The early 1990s saw Japanese firm Asics make considerable inroads into the British football kit market and one of the clubs they signed up was Newcastle United.
The Toon moved from Umbro in 1993 and their new Asics kits were very smart – a classically-style home with blue trim and a blue change strip with a brush-stroke effect, complemented with black and white accents.
In most home games, the Newcastle Breweries ‘Blue Star’ version of the stripes was worn, but parent company Scottish & Newcastle opted to promote the more widely sold McEwan’s Lager for away matches and high-profile home clashes. With the initial yellow McEwan’s writing not showing up well, a second edition in white with a black background was provided. However, there was some guerilla marketing in the fact that the Blue Star appeared on the socks for all games where the home shirt was worn.
Newcastle only changed when necessary – over their two years with Asics, the stripes were worn in 93 of 104 competitive games (59 McEwan’s compared to 34 Blue Star). The blue kit was worn nine times, including twice at home: against Sheffield Wednesday in 1993-94 as the Owls didn’t have a kit at the time that was suitable against black and white and also against Athletic Bilbao in the 1994-95 Uefa Cup.
While Newcastle were able to get away with black and white against the blue and white halves of Blackburn Rovers and the blue and white hoops of Queens Park Rangers, the stripes of Wednesday provided a problem. With the blue obviously unsuitable, a special green third kit with darker blue chalkstripes had to be produced for the trip to Hillsborough in March 1994.
That 1-0 proved to be the kit’s only outing in that season and in 1994-95 it was again just limited to a single appearance, again at Hillsborough, this time a scoreless draw. Two games and no goals conceded, hard to ask for more.
Nowadays, of course, Newcastle and other teams have third strips that are worn only a few times (or even once) without being absolutely necessary. Should third kits only be used as and when required or do you like the variation? We’d be interested to know.