JAMES Milner netted his seventh consecutive penalty of the season against Manchester City on Sunday. Despite his perfect record, Sky Sports cameras picked up Jürgen Klopp with his back turned to the field of play as the spot kick was being taken.
Klopp has since insisted he hasn’t watched any of the vice-captain’s penalties this season, as he told the club’s official website: “I don’t touch wood, but I hope it stays like this.
“The only reason I don’t watch them is because from the start of the season he is doing a job well without my support. So that’s why – I don’t want to be responsible if he fails one or misses one! That’s the only reason.”
It’s fair to assume from Klopp’s words this isn’t down to a lack of confidence in Milner, so is it just a mad superstition?
It wouldn’t be the first that has had Liverpool supporters scratching their heads – here are some other bizarre rituals from Liverpool players past and present…
The Topless Two
Kevin Keegan and Paul Ince both used to put their tops on as they ran out of the tunnel. Keegan believed his luck in matches was related to him coming out of the changing rooms last, and he always made sure he was topless until every player had left to walk out onto pitch. Ince had a similar superstition, he would only put his top on as he was walking through the tunnel.
Rushie’s Rock Hard Boots
Ian Rush was another player who had a strange pre-match ritual which he believed helped enhance his performance in games. It all started when the club’s record goal scorer grabbed his boots the night before a game against Luton Town only to find that they were rock hard, so he chucked them in the sink and went on to score five goals. Rushie said of his superstition: “I didn’t want blisters, so I went into the bath and shower area, filled a sink with water, stacked the boots and continued to bend and twist them in the water.” If it’s good enough for Rushie…
Can’t Touch This…
Fernando Morientes played a big part in the build-up to the 2005 Champions League final. The Spaniard entered the dressing room prior to the match and told every player not to touch the trophy as they walked out onto the pitch. The superstition paid dividends, AC Milan’s Gennaro Gattuso touched the trophy as he walked out onto the pitch, something which the Liverpool players noticed and, as luck would have it, Gattuso would go on to concede the penalty which led to the Reds’ third goal. Speaking at a sportsman’s dinner, Luis Garcia recalled: “I can’t remember who it was, but someone at the front of our line when walking out was shouting ‘they touched the trophy, they touched the trophy’.”
Pepe’s Petty Stop
Pepe Reina is as superstitious as they come. The Spanish stopper had a few different pre-match rituals. Prior to every home game Reina would visit the same petrol station. He was also insistent on parking in bay 39 outside the Centenary Stand. Pepe said: “Six hours before kick-off at Anfield I can’t even think about the game, I have to get to a petrol station. My desperation for success makes me superstitious. If I have done something on the day of a game and we have gone on to win the match I try to repeat it the next time we play.” Pepe won the Premier League’s Golden Glove award three times in a row between 2005 and 2008 so it’s hard to argue with his methods, there.
Daniel Sturridge watches all his goals on the coach before every match, which he claims gets him prepared for the game ahead and puts him in the mood to score more. Perhaps he’s lost his iPad this season. As well as watching his strikes back, you’ll probably have seen Sturridge walk out backwards every time he comes onto the pitch.
Spit Happy James
David James described his own pre-match ritual as “mental machinery”. He would walk into the dressing room toilets stand by a urinal, mill around and wait till he was alone, before proceeding to spit against the wall. In reference to his strange habit, James said: “I was in this mad little world where as long as I did everything in the right order, then anything could be achieved.” Don’t think that one bore any fruit for the Reds, to be honest.
A Load Of Broken Biscuits
Steve McMahon was strangely made to open a packet of plain biscuits before each team talk under Joe Fagan. Former team-mate Kenny Dalglish explained: “Of all the plain openers ‘Macca’ had the best technique, so good the players once pleaded with him to drive into Melwood when he was injured simply to perform his biscuit duties.”
Kenny’s Close Shave
The King himself was also the superstitious type. Pictured on many occasions jumping in the air with bright white teeth and a freshly shaven face, Dalglish had made a habit of shaving before matches. The strange thing about this particular ritual was that Kenny would shave in the same direction if the Reds had won the previous week and would change direction if they had slumped to defeat. In his autobiography My Liverpool Home he said: “If Liverpool had won the previous week, I’d move the blade in exactly the same direction as before. If we’d lost, I’d change direction. It sounds trivial, and I should really have been locked up, but it was a ritual and so deserved respect.” Fair play, then.
A Sign Of Respect
As well as not looking when players take penalties Klopp has told every Liverpool player not to touch the famous ‘This Is Anfield’ sign until they have won something. Jürgen has told the players “It’s a sign of respect” to not touch the sign until they deliver silverware, which is something everybody can get on board with.
Hopefully every player is allowed to touch the sign by the end of next season – *touch wood*.