Mug’s game

From the Rage Online newsdesk Saturday, April 1st, 1995  

MUG’S GAME

I’m not superstitious of course, but it always seemed perfectly rational to make sure that I drank my tea out of my United mug on match days. Common sense told me that my beverage habits had about as much bearing on the on-field fortunes of Denis’s Yellow Army as the moon in conjunction with Uranus, but nonetheless I persisted. After all, as an exiled fan with a poor attendance record, it was the least I could do by way of supporting the lads.

So, Saturday’s cuppas were faithfully drunk out of the garish piece of earthenware as United plummeted towards relegation last season. This should have been all the evidence I needed but I clung on to my idiotic act of faith.

Then, in the summer, I started a new job. Seeing a couple of other football mugs in evidence, I took mine in on the second day. Now the nature of my job is such that, to many of my colleagues, a mug is a mug is a mug, particularly at times of great stress and semi-chaos (which occur quite regularly). So, due to circumstances beyond my control, I found myself regularly drinking out of a Shrewsbury Town mug and even, dare I say it, another vessel decorated with two different shades of blue, symbolising the misguided loyalty of my colleague Linda to Buckinghamshire’s leading club (no, not Marlow). It was one of those awkward situations where, being British and all that, one really doesn’t want to make a fuss. More to the point, when you’ve just started a new job, a sense of self-preservation from deep within tells you quite clearly that you are not going to win friends and influence people by whining ‘Actually, I only drink out of my special mug’. I let it pass.

Then a funny thing happened. The season started and United stormed to the top of the table. We were going to bounce straight back and I was going to be able to say to people ‘I told you we’d bounce straight back’, as if I really had felt that certain during the close season. I realised that I had been wrong all this time, and started to avoid my mug on matchdays (I work on some Saturdays). Somebody cracked my mug whilst washing up, the crack worsened over a few days and then somebody else, deciding that I could not possibly want to drink out of it anymore, took the unilateral decision to consign the mug to the dustbin on hygiene grounds. United beat Bournemouth away to reclaim top spot. The rest should have been history.

However, some kind of psychological gremlin was clearly working away in the deepest recesses of my mind. Inspired, perhaps, by the fact that my sister had given me a nice new United hat for Xmas, and that I had had cause to hurl it joyfully into the air four times at Peterborough the following day, I became favourably disposed towards football souvenirs once more, and provided myself with… a brand new United mug.

At the time of writing, United have not won since that game at Peterborough. A dismal run of defeats ended with the draw at Shrewsbury – just after my new mug got chipped in another washing-up accident. A voice inside my head has been yelling out ‘SMASH THE MUG! THROW IT AWAY!’ at 4.50 on the last few Saturday afternoons. But that would be a senseless and irrational thing to do – and, like I said at the start of this piece, I’m not superstitious.

George Kirkman

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