First published in Sons View, 21 November 2009, Dumbarton -v- Peterhead [Match postponed and to be rescheduled]
The man sitting behind me at the match a few weeks ago sounded more than a little exasperated. As another goal went in against his team, he suddenly exclaimed: “Sheesh… Every time I tell myself I’m not at all superstitious, something seems to go wrong!”
We all laughed. But I know how he feels. It’s patently ridiculous to suppose that the incidentals of your life and thought have any effect on your football club’s fortunes, but even the least spooky among us end up entertaining these slightly deranged notions from time-to-time!
In a weird way, therefore, a bit of me (the bit that’s had one too many gulps of Dutch courage, maybe!) thinks that there could be an upside to Sons’ otherwise disappointing outing at Cowdenbeath last Saturday. Namely, there’s no growing ‘unbeaten record’ for us all to get anxious about losing against Peterhead this afternoon. Instead, it’s a case of picking up momentum again in front of the home support.
Each Saturday I eagerly wait for news of how the Sons are getting on, knowing that the rest of the weekend is liable to be just that bit brighter or gloomier depending upon how things turned out in the all important 90 minutes. Sad, isn’t? But that’s what being a fan is all about.
Today I care just that wee bit more than usual, because I’m in the stand here at SHS myself. A work-related trip to Newcastle on Friday has happily given me the chance to make another visit from deep down south to the lush pastures of the Rock.
Now I don’t wish to sound, well, superstitious… but last season I inadvertently did rather well at picking out for personal attendance the odd few games when Dumbarton’s championship form was being most sorely tested. I also came up for the pre-season friendlies against Partick Thistle and St Mirren, when we shipped five goals and got none.
But before you decide to bar me from the ground altogether, I should point out in my defence that I was also present (and cheering like mad) at those historic matches against Elgin and Annan when the Sons triumphantly claimed the Third Division title and scored a hatful into the bargain.
Besides, as we’ve established, there’s absolutely no connection between the match you are about to witness and whether someone brought their ‘lucky bobble hat’ along with them, or whether they remembered to give the cat an extra spoonful of food before setting out for the game. It just feels like there might be!
According to some recent research, there has been an overall decline in superstitious rituals and match-related beliefs among professional footballers over the last 25 years. Unsurprisingly, this has accompanied the increasing use of proper sports psychology in the dressing room and on the training field.
Unlike the lurking suspicion that my attendance may make things worse, this correlation makes perfect sense. It’s been long established that what human beings think will or will not happen does indeed play a role in what actually happens, because appropriate levels of confidence (not too much, not too little) play a massive part in sporting achievement, alongside technical skill, tactics, team awareness and the rest of it.
Similarly, though crowds can’t win games on their own, they can encourage or dissuade players at critical moments on the pitch – though a way of accurately measuring, quantifying and applying all of that has not yet been found.
If and when it is, and ‘crowd-zone’ computer stats are studied as eagerly as ‘pro-zone’ ones by those who can afford them, you can expect stewards to be given the unenviable task of muzzling some negative mega-mouth three rows in front of you, because he or she (most likely he) has just been calculated to have played an 0.0027 per cent role in your centre forward’s hopeless miss last week – rather than because, say, his creative choice of expletives has caused a delicate descendant of the Anglo-Saxons to blush.
Hmmnn… Nope, I don’t think it’s going to happen either. And if it did, it wouldn’t change that much. Football is and always will be about human foibles, both on and off the pitch. If goal-line technology is finally introduced into the upper echelons of the game, it won’t stop managers and officials arguing. It’ll just give them something else to argue about.
As for today’s game against the Blue Toon. Well, let’s hope that any luck going spare heads in the Sons’ direction. Three points please, lads!