Superstitions - are they the solution?

WITH Ipswich Town having now gone 17 games away from Portman Road without victory there certainly seems to be a feeling of the so-called 'away day hoodoo' on Jim Magilton's side.

Stuart Watson

WITH Ipswich Town having now gone 17 games away from Portman Road without victory there certainly seems to be a feeling of the so-called 'away day hoodoo' on Jim Magilton's side.

Footballers have long been a superstitious bunch and, despite the hours of training put into improving their ability and tactics, many players and coaches still insist on sticking to exact pre-match routines in an attempt to influence the outcome of their matches.

In the past there was Paul Ince, who insisted on putting his shirt on only once he had left the tunnel, while more recently Frank Lampard has revealed that he always throws away his boots every time he has a bad game.

And the Evening Star can reveal that Ipswich are no different, with many members of their squad sticking to particular pre-match routines in the hope of sealing that elusive first away win of the season.

More eagle-eyed Town fans will have noticed Jim Magilton's strategic switch from suit to tracksuit on the touchlines after poor results, while, of the players, Pablo Counago has admitted that he has to be the last to enter and exit the dressing room, even if it means waiting in the corridor for a lengthy period first.

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But while scientists might scoff at the direct benefits of such routines, a leading psychologist on the subject of sporting superstitions has claimed that such an approach can have its benefits.

Dr George Sik, who works as a consultant for Diss-based firm ERAS Ltd, is the author of 'I think I'll manage'.

He said: “Most managers realise that many superstitions are harmless and will let them go.

“There is a lot to be said for the placebo effect of superstitions, they can give an individual a psychological boost, while the ritual element can calm the nerves.”

However, Dr Sik believes that, if Town are to break their unwanted away form, superstitions could prove an unwanted distraction from the real issues.

He said: “Superstitions occur with footballers because it is easy for them to revert to an external locus of control, that way everything that happens can be put down to outside forces.

“That sort of attitude makes it harder for players to take on responsibility for bad results because, instead of looking at their own performance, they attribute everything to luck.

“It's not for me to say that sportsmen shouldn't have these superstitions, but I think there comes a stage where players, especially in a team game, need to take responsibility for themselves.”

Perhaps Stevie Wonder was right, superstitions ain't the way.