Chelsea Number 9 Shirt

Chelsea’s awful start to 2023/24 has placed them among unfamiliar company in the Premier League relegation odds, and though you expect them to come good eventually - such is the abundance of quality within their squad - it can be guaranteed it won’t be a goal-scoring number nine firing them up the table.

That’s because this summer the club took the highly unusual step of ensuring no player took possession of the fated shirt, one that has sapped the superpowers of Andrei Shevchenko, Fernando Torres, Alvaro Morata, Romelu Lukaku, and others, down the years, reducing them to misfiring superflops. 

Nobody wants to touch it,” Thomas Tuchel revealed last season only for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to taunt the goal-scoring gods and take the number nine shirt soon after.

The usually prolific front-man bagged one in 15. 

Bayer Leverkusen Nearly Men

Die Schwarzroten have resided in the Bundesliga since 1979, and prior to that spent a sizable number of years in the German top-flight. Yet they have never won the league title.

If that doesn’t sound like an overly spooky occurrence consider how close they have come on multiple occasions, a string of near-misses that had led to them being nicknamed ‘Neverkusen’.

Between 1996 and 2004, Bayer finished runner-up four times and third twice, continuing their rotten luck in more recent times by pushing Bayern nearly all the way several times over. 

It’s their late collapse in 2000 that really stands out though, a fortnight of cruelty that had even their detractors wincing. 

Five points clear, with two to play, a historic treble was on the cards. Yet Bayer were pipped to the post in the league and lost both finals.

Birmingham’s Century Of Hurt

Constructed in 1906, St Andrews was said to be built on land previously used by Romani Gypsies.

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Aggrieved at being evicted to make way for the stadium, legend has it, they laid a 100-year curse on the club.

With a plethora of relegations plighting Brum for decades after - not to mention the main stand burning to a cinder in the Forties - subsequent managers began to take matters into their own hands.

Like a managerial Max von Sydow, Ron Saunders arranged crucifixes to dangle from the floodlights, additionally insisting that the soles of his player’s boots were always painted red.

Barry Fry meanwhile went down a very different route, urinating in each corner of the ground.

All this hocus-pocus silliness however was to no avail, with Birmingham not securing any silverware until the curse expired in 2006. A League Cup triumph followed soon after. 

Racing Club’s Cat Curse

The rivalry between Racing and Independiente is fierce and historic, these behemoths of Argentinian football winning trophies galore back in the day.

Moreover, with a distance of just 300 metres between their stadiums it makes for a derby like no other

In 1967, Racing won the Intercontinental Cup for the first time, and as their fans wildly celebrated into the Avellaneda night, jealous Independiente supporters broke into their ground and buried seven dead cats to curse their hated neighbour. 

As years of struggle became the norm, Racing directors agreed to have the pitch torn up, an excavation that produced the remains of six felines. That pesky seventh though, proved to be elusive.

That was until an exorcism in 2001 helped to locate its bones. Once removed from site, Racing went on that season to win their first league title in 35 years. Eerie. 

A Bridge Too Far For Spurs  

Curses of course take many forms, not all of them evoking the occult. 

Sometimes a fixture’s history can produce the same result over and over, which leaves the superstitious to claim it’s a hex, others just a plain oddity.

Take Tottenham’s sustained inability to beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Between February 1990 and April 2018, even the most optimistic Spurs fans were backing against their team in the sports betting every time they travelled to West London.

That’s because in 27 attempts an array of different players, under different managers, in vastly differing circumstances, all failed to beat the Blues away in the league. 

In latter years, with the hex established, it felt like Chelsea began each campaign with a three point head-start.


Stephen Tudor is a freelance football writer and sports enthusiast who only knows slightly less about the beautiful game than you do.

A contributor to FourFourTwo and Forbes, he is a Manchester City fan who was taken to Maine Road as a child because his grandad predicted they would one day be good.