The possibility is starting to dawn on me that I might be cursed. I don’t mean this in the sense of someone being in ownership of a voodoo doll made in my image into which they occasionally stick pins (though I wouldn’t completely rule this out), rather the fact that my nemesis of football colours is, apparently, “lucky”. I’ve seen various pieces in science journals over the years expounding the virtues of clubs that wear red. Studies from all over the place seem to confirm the same thing – if your team wears red shirts, they hold an advantage before a ball has even been kicked. A good many of these have been based upon little more than counting up the number of cups that clubs in various different shirt colours have worn, but the latest report, as detailed here on Football Shirt Culture is the fruit of considerable amounts of research into English results since 1945, and their results seem to be fairly conclusive.
Professor Martin Attrill of Plymouth University does raise some interesting points. Considering that football in Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol and Nottingham started with two clubs of relatively similar means, why is it that the teams from the city that play in red ended up in the ascendency in all four cases? Some might argue that it is coincidence, and some might argue that for long periods in the history of the game, the clubs in red haven’t been the better of the two clubs in the cities concerned. Nottingham Forest, for example, were traditionally not a much bigger club until the mid-1970s, when Brian Clough came in and transformed the club forever. In Manchester, City have had spells of being the bigger club that United (for example, for most of the 1970s), and it is Liverpool rather than Everton that have spent time in the Second Division over the last half-century or so.
It’s not just in England, either. In Germany, Bayern Munich’s red shirted teams have won an array of European honours, whilst 1860 are also-rans in sky blue (although, spookily, Bayern’s last European Cup final defeat – to Manchester United in 1999 – came with United in red and Bayern in a vile silver and wine coloured number). In Italy, Inter may be in the ascendency at the moment, but the red and black clad AC Milan have seven European Cups to their puny two. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule (the red and white stripes of Atletico Madrid can’t hold a candle to Real, and Exeter City are watching Plymouth Argyle come distressingly close to playing off for a place in the Premier League in green) but, as any good scientist will tell you, these apparent anomalies are a natural part of the bell curve of probability.
How, then, does this affect me? Well, here’s the thing – red is my football nemesis. Ask me if I prefer Liverpool or Everton, and I’ll say Everton. You shouldn’t need to ask me the same question on my opinion between the North London rivals. As such, I’m selling myself short here, and it has manifested itself in a very real way. I moved to Sussex two years ago and, as such, have several options should I want a regular non-league fix. There’s Lewes, Eastbourne Borough, Worthing or, at a bit more of a push, Crawley Town, and herein lies the rub. All four of them wear red. I don’t know whether they do this to deliberately distinguish themselves from Brighton & Hove Albion (who, of course, wear blue and white, and bestride the two counties of Sussex like a behemoth), and it means that I can’t form any meaningful allegiance to any of them. Crawley is too far away, Eastbourne’s ground is a nightmare to get to from the railway station, but Lewes should be ideal.
Consider the evidence. They’ve got a brilliantly-named ground (The Dripping Pan) which is a one minute walk from Lewes railway station. I can get to their ground from the front door of my little flat in the centre of Brighton in just over fifteen minutes. Once there, they’ve got a bar that you can watch the match from (should you choose to), and no-one that I’ve ever spoken to there has ever been anything but completely friendly. There’s just one thing. They wear red and black stripes, and because of this I have been unable to attach myself to them in a season which may culminate in them winning promotion to the Football Conference for the first time in their history. It has proved to be, psychologically speaking, a step too far. I’ll probably pop up there again before the end of this season, but it will be as an interested observer rather than as a “supporter” of any sort.
Yellow and blue – now there’s a colour scheme that I can do business with. St Albans City wear yellow and blue, as do AFC Sudbury. AFC Wimbledon wear blue and yellow. It doesn’t seem to be a lucky colour (Spurs and Arsenal have both win the cup in yellow and blue, but these were change kits and, more importantly, they were change kits in an era during which everybody seemed to have a yellow change kit), but it feels comfortable. I would, therefore, humbly request that Lewes change their colours to yellow and blue from the start of next season. I’ll certainly make more of an effort to get over there if they do. If that’s not a good enough reason, how about the fact that their local rivals, Eastbourne Borough, wear exactly the same red and black striped shirts? Come on, chaps – show some originality!