England footie penalty disaster mystery explained - Teddy Davison in 1913, courtesy wiki commons

With the English Premier League coming to an end soon thoughts are beginning to turn to the summer’s World Cup and that frequent bane of the national team – the spectre of the penalty shootout.

England have been knocked out of major international tournaments on a number of occasions in the past twenty years, with crushing blows dealt to national pride from such hated enemies as the Krauts in 1990 – prompting a flood of tears from one Paul Gascoigne  – and the Argies in 1998.  Just the mention of the penalty shootout is enough to strike terror into even the most fearless barrel-chested, Stella-swigging hooligan.    

But now sports psychologists believe that they have found the reason as to why England are so utterly crap at spot kicks, it is all down to the attire of the goal keeper.

Researchers came to this conclusion after getting 40 footballers to take dozens of penalties over the course of a week (a tactic that might in fact have helped the England team itself in the past) against a single keeper, who varied the colour of his jersey throughout the experiment.

Results showed that red was the most successful colour in terms of keeping shots out with 46% of penalties being missed.  This was followed by a yellow top with 31 percent, blue with 28 percent, while only 25 percent of shots were kept out when the keeper was wearing green.

According to Iain Greenlees, the sports psychologist at the University of Chichester who conducted the study, this is due to an instinctive threat felt by the colour red. “We have evolved to strongly associate red with danger, dominance or anger, and at times of great stress we pay more attention to threats in our area,” he said.

With England’s propensity for bottling it when penalty shootouts occur, coupled with the prospect of fielding either the relatively untried Robert Green or butter-fingered relegation fodder David James between the sticks at South Africa 2010 it seems that England are likely to need all the snazzy red jumpers they can get.  So, what colour is the England goalkeeper kit this season?  Green, of course.