Arsenal 1996-97 official merchandise catalogue

This catalogue was a mammoth effort from Arsenal, 64 pages including 16 in the centre providing club information (your correspondent got waylaid in inputting the results for the whole season).

The Gunners had a new home strip, Nike’s second, as full white sleeves returned. For for the first time since the 1960s, the first-choice socks were white – there have only been five seasons since where that has not been the case, with 2020-21 the sixth.

In the 1980s and 1990s, ‘second away’ was sometimes used to describe what we now know as third kits. That term was applied to the yellow and navy strip – using the same design as the home, bar the shorts trim – but it was essentially a replacement for the two-tone blue outfit introduced in 1995-96.

The blue was worn in early-season visits to Liverpool and Middlesbrough (the only time that Patrick Vieira, the player modelling the kit, wore it competitively) but the yellow was used thereafter.

The ‘new’ yellow goalkeeper shirt was in fact the 1995-96 third choice, only used against Sheffield United in the FA Cup. It was the same design as the black/purple version it replaced, with an orange available as back-up but not retailed.

We do wonder if the training t-shirts on page 6 were inspired by the way Ian Wright used to wear the 1994-96 home shirt – that or the toddler kit on page 21 would have made for classic Arsenal jerseys.

The ‘Highbury at Night’ painting on page55 is based upon David O’Leary’s testimonial in May 1993 – Manchester United wore their ‘Newton Heath’ third kit in that game, having used their blue away at Highbury during 1992-93.

For Christmas 1996, I received the 12-player Corinthian set, though with John Hartson included instead of David Hillier, who didn’t feature under Arsène Wenger. Hartson didn’t fare much better, joining West Ham United during the season and helping them to avoid relegation.

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