Premiership Football News: Tottenham Curse
"Switch and Spurs, switch and spurs; or I'll cry a match,"
Romeo & Juliet II, iv
Tottenham's travails go on after they fell 2-0 away at Udinese
in the UEFA Cup.
Winless so far, despite a summer spending spree which dwarfed
all rivals, Spurs remain rock-bottom of the Premier League with
only two points from eight games. He-he. Never have the triangle
jokes (three points) lasted this long into the season.
Spurs' utter uselessness this season however is a mystery
for rationalists: Their coach has a good record, they won the Carling
Cup against Chelsea in February and grabbed some real talent
over the close season in Luka
Modric, Roman Pavlyuchenko, Giovanni Dos Santos and David Bentley.
For mystics, psychics and assorted fruitcakes however, the explanation
for the North Londoners' malaise is simple: They have a hex
Tottenham would not be the first. The annals of sporting history
are replete with supernatural intervention. Just think of the Curse
of the Bambino in baseball and myriad others from the US' Big Four
In England, the home of the beautiful game, plenty of clubs have
been alleged victims of gypsy curses.
The most famously hexed team was Derby County, who ascribed their
failure to win trophies to the fact they had expelled some Romany
folk from the land where they built their old stadium, the Baseball
Ground. After paying off some of the gypsies' descendants
in 1946, the Rams duly won the FA Cup for the first time.
More recently, Birmingham City were widely supposed to have been
victims of a hundred-year spell which expired in 2006. The Blues
took it so seriously that former coach Barry Fry, an ebullient old-school
manager not averse a curse or two himself, urinated in the four
corners of the field after a psychic (or a charlatan having a laugh)
told him it would exorcise the demons.
Leeds also had a run-in with Romany folk when Elland Road was
under construction. Their great coach Don Revie employed a gypsy
to spiritually cleanse the place in 1971 but unfortunately, having
led the First Division for most of that season, they then ended
up losing it.
Manchester City is another
gullible sap, although on paper the most unsuccessful big club in
England had to look to the stars for hope. Gypsies were rumored
to have cursed the land on which stood Maine Road, City's
stadium from 1923 to 2003, a good reason for moving to the City
of Manchester Stadium. While coach at Maine Road, Kevin Keegan once
said, "I haven't been able to believe how bad our luck has
been this season - especially at home. I don't know whether I've
run over one black cat or 10 of them." If they thought they
had rid themselves of evil, then what were City doing selling the
club to a now-convicted Thai torturer in 2007?
Middlesbrough also evicted some travelling folk in 1901 when they
built Ayresome Park and as the caravans were shunted away, ancient
curses filled the Boro air.
Over in Wales, Swansea City took it all a bit too seriously when
they employed Kenyan tribal dancers to perform a voodoo ceremony
at their old Vetch Field ground, after the notorious Uri Geller
had claimed there were evil spirits lurking there.
Geller himself, famous psychic and former best pal of Wacko Jacko,
has used his magic powers on a number of English clubs, most famously
Exeter City, where he became joint chairman in 2002…a year
before they dropped out of the Football League.
Geller, a former Israeli paratrooper who forged an international
career in spoon-bending, placed magic crystals behind one of Exeter's
goals before a crucial play-off game in 1997….which they lost
More recently, Oxford United were reported in classic tabloid
fashion to have used an exorcist at their new Kassam Stadium. In
fact it was nothing more sinister than a blessing from the local
And there's more. When Southampton moved to St Mary's, some pre-Christian
tombs were excavated, leading to rumors the Portsmouth-supporting
spirits would have their revenge. I recall seeing some Roman artifacts
displayed there, an unusual sight in any football stadium, so who
knows? The club took their miserable start at their new home seriously
enough to employ a white witch to rid the ground of malevolence,
though it didn't stop Joey popping by later.
Overseas, the football fruitcakes are in full cry: Fenerbahce
players in Turkey have sheep's blood smeared on their cleats
when they debut while fans of Romania's Arges Pitesti once staged
a cat's funeral and roasted a chicken on the field for good fortune.
Dracula's homeland seems replete with superstition: Romanian teams
wearing underwear inside-out, placing herbs in their shoes and not
reversing the team bus for good luck, I could go on...Do you remember
Anghel Iordanescu, their national team's coach at USA '94, brandishing
his crucifix and kissing his book of Romanian saints during the
So, if Tottenham are suffering from some ingrained evil, it could
be because their training ground was once occupied by …yep,
it's as if English soccer teams only have themselves to blame
for buying land on the cheap from those funny-looking folk in their
trailers, who utter curses as they are shunted away.
I'm not a fan of the invisible. In football it is just too
convenient to blame a five-goal thrashing on some odd-looking tea-leaves
or birds in the sky instead of what happens with the ball on the
grass. While England is a very secular country its soccer is still
full of superstition, inevitably perhaps given the millions of people
expending such emotion on it each week.
Former National Team coach Glenn Hoddle employed a faith healer
to widespread derision during the 1998 World Cup before resigning
after some ill-judged comments on reincarnation while forerunner
Bobby Robson memorably once said of a forthcoming England game,
"It argues well" (sic).
Is it just me, or is not it obvious these highly-paid professional
clubs paying assorted soothsayers and con-artists were wasting their
time. Again and again, football clubs seem to prove GK Chesterton's
quip that people who deny God won't believe in nothing -
they will believe in anything.
Spurs have more prosaic reasons than superstitious hearsay why
they are doing so badly: It is something to do with an over-enthusiastic
and ill-thought out transfer policy, a coach and Director of Football
not quite in tandem and the fact they sold their best two strikers.
It's not rocket science, but it's not tarot cards or
gypsy curses either.