- Today’s entry is a guest post by Les Motherby of Hull City Kits – you can read other pieces by him here, here and here
If I said, “I’m going to tell you about the time Hull City travelled to the North-East and had to borrow the home side’s shorts to avoid a kit clash,” you’d be forgiven for replying, “Whoa, stop right there, you told us about that Darlington game in 2001 less than a year ago.”
I am, however, referring to the other time Hull City travelled to the North-East and had to borrow the home side’s shorts to avoid a kit clash, seven years later in 2008.
The trappings of the shorts stories were very different. When the Tigers faced Darlington at Feethams in October 2001 they were a basement-level club, playing their sixth consecutive season in the fourth tier; when they travelled to Newcastle in September 2008, they were taking in the air of the Premier League, having moved quickly up the English footballing pyramid via promotions in 2003-04, 2004-05 and 2007-08, the latter after a first Wembley trip which resulted in play-off final victory and a seat at the top table for the first time in club history.
There’s much greater scope for kitman embarrassment in the highest tier. The only people who knew about the Darlo kit cock-up (leading to a mash-up of Patrick and Xara gear) on the day it happened were the 5,163 in attendance at Feethams and those hardy souls who stayed up for the latter stages of ITV’s Football League Extra.
When Hull City paired their own Umbro change shirts with borrowed adidas Newcastle shorts and socks though, the Premier League’s global reach meant that people in Vanuatu and Djibouti knew the Tigers’ kitman had erred. Probably.
Hull City’s 2008/09 away kit was released before the 2007/08 Championship campaign had reached its thrilling climax, meaning there were fans wearing it in the south side of Wembley when a sumptuous volley from Dean Windass propelled East Yorkshire’s finest to the Premier League.
Umbro termed the tone of the change kit ‘flint’, and, like the sedimentary cryptocrystalline form of the mineral quartz, it was a deep, dark grey. Too dark to be readily distinguishable from the Geordies’ black and white, a fact overlooked when only the away kit was packed for Hull City’s second top-tier away game.
Referee Andre Marriner was, understandably, having none of it, so when the sides emerged from the St James’ Park tunnel, Hull City were wearing white adidas shorts with Newcastle crests and silver trim.
These shorts are a bit of a mystery. The silver trim corresponds to the Magpie’s silver third shirt, but that was part of an all-silver kit, and having white alternate shorts for a shirt with light shorts seems redundant.
Newcastle had some white alternate shorts to go with the purple away shirt if all-purple didn’t cut it (these were used twice in Hull, when the Geordies visited in both the Premier League and the FA Cup) but these were not those. They weren’t from the previous season, so unless they were training kit shorts (they didn’t have numbers), alternates for the third kit is the most likely identity.
Newcastle were in turmoil at this early-season juncture, Kevin Keegan had just walked out and the locals were in revolt against Mike Ashley. One banner castigated the owner of retailer Sports Direct: “Yiz divvent knaa nowt aboot Geordies,” a serious charge indeed. The Tigers poured fuel on the fire by winning their first top division away game, nicking a 2-1 win through a Marlon King brace.
Hull City returned to St James’ Park later in the season for an FA Cup replay, by which time enough of the 2007-08 all-white away kit had been scared up to be used as an emergency third kit [MOJ note: our preference would have been for the 2007-08 amber home shirts to be used as ‘third shirts’ for this game – presumably getting matching shorts and socks would have been too awkward].
Oddly ,the shirts had Barclays Premier League sleeve patches added, though they never featured in a game in the ‘Big League’, as future Tigers boss Steve Bruce often termed it. City won that encounter too, with Daniel Cousin netting 8 minutes from time in a 1-0 victory.
Hull City haven’t been reduced to borrowing another sides gear since that September 2008 Saturday, but, if they do so again, there’s a good chance it will be in the north-east, and that I’ll be describing it for Museum of Jerseys.