where it was becoming more of an illness than a way of preparing himself for a game and he took the bold decision of stopping the bulk of his pre-match superstitions for the sake of his sanity.

I am sure lots of you who have played the game at various levels have come across similar examples that you could share.

What has always troubled me with superstitions is the question of what you do when a period of good form is followed by a bad patch. Do you suddenly ditch the old superstitions that you had and make up some brand new ones? If that was the case, I would have run out of superstitions a long time ago.

Usually, you hardly notice team-mates going through pre-match rituals in the dressing room - you are so wrapped up in your own preparation for the match that you are oblivious to what goes on around you.

However, if you are sitting next to someone like my former Hartlepool colleague, Michael Nelson, whose pre-match routine included filing his feet, the experience of dead skin flying around you week-in-week-out can become a bit irritating.

I am pleased to say I have completed my rehabilitation from my hamstring injury and have been on the bench for our last two matches as an unused substitute. It has been great to be back involved and the next step is to try and get some game time under my belt.

Unfortunately, when you have recovered from an injury, you often have to bide your time to become established in the team again. It is essential to remain positive and focus all your attention on your training, so that when the manager wants to bring you back into the team, you are ready.

Finally I must mention an incident that happened at the Notts County training ground .

Over the years, I have heard just about every excuse that a player can use for turning up late to training (and I have used just about all of them myself). The most common ones are that your car broke down, or the traffic was bad. This week, however, one prominent member of the Notts County squad came up with the explanation that his electric gates were not functioning and he had to wait until the gardener turned up with the key to open it manually.

As far as I know this excuse is a first in League Two. Certainly, I don't know of any League Two player with electric gates at his home, or a gardener for that matter!

As we pointed out to him, the £10 club fine he received could have been no more than loose change for someone in his financial league!

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