At around 2pm on Saturday, AFC Wimbledon midfielder Anthony Wordsworth will begin the routine. Emerging from the home dressing room prior to his side’s FA Cup tie against Millwall, he will pick out a set of crystal stones from his bag and, aided by team-mates, lay them in the Kingsmeadow goalmouths.
Wordsworth believes the stones impart a positive energy, which he hopes will help his club reach the FA Cup quarter-finals for the first time in their short history. After beating West Ham in the previous round, AFC are daring to dream that they could even emulate the fabled Crazy Gang who lifted the Cup in 1988 – long before the original Wimbledon was ripped apart and moved to Milton Keynes. As for the current Crazy Gang, Wordsworth will keep an additional set of stones in the dressing room for good luck, but says that he is reassured by having some close to him on the pitch: “If I’ve got them near me, I just feel a lot better.”
To understand Wordsworth’s stones preoccupation, and to appreciate how he has gone from watching his beloved Arsenal in the final two years ago to being on the cusp of a Wembley appearance himself, we need to rewind to the toughest period of his life.
It was November 2017 when Wordsworth’s world fell apart, with the news that his brother Steven had died at the age of 40 of a heart attack. Then 28 and playing for League One side Southend United, the north-London-born Wordsworth struggled to cope, and his form plummeted. “It affected me massively, massively,” he says. “Initially, I couldn’t talk about it, I didn’t have any time off. It was affecting my performances. I kept getting niggles in my calves and I think that was down to stress. I had never had a calf injury up until that point. I was so desperate to get a goal for him. And when you are desperate for something, it just doesn’t happen.”
After a few months, a friend suggested that he see a crystal healer – a practitioner of what is a small sect of pseudoscientific alternative medicine – to try to generate some much-needed positivity. A naturally cynical character, Wordsworth was initially dismissive, but decided to give it a go. He was quickly convinced. For almost a year now, he has kept a set of stones with him at almost all times, chosen from a pool of about 25 of all different shapes and sizes.