The history of Matchwinner, part 2A

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Based on the relatively good feedback of part one I decided to maybe make this a bit more interactive with you all.

A few things I noticed on the comments section were fans of teams who had MW at some point. It was great to see so many of you had still got jerseys from back then too…

…and who knew that MW actually dipped their toes in the Rugby League market as well? I certainly didn’t! Or, at least, I couldn’t remember it.

Many thanks for the uploads, gentlemen. The histories of Morton, Torquay, Clydebank and HULL KR among others, are very safe in your hands.

Also while I’m here, there was one comment that really stuck out, simply because I don’t know if it’s true or not. Graham reckons MW are actually a Scottish company from Lanarkshire! I was convinced that they were Lancashire and, with them based in Bolton, one would hope that would be substantiated. But, to be fair, MW did always have a very respectable market share in Scotland, so I could be mistaken. If anyone can shed any light on this, I would be very grateful.

Anyway, we continue anon…

In 1988, Umbro were arguably the biggest risk takers in kit design. They were doing all sorts of messing around, such as with Sheffield stripes or coming up with never-before-seen colour palettes for their clients (e.g. Sheffield Wednesday silver and purple or Chelsea mint-green).

However, the Scotland home kit of 1988-91 was a masterpiece in understated elegance and widely considered by experts to be ahead of its time. It had a collar and buttons, a rich material and nice touches such as historical labels on the cuffs. It was essentially, bespoke.

Adidas, meanwhile looked to be going in the direction of simplicity. By the time the 1990 World Cup was over, they were well on the way to using just one piece of material for the entire jersey.

From the Matchwinner point of view, the company seemed to be still more focused on building a solid portfolio of quantity by 1988.

Teams such as Birmingham, Bolton and Hull were in slightly more evolved versions of the mk 1 1985 style seen in part 1.

Collars remained simple, crossovers rather than turnovers. Trim remained near the shoulders, now in broad stripes not too dissimilar to the Adidas templates seen in the early 1980s or indeed Aston Villa’s Henson kit in 1985. These were very respectable and neatly cut. An ideal Mk 2 collection, you might say.

One other item of note was that the brand logos were moved to the sleeves of the jersey in some instances. Hull were the first to try this in 1988. Others would follow suit as the company evolved…

The first real attempt at said evolution then took place in 1989. My research spotted that Reading had veered away from QPR-style hoops for most of the 80s and newly contracted MW had decked them out in a sky-blue home with collar. Surely this was a decision taken by the club rather than MW themselves but it’s interesting to note. Motherwell, up in Scotland, also received a snazzy collar that summer.

Notts County too were given a home jersey with a buttoned collar. Neil Warnock’s charges certainly found it to be lucky as they ended up beating Tranmere in the 1990 Division 3 play-off final. The collar was surely using that beautiful Scotland 88 as inspiration, MW now embraced button down turnover collars but, also, for Bolton, moved their logo to the sleeve as per Hull circa 1988. Detail on the tops of the shorts was also a cue taken from the Scottish kit, though MW opted in Crewe’s case for a hoop around the top of the shorts rather than a potentially lawsuit inducing triangle near the drawstrings (All this talk of the Scotland kit isn’t helping my argument that the company is not originally from Scotland!).

Sporting black and white stripes like County were St Mirren in Scotland. Having had an unusual style with their earlier kit, they reverted to a more straightforward design, with new MW contract Stoke City in similar, though with a greater number of stripes. Kilmarnock also wore a smart striped shirt.

For the Bolton away kit, Matchwinner gave signs of the willingness to experiment, as a very fine navy chequered pattern gave the impression of a light-blue shirt. Stoke’s double-sashed change shirts were a nod to the past while the same style was used for Motherwell, albeit with the stripes moved to the left to line up with the crest.

This era was arguably the most fruitful period of tangible success delivered on the pitch for MW. North of the border, Hamilton Academical made it to the top-flight Scottish Premier Division in 1988 while Clydebank made it all the way to a Scottish Cup semi-final in 1990, a pretty big deal for a small first division club at the time.

In 1991, MW were seen in all three football league finals. Notts County achieved a second straight promotion as they battled their way back into the top flight of English football since 1984 and subsequently would become the first and only team to wear MW in the highest point of England’s football pyramid.

As well as that, Bolton narrowly lost to Tranmere (who were dressed that day in a very fetching En-S claret and sky) while Torquay triumphed against seaside resort rivals Blackpool.

The game was actually Torquay’s Matchwinner debut, having switched from the Ribero kits worn that season, and it gave an insight into what was planned for 1991-92.

In retrospect, it was a ‘bridging’ season for the company, evolving on what had been done for now and giving glimpses of the excesses that were on the way. Meanwhile things were also about to change in the wider wonderful world of kits.

2 comments on “The history of Matchwinner, part 2A

  1. Iain

    I believe they were Lanarkshire based – Cambuslang/Rutherglen area to be more precise. I recall as a youngster they had a factory clearance (this would probably be around 1994) where they sold off a load of shirts for £5 apiece; picked up several including Stoke’s 2 tone purple away, the infamous Bournemouth chevrons and the Hull tiger stripes, I struggle to recall the other shirts they had, although I do remember Shamrock Rovers being one of them.

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