This is Fantasy Kit Friday in the truest sense of the word, as it features a fictional team.
All-round good guy Seb Patrick got in touch with a suggestion of adidas Melchester Rovers kits over a four-year period in the early 90s and, given that he has featured in When Saturday Comes, among others, it made sense for him to write it.
Seb has created two other great sites, Branch of Science, which deals with football ephemera, and F1 Colours. Other Roy of The Rovers content can be found here and here, while John Devlin compiled a comprehensive Melchester kit history on his site.
And now, over to Seb:
When Roy of the Rovers held a kit design competition in 1991, they probably didn’t foresee that the winning entry would be a design that would last them for several years – with the classic-feeling red and yellow stripes (actually the first time Melchester Rovers had ever worn the colours) being used for the entire remainder of the weekly comic’s run, and the full year-and-a-half run of the monthly title that followed.
Indeed, it wasn’t replaced until the team wore a bizarre yellow and red “star” kit while languishing in Division One in early issues of their Match of the Day Magazine run.
I can’t really find fault with the striped kit, and – perhaps because it debuted at the peak of my time reading the comic, or maybe just because it initially had a SEGA logo on it – to me it’s still the definitive Melchester kit.
But that hasn’t stopped me wondering how the Rovers might have looked if they’d changed up their kit designs a bit more frequently in the first half of the 90s. What’s more, adidas kits of that same era are pretty much my favourite in football history – so is it any surprise that I’ve had a go at designing some hypothetical kits for a partnership that never was? No, it is not.
We begin in 91-92 – the year the kit competition happened and introduced the striped kit in the first place, but also an epochal season for football kits as adidas introduced their controversial ‘Equipment’ designs.
Let me be clear: the 1991 Liverpool kits, while controversial at the time, are my favourite football kits ever. So I really didn’t have to think hard about what to base this Rovers kit on, and have basically followed the Liverpool template to the letter, simply substituting yellow in for white (including those thick sock tops).
To be honest, I think the SEGA logo actually works better on the striped kit – the way it was drawn in the comic, it was a full white band across the chest that just doesn’t work on this kit – but nevertheless, seeing the Rovers in this classic design is a definite thrill for me. It would be as worthy an accompaniment to their 1992 title win as the “real life” striped one was.
For the away, meanwhile, I’ve gone for a simple palette swap – as the home kit is predominantly red, we can get away with a predominantly yellow away. Arguably, this works even better than the home strip does.
For the following season – the great Roy Race Sr’s last at Melchester, curtailed by his helicopter crash in March 1993 – we could have swapped over to the Arsenal/Norway template.
But let’s do what Liverpool did, and simply update the previous year’s kit with a few tweaks – adidas logo moving to the neck, shoulder stripes becoming solid fabric instead of a dyed part of the main shirt, and adjusted socks. Plus, of course, a new sponsor logo: TSB, who replaced SEGA in the pages of the comic.
Just doing another palette swap for the away kit, however, would be boring – so let’s be bolder. White shirts with red and yellow trim are something of a Rovers away kit tradition, especially in the 1990s (two different kit competition winners used this as a basis), and in the later Monthly era the shirt was paired with blue shorts to great effect.
We’ll revive that idea, but the shirt template will be the double shoulder stripes version, as worn by Rangers and France in 92/93.
Once again we’re sticking with Liverpool’s design as we change things up entirely – and boldly switch to a mainly yellow shirt, with red sleeves and underarm flashes.
It’s rare for Rovers to have a predominantly yellow kit – only the aforementioned 1997 Match of the Day one really compares – but this design is far more striking than a red body with yellow trim would be. Navy blue, which was the original colour of Melchester’s shorts back in the 1950s, is reintroduced as a tertiary trim colour.
For the away, we’re reviving a colour scheme last seen in the 1980s – a Portsmouth-style blue shirt, white shorts and red socks.
Interestingly, while this was Rovers’ most common away combination in the early ‘80s era (with a third kit being white shirts and shorts with red socks), it was also the colours of Walford Rovers, the team to whom Roy briefly transferred in 1983. The design, meanwhile, is based on Arsenal’s away kit of the same season.
These kits would be worn during what was the first season of Roy of the Rovers Monthly, which saw Roy “Rocky” Race Jr make his debut for Rovers as a 16-year-old, and the club narrowly avoiding relegation.
There was no sponsor on the shirt at the beginning of the monthly comic’s run, but Subbuteo came on board a few issues in – just around the same time as the strip also started to run in Shoot magazine – so we’ve kept them in for the whole season here.
So finally, in the 1994-95 season, we get to a striped kit – this would have been worn during the year that the monthly title was cancelled.
Snickers only came in as a kit sponsor for the very last issue (the sudden change from Subbuteo was never actually explained in-story) but their logo works really well on the striped kit here so we’ve taken a slight liberty by pretending they came in at the start of the season.
I considered doing a design based on Ireland’s USA ‘94 away kit here, but the yellow half-stripes didn’t work as well as I’d expected – so I’ve gone with pure, full-stripes instead for a smart and classic look. The shade of red used here is also deliberately slightly darker than on the previous seasons’ shirts.
The away, meanwhile, goes back to the white shirts/blue shorts styling of 1992/93, this time borrowing the pattern from Germany’s famous 1994 kit. The whole thing ends up coming off rather like a Spain away kit, but I like it nevertheless.
And that’s as far as Rovers’ history goes – at least until it would be picked up again in 1997 (albeit somewhat retconned from what had actually happened in the monthly comic).
But what shirt manufacturers might they have had during the Match of the Day years? Maybe that’s a question for a future Fantasy Friday…