By Nik Yeomans
In late December, Chelsea announced, rather quietly, that the team would wear a special one-off kit in the FA Cup third-round tie against Nottingham Forest. Part of the reasoning of the late announcement was the small matter of getting a favourable draw, as an away trip to a team wearing blue would have scuppered the plans completely.
The kit is, in my opinion, a modern masterpiece. A simple blue crew-neck design with a yellow tag at the rear of the neck being the only obvious giveaway that this is a Nike product – effectively the 2018 Vapor template. Nike and sponsors Yokohama Tyres and Hyundai have agreed to have their logos rendered tonally so they can only be seen at certain angles.
The Chelsea badge has been restored to the yellow lion as worn in the final replay back in 1970 at Old Trafford against Leeds United. Although long-sleeved versions have been produced for retail, it is expected that player shirts will be short-sleeved, worn with undershirts as required. Numbers are rendered in yellow in a similar font to the Umbro originals of 1970, even to the extent of faux stitching round the edges. As far as I am aware the players will wear their usual squad numbers, but the shirts will not carry the players names.
The shorts are based on the 2017-18 Chelsea template with the tape detailing and numbers in yellow. In a nice, but unauthentic touch, the shorts also bear the yellow lion. The socks will be yellow with two blue cadet bands rescued from last year’s change kit.
The overall appearance will be a fitting tribute to the heroics of 1970, when Chelsea won the FA Cup for the first time. For the initial Wembley game, Chelsea were considered the home team and wore their normal kit with ’Wembley 1970’ embroidery in a small scroll under the badge. This was the first season after the a socks-clash rule had been introduced and Leeds wore the red socks from their change kit.
As Leeds were the ‘home’ team for the replay at Old Trafford, they were able to wear their full all-white kit – though still with ‘Wembley’ embroidery – and Chelsea would need to change their socks. Rather than the blue socks that had been the change option all season with the blue kit, Umbro produced a set of yellow socks with two blue cadet bands on the turnover as opposed to the one thicker band worn with that season’s yellow change kit. In a classy touch the badging, short tapes and numbers were all rendered in yellow.
The 1970 replay kit was so popular that it was carried over for the next four seasons when playing teams with white socks. It was also famously worn in both European Cup Winners’ Cup final matches v Real Madrid in 1971 (with plain yellow socks) and then again in the 1972 League Cup final against Stoke City, only this time with two yellow stars and ’Wembley 1972’ embroidery. Shirts were always long-sleeved and only had the yellow stars and ‘Wembley’ embroidery from 1972 onwards. The shorts and socks had a final fling away to Tottenham Hotspur in April 1974, though they were worn with short-sleeved shirts with white badging. Yellow socks have made the odd comeback since, though sadly without the matching shorts and trim.
Unfortunately, current kit regulations make such subtle variations very difficult to introduce and this new kit is likely to be a one off occasion and will not even be worn in the case of a replay. However, should Chelsea meet Leeds in the final, some more thinking may have to be done….