Growing up in Ireland, where Gaelic games are so popular, it doesn’t seem strange to have two teams changing when colours clash (of course, sometimes neither changes).
On the rare occasions that it happens now in football, there is a general outcry, while the same sentiments are often expressed when looking at pictures from the past – perhaps with a lack of knowledge that, at one stage, that was the rule for FA Cup games.
By the late 1970s, that regulation still existed but was enforced less, with the 1971 FA Cup final the first notable example of this. Arsenal lost the toss on that occasion and, while they wore their home kit in losing to Leeds United the following year, their yellow and blue change kit would be used in three deciders in a row from 1978-80 inclusive – but only in the middle one, against Manchester United in 1979, was it fully necessary.
As related in the excellent book The Arsenal Shirt, Arsenal changed against Ipswich Town in 1978 rather than donning red alternative shorts, and it was a similar story two years later, when West Ham United provided the opposition.
Both semi-finals went to replays, and were indicative of the inconsistent approach to clashing – West Ham wore all-white against the all-blue of Everton in both of their games, while Arsenal and Liverpool’s four-game series saw them alternating home and away kits.
West Ham were the ‘home’ team for the final, but they opted to stay in white – perhaps a mix of superstition after the semi and the heat. The default setting of the away strip was white shirts with blue shorts and socks, but the home shorts and socks were used here, with the mash-up nature evident by the difference in Admiral trim and logos.
With West Ham in white, Arsenal could have worn their home shirts with red shorts, but again decided to go with yellow and blue. West Ham’s white worked its charm though, with Trevor Brooking’s header giving them victory.
It would transpire to be their final game in Admiral as they joined forces with adidas for the 1980-81 season – their next game, the Charity Shield against Wembley, would see all-white worn again, with the shirts and shorts again have different striping.