A behind the scenes delve into pre-match rituals and superstitions within the beautiful game.

Welcome to the world of habit and ritual! Now, we all know that person with superstitions, or we are that person with superstitions, but wearing the same kit or putting one boot on before the other all help to make up the Lucky Charm Chronicles that we know and love in non-league football.

As Pete Tscherewik, media manager for Chorley FC, says: “It doesn’t matter what level that you play at, there are always different superstitions and different rituals involved, and not just on the playing side.”

Tscherewik is one of three sports journalists who told Semi-Professional of the habits and rituals regarding players and supporters that they’ve seen first hand in their time, and are just as much a part of the game as the football itself. 

The Players

For many players, their morning routine is a crucial part of mentally preparing themselves for an upcoming match.

Mark Stillman, writer and freelancer for the Non-League Paper and commentator for Bath Live, recalls a time his team were unable to complete their usual morning rituals: “Bath played a game where we stayed overnight which we never do.

“One of the players said he would often walk his dog, and obviously he couldn’t, so he just went for a walk where we were.”

James Reid, Desk Editor for Sportsbeat and avid Stevenage supporter, was not so much of a believer of maintaining the same morning habits: “It probably doesn’t actually affect you if you do a certain thing in a different way. If you forget, or don’t realise that you’ve forgotten, then does it actually make an impact if you don’t actually realise?”

Well James, this is the question we’re all asking ourselves, but at the end of the day, it’s the genuine belief and passionate support that matters.

In the hours leading up to kick-off, the significance of maintaining a meticulous routine for the players is highly valuable.

Many players will vouch for their routines as being sacred to good play, and not only offer a sense of familiarity, but also anchor the player in normality.

Stillman added: “I go on the away coach with the players, and I would say that 95% of the time, they’re sat in the exact same seats. I think they thrive off being comfortable and well organised.”

It is also important to highlight the power of changing routine.

If what you’re doing currently is not showering you in success, it can be worth giving things a little switch up.

Stillman continued by suggesting that altering your routine can be really valuable: “A player might say he hasn’t scored recently, so he’s changed his routine.

“It could be something minor like he didn’t have a coffee or something like that, and then suddenly he’s scored.”

When discussing lucky items of clothing, it’s not only lucky socks that people believe can root them in success.

Most players have certain ways they like to wear their kit as a source of preparation and mental power before the game starts.

Tscherewik added: “With the players, they’ll have the kit out in specific ways. Our kit man, he puts kit out for players in different ways that they like.”

The Supporters

Clothing isn’t only sacred to players, as it is also a massive phenomenon for supporters and every single item of lucky clothing represents a belief and faith in your team that cannot be rivalled.

Reid tells us of his lucky scarf days: “I brought the same scarf to every game, and I changed it once and then we lost. The scarf has never come back.”

Stillman’s badge days are also a distant memory: “I remember I used to wear a certain badge to every game.

“We were unbeaten when I was wearing it, and then I lost it at a game and we lost.

“I was about 12 or something, and in my head it was because of that.”

Tscherewik pointed to Chorley’s fanbase who all still wear the same lucky items and clothes repeatedly without fail: “Sometimes on a match day, you look around and you see similar faces with the same clothes on, the same socks on, the same scarf on, or even the same hat on.”

A lot of the time, supporters use our clothing to represent identity within our team, which leads me on to my next point – supporter rituals.

Now, supporter rituals are often deeply ingrained in the club, and are individual to every person.

Since the very earliest days of non-league football, supporters have established many traditions in their clubs and its community, and beneath the drumming and shouting of the fans is an intricate web of superstitions and pre-match rituals undertaken by the many masses watching the game.

Tscherewik speaks of the dedication of Chorley FC fans: “Some supporters will make sure they come to every game in a full season because they think that if they don’t turn up then we might lose.”

That is the magic of the game.

Some people are so committed that they want to make sure they come to every game to contribute to that atmosphere.”

“Our photographer has done pretty much every game of the season and it’s his wedding anniversary on the day the season finishes. He’s said to his wife he’s going to be here,” he added.

After delving into the superstitions and deep rooted rituals that are woven into the culture of non-league football, it is clear that these quirks embody the customs and practices of the game in every club.

The significance of morning habits, supporter rituals and clothing reign supreme over football, and all play a pivotal role in rooting the players and supporters in comfort, ultimately helping to aid the mindset of becoming a winner.

Speaking on his own personal experiences, Stillman said preparation is key: “I’ll often go into a game to commentate and if I’m prepared properly then I perform better, and it’s the same for the players.”

This notion of preparing before a game, whether it be the rituals you’ve done for years that transcend more than superstition, or even just having a coffee in the morning, all help to nurture a sense of comfort and familiarity.

This leaves me with no other conclusion – it doesn’t matter whether your rituals and superstitions are right, wrong, true, false, working or not working, it’s about the unity, belief and power that they foster in your team.

Now, I’m going to leave you with a comment from Reid, as he encapsulates the whole notion of superstitions and rituals in football:

“It all adds into the tapestry of sport and football, which is what it’s all about really, especially at non-league level. You might pick up a couple of trophies along the way, but it’s not whether you win it, it’s about the culture that’s created and the experiences of actually being there.”