The Premier League kicks off in 24 hours and despite having pay packets that would make your eyes water, a lot of players need more than just the five-star treatment to perform.
With the pre-match rituals of the most faithful fans about to hit a boozer near you – we’ve had a look to see how some of the more notable names of the beautiful game prepared ahead of matches.
There’s a few strange ones out there…
The darling of Old Trafford, Cantona brought a mercurial quality to Manchester United’s Premier League challenge. The club were famously without a league title win since 1966/67, but won the first Premier League title (or Premiership as it was in old money) when seeing off Aston Villa’s persistent challenge in the 1992/93 season.
Just 12 months earlier the Red Devils had finished runner-up to Leeds United. A chance phone call by Leeds boss Howard Kendall to buy MUFC’s Denis Irwin, led to one of the biggest transfer steals in footballing history, as the Frenchman swapped Leeds for Manchester and became a United legend.
And while Cantona is often credited with pioneering additional training at the club that rubbed off on Ryan Giggs, David Beckham & the class of ’92, Sir Alex Ferguson’s book Leadership may have revealed the ‘real’ reason Cantona had magic in his boots.
He used to put salt in his socks … we shit you not. Wonder if that Crystal Palace fan tasted it?
Sometimes when the seagulls follow the trawler …
— Tiernan Devlin (@TiernanDevlin) December 26, 2013
There’s always been a history of players who like to be last onto the pitch. They have their reasons – we don’t know why. The former Arsenal, Man City, Liverpool & Celtic defender Kolo Toure – better known now as the ‘B’ side in the Yaya/Kolo Toure chant – took this a step too far in 2008, when missing the start of the second-half in Arsenal’s last 16 Champions League game against Roma.
Toure was so concerned that the injured William Gallas would jog onto the pitch after him that he missed the re-start and received a yellow card for his troubles. Luckily for him, Arsenal won the game 1-0 and advanced to the QF’s after a penalty shoot-out in Rome when the home side won by the same scoreline.
A few members of the goalkeepers’ union have developed some strange pre kick-off habits over the years. There’s tales of Fabien Barthez having his bald head kissed by the French squad and Laurent Blanc in particular before their 1998 Word Cup win while Argentina’s Sergio Goycochea used to take a subtle slash on the pitch before penalty shoot-outs.
But the former England shot-stopper James’ superstitions or ‘obsessions’ as he called them, involved a fairly demanding routine. James would wait at the urinal before everyone had left and then spit against the wall.
The much-travelled goalkeeper refused to talk to anyone during this time, though given his ‘Calamity’ nickname after a few high-profile howlers – he should probably have excluded his back-four from this particular ‘ritual’.
And it’s not just the sunshine players who use superstition as a crutch ahead of a big game. Dutch legend Johan Cruyff – an exceptional player and coach, who is credited with being the ‘father of the modern game’, wasn’t afraid to use a little snake-oil when the occasion demanded – particularly in his early days.
Cruyff used to slap goalkeeper Gert Bals in the stomach at Ajax and spit his chewing gum into the opposition’s half before kick-off.
Rumour has it that he forgot his gum before the European Cup final in 1969 – and Ajax ended up losing to Milan, 4-1.
His Aston Villa team-mates better get used to it as John Terry likes to use the same urinal in the dressing room and will wait until his preferred piss pot is free before making his move – literally.
Terry spent 19 years and made 717 career starts at Chelsea and always used the same jacks before kick-off. While it’s not clear whether Wayne Bridge had used it directly before him it seems Terry’s superstitions also run to sitting in the same seat on the team bus, listening to the same CD and parking in the same spot.
He may need to add a few more this season to bring Aston Villa some luck as they try to bounce straight back into the Premier League.
Happy BBC salary day. I blame my agent and the other TV channels that pay more. Now where did I put my tin helmet?
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) July 19, 2017
Before he became one of the BBC’s highest earners and sender of self-serving tweets, the Match of the Day presenter was a handy striker back in the day for Spurs, Everton and Barcelona.
Lineker scored almost 300 goals at club level and sits third (with 48 goals) behind Sir Bobby Charlton (49) and Wayne Rooney (53) in England’s all-time top scorers’ list.
But the Walkers Crisps frontman had a secret ploy to make sure he hit the onion bag during games. He never took shots on goal during the warm up, in case he wasted any ‘goals’ that were coming his way.
He also kept the kit-man on his toes at half-time by insisting on changing his shirt if if he hadn’t scored in the first half. Classy.