In the summer of 1989, Derby County and Umbro launched a new change strip.
Having had a yellow away shirt in 1988-89 and blue before that, a red and black striped effort – featuring thick stripes on the left of the chest and narrow ones on the right, like Newcastle United’s 1990 home – was a departure, but not a huge one.
Red and black hoops had been worn at Bristol Rovers in 1985-86 and a plain red Admiral shirt was seen against the same opposition the year before that (thanks to the Derby kits site Established 1884 for this information).
Back then, a launch effectively amounted to an appearance in advertisements in the football press, but Derby’s outfit never made it from the photo studio to the pitch.
Instead, by the time the new season came around and the Rams were forced to change from white for their trip to face Queens Park Rangers on September 16, the shirt had been altered, with silver becoming the other main colour complementing black, with red reduced to the trim – though the shorts and socks did remain red.
The reason for the change? Apparently, the Derby fans weren’t impressed with the amount of red on the kit as originally envisaged, as they associated that colour with Nottingham Forest.
As well as the A52, Derby and Nottingham are connected by the fact that Brian Clough has managed the cities’ main clubs to win the league title – in fact, a section of the road is now known as Brian Clough Way. Wearing red was too much for those die-hards, it seems.
However, it would appear that the same reservations weren’t as strong in Nottingham, as their change kit was incredibly similar to the new Derby home strip. After having yellow and blue as a back-up colour-scheme during their time with adidas, Forest reverted to white with red and black upon joining with Umbro in 1986 and the new away kit for 1989 continued that theme.
Beyond the different crests and sponsors’ logos though, only small collar differences, cuff trim and fabric pattern differentiated the Derby first-choice shirt from Forest’s second.
Two years later, Umbro would again change the Derby home and Forest away shirts and the same colours were used for the latter, but with a red collar.