England Euro 2020 football team's bizarre superstitions and rituals from Kane's shaving to Walker's rotten shin pads
MONTHS of intense training, international friendlies, and endless analysis have gone into making England as strong as they can be for the Euros.
But some players leave nothing to chance and turn to bizarre pre-game rituals and superstitions they believe will give them an extra edge – which could come in handy in tonight's clash against Germany.
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There’s a particularly rich history of wacky habits in England dressing rooms over the years.
John Terry reckoned he had about 50 superstitious rituals, including always sitting in the same seat on the team coach and repeatedly listening to the same Usher album.
Phil Jones decided which sock to put on first depending on whether he was playing at home or away.
And Gary Lineker is believed to have changed his shirt at halftime if he hadn’t scored in the first 45 minutes of the game.
Now the latest Three Lions squad will be doing their own pre-match rituals ahead of tonight's match.
Alexander the Great once ordered his army to shave before a showdown for the control of Asia, believing “in battles, there is nothing handier to grasp than a beard”.
But when England skipper Harry Kane goes to war on the pitch, he takes a different view.
The striker, 27, has previously attributed a goal streak at Spurs to ditching his razor.
In 2014, after scoring in three consecutive games, he said: “I have not had a shave since my first goal.
“It is the first time I have gone for the bearded look and the missus might not be too happy if I score the next couple of weeks but it is a superstition I am keeping.”
Let’s hope that by the time the Euro final comes round that he looks like Gandalf.
Smells like team spirit
Kyle Walker will do anything to avoid a rotten performance – including wearing rotting shin pads.
The £150,000-a-week defender, 31, wears the same pair he’s had for 14 years since his fledgling days at Sheffield United.
“They’re hanging together a bit, but they are doing OK and I will not change them. I will never change them," Walker recently told The Telegraph.
“I’ve never lost them or anything, they have to be there. It’s impossible not to have them. I’d rather lose my boots.”
Walker also eats spaghetti bolognese every night before a game.
But spare a thought for the poor England kit man having to schlep those smelly old shin pads from game to game this summer.
Making a point
For striker Marcus Rashford, his tribute is to a beloved family member.
The school meals hero always points to the sky remembering his grandmother Cillian who imparted valuable wisdom to him when he was a young boy.
In his book You Are a Champion, 23-year-old Rashford wrote about the pain of losing his nanna when he was just 11.
He wrote: “Next time you see me playing football, check out what I do before I get on the pitch: I always do the sign of the cross, and then I point up to my nanna.
“She never got to watch me play, but I know she’s a part of me and I always try to say something to her before a game.
“I remember the lessons she taught me, tap my boots four times before I step on the pitch – which is my little routine I do to keep focused – and then I know I’m ready to go out there and give it my best.
“That’s my way of trying to share what big moments I can with her, even though she is gone.”
Sock it to 'em
Luke Shaw’s superstition manages to blend the football-wide phenomenon of wearing “lucky” clothes with a tribute to his son.
The Manchester United left-back, 25, was gifted a pair of socks adorned with his baby’s face by his girlfriend, Anouska Santos.
Now he believes his customised footwear bearing the image of little Reign London brings him good fortune.
Shaw recently told Sky: “I always make sure I have them on.
“They are kind of like my lucky socks.”
Head in the game
Tyrone Mings’ knows football is a game of the mind as much as the body.
That’s why the Aston Villa defender, 28, speaks to his psychologist for a few minutes before every game to put himself into a hyper-competitive state.
He told the High Performance podcast: “We talk about settling down the inner child and any feelings he might have in what I’m about to do.
“We talk about settling down the inner child and any feelings he might have in what I'm about to do.
“Then we talk to the best version of myself and what he looks like, how he's stood, how he feels, how he competes.
“Then we distinguish which one we need right now and then going out and playing."
On a roll
You might think Grealish needs to pull his socks up – but he likes them low for a reason.
The Three Lions playmaker, 25, usually has them rolled down so far that his shin pads are visible.
Grealish told Birmingham Live: “Obviously your socks are supposed to go above your calves.
"But one year when I was here, the socks once shrunk in the wash. So they wouldn’t go higher.
"That season, I ended up playing really well. So it became a superstitious thing for me. I thought ‘I’m going to keep doing this because I’ve done well’.”
The Villa ace is even said to wear shin pads designed for teenagers.
He says some referees have taken issue with his sartorial superstitions, but he insists he has no plans to change.
Football crazy, chocolate mad
Extremely strict dietary control is a huge part of the modern game for elite players.
But the Toffees' blistering striker Dominc Calvert-Lewin swears by pre-match chocolate.
According to the Daily Mail, the 24-year-old forward always scoffs down a bag of Maltesers before kick-off.
It’s unclear how the quirky superstition started – but with 16 Premier League goals last season, we hope he’s packed his suitcase with the sweet snack for the Euros.
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