Best XI: The finest football kits the World Cup has ever seen 

For fans across the globe, the colour, excitement and sheer sensory spectacle of the World Cup was the watershed moment when their youthful interest became a fevered obsession.

Every 4 years our planet comes together to watch 4 weeks of drama played out on grass and we know that come July 15th, history will have been made in Russia as magnificent new memories are burned onto our retinas.

Iconic international football shirts of yesteryear have become part of our sporting culture and Adidas have signalled a return to individual bespoke designs rather than the functional uniformity of recent tournaments with their kits for Russia 2018 holding a decidedly retro feel.

There is of course a link between glory and romance as the colours we remember are often worn by the players like Pele, Cruyff and Maradona who inspired the next generation of World Cup heroes.

So before we take the road to Nizhny Novgorod, here’s a nostalgic run down of the finest 11 sets of kits the World Cup has ever seen.

Continue reading Best XI: The finest football kits the World Cup has ever seen 

Advertisements

Classic Kits: The Father Dougal Ireland Shirt

Football shirt references in popular culture don’t come much higher than Father Dougal wearing a Republic of Ireland jersey to bed on Father Ted.

At least not in my house anyway.

Father Dougal Maguire was the wide-eyed simpleton priest banished to Craggy Island for an unspecified misdemeanour otherwise known as the “Blackrock Incident.”

Whilst we may not know much about how Father Dougal became a priest, we do know that he was a huge football fan as evidenced by his reciting of Italian footballers’ names as a last rites blessing for Father Jack.

“Costacurta, Baggio, Roberto.”

The sitcom’s deepest and most ecclesiastic conversations were reserved for bedtime when Father Dougal, played by Ardal O’Hanlon, asked Father Ted questions such as whether the elder priest believed in the after-life?

As the two priests lay in twin-beds, child-like Father Dougal could be seen wearing his Umbro made, mid-1990s Opel sponsored Republic of Ireland shirt under his Masters of the Universe bed-spread.

The Boys in Green wore those shirts in what was to be Jack Charlton’s final qualification campaign, as Ireland finished 2nd in their Euro 96 qualifying group behind Portugal.

As the two sides with the worst runners-up record across Europe’s qualification stage, Holland and Ireland’s fate would be sealed in a one-off winner takes all play-off at Anfield.

Big Jack’s squad on that December night on Merseyside included Paul McGrath, Dennis Irwin, Andy Townsend, John Aldridge and Tony Cascarino. Steve Staunton and Roy Keane were out injured whilst Niall Quinn missed the encounter through suspension.

Ireland, Holland, Euro 96 play-off, Anfield, 1995

The Dutch with Van der Sar, Seedorf, Bergkamp, Overmars and Davids won 2-0 thanks to two Patrick Kluivert goals.

Father Ted hit our screens in 1995 at almost exactly the same time I elected to stay on at Sixth Form at my Roman Catholic comprehensive school, 30 miles to the north of County Kilburn.

We thought we knew a few things about nuns and priests until Father Jack told the world to “Feck Off” and drank a bottle of Toilet Duck.

My school days coincided with Ireland’s international heyday under Jack Charlton, and my classmates’ international footballing allegiances were exactly 50% devoted to Ireland, 50% to England, 10% to Scotland, 7% Italy, with Spanish kids making up the numbers. Nobody at my school was any good at maths.

Our school was 100% football and whilst we played Basketball, Rugby and Cricket in PE, nobody had any passion for pursuits away from football other than experimenting with cigarettes and alcohol, playing truant, thinking about sex and trying to walk like Liam Gallagher.

Shirts with “Opel” emblazoned across them were a regular fixture in the Sixth Form block and on non-uniform days of the mid-90s.

With its baggy cut, button-up collar and flash of graphic design, this mid-90s shirt was emblematic of the era. The thick polyester material would have been itchy for Father Dougal to have slept in, leaving the shirt more than a little bit smelly in the morning.

Classic football shirts are often revered for great memories as much as great design. For me, this shirt from the mid-90s ticks both boxes, albeit those memories are of friends and comedy gold rather than for Irish glory on the pitch.

The Father Dougal shirt, but for a couple of extra points in qualification should have graced Euro 96 and been remembered as fondly as the Ireland shirts from Italia 90 and USA 94.

Now what would you say to a lovely cup of tea?

Gazza, Golazo and how we fell in love with Football Italia

CAST YOUR MIND BACK TO 1992.

As Brian Deane scored the Premier League’s first goal, our football viewing habits were more likely to include Atalanta than Atletico Madrid.

Flick through the pages of a 1990s football magazine like 90 Minutes or Total Football and you’ll find its pages devoted to Serie A with mere footnotes to La Liga.

In the early 1990s, Italy was the destination of choice for the World’s top footballers. There was simply no greater league in world football than Serie A.

Continue reading Gazza, Golazo and how we fell in love with Football Italia

Classic Kits: Grey England at Euro ’96

England made a radical departure from their traditional red away shirts for Euro 96 with a grey kit that still divides opinion like Marmite.

Officially marketed as “indigo blue,” the Umbro shirts were created with supporters in mind as it was felt that the design would go well with jeans.

Continue reading Classic Kits: Grey England at Euro ’96

Classic Kits: Jamaica 1998

When Jamaica upset the odds to qualify for France ’98, Kappa delivered an eye-catching set of shirts for the Reggae Boyz that firmly placed the Caribbean country on the footballing map.

Prior to France ’98, a list of famous Jamaican footballers may have ended at John Barnes and Bob Marley but all that was to change as the Reggae Boyz made their first and only World Cup finals.

Continue reading Classic Kits: Jamaica 1998

Classic Kits: The Mexican Stand-Off

We all know the classic fashion advice. Red and green should never be seen unless . . . you’re wearing a Mexican football shirt.

Loud and proud and capable of selling in vast quantities, Mexico’s shirts are always unique and often a little bit weird.

Continue reading Classic Kits: The Mexican Stand-Off

Fresh Air: Moon Safari at 20

This month sees the 20th anniversary of the release of Moon Safari the debut album by French duo Air and the record which set the mood music for the final years of the last millennium.

Continue reading Fresh Air: Moon Safari at 20

From Oakland to Oakwell: Billy Beane’s Barnsley Buy-Out

BARNSLEY FOOTBALL CLUB have announced the completion of a takeover deal by a consortium led by Chinese billionaire investor Chien Lee and “Moneyball” pioneer Billy Beane.

The group also includes investors Paul Conway, Grace Hung and Neerav Parekh and already owns a controlling stake in French Ligue 1 club Nice who made the Champions League qualification stages last term.

Yet it is the arrival of Billy Beane in Barnsley that has set pulses racing in South Yorkshire.

Continue reading From Oakland to Oakwell: Billy Beane’s Barnsley Buy-Out

Pirates, Plundering & Pints at the Captain Kidd 

Close to what was once Execution Dock, along the Thames from the City of London, stands a public house dedicated to one the most famous and fearsome pirates of his time, Captain William Kidd, a man who many say suffered an almighty miscarriage of justice.

In 1702, Kidd, a seafaring Scotsman who later settled in Boston, was charged with murder and five counts of piracy and was hanged in chains by the River Thames. His body was then left hanging in the sun and the surf for three tides (days and nights) so that the tidal river could completely submerge his cadaver. Then, as a gruesome warning to other would be pirates and plunderers, Kidd’s rotting corpse was left on display further along the Thames for the next 3 years.

Captain Kidd, pirate, pub, Wapping, London, Execution Dock, hangman's noose
Captain Kidd was hanged at nearby Execution Dock

In Kidd’s defence, his murder charge involved a shipmate who was hit over the head with a metal bucket. And those charges of piracy? Well, Kidd set sail as a legitimate trader and keeper of the peace in the Atlantic and Caribbean with orders from politicians, landed gentry and royalty to hunt pirates. It was agreed that Kidd would not be paid for his efforts but could keep the profits of his plundering.

Let’s just say that his background recruitment checks were a little lax and perhaps his crew were not all saintly seafarers. What’s a Kidd to do eh?

Mutiny, betrayal and skulduggery ensued before Kidd was sent to London to stand trial. Despite requests for clemency from the man many believe originally gave Kidd his orders, King William III (aka William of Orange), his pleas fell on deaf ears and Kidd was sentenced to death and was duly hanged at Execution Dock in front of a crowd of Londoners baying for buccaneer blood.

Today, a Sam Smith’s pub stands in his honour close to the point by the Thames where he met his maker at Execution Dock. There are low ceilings, small cosy booths and bountiful food options available at very reasonable prices.

The Captain Kidd will gladly sell you a pint of their own India Pale Ale for far less than a fiver. As pub prices in London go, that’s hardly piracy and the views from the beer terrace across the river make it a treasure well worth hanging around for.

Captain Kidd, 108 Wapping High St, St Katharine’s & Wapping, London E1W 2NE

The Prospect of Whitby: Welcome to London’s Oldest Riverside Pub 

Founded in 1520 during the time of King Henry VIII, the Prospect of Whitby lays claim to be London’s oldest riverside pub.

Although the original building burnt down in the 18th century, pints were being poured on the site of Wapping’s Prospect of Whitby 146 years before the Great Fire of London. 

Prospect of Whitby, London, oldest pub, River Thames
View of the pub from the River Thames

Where once smugglers and fishermen brought ashore their bounty, today the Prospect of Whitby’s riverside setting makes it a popular destination for today’s bankers and high financiers from across the water at Canary Wharf

The Thameside pub was originally known as the Pelican and later the Devil’s Tavern, owing to it’s salubrious history of close to 500 years of patronage by smugglers, thieves, politicians and pirates. The Prospect of Whitby is reckoned to have been named after a ship of the same name that regularly docked beside the pub. 

In whatever guise, the Prospect of Whitby has survived the reigns of several Kings and Queens of England including each of your King Jameses, all your King Georges and Charleses and both of your Queen Elizabeths. 

From the Great Fire and the Black Death to the Napoleonic wars and the 2 World Wars and one World Cup of the 20th Century, many years of murder, death and macabre misadventures have characterised this unique establishment. 

The pub is believed to have played host to Captain Kidd who met his end at nearby Execution Dock. Hanged for murder and piracy, his body was left hanging in chains for the next 3 years as a decomposing warning to anyone entering London’s Docklands. Indeed the infamous “Hanging” Judge Jeffreys, known for his eagerness to match fellons with their maker, regularly enjoyed the view across to Rotherhithe prior to his capture by the mob and death at the Tower of London.

Captain Kidd, Execution Dock, London, Prospect of Whitby, hanging
Captain Kidd met his end at nearby Execution Dock

Public executions were once a popular pass time akin to a spectator sport in London, and Wapping’s Execution Dock was up there with the Tyburn Tree as one of the city’s great venues for a gallows. Aside from providing refreshment for the public at hangings, the Prospect of Whitby also played host to bloody bare-knuckle boxing bouts.

Prospect of Whitby, oldest pub, London, gallows, noose
Have I got noose for you?

Today, the pub’s long pewter bar serves pale ale hopped by ingredients unimaginable to guests of yore like Dickens, Pepys and many of the ghosts that may or may not shiver the Prospect’s timbers. Legend has it that the more pints a punter purchases, the more likely a spectre is to reveal himself to the merry imbiber. 

Beers from local Woolwich craft brewers Hop Stuff are served to tourists and locals next to impressive views of the Thames from the pub’s several beer terraces and function rooms. 

Hop Stuff, craft beer, IPA, India Pale Ale, Renegade, Prospect of Whitby, London, brewery
Hop Stuff’s Renegade IPA

The Prospect of Whitby in Wapping is a monument to London’s gruesome history as a great tidal dock and a great place for a pint by the riverside.

The Prospect of Whitby, 57 Wapping Wall, St Katharine’s & Wapping, London, E1W 3SH

Sartorial Soccer: The Art of the Football Shirt

ARTISTRY, FLAMBOYANCE & FLAIR were on display on London’s Brick Lane as the Old Truman Brewery played host to a celebration of football shirt culture.

The Art of the Football Shirt, a pop-up exhibition from Jacket Required, delivered a gloriously nostalgic trip through football’s flirtation with graphic design and fashion, whilst looking at the game in it’s social context and place in popular culture.

Juventus, Napoli, Sampdoria, Style, football, culture, art, design
Classic Italian styling

From the elegant cut and slim stripes of classic 80s and 90s Italian styling to garish efforts from Japan and Mexico, curator Neal Heard explored football’s relationship with music, politics, fashion and design.

Football, politics, East Germany, CCCP, St Pauli, Fiorentina, Che Guevara, Stockport County

In an age of Nike led functional uniformity, where Chelsea’s away strip is just a shade away from Tottenham’s home kit, the collection reminds us of times where football shirts were bespoke creations embracing graphic design and inspiring streetwise fashion labels.

For those attending the two-day exhibit, the items on display transcended sportswear and were more akin to religious artefacts. On entry, visitors were treated to a view of eleven of the game’s most iconic designs.

Football, art, design, culture, kit, England 1966, West Germany 1990, Brazil, Milan, Celtic, Argentina, classic
The Art of the Football Shirt’s most iconic designs

There was the instantly recognisable rose-red 1966 England World Cup winners shirt. Unsullied by corporate sponsorship, the triumphant top is burned into our collective consciousness even if Bobby and the boys lifted the Jules Rimet Trophy many years before our births.

We wistfully admired the classic West Germany shirt from Italia 1990. A classic from Adidas’ heyday and a shirt so good that even sworn rivals acknowledge it was a bit special.

The brilliant orange of the Dutch 1988 European Championships winners, Denmark’s Mexico ’86 Hummel humdinger, the light blue and white of Argentina and the Brazil 1970 shirt that brought Pele and  joga bonito to the world’s attention in vivid technicolor. All iconic international strips, all rightfully held in the highest of esteem.

Football, the international language of playgrounds, public houses and boardrooms has the incredible ability to prompt middle aged men to openly talk about fashion.

Classic football shirts, design, Peru, Luton Town, Everton, Bedford Trucks, Aston Villa, Scotland

“Oooh. Sampdoria,” they drooled.

“Ah. Nagoya Grampus Eight,” they knowingly nodded.

“Is that bloody Oxford United?” they choked.

Art, design, football, Tottenham, Oxford United, Ipswich, Saudi Arabia, Everton, Newcastle United, Sampdoria

The most iconic football shirts are instantly recognisable and familiar the world over. To the initiated, an Ajax or Boca Juniors home shirt is easily identifiable a mile away and although often imitated, the all-white of Real Madrid or the Blaugrana of Barça stand for more than just sport.

For the nostalgic amongst us, the functional template designs of today’s sportswear brands wildly miss the point. Who draws pride in a shirt that’s sole purpose is to draw sweat away from the body? The uniform blandness of modern designs leads us to the unwritten rule that no man past voting age should ever wear a football shirt in public other than to watch his team at a major final. Give me Umbro’s Euro 96 grey of Gareth Southgate over Nike’s navy blue of today’s England away strip any day.

The Art of the Football Shirt was an opportunity to celebrate rivalries and tribal colours where the majestic Manchester United “snowflake” sat shoulder-to-shoulder with the silver sartorial elegance of Liverpool’s “Candy” away shirt.

Manchester United, Liverpool, adidas, classics, away kit, snowflake, Candy, silver, blue
Tribal colours: Classic graphical football shirts from Adidas’ late 1980s/early 1990s heyday

As much as there were glaring omissions (who could ignore the 20th century’s greatest moment of design flair? No not the Coca-Cola bottle. The QPR home shirt?) this was a chance to marvel at our game at its most beautiful.

The Art of the Football Shirt ran for two days between 26/27 July 2017. Neal Heard’s book, The Football Shirt Book: A Connoisseur’s Guide will be released in September.

Bob Marley, Nantes, football, design, art
The Nantes home shirt was apparently a favourite of Bob Marley’s

Flamengo, Lubrax, Dennis the Menace, QPR, BrazilThe fantastic Flamengo “Dennis the Menace” shirt

Tampa Bay Rowdies, Belgium, Rodney Marsh, soccer shirt, Admiral, Adidas, classics, design, art

New Order, Oasis, England, Bob Marley, Manchester City, football kit, design, music, world in motion
From Bob Marley to the Goldie Lookin’ Chain, the links between football and music are strong
Aberdeen, adidas, 1984, double, shirt, design, culture, classic
Commemorative shirt celebrating Aberdeen’s 1984 double-winning season

Grampus 8, Inter Milan, USA, classic football shirts

Politically inspired football shirts, Tibet, St Pauli, Fiorentina, art, design

Graphic design, football, arsenal, away kit, yellow, Liverpool, Manchester United

Classic football shirt design, art, fashion

The Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, London, art, design, culture, fashion, football
The Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, London

Mel Johnson: Welcome Back to W12

Casting aside the pre-season cynicism that has been in evidence this summer, the return of scout Mel Johnson to QPR is a positive step for the club. 

Johnson links up with Ian Holloway for a second time and R’s fans will hope they can enjoy the same success in the transfer market as they did in their last spell together in Shepherds Bush.

Before his departure for Tottenham Hotspur 12 years ago, Johnson helped Rangers identify and sign players including Lee Cook, Gareth Ainsworth, Dan Shittu, Marc Bircham and Lee Camp; all of whom still fondly remembered in W12.

Since then Johnson has worked at Liverpool and West Brom as well as Spurs (where he apparently recommended an 18 year-old left-back by the name of Gareth Bale to the Lillywhites) and has a wider network of contacts for it.

He returns to QPR with a brief to scout the south of England and Europe and told qpr.co.uk he is happy to be back at Loftus Rd:

“I’ve gone away, travelled around the world, and built up so many great contacts in football.”

“My heart has always been at Rangers and I’m just so excited to be back.”

“Characters”

Personally, the spell where Johnson worked under Ian Holloway is up there with the most enjoyable periods of football I’ve seen in 30 years of watching Rangers. It was a time when I felt that the club and fans were truly in-step with one and other, long before the bloated excesses that would characterise the club in later years.

With the exception of that summer under Neil Warnock where Rangers brought Shaun Derry, Clint Hill, Paddy Kenny and Jamie Mackie through the entrance doors on South Africa Road; I can’t think of a time the club has worked so hard and so well in the transfer market as under Johnson and Holloway. Working on a shoe-string budget, QPR set about signing the right characters rather than signing big names or average players just to fill a position.

Johnson joins the club at a time when there has been criticism on social media that the club have not been bold or ambitious enough in the transfer window, but if Johnson’s arrival is a signal of the club being run as a stable and sustainable club in the Rangers tradition of yore then I’m all for it.

A club looking to find young, hungry players the supporters can bang the walls at Loftus Road for is a far better prospect than one where agents and mercenaries run the show.

Welcome back Mel, finding a new Danny Shittu and the next Stan Bowles would be a nice start!

cropped-summer-2012-269.jpg

Kieran Robinson: Weekend Writer

%d bloggers like this: