Wales narrow the gap
What better way to stifle Brazil’s fearsome wingers than giving them less room to blaze their way beyond tiring opponents? Back in 2000, Wales’s fledgling manager Mark Hughes hit upon the brainwave of shrinking the Millennium Stadium’s pitch to thwart the likes of Zé Roberto, Sylvinho and Cafu.
But this spot of touchline trimming – which Hughes ensured was perfectly within the laws of the game – didn’t have the desired effect. Brazil comfortably won the friendly 3-0, with Cafu even ending up on the scoresheet.
Clubs tried plenty to combat Rory Delap’s monstrous throw-ins – so deadly that teams would often kick the ball out for a corner instead. Hull’s Dean Windass earned himself a booking for warming up too close to the Potters rocket-launcher, although Stoke themselves weren't entirely innocent with their selective use of towels.
In March 2010, West Ham came up with the ingenious idea of moving advertising boards closer to the pitch in a bid to shorten Delap’s run-up. It still didn’t work, mind, and a dodgy throw from their very own Julien Faubert ultimately led to Ricardo Fuller’s brilliant winner midway through the second half. The Hammers finished 17th and were relegated the following year.
Cardiff dry out
“It was watered before the game, unless the groundsman thought there was a hosepipe ban.” Neil Warnock may have played dumb when asked about the apparent lack of pitch maintenance for Cardiff’s 2019 Premier League encounter against Liverpool.
But Jurgen Klopp was wise to his game. The perceptive German had conducted a 70-minute training session on bone dry grass in preparation for their trip to the Cardiff City Stadium, believing that Warnock would try every trick in the book to slow the Reds down. Kloppo’s forward-thinking paid off and the Merseysiders ran out 2-0 winners.
Snow luck for Liverpool
(Annotated image: dreamteamfc.com)
Liverpool couldn’t really complain about such tactics, having tried something similarly sneaky during their 1-1 draw against Leicester just three months previously.
Following Harry Maguire’s equaliser late in the first half, Anfield groundsmen decided they would make things a little more difficult for the Foxes by shovelling the snow-covered pitch at just one end – unsurprisingly, the one that the Reds would be attacking after the restart.
Klopp later insisted that this wasn’t a deliberate attempt to slow down Claude Puel’s team, but simply the result of a shortage in manpower. Whatever the excuse, Liverpool didn’t score – and didn’t win the game.
Norwich tickled pink
Could a pink dressing room be responsible for Norwich City’s imminent return to the Premier League? In a pre-season move seemingly inspired by Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, Carrow Road officials decided to paint the away team’s changing room in a garish shade of pink – reportedly in an attempt to lower the opposition’s testosterone.
This striking interior design choice initially appeared to backfire, with the Canaries losing at home to both West Brom and Leeds within the first three weeks of their Championship campaign. Since the New Year, however, Daniel Farke’s men haven’t been defeated at their own ground.
Aberdeen’s photo bombing
Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes reportedly ordered Rangers to quieten things down in their dressing room following a 4-2 victory at Pittodrie in February 2019. But you can’t blame Steven Gerrard’s men for rubbing it in a little.
Before the match, they’d been forced to walk down a corridor aligned with photos of their recent Betfred Cup semi-final defeat to the home side. But instead of stirring up bad memories and dampening the Gers’ spirit, this blatant act of trolling instead motivated them to enact some sweet revenge…
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