Whether it’s walking under ladders, a passing black cat, or throwing a pinch of salt over the left shoulder after spilling salt (a particular favourite of my father’s) it’s reckoned that everyone will have an element of superstition about them.
In 1973 the SFA and the Scottish League announced that two substitutes could now be used in Scottish domestic football (it should be noted long before their English counterparts). The one sub rule had seen the replacement player be referred to as the ’12th man’ an obvious reference to the fact that all subs wore the number 12 jersey, or in Celtic’s case, the number 12 shorts.
I can’t recall exactly but the football authorities must have made a dispensation to allow teams to number their subs as 12 and 14 as the number 13 was seen as a very unlucky number. I certainly can’t recall any team fielding a number 13 other than Celtic. Rangers, Aberdeen and Hibs subs were definitely 12 and 14. And it didn’t bring bad luck either. In one of the first games where the two sub rule applied, Harry Hood, wearing the number 13 shorts, fired home the winner for Celtic in a 2-1 win at Ibrox (see pic above).
On the night of the legendary ‘4-2 game’ in 1979, when Celtic famously won the game with only ten men, my mind’s eye will always recall Bobby Lennox, in the number 13 shorts, running himself into the ground for the Celtic cause. Was 13 unlucky ? Most certainly not.
Football people have their own famous superstitions. Don Revie, manager of the great Leeds team of the 1970’s, was particularly superstitious and was known to wear the same suit to each game until Leeds lost a match. And he had a particular dislike for birds, so much so that he changed the Leeds badge from an owl emblem to a plain ‘LUFC’. In Rangers’ run to the 1972 ECWC final, John Greig did not shave and by the time of winning the tournament that year, he had grown a considerable beard. It was remarked that he done this before Rangers next title win (Celtic were in the middle of their 9 in a row period) then he would have resembled Gandalf from Lord of the Rings by the end of it.
Celtic players were no different. Bobby Murdoch was said to prefer to have been the last player to enter the field of play when the team ran out and Danny McGrain was said to have put his shorts on only as the team were about to leave the dressing room.
I don’t regard myself as a particularly superstitious person but after some thought I have certainly had some strange notions in my time. Probably the most notable example started in 1981. On the day that Celtic memorably beat Rangers 3-1 on a bitter, cold, February day. I wore a green Simon shirt (basically a polo shirt with pockets on the breasts) with a white woollen jumper. Hardly the height of fashion, but hey, it was the right colours to wear.
After Celtic’s win I had it in my mind that if I wore the same apparel to every Celtic v Rangers game then the Celts would always prevail. And so it proved. Between February 1981 and December 1982 Celtic won on six occasions with only one defeat when, yes, I wore a different outfit so the blame for that defeat can all be put down to me. On the last occasion I wore the lucky clothing, Celtic won the League Cup final by 2-1 at Hampden on a horrible wet and windy December day. By that time the Simon shirt and jumper were bursting at the seams, as I had grown considerably, so it was time for a parting of the ways. Of course, Celtic’s fine run of form was nothing to do with the magnificent talents of McGrain, Provan, McGarvey, Nicholas and Burns but all to do with my superstitious clothing.
After the new Celtic Park was built in the mid 1990’s I found my spiritual home in area 445 and have remained there ever since. My ticket allows me to use turnstiles 1-3 and I never had a particular preference until I entered number 1 on the night that Inverness Caledonian Thistle put John Barnes out of his misery in February 2000. After that I could never bring myself to go through turnstile 1 again and now always enter through turnstile number 2. Even junior now has the same affliction and will remind me on approach to the ground not to go near turnstile number 1.
And it’s not just me. I know someone who faithfully buys a new Celtic scarf before the start of each and every season and another guy who always puts a bet on his team to win 2-0 regardless of the opposition. I’m sure if you think hard enough all of you reading this will admit to being superstitious to some degree, especially with regard to playing or watching football matches.
Everyone will have their own little superstitions, quirky habits, eccentricities and foibles but I reckon I may now be past all that nonsense. Touch wood.