Mike Rowbottom: The art of feng shui brings frissons to football

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This week's revelation that an expert in feng shui has been at work in the supposedly unlucky south dressing-room at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium has sent a frisson through the world of professional football.

This week's revelation that an expert in feng shui, the ancient art of positioning objects to maximise positive energy, has been at work in the supposedly unlucky south dressing-room at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium has sent a frisson through the world of professional football.

A frisson, in fact, of which football has not seen the like since that priest got busy blessing Oxford United's new ground in order to rid it of what the club believed was a gypsy curse.

By the by, I think Oxford's problem started way back before they alienated a group of travellers by moving them on from their proposed stadium site. The terraced house that stood near their old Manor Ground, with a gigantic model of a shark apparently crashing into its upper storey, was enough to disrupt the club's karma for decades.

As Warren Zevon once put it: "Bad karma, coming after me, bad karma, pinned me by degrees". That should have been the song Oxford United's players emerged to at every home game. But they probably hadn't heard it.

The thing is about footballers, of course, that they are almost all atavistically superstitious. Even those who aren't make a kind of superstition about not being.

One of my favourite examples, partly because it concerns two of my most favourite players and partly because it is so ludicrous, concerns the behaviour of Bobby Moore and Martin Peters in the final minutes before stepping out of the Wembley dressing-room for the 1966 World Cup final.

Both players liked to be the last in the team to put their shorts on. Why has never been established – there is probably no answer. And so both players tried to outdo each other by leaving their shorts down until the latest possible moment. I suppose England should count themselves lucky that neither did himself a mischief with their brinkmanship on that most momentous of days.

This is a benign version of what Stephen Potter, long since and sadly departed to the celestial One Upmanship arena, might have called Dressing Room-manship.

Years ago I remember a more malignant episode in a shared dressing-room before a Herts County League match when one of the opposition stood with mock casualness in the centre of proceedings and revealed a tool of such freakish length that it might just as well have been a truncheon. Unaccustomed to this sight, we, the visitors, felt more than slightly unmanned. Psychically – only psychically, mind – we were under the cosh before the game started.

Nothing so crude went on in the Millennium south dressing-room, I'm happy to say. The feng shui expert involved simply removed everything except two giant speakers and a fridgeful of beer.

No. Sorry. That was another one. This one undertook a blessing ceremony that also involved Buddhist chanting, scattering incense and sea salt, lighting candles and re-decorating the room.

It sounds a promising new arena for Changing Rooms to inhabit once every household in Britain has been given new kitchen doors in pale blue MDF. "So Linda, you've come in at £499, just within your budget. Well done. And what are you most pleased with?" "Well, Carol, it has to be the handles I got for the players' bath. I paid £300 for them at an antique centre but they're really worth it – they're actually handcuffs which saw service in the Welsh Constabulary at the turn of the century..."

The operation in Cardiff was not the first instance of feng shui in football, of course. Players such as Roy Keane and David Batty have been performing their own modified version of the art for several years on the field of play, rearranging opposing teams by repositioning their players with carefully modified impacts. Actually, that's not right. Keane and Co are practising kung shui, which sounds similar but has more of a martial arts feel. Sorry, if I misled you.

Anyway, I've been thinking about the Millennium thing, and I reckon it did come down to bad feng shui. In last year's FA Cup final, for instance, where Arsenal went wrong was in letting Michael Owen position himself anywhere close to their goal.

And in this year's Worthington Cup final, where Tottenham went the same way as their north London rivals after inhabiting the same dressing-doom – sorry! room! – there was another crucial misjudgement on the kung fooey front. The club should never have let their manager, Glenn Hoddle, position himself in front of a microphone. Once his perilous over-confidence became apparent to all and sundry, Blackburn's task was made more straightforward.

Just another thought. It might be helpful for future teams who are allocated the south dressing-room to consider a more direct feng shui approach. As a defensive measure, turning their net to face the crowd would surely prove useful...

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