It’s Halloween, a time for spooky things to happen. Ghosts will cause mischief, demons will rise from hell and wreak havoc and people will make misjudged costumes which they’ll have to explain every five minutes. It is truly a terrifying time.
Of course one element that terrifies football fans are curses. We are a superstitious lot and you probably have some sort of silly routine before you go to the match that you swear that if you don’t do it, your team will lose. And at some point after a poor run of form, you will claim that your team is curses, probably because the reserve goalkeeper stepped on a snail.
But teams have been cursed in the past as you may have heard. The most famous one lies in Benfica, where former manager and visionary Bela Guttman cursed the team to never become European champions for 100 years after he was sacked following a pay rise request. We have no idea what powers Guttman had, well other than the power to completely change football as we know it back in the 1950s and 60s, but it worked. Benfica have been to many European finals and haven’t won one.
But we don’t care about Benfica. It’s the EFL what matters and two teams in the Sky Bet Championship are said to be cursed. They are Birmingham City and Derby County, but were they really hexed?
Both of these curses were caused by them moving to new stadiums. Both Birmingham and Derby were heading to pastures new, St Andrews and the Baseball Ground, and in order to build their new homes they evicted Romani people off the land. In both cases, the Romani were said to have cursed the teams that forced them to move on. For Derby, the curse was they would never win the FA Cup but for Birmingham, it was just a simple 100-year hex on St Andrews.
Amazingly, people did believe these curses were real. Birmingham had not won a major final during the time of the hex and managers got desperate to get rid of it. Ron Saunders put crucifixes in the corners of the pitch while Barry Fry went one step further, he urinated in the corners. He did this because a clairvoyant told him to do so, which just makes me convinced this one in particular was an Aston Villa fan just looking for a laugh. The curse did end in 2006 though, and soon after the Blues would win the League Cup.
Derby though really believed in that curse. They had close to FA Cup successes on many occasions after the curse was put on them, only to be soundly beaten by the likes of Nottingham Forest and Derby County. So they went to work to try and stop the curse, meeting with several travelling communities to try and lift the curse. and unlike Birmingham, their attempts worked! During the 1946 FA Cup Final against Charlton Athletic, the game was finely poised at 1-1 when the ball burst. And with the Rams going on to win that match 4-1, that was seen as the moment the curse was lifted.
I’m sure if you root around, you’ll find more curses and football teams. The overly loud guy in the pub will probably tell you about them too. And while they are most likely just folklore, they are exciting and it’s far more interesting to say your team’s cursed rather than they are a bit crap or bottlers.