Midweek Mashup – Birmingham City, 1977-78

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The previous instalment of this series to feature Birmingham looked at a one-off occasion where they wore red shorts and socks with their home shirts, but today’s instance was a little more common.

The Blues were among the tranche of clubs to switch from Umbro to adidas in 1977 – Umbro were adidas’s UK agents at the time, hard to imagine now – but the supply of kit didn’t stretch to blue change shorts or socks.

That meant that when Birmingham went to Elland Road in August that year, they paired their blue tops with the shorts and socks from the yellow change kit, giving a look of a Sweden away strip.

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However, for games where just a shorts change was required – at Manchester United or Nottingham Forest, for examples – Birmingham opted to go with the yellow socks too. Perhaps they feared that blue shirts, yellow shorts and white socks wouldn’t  look right – similar to how Chelsea’s socks changes in the 70s led to shorts switches too.

In later seasons with adidas, blue alternative shorts were eventually made available. They’re now back with the German firm, but there are no indications that this unique look will be revived.

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Fantasy Kit Friday, 16-2-18 – Ipswich Town and Norwich City 1997-98 swap

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Sunday sees Norwich City take on Ipswich Town in the East Anglia Derby.

The sides are currently level on points in 12th and 13th places in the Championship and whichever side loses will surely give up any hope of making the play-offs.

Ipswich fans will hoping for a repeat of the ‘Destruction Derby’ of just under 20 years ago – February 21, 1998 – when they recorded a 5-0 win. Swapping the kits from this game was Kevin Smith’s suggestion for today.

Norwich had quite a nice Pony kit at the time, designed by Bruce Oldfield, sponsored by Colman’s and notable for the yellow shorts. The change strip was a pleasing green reversal. Such a style is easily transferable and doesn’t lose anything in its Ipswich-ising.

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Doing a reversal of the Ipswich kit was perhaps a bit harder and represents the first use of a fantasy maker in Fantasy Kit Friday.

At the time, Ipswich produced their own kits under the Punch brand (the horse on their crest is a Suffolk Punch), and obviously that couldn’t be used on a Norwich kit, so we opted to create a new maker in Citizen, drawing upon Norwich’s old nickname.

The horse trim on the sleeves and shorts is suitably changed to canaries, with the shorts remaining yellow. The overall result is not a million miles from the current Norwich Errea kit, which itself is something of a tribute to their 1980s Hummel offerings.

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Midweek Mashup – Wales, 1976-77

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When Wales beat Northern Ireland 1-0 at Euro 2016, some outlets referred to them having reached the quarter-finals of the European Championship for the first time.

However, the qualification for Euro 76 featured eight groups, with the winners of them being drawn in four two-legged ties to determine who made it to the four-team finals. Surely they were quarter-finals?

Whether they were or not, Wales were there, having bested Hungary, Austria and Luxembourg. They were drawn with Yugoslavia, whose kit was blue shirts, white shorts and red socks, meaning a change for Wales when they went to Belgrade for the first leg.

Admiral had provided the revolutionary ‘tramlines’ kit that year and there was a complementary yellow change strip, with the socks from that matching the red shirts and shorts quite well.

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Wales lost 2-0 and, oddly, wore the same ensemble in the home game, a 1-1 draw, despite the fact that Yugoslavia were wearing all-white.

The look would again be seen away to Scotland in their World Cup qualifier in Hampden Park in November of 1976. The Scots donned white socks in Wrexham when the countries met in the Home Championship in May 1977, but for Wales’ ‘home’ World Cup qualifier (held at Anfield following crowd trouble at the Yugoslavia second leg), they were again in red-red-yellow.

That game was overshadowed by a dodgy Scotland penalty – some Wales fans have yet to forgive Joe Jordan – which led to a 2-0 ‘away’ win. Had Wales won, then they could have afforded to lose to Czechoslovakia in their final group game and still qualify, but instead it was Scotland who went to Argentina.

 

Ruud Gullit’s parting gift to PSV

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It’s always interesting when we find players who pay close attention to kit matters.

For example, when he was at Manchester United, before every game Wayne Rooney used to check which exact combination the club would be wearing, to aid his visualisation, but he never went so far as to suggest a fundamental change to the strip, as Ruud Gullit did when he was with PSV Eindhoven.

In a passage from his book How To Watch Football, Gullit explains the influence he wielded in altering the club’s look.

When I got to PSV, I instantly understood the importance of what Cruijff had said. It wasn’t that PSV wanted to become champions; no, it was imperative that they won the championship. There was no other option. And the responsibility for that mission lay with me. They made that publicly clear at the start. How I handled the pressure was up to me.

Thankfully, PSV is a quiet, friendly club, and so I had little difficulty making my presence felt; in fact I may have been a little overzealous at times. I piled all the pressure on my shoulders and took on the weight of responsibility of winning the league. I wanted to win so much, to be champion, to fulfil the expectations, that I involved myself in every minute detail.

I even got them to change the kit. PSV used to play in red shirt, black shorts and red socks. To me it looked ugly: so depressing, so dark, it radiated none of the strength and freshness I wanted. So we switched to a new kit: red shirt, white shorts and white socks. It send a powerful signal to ourselves and the opposing side. We felt bigger and stronger.

Funnily enough, when Bill Shankly took Liverpool away from white shorts and socks in the 1964s, he felt that the all-red made them look bigger and stronger. Proof, perhaps, that any kit-change can be a placebo once the message is strong enough?

In any case, with the new ensemble, PSV retained the Dutch title in 1986-87, Gullit’s last at the club, and they won the European Cup in 1987-88 (they lost the toss for choice of colours in the final, wearing all-white against Benfica’s all-red).

Gullit moved to AC Milan, where he would win European Cups in 1989 and 1990 while wearing white socks (they lost the 1993 decider wearing black socks, with Gullit omitted due to the three-foreigners rule). Milan’s switch to white socks had come in 1986, the year before his arrival, though.

At subsequent clubs Sampdoria and Chelsea, white socks were already favoured and, after taking over at Newcastle United, he attempted a similar switch during the 1998-99 season. The club reached the FA Cup final, losing 2-0 to Manchester United in their first game in the new kit.

After Gullit’s departure, the experiment was reversed. While PSV have reverted to black shorts with their red and white striped shirts, the white socks remain.

Fantasy Kit Friday, 9-2-18 – St Pauli

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As far as we can see, St Pauli have never had adidas kits – too mainsteam, perhaps – so Matthew Ashcroft came up with suggestion for today’s edition.

Obviously, the style he refers to is one close to our hearts, given that it was also worn by Cork City, and it’s a template which is quite versatile. A shame, perhaps, that it wasn’t utilised more, but maybe if it had been it wouldn’t be so special.

St Pauli did have predominantly white home shirts back at the turn of the 1980s into the 90s, and Jack Daniel’s were not the sponsor until later in the 90s, but there was a guy wearing a watch in Ben Hur and that’s still rated highly.

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Midweek Mashup – Ajax, 2014

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Like Real Madrid, Liverpool and Arsenal (well, most of the time), Ajax tend to avoid wearing change shorts or socks with their famous white and red shirts.

Most of the time, it’s no issue as they just wear their full away kit, which is usually a darker colour. That was the case in 2013-14, but the trip to Vitesse Arnhem in the league in April provided them with a problem.

Vitesse wear black and yellow shirts, sometimes with black shorts, but often with white shorts and socks, as was the case in 2013-14. Added to that was the fact that the back of their shirt had a large black panel for the number, meaning that Ajax’s away shirt wasn’t an option.

Ajax’s 2012-13 away shirt wasn’t a possibility either, and, rather than coming up a with special third kit, they took the plunge and wore red shorts and socks.

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A 1-1 draw meant that Ajax couldn’t clinch the title, but they were confirmed as champions soon after that.

The red shorts and socks would be worn at Vitesse in 2014-15 and 2015-16 as well, but last season Ajax wore their away kit as Vitesse had a yellow-dominated home shirt.

The sides meet again in Arnhem in March – but Vitesse have black shorts and socks this season so Ajax’s full home should be okay.

The one-offs – Manchester City third kit, 1989-90

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Manchester City fans have a lot of good kits upon which they can look back fondly, but this is not one of them.

In 1989-90, City’s first season back in the top flight, early away games saw them travel to face Coventry City and Wimbledon, with their maroon and white striped away kit worn. For the trip to Highbury to face Arsenal in the middle of October, they could have worn their home shirts, but there was a shorts-clash to deal with.

Sky blue shorts would be available later in the season, worn in the Manchester derby at Old Trafford, but they were not to hand on this occasion. Opting against pairing the home shirt with the away shirts – a look they would wear at Arsenal the following season – City instead went for the quick fix of a yellow teamwear strip (with mismatching shirts and shorts) with the club crest and brother wordmark applied.

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City lost 4-0 and rumour has it that club chairman Peter Swales saw to it that the kit was burned. How true that is, we don’t know, but it wasn’t worn again.

Incidentally, City would bring their tally of kits to four later in the season – with concerns over the striped away clashing with teams in white, a prototype version of the following season’s solid maroon change shirt, with a grandad collar like the striped kit, was used late in the campaign.

 

Luton Town: the Umbro years

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Last weekend, Luton Town – currently in League 2 of the Football League – travelled to play Grimsby Town.

The Mariners were holding a ‘Memories’ day in honour of former player Matt Tees and invited Luton fans to wear retro shirts to mark the occasion – it’s fitting therefore that this piece finally appears so soon afterwards, as it has been in the works for the best part of a year.

Our thanks to Luton fan Tim Davis for initially suggesting the article and then for his research and assistance in bringing it to fruition.

Luton were only with Umbro for three years, 1989-1992, and only wore four distinct shirts, but with shorts/socks mashups and sponsor variations taken into account, they took the field in no fewer than 26 different kit combinations over that period of time.

In fact, the oddities go all the way to the first reveal of the new kits in the football press in the summer of 1989. The goalkeeper shirt shown was the classic Umbro ‘Hampden’ design, but with  collar and red or orange shoulder panels – as far as we know, such a shirt was never seen in action, for Luton or anyone else.

The home shirt was a smart effort with orange and navy trim featured sparingly, while the away and third used the same design as the Chelsea home kit of the time.

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Ordinarily, the fact that the royal blue of the away kit didn’t match up with the navy on the home and third would irritate us – but, at the time, the Football League had a prohibition on navy kits as they were at risk of clashing with the black worn by officials. In any case, the number of variations across the three kits is enough to quell any anger.

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As well as the default format, the home shirt was also matched with white alternative shorts at Chelsea and Wimbledon. Away to Charlton Athletic, the blue away socks were used (unfortunately, there were no orange sets available that season to emulate the look used against Everton in 1985 FA Cup semi-final, when both clubs had changed socks).

All-blue was the first-choice format for the away kit, but that was only seen in the opening game of the season, at White Hart Lane against Tottenham Hotspur – when navy shorts v blue shorts was permitted, unlike when the Hatters went to Chelsea and Wimbledon.

The white home change shorts – with navy trim – effectively became the away shorts, worn at Southampton (with blue socks) and in the final-day win at Derby County which secured Division 1 safety (with the home socks).

As mentioned above, there were no orange socks to hand. As a result, the blue socks were used with the orange shirt and shorts at Queens Park Rangers in August and the white socks at Coventry City in September. Then, in December, the white shorts and socks appeared with the third shirt against Sheffield Wednesday.

None of the three shirts was changed for 1990-91, but, with the Bedford brand of commercial vehicles about to be retired, sponsors Vauxhall Motors put the name of their most prominent car marque on the Luton shirts for one season.

There were no new color combinations for the home kit – Charlton had been relegated but the white-navy-blue appeared at West Ham in the FA Cup. Football League sleeve patches were worn for the first time, too.

Whereas the Bedford wordmark had been rendered in white on the blue shirts in 1989-90, the Vauxhall was in navy.

While the all-white was allowed at Sheffield United in the league, the blue shirts were worn at Bramall Lane in the FA Cup. The blue-white-blue was the most popular change kit, used at Southampton, Tottenham and Sunderland, with the all-blue only seen at Leeds.

With orange shorts now available, there wasn’t as much need to mix with the third kit. All-orange was worn at QPR and Manchester City, but, oddly, white shorts and socks were used at Coventry. As with the previous season, Luton failed to win a game in the orange shirts.

Again, Luton finished one place above the relegation zone, but their luck would run out in 1991-92. Umbro introduced a new home strip, featuring far more blue and signalling the switch to brasher designs which would characterise the early 1990s.

With Vauxhall having departed, it appeared without a sponsor for the first few games of the season.

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Before long, Universal Salvage Auctions came on board as the new sponsors. Unusually, plain white change shorts were brought to Old Trafford for the game with Manchester United – creating a shorts clash, not usually allowed back then – and they were also worn at Southampton.

Watching the footage of that game initially, we saw the blue socks and assumed they were from the previous away kit, but noticing the white tops made us realise that, in fact, Luton wore the socks from Southampton’s blue Admiral change kit.

Due to the large levels of blue, Luton couldn’t wear their home kit at teams like Chelsea or Everton and so the orange kit was promoted to second choice.

Sponsorless at West Ham United on the opening day – oddly, as the Hammers didn’t have blue sleeves that season and wore their home shirts at Kenilworth Road – the away kit then appeared with the same USA logo as the home before a recoloured version was designed.

Though the shorts had the same design on the sides, they were longer than in the previous two seasons and had a subtle shadow stripe, similar to the white home change set.

They remained unable to win in those shirts though and, for the penultimate away game, at QPR, manager David Pleat sought to end the hex by pairing it with the home shorts and blue socks. Unfortunately, they still lost.

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The orange shirts did win actually win one game – unfortunately for Luton, they were being worn by Everton, who showed up at Kenilworth Road in November with just their home kit, having forgotten about the increase in blue on the Luton home.

Orange shirts, white shorts and blue socks was a permutation Luton hadn’t used.

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After the QPR game, Luton won 2-0 at home to Aston Villa to give themselves some hope of survival before the final match, away to the already-relegated Notts County.

Two points behind Coventry City, Luton needed to win and hope Coventry lost to Villa. Not fancying their chances of achieving that in the orange, Pleat resurrected the blue shirts for their only appearance of the season – the Vauxhall logo had to be patched over, with the USA logo on top of that.

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When Julian James put Luton into an early lead, it seemed as if the drop might be staved off again but Notts County came back to score two goals and win, meaning that Coventry’s 2-0 defeat to Villa was of no use.

It remains the last top-flight game that Luton – and indeed Notts County – have played. DMF replaced Umbro as Luton’s kit-maker that summer, staying for two years before the club self-produced their strips in 1994-95.

Since then, they have been outfitted by Pony, Olympic Sport, Xara, Diadora, Puma, Carbrini, Fila and, currently, Puma again.

Fantasy Kit Friday, 2-2-18 – Basque Country and Catalonia

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Something different today, requested by Marcos Marcelino dos Santos.

The question of Catalan independence is one which has received a lot of coverage of late and Marcos suggested a mid-90s adidas Catalonia ‘national’ team kit before going the whole hog and adding the Basque Country to the order too.

Catalonia’s colours are red and yellow – as often promoted by Barcelona – and Marcos’s idea was to base the home shirt on the Argentina kit used at the 1994 World Cup, modified to take in the estelada, the region’s flag.

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The away bears a lot of similarities to the change kit worn by Spain in 1994, but again with modifications.

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The Basque kits haven’t been as faithful to the ikurrina flag but still carry the same green, white and red – green is predominant, as it has been when Athletico Bilbao use the colours on their change strip.

The home takes its cues from the 1994 Romania kit…

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…while the away is a reworking of Germany’s.

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Midweek Mashup – Germany, 2016

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Like the Internazionale kit featured last year, today’s mashup is actually a team’s traditional look, relegated to alternative because the manufacturers decided to mess around.

Germany won the 2014 World Cup in an all-white ensemble, but while adidas restored the normal black shorts for Euro 2016, they also changed the socks to black – a tribute to past outfits, perhaps, but still not something seen on die Nationalmannschaft in quite a while.

The shirt, like many of adidas’s new offerings, featured the three stripes the down the sides of the body rather than the sleeves as well as a shadow pattern which apparently represented the history of Germany’s world ranking.

It was worn in the three group games against Ukraine, Poland and Northern Ireland, as well as the last-16 tie against Slovakia, which set up a quarter-final tie with Italy.

In March of 2016, the countries had met in a friendly, with Germany winning 4-1 as both wore their normal strips, but UEFA, having allowed black socks v blue in the Slovakia game, sought a change here, meaning Germany were back in the white-black-white look.

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Pleasingly, they didn’t just wear the white socks from the away kits, which had olive-green trim; instead, in something similar to the Marseille entry from last week, the white socks used were the same as those which goalkeeper Manuel Neuer wore with his black shirt. Against Italy, Neuer wore (seemingly non-clashing) black socks, though they were slightly different from the home set.

Germany won on penalties to end a winless streak against Italy at major finals. The black socks were back for the semi-final against France, but that proved to the be the end of the line for Joachim Löw’s team.

Incidentally, Germany haven’t had to wear a change shirt at a European Championship since the loss to England in 2000, when, strangely, both sides were in alternative kits.

Germany launched a new kit for the 2017 Confederations Cup and the white socks above were promoted to first choice. Thankfully, the strip for the upcoming World Cup also remains faithful to traditional sensibilities.