- Ordinarily, we would now be gearing up for the commencement of the World Cup in June, but of course things are different now. Hopefully the return to this series will shorten the time until December
- England Football Online is a wonderful resource and was, as ever, hugely useful
Apart from the short sleeves, England’s first-choice shirts for the 1970 World Cup in Mexico didn’t look noticeably different to what had been used as the country had claimed the Jules Rimet Trophy on home soil four years previously.
However, in a bid to counteract the high temperatures that the team would be facing, the usual navy shorts were swapped for white and the shirts and shorts were made from a new perforated fabric developed by Umbro – Airtex, as distinct from Aertex, another Manchester company – which helped to cool the players. In addition, the usual red change kit was replaced by sky blue, seen as a better option in the searing heat. Apart from Belgium’s away shorts, there were manufacturers’ logos visible at the World Cup, though.
England’s opening game in Group 3 was against Romania – nowadays, Fifa are loathe to allow white v yellow, but it was considered fine back then. In fact, things were so lax on the colour-clash front that Gordon Banks played in the first half in his usual yellow – albeit without the usual white shield on the crest – despite the fact that the Romanians were in the same colours.
In a warm-up game against Ecuador just prior to the World Cup, Banks had worn a long-sleeved red England jersey with number 3 on his back – believed to be his training shirt.
However, that wasn’t to hand this time or else there may have been fears about England having two number 3s on the pitch (left-back Terry Cooper wore it) and instead Banks returned for the second half in a plain red t-shirt, lacking a number.
After a 1-0 win, England faced Brazil and they were again in all-white, forcing their opponents to wear mismatching grey change socks. Banks would make it three shirts in the space of two games, wearing a blue change shirt – where was it for the Romania match? – as he made his spectacular save from Pelé. Unfortunately for England, Brazil still won, 1-0, but victory in their final match, against Czechoslovakia would secure qualification for the knockout stages.
As the Czechs had opted for white as their first-choice colour, England as the ‘away team’ had to change into the new light blue second strip. As with the goalkeeper shirt, this set had a crest with a transparent background.
One thing that had not been considered, though, was how it looked alongside white on black-and-white televisions and, while Sir Alf Ramsey’s side won 1-0 to secure second place in the group, many viewers at home found it difficult to distinguish between the sides. Banks was back in yellow but wearing the same shorts and socks as his team-mates, making for a unique look.
England were into the quarter-finals, where they would be opposed by West Germany, who had topped Group 4. Given the concerns over sky-blue’s suitability, England were back in red – it’s unclear if they had brought these shirts with them as a fail-safe or if they had to be sent out at short notice – making for a similar visual match-up to the 1966 final.
However, the outcome was different as England – with Peter Bonetti deptusing for the ill Banks – led 2-0 only to lose 3-2.
Ramsey persisted with the ‘wingless wonders’ formation that had won the World Cup – what we now term as a diamond 4-4-2 – with Bobby Charlton still the number 9 despite the fact that he played at the apex of the midfield. Alan Ball had worn 7 in 1966 but was now 8, meaning that Geoff Hurst’s strike partner Francis Lee had 7.
Martin Peters, number 16 but first-choice in 1966, was now 11, while captain Bobby Moore was the only member of the World Cup-winning defence still to be in the first 11. Jack Charlton, deputy to the new number 5 Brian Labone, had 17 while Nobby Stiles – 4 in 1966 – wore 15 as his replacement Alan Mullery took 4. Bonetti and fellow back-up goalkeeper Alex Stepney wore 12 and 13 respectively.
With England failing to qualify in 1974 and 1978, and Admiral in place as kit manufacturers in 1982, it would be 16 years – and the return to Mexico – before England wore Umbro at a World Cup again.