Nine strange football hoodoos: Harry Kane, James Milner, AC Milan

Harry Kane’s August woes, Liverpool’s good James Milner omen and AC Milan’s kit superstition are among football’s strangest hoodoos.

The old adage is that anyone can beat anyone over the course of 90 minutes, but in reality that isn’t the case. For some unexplained reason there are some teams who just hold an Indian sign over others.

But a good run of form against a particular opponent is nothing compared to this lot…

Harry Kane

Despite scoring more than 20 Premier League goals in four consecutive seasons, it took Kane until seven attempts before he could score in August.

It makes the amount of goals he’s scored even more impressive in a way, but just imagine what sort of tally he could reach if he’d have hit the ground running.

We might be about to find out, after the striker netted in Tottenham’s 3-1 victory over Fulham to get up and running in the 2018-19 campaign.

AC Milan

You might think a club would prefer to play a major final in their home colours, but AC Milan are more than happy to ditch their famous red and black stripes.

After being beaten by Real Madrid while wearing their home kit in 1958, their first appearance in a European Cup final, Milan triumphed five years later – when they beat Benfica in an all-white strip.

Milan then won in 1989, 1990 and 1994 while wearing an all-white kit, and in total have won six of eight finals in it.

In red and black, however, they have lost two out of three.

READ: Fallen Giants: Lamenting the loss of Milan as a European heavyweight


Possibly the most famous ‘curse’ in world football. In 1962, Bela Guttman had just led Benfica to back-to-back European Cup triumphs but quit the club after the board refused to increase the manager’s wage.

Upon leaving the club, Guttman declared: “Not in a hundred years from now will Benfica ever be European champion.”

In the intervening years, Benfica have reached eight European finals but have been beaten by AC Milan (twice), Inter Milan, Manchester United and PSV Eindhoven in the European Cup, and Anderlecht, Chelsea and Sevilla in the Europa League.

Before their most recent final, against Sevilla in 2014, coach Jorge Jesus insisted: “Most of the players don’t even know about these statistics. It’s folklore.”

However, after yet another defeat, captain Luisao said: “The players fought, but they lacked a bit of luck again. Once again, in a final, the ball just didn’t go in.”

Brazil v Norway

Brazil are considered the most prestigious of all international teams, but they have a curious record against Norway.

Despite having only qualified for three World Cups in their history – with their best finish coming in 1998 when they reached the round of 16 – Norway are the only team to have faced Brazil and never be defeated.

In 1988 a friendly resulted in a 1-1 draw, while Norway triumphed 4-2 nine years later. The Scandinavians then famously beat Brazil 2-1 at the 1998 World Cup, with their most recent meeting ending in another 1-1 draw back in 2006.

Newcastle v Sunderland

Prior to David Moyes’ arrival at Sunderland, which came after Newcastle’s relegation from the Premier League, four Black Cats managers in a row had all lost their first game in charge, only to then beat Newcastle in their second.

Paolo Di Canio, Gus Poyet, Dick Advocaat and Sam Allardyce all earned early boosts with their new club by beating their rivals nice and early into their tenure.

Coventry City

During their 34-year spell in the top flight between 1967 and 2001, the Sky Blues made an impressive if risky habit of avoiding relegation on the final day of the season, doing so on 10 separate occasions.

Dancing with the devil eventually caught up with the club in 2001, however, since which a much more unfortunate statistic has ensured they are yet to return to England’s top flight.

Since 1970, Coventry had failed to finish in the top six of any division they have competed in, finishing above 10th only four times in 47 years, before finally ended the curse in 2017-18.

After relegation to the fourth tier the previous season, they pipped Lincoln City to sixth place on goal difference, qualifying for the League Two play-offs.

READ: Remembering the final day of the 96-97 season and Coventry’s greatest escape

James Milner

If your team is coming up against Milner’s, you might as well give up when he scores.

In a career in which he has represented Leeds, Newcastle, Aston Villa, Manchester City and Liverpool, James Milner has never been a prolific scorer – his most productive Premier League campaign has produced seven goals – but his goals have been worth their weight in gold.

In the 47 Premier League games which Milner has scored in, his side has never been defeated, with the record currently standing at 37 wins and 10 draws, though he has scored in four cup games which have ended in a loss.

We’re not quite sure if it is more impressive or not given he plays for one of the best sides in the world, but Andres Iniesta is also yet to taste defeat in a match he has scored. His record extends to 57 club and 13 international matches.

READ: Revealing the top 11 players to score in the most PL games without defeat

Gareth Bale

Conversely, there was a time when simply seeing Gareth Bale in the starting XI for Tottenham would guarantee your team at least a point.

Incredibly, for a player who went on to join Real Madrid for a world-record transfer fee, Bale failed to taste victory in his first 24 appearances for Spurs.

It’s fair to say something clicked in the end.

Ryoichi Maeda

You would be forgiven for not recognising Ryoichi Maeda’s name, but the striker can strike fear in the hearts of supporters of Japanese clubs.

Between 2007 and 2012, whichever club Maeda opened his account for the season against were relegated to J League Division 2.

Ventforet Kofu were the first to fall, with Tokyo Verdy, Jef United Chiba, Kyoto Sanga, Motedio Yamagata and Gamba Osaka all suffering the same fate.

The final instance was particularly striking as Gamba Osaka had finished in the top three for the previous three campaigns.

West Ham almost signed the forward in 2012 only for a move to break down, much to the relief of 19 other Premier League sides.

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