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Twelfth man[]

While football is a game traditionally played with eleven players on each team, there are many references throughout footballing history to games being influenced by the presence of a mythical 'twelfth man'. There are in fact two entirely independent situations in which the twelfth man can appear.

- The atmosphere created by the home supporters at a match can be said to be the twelfth man for the home team. This is an apparently nonsensical term since there is likely to be more than one person cheering for the home team, even at MK Dons matches. 

- A run of refereeing decisions against one particular team can lead to the suggestion that the officials act as a twelfth man for the opposition. Again, this term is applied no matter if it refers to just the referee, or the linesmen, or any of the 56 'additional assistants' currently operating in the Europa League.

Notable twelfth men[]

Perhaps the most famous occurance of this phenomenon occured during a Norwich City match in 2005 in which the faintly sozzled TV cook Delia Smith addressed the crowd with her cry of 'We need a twelfth man here. Where are you? Let's be having you!' at half-time. She then proceeded to slur 'I love you. You're my beshtesht manager' before falling over in the technical area.

It was further alleged that Darren Huckerby, left on the bench for the game, heard the announcment 'We need a twelfth man...where are you?' and ran down the tunnel with his boots in hand shouting 'I'm here, I'm here!'. The fourth official had to tell him that she only meant it figuratively and refused to allow him to play.

Anomalies of the twelfth man phenomenon[]

The two seperate occurances of the twelfth man - in the home crowd and in the referee - has led some experts to conclude that these two entities must therefore be equivalent. It is not known, however, if it is possible as a result to counteract a spate of bad decisions by increasingly vociferous home support - except at Old Trafford, where such actions are expected of both the crowd and the referee.

Furthermore, there are occasionally situations where the home team has both a strong vocal following in the crowd and all the favourable decisions by the referee. Strangely, in such circumstances there is never usually a reference to a 'thirteenth man', contrary to the evidence given previously.