We’re snobs, we’ll admit that. In creating this blog, we wanted to provide something fresh and avoid looking at what every other article on the subject does, the obvious things. There are times, though, when the ‘classics’, which in our view includes Johan Cruyff’s association with 14, require examination too.
Pretty much everyone knows about his affinity for the number – he managed to avoid being included in Holland’s alphabetical system at the 1974 World Cup, for example, and Ajax have since retired it. His son Jordi wore it at Manchester United too, though with mixed results. How he came to have it is something which doesn’t appear to be that widely known, so we felt it was worthy of exploration.
We haven’t been forensic – this article, with a rudimentary translation from Dutch to English, is our primary source – but we seem to have the jist of it. In the early part of 1970-71, Cruyff was out injured with a groin problem but returned for the game against PSV on October 30.
Midfielder Gerrie Muhren went to the kit hamper to get his regular number 7 only to find that the kitman, known as ‘Uncle Jan’ (whose wife laundered the strip) had mislaid it. Cruyff told him to take his usual 9 and instead plucked 14 from the basket. Ajax won and the following week Cruyff suggested to Muhren that they retain their ‘lucky’ numbers.
Seemingly, Cruyff was able to wear 14 in European competitions for Ajax too – in the 1971 European Cup final, they started without a 5 – though in non-World Cup games for Holland, he would have to continue to wear 9. To take another rough translation, from his own website:
Over time, he also carry other numbers but in imaging every game he wore his uniform number: Number 14.
That’s not something to be proud of and to be rembered.
There is no real sense in squad numbering.
Some have taken it since as a tribute, many with great success and also Theo Walcott.