On the face of it, Chelsea’s launching of a white and red away kit in 1990-91 – perhaps best described as diagonal checkers – seemed rather innocuous.
After all, it provided plenty of differentiation from the all-blue home. And yet, it was to cause such consternation that the club wore five distinctly different shirts that season, resurrecting two older change jerseys and commissioning another new one, while eight different combinations were employed.
The Blues began the season in blue on August 25, winning 2-1 at home to Derby in the home kit which had been introduced at the start of the 1989-90 season.
Back in those days, the second set of fixtures were midweek and, by the time of their next home game, Bobby Campbell’s side hadn’t left London but had worn two different kits, neither of them the new away.
On August 28, they had to make the trip to Selhurst Park to face Crystal Palace, who were in their traditional red and blue stripes. With that look problematic against both Chelsea’s home and away, the visitors wore a plain white shirt with blue neck, as they had in the previous campaign, when their away was red and white hoops.
Then, on September 1, the game away to Queens Park Rangers was something of a perfect storm. Again, the home and away clashed and now so too did the white third. Presumably, the previous hooped away was also deemed to have clash potential and so instead Chelsea opted to wear the teal shirt which had been their away in 1987-88 and 1988-89. It was used with the home shorts and socks.
After such upheaval, Chelsea were then back in blue for the next 11 games, opting not to engineer a wearing of the away kit. The shirt and socks finally saw action away to Portsmouth in the Rumbelows Cup third round second leg on November 6, but as Pompey had white shorts, Chelsea had to use the red set from the 89-90 away.
Eleven days later, it was finally seen in its intended form away to Wimbledon, and again away to Oxford in the next round of the Rumbelows Cup at the end of the month, with the navy sleeves and shorts on the U’s kit the reason for Chelsea’s change.
And still that wasn’t it. Having made it to the semi-finals of the Rumbelows Cup, Chelsea faced a two-legged tie with Division 2 side Sheffield Wednesday.
The red and white shirt and the white shirt were not suitable and presumably the jade wasn’t either, as Chelsea took to the field in basic red shirts, looking not unlike Nottingham Forest with the shorts from the white kit and plain red socks. The shirt had navy, rather than royal blue, trim.
That kit was worn again away to Coventry on April 1 but there was still time for two more colour combinations before the end of the season.
Away to Everton, the away wasn’t used for some reason and the home shorts were partnered with the white third shirt and socks.
And then, on the final day of the season, Chelsea travelled to play Aston Villa. As mentioned in a previous Midweek Mashup, in 89-90 Villa’s darker claret was considered more of a clash with blue than red that season and so Chelsea had worn red and white there that season.
One might therefore have expected the away or the plain white, but instead Chelsea wore the home shirt and shorts but white socks so as not to clash with Villa’s light blue. It was Chelsea’s classic 1970s look and, from the start of the 1992-93 season, it was to become quite common again.