10 of football's weirdest runs and hoodoos: Parties, mean Maeda and cruddy Coventry
Dave Bassett's Christmas Party
Come Christmas 1990, newly promoted Sheffield United were languishing at the foot of the table, but a run of seven consecutive wins in the New Year saw them surge to safety. Similarly, the following term saw them win just five league games before the festive period, but 11 afterwards.
Inspired by their festive fillips, manager Dave Bassett organised an impromptu early Christmas party ahead of the 1992/93 season opener against Manchester United. Brian Deane netted the Premier League's first-ever goal, the Blades won 2-1 en route to a mid-table finish and they reached the FA Cup semi-finals for good measure. Bassett decided against a repeat party the following season, United were relegated and have enjoyed just one Premier League campaign in the two decades since.
The curse of Ryoichi Maeda
Ryoichi Maeda is a deadly finisher in more ways than one. For six seasons straight between 2007 and 2012, the team Maeda scored his first goal of the season against were relegated from the J-League.
The former Japan international, at the time playing for Jubilo Iwata, sent Ventforet Kofu, Tokyo Verdy, Jef United Chiba, Kyoto Sanga, Motedio Yamagata and Gamba Osaka on their way to a tumble through the trap door to J2 – the latter having finished in the top three in the previous three seasons.
The sequence was finally broken in 2013 when Urawa Red Diamonds ended in a lofty sixth place. Jubilo, on the other hand, were relegated. A 33-year-old Maeda currently plies his trade for F.C. Tokyo.
Game No.2, beat the Toon
Some will say it’s fate, others coincidence, but the last three Sunderland managers have lost their first game in charge and then beaten north-east rivals Newcastle United in their second. Many bosses would want to avoid a local derby so soon into their tenure but Paolo Di Canio, Gus Poyet and now Dick Advocaat have all enjoyed early brownie points by taming the Toon. Whatever happens, the next Black Cats boss will be hoping for a Tyne-Wear derby next season as a bare minimum... just like Sunderland fans. Gulp.
Guttmann's ghastly pledge
Bela Guttmann delivered five trophies in three seasons during his initial spell as Benfica boss. Following the 1962 European Cup Final triumph over Real Madrid, Guttmann asked for a pay rise.
When the board declined, Guttmann stormed out and famously proclaimed: "Not in a hundred years from now will Benfica ever be European champion."
Since Guttmann 'cursed' the club, the Eagles have duly lost all eight of their European showdowns, including five European Cup finals (1963, 1965, 1968, 1988 and 1990) plus three UEFA Cup/Europa League ones (1983, 2013 and 2014) – last season on penalties to Sevilla, after late heartbreak against Chelsea.
"Look, this lad's rubbish"
Tottenham fans will fondly remember Gareth Bale’s time at White Hart Lane. After all, the Welshman netted 56 goals in his six seasons in north London, including a famous hat-trick against Inter Milan, and scooped the PFA Player of the Year award twice. However, his early days in the Spurs first team weren't happy ones as the Lilywhites failed to record a single victory in the first 24 games he featured in.
Former director of football Damien Comolli claims Harry Redknapp "tried to get rid of" Bale, a claim which 'Arry denied later (of course). One position shunt, an £85 million transfer, a Champions League winners' medal and Copa del Rey crown later, and it's quite ludicrous to think it ever happened in the first place.