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My Greatest Kits

West Germany Home (Italia’90 World Cup)

England versus West Germany in the 1990 World Cup semi final and the campsite bar erupts in celebration as Chris Waddle skies his penalty.  Four boys resplendant in white West Germany shirts don’t hang about to listen to the post match analysis/post-mortem and rush outside hoping to take their chance of squeezing in a quick kick-a-bout in the last light of a beautiful Scottish summer’s evening before their parents can realise they’ve gone. That’s right, this isn’t a campsite on the Rhine or maybe somewhere in the mountains of Bavaria.  I was eleven and my family and our friends, the Edgars, were enjoying a few nights at a caravan site in St. Andrews.

As you can imagine, the support was pretty partisan, no doubt as it was throughout the rest of the country that night, but for myself, my brother Stewart and our pals, Ross and Andy, the relief that England weren’t going to feature in the final was second to the fact that we could look forward to watching another game involving the players that we had been imagining we were throughout the duration of the tournament – Scotland, unfortunately, only provided a limited span of interest. I was always Lothar Matthäus. To this day, he’s one of my all-time favourite players. I even had a wristband like the Germany flag that was pretty tight, but I used to try and squeeze over my sleeve further up my arm to complete the look of the captain. Stewart was Bodo Illgner, while Andy and Ross were Jurgen Klinsmann and Andreas Brehme respectively. Not that West Germany was an obvious choice to support, but the kit…well it was a thing of beauty and that’s what lured us in at the start of the tournament, but more about that later.

Soccer - World Cup Italia 90 - Group D - West Germany v United Arab Emirates

The technicolour images of Mexico 1986 are the earliest clear World Cup memories I can recall. Maradonna was the protagonist, a swashbuckling, barrel chested hero (or villain depending how you look at it) cutting his way through defences in his fearless and successful mission to singlehandedly win the trophy for Argentina. Myself, my Dad, my little brother to some extent (he was only 4) and even my Mum, all marvelled at his incredible performance against England. White shirts littered the field and trailed in his wake almost every time he got the ball. Opposition players were made to look like they were running in slow motion while he was in fast forward, as he dribbled a ball which seemed to be glued to his feet. I can clearly recall him lifting that beautiful trophy and then being held aloft himself by his teammates in celebration after beating West Germany in the final.

And a Scottish memory too. Gordon Strachan’s in there, popping up with a worthy cameo, as much for his celebration as the quality finish against West Germany. I actually googled it to remember the goal as all I could picture was Strachan with a wrye smile and one leg on the advertising board.

Maradona

However, it was Italia’90 that really got under my skin. As an eleven year old, it was everything! It felt like the country, our town, my friends and my family were almost part of the whole celebration. Of course it helped that Scotland had qualified and I was just living, breathing football at the time. There were projects at school (our headmaster Mr. Brown was football daft) where we learned about all the countries taking part. Geography was devoured and every nation’s flag memorised. Even geopolitics was touched upon in primary 6 without us even realising – football used as the catalyst and diversion for some proper learning and we didn’t even know it – we couldn’t get enough. Our Mum would come home with mini Coca Cola Italia’90 footballs and beach towels from the supermarket. I loved drawing the mascot that looked like a Rubik’s Cube transformed with a ball on it’s head and my brother and I spent some pocket money on Italia’90 Subbuteo teams and goals with red, white and green nets. The rest of it was used to buy, in my mind, one of the most iconic and beautiful football tops ever.

Italia90_mascot

That silky white jersey with those three lines of colour; deep yellow and red under the serious black all dancing across the chest with the original (and best) Adidas trefoil opposite the imposing eagle encircled by DEUTSCHER FUSSBALL-BUND in a bold font wasn’t messing around. This was a serious statement of intent from Adidas and while it was the first of a line of many kits which followed a similar design, they never quite matched the coherency and simplistic brilliance of this one.

I don’t think my Dad should waste any time trying to dig this one out from the loft as, unfortunately, I don’t think I held onto it. It wouldn’t matter anyway as not only would it be too small, I won’t be willing the Germans to World Cup victory tonight. Not like I was in 1990 as I delighted in watching one of the best penalty takers of all time, left back Andy Brehme, dispatch a right footed spot kick that defeated Argentina in an act of revenge for the loss in the final four years previous.

Brehme

The Germans have undoubtedly been the team of the tournament and while I revel in watching players like Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Khedira and Kroos, they haven’t grabbed my attention the same way the team of Italia’90 did and it’s not their fault. Not many teams do that any more (Spain have been the exception in recent years) and I think that’s why I’ve been rooting for the underdogs. So I’m continuing with that theme tonight. This year’s competition has been fantastic, but you never enjoy them like you did when you were eleven, twelve, thirteen years old. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t still fancy a little kick-a-bout later, hopefully after watching Messi do his thing tonight.

 

Denmark Euro’92

This kit has a link with #3 in the series, as it was also worn by Dortmund’s Flemming Povlsen, one of my favourite players and a key member of Denmark’s heroic Euro ’92 triumph.  So it makes sense to follow on with this fine example from quintessential Danish sportswear giants Hummel.  The shorts  (the perfect combination of length and bagginess) and socks were lovely, but like a lot of foreiegn kits you could never find them anywhere.  Looking back, the whole red, white and navy blue ensemble was, in my opinion, one of the best kits in the competition.

euro

I was 13 when Povlsen and co took the footballing world by surprise when they pitched up in Sweden at the last minute, ruffled a few feathers, spoiled their fellow scandinavian host’s Euro ’92 party and earned their place among the international footballing elite by  winning a major tournament they didn’t even qualify for!  They were only there in place of the group winners, Yugoslavia, who were ejected at the last minute by UEFA with their country in the throes of civil war.  Dave Farrar does far more justice to Denmark’s incredible triumph in his insightful and compelling in-depth account in Issue One of The Blizzard, but for me at such an impressionable age, it was what football was all about.; the ultimate underdog story.  I replayed every moment of Denmark’s victory up the park and in the street outside my house, that red and white shirt (with the smart, almost oversized badge) getting put through it’s paces, hoping my Mum had it washed and dried nearly as fast as Danish goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel could race from his line to thwart an attack.  Forget Denmark’s most recent exports, the superbly gripping TV thrillers shown on BBC Three – Borgen, The Bridge, and The Killing – this was real life drama, and for that summer I was hooked on the excitement generated by an unassuming group of players in a really cool kit.

Denmark_badge

Michael Laudrup had been a favourite of mine ever since he showed up on my radar during the Danes’ daring exploits at Mexico ’86.  But five years later, their best player had walked away from International football because of disagreements with manager Richard Møller Nielsen’s style of play.   Now I was his younger sibling, Brian, twisting and turning in a game of ‘World Cup doubles’ up Boots’ park (the bowling green of a pitch we weren’t meant to be on behind the factory where my Mum worked) which had been imaginatively re-named ‘Euro Championship doubles’.  It blows my mind that six years later I would share the same pitch, battling against him and his star-studded Rangers team, attempting to nullify the same skills I once tried to recreate.

EM 1992 Finale DAENEMARK - DEUTSCHLAND

This was a tournament where I was utterly engrossed and not just because Scotland had managed to qualify.  I remember watching almost every game as well as taping highlights shows onto a long play VHS tape so that I had every goal from the tournament.  90 minutes magazine even gave away a cut out video sleeve for the final which I expertly glued to the cardboard case to make my own unofficial extended highlights reel with the final between Denmark and Germany shown in full at the end.

John Jensen’s opener in that game typified the way Denmark had played over the course of the tournament which was with a  combination of skill and determination in equal amounts.  I think it was Kim Vilfort who latched onto Povlsen’s header down the right hand side and he cleverly back heeled it back into the Dortmund player’s path.  Povlsen, who I revered as much for his never say die attitude as his swashbuckling style, got nailed by a well-timed crunching tackle by no-nonsense centre back, Jürgen Kohler, who then passed to another of my favourite players from that time, Andy Brehme.  Brehme turned into the sliding Vilfort who took ball and man with an equally bone shuddering challenge to set up Polvsen to attack the German box.  A disguise cut-back to the usually off target Jensen was dispatched from the edge of the box with power and pace past a diving Bodo Ilgner, steering the Danes on the path to victory and sealing a move to Arsenal for the hard working Danish midfielder when the tournament ended.

jensen-400x300

It was fitting that Vilfort scored the second.  The Danish utility man, who had an outstanding tournament, had spent his time between matches flying back and forth to Denmark to visit his daughter who had Leukaemia.  I don’t know how he did it, but his strength of character must have been an inspiration for his team mates.

The shock that reverbarated around the footballing world following Denmark’s incredible victory may have died down relatively quickly outside of the winning nation, but for a good few months after, I was still wearing that red shirt with pride.  No longer was I Maradonna or Matthaus or any of the more glamorous players I admired.  Up Boots’ park, when the game was back to ‘World Cuppy’, I was Lars Elstrup, Kim Vilfort, Brian Laudrup, Flemming Povlsen and John Jensen – the heroes of Euro’92.

Highlights of the final from YouTube: Denmark 2 Germany 0

Borussia Dortmund Home 1993/94

This post was partly inspired by the The Football Attic blog, an excellent site dedicated to quirky football nostalgia with a particular love of unusual kits. A little while ago the guys set up a knock-out competition to find the best classic sponsor that adorned the shirts of British teams from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s . The winner was WANG, an American computer company which at one time proudly adorned the Oxford United kit, beating the legendary Newcastle Brown Ale star which was used to striking effect on ‘The Toon’s’ famous black and white striped shirts of the 80’s.  As I consoled myself with the defeat of Liverpool’s HITACHI top (featured here in Greatest Kits #1) in the earlier rounds, it got me thinking about another shirt I owned from my past, where the sponsor played a crucial part of the design.

Dortmund-91-Home

Hi Vis!

Die Continental, who sponsored Borussia Dortmund for just over a decade from 1986 until their European Cup victory in ’97, are a German health Insurance giant. And whilst that might be quite a bland sponsor, the symbol was anything but – and neither were the players who wore it.  Matthias Sammer, Andreas Möller, Karl-Heinz Riedle were all some of my favourite German players from the early 90’s, but after Denmark’s shock win at the 1992 European Campionships, I had a special admiration for a talented attacking Dane called Flemming Povlsen.  Ally that to the fact that you wouldn’t miss the kit on a poorly lit motorway in the middle of the night, and I couldn’t wait to spend my pocket money.  I mean, it’s luminous yellow, how good is that!

images-13

Flemming brilliant!

I remember going into Greaves Sports in Glasgow which was, and probably still is, THE number one place in Scotland to buy football shirts, especially those with a random continental flavour. While I was  sure that the Dortmund kit was what I was after, I must admit I almost wavered at the last moment. I was nearly seduced by the sultry white and violet silk of Fiorentina away, a top I always wanted to own – Gabriel Batistuta and the rise of Italian football on channel 4 being the main culprits for that obsession. However, I stuck with the plan, and whilst I still regret never owning a ‘Viola’ strip, my BVB shirt is one of my all-time favourites .

InFamous-AC-Fiorentina-Away-Lotto-7up-shirt-1992-1993

The one that got away

Over the years Borussia Dortmund have never strayed from their famous bright yellow and black colours, and even though I don’t think the subsequent sponsors have had quite the same visual impact as the big, black C, the club’s colours make the famous ‘Yellow Wall’ inside Signal Iduna Park an amazing spectacle to behold. Jurgen Klopp’s exciting young team are taking Europe by storm and it must be a good time to be standing on that iconic south terrace. But let’s face it, with an atmosphere like this, is there ever a bad time?

Barcelona Third 1990-1992

I’ve been away for a while so this is just a quick post to get back into the swing of things.

Not content with being the best team on the planet and having the worlds greatest player in their ranks, Barcelona also wear one of the most recognisable and iconic kits of all time. The Catalan club have worn the scarlet and blue stripes for over a hundred years but it’s not their symbolic home shirt that’s featuring in My Greatest Kits because, unfortunately, I never owned that prestigious jersey.

The only Barcelona top I had when I was younger was this silky little red number which they wore as their third shirt from 1990 to 1992. I bought it at school for a tenner from one of my mates, Del Barclay, and I absolutely loved it. Not a shirt that was very practical for the harsh Airdrie climate given it’s lightweight design and this was maybe one of the reasons Del sold it.  Perfect for the Nou Camp on a balmy Mediterranean summer evening, not so clever worn down the Katherine Park on a freezing afternoon in October.

I mainly wore this indoor when playing 5-a-sides or for P.E., where at Caldervale High, we were allowed to wear any football tops apart from Rangers and Celtic (not that many people had the latter of those at my school!).

I parted with my hard earned pocket money because this was a pretty unusual top and I certainly wish I’d hung onto it. As I was trawling the internet, looking for elusive photos of this special shirt, I noticed that one was going for £450! That would’ve been some bit of business but I haven’t got a clue what I did with it. I think it’s so sought after due to the fact it wasn’t worn that often. It’s similar in colour to the home jersey so I can’t think when the Blaugrana (roughly translated as Catalan for scarlet and blue) would’ve had the need to wear it.

I couldn’t even find any photos of it actually being worn by the many world class players Barca had in their squad at the time. Those such as Ronald Koeman, Michael Laudrup, Hristo Stoichkov and current manager Pep Guardiola to name a few.

Check out #1 here

Liverpool F.C. Home 1979-1982

I’ve not posted for a while as I’ve been really busy with Uni work so on my return I thought I’d introduce a new feature called My Greatest Kits. I know it’s a cheesy title but it does what it says. I’ll be featuring kits that I’ve either owned or played in throughout my career. Between the ages of 4 – 16, my wardrobe consisted mainly of football strips and tracksuits and some of you who know me might be thinking it would be better if it still did!

The young Easton brothers – nice shirts, pity about the shorts!

I’m kicking off with the very first kit I ever owned and probably my all-time favourite, the Liverpool home shirt from 1979-82 as worn by my boyhood hero Kenny Dalglish and my Dad’s favourite player, Graeme Souness.  I was only 4 when my parents bought it for me on the way back from our holiday in Cornwall and my Mum even sewed King Kenny’s iconic number 7 on the back.

It’s a simple design but it just looks so cool and was a kit synonymous with success. The Liverpool team of that era were untouchable, winning League Championships, League Cups and European Cups in one of the club’s most successful spells. Everything about it oozes class, firstly it’s made by Umbro with their logo and the simple liver bird club badge sewn in golden yellow. Then you’ve got the sponsor,  Hitachi (the japanese electronics company) emblazoned across the chest in white block capitals. Liverpool were the first ever club in history to have a commercial sponsor on their jersey’s and they didn’t muck about. I love the way it looks and I used to liked the sound of the word when I was little. When Souness smashed one of his 25 yard blockbusters into the top bin and then turned around to celebrate, it was like HITACHI! – Take a bit of that! There is one negative though; the material. I don’t know what it was made from but I can only describe it as being a nipple burner. After three hours running about pretending to be Kenny Dalglish, I’ve got to say there was a fair bit of chaffing and even a spot of blood on more than one occasion, but it was well worth it.

Worth checking out –

Historical Football Kits (Liverpool F.C.)

Umbro Football Shirt Archive on Flickr

Umbro Blog – football shirt post

The Liverpool Shirts Museum – Home Kit 1979-1982

Hope you enjoyed this blast from the past, let me know which kits you think should be considered classics.