World Cup

This brilliant Gareth Southgate story explains why he doesn’t bother with pre-match superstitions

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Tom Victor
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Ahead of England v Croatia at the World Cup, Gareth Southgate has given us another reason to warm to him

As England prepare for their World Cup semi-final against Croatia, plenty of fans up and down the country will have their usual superstitions to go back to.

You might even be one of them. Maybe you’re going to the same pub where you watched the Sweden game, or wearing shorts and a t-shirt despite the slightly cooler weather, purely because those clothes saw England through when you wore them to watch the penalty shoot-out win over Colombia.

One man who won’t be resorting to such an approach, however, is England boss Gareth Southgate.

He has a very good reason, too, and it all goes back to Southgate’s first managerial job at Middlesbrough.

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“When I was managing at Middlesbrough we had a game at Reading and I was under a bit of pressure,” explained Southgate, who stuck around in the Championship after Boro were relegated in 2009.

“When I went to get changed at the hotel, I’d forgotten my socks. I went to the kit man and borrowed a pair of black goalkeepers socks. 

“We won, and the staff made this big thing about my lucky socks, saying I had to wear them next game.

Speaking ahead of the Croatia game, the popular England manager said he decided it would be ridiculous to wear the ‘lucky’ socks again, but they lost the following weekend, convincing him to give them another go.

“Then, on the Tuesday, we were playing again. I thought, ‘Well, I’d better put the socks on.,” Southgate continued.

“I did and we won 2-0… and then I went upstairs and got sacked!

“So really, from that moment, superstitions have rather gone out the window.”

England’s semi-final against Croatia will kick off at 7pm UK time, at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

It will be shown on ITV, and the broadcasters could be forgiven for having their own superstitions at play, regardless of whether Southgate is doing the same.

If England can get past Luka Modrić, Ivan Rakitić and co then they will be in the World Cup final. Even being this close feels bizarre for a generation of fans too young to remember England’s last World Cup semi.

Could it really be coming home?

(Images: Getty)