I’M sure some of you will dismiss this article as the rantings of a middle-aged man; stuck in the past, holding onto ideas that belong in another century. You’re probably right readers, but bear with me on this one. If you’re from the Premier League, do read on and make a quick buck, you thick greedy bastards.
I’ve been meaning to write this piece for a while, but I often need a trigger. The impetus to get cracking on this one came when I arrived home late from work just in time to see the opening exchanges of Wales v Portugal in the recent Euros semi-final (above). I put the telly on, and initially didn’t have a clue which team was which.
Of course, I was soon able to distinguish that the Welsh bone and sinew attached to Joe Allen’s beard and Gareth Bale’s man bun was dressed in black and Ronaldo’s gnarly Portugal were resplendent in lime. But, it could have been anyone — perhaps MK Dons v Wycombe Wanderers in France in front of a bigger crowd. I needed the constant reminder of the top left of the screen, which for a while read “WAL 0-0 POR”.
Both teams had changed from their traditional red to avoid a clash; so you might think, ‘what’s wrong with that?’ The point is that neither side has a recognisable set of change colours — an embedded strip that instantly identifies them as Wales and/or Portugal when playing away from home or when forced to change from the “home” kit. Let’s face it, no-one does these days, in club or international football — and that’s my gripe.
Wales will probably change away colours another 20 times before they reach another tournament semi. When young kids from the Valleys and Everton country in North Wales look back on their biggest game in three generations (albeit one that they lost), like me, they’ll have no clue as to why Wales were playing in black.
If there is a consistent theme to away kits in the modern era (which in my angry, greying head starts around 1988) it is that everyone is in black — dressed like a team of fucking referees — while young impressionable types describe the dark new strip as “smart”. If I want to look “smart”, I’ll whack on a shirt and tie, thanks.
If I want something that goes with jeans, I’m sure there’s at least one polo ironed. But that’s another article for another day.
The Premier League and football in general is all about “brand” these days. Money rules. It is big business and we, along with millions who pour our cash into the sport, understand that. Well, there’s a massive unrecognised brand that they’re missing out on — and that is to establish a marketable, recognised set of away colours for each club and stick with them.
Premier League marketing gurus should take note. So, “let’s run with this idea” of mine. And, there’s no need to worry; you kit designers and club finance chaps. You still get three kits (home, plus away, and third) to fanny about with every summer and fleece kids and fat dads.
Just get the creative, Croydon Art College graduates to tweak here and there every season. For inspiration, think of the bird-shit effect of the late 80s — now viewed as iconic design — which was meant to reflect the acid house era. Trust me on this, you’ll make a mint. Children and sundry social misfits will flock to be the owners of the first set of the “Premier League Heritage Away Colours” and every subtle variation that follows.
You’ll also be able to flog all manner of change-strip-shite; scarves, mugs, pennants, baby-grows, winter jackets for TOWIE-sized dogs in handbags, even condoms for the ultimate in “playing away”.
We’re going back to the seventies and eighties for inspiration, and guess what — it’s gonna be alright. In fact it’s going to be fucking great.
Mighty Liverpool will be in all red at home, the classic white/black/white with red trim and a yellow Liver Bird away, and in all yellow at Southampton. We will evoke the spirit and dress code of Dalglish, Rush and Hansen, instead of the dickheads who lost 6-1 at Stoke.
Liverpool Football Club will issue a statement apologising for the Michael Owen Cardiff kit when we showed up dressed as Arsenal away. No wonder Thierry Henry couldn’t score — he probably thought it was a “superstars v stiffs” training session rather than a cup final.
Seeing as we have a strong apology game, we will also say sorry for the green and white efforts that made the Souness years and Dean Saunders’ aimless darts into the channels even harder to bear. And, finally David Moores will put his hand in his own pocket to have the words “cream and ecru” removed from the Oxford English Dictionary.
Elsewhere, those bastards from Old Trafford will also revert to Bryan Robson white and black on their travels, unless they choose to wear their traditional all blue third strip, synonymous with George Best winning the European Cup against Benfica at Wembley in 1968.
When I turn up at Anfield to see The Gunners, they will always be in yellow shirts and blue shorts. They won’t turn up in turquoise, and I won’t have to check the scoreboard to find out who we’re playing. I’ll be in supportive Kopite rage within two minutes because I’ll have no need to consult the team sheet. I’ll pretend its Brian Talbot and Charlie fucking George out there and not some no-mark Wenger capture from Senegal.
Actually, Arsenal have been pretty good at sticking with their time-honoured yellow and blue over the several decades; perhaps remembering the brief folly of their green/blue with matching hooped socks monstrosity of the mid-eighties.
In all honesty — coming in after a few ales last season — there was barely a home game when I took first view of the pitch and didn’t need to do a double-take or remind myself who the opposition were. Sunderland tuned up in luminous green and matching boots, which was enough for a walk-out before the famed 77-minute exodus. I thought most of them were playing in their socks.
Inspired by history. The 2016-17 @ErreaOfficial Third Kit.
— Norwich City FC (@NorwichCityFC) July 22, 2016
Since the 90s, so many and varied have been the away kits worn by Anfield opposition, if you catch a clip of any match since — on LFCTV or an old Sky repeat — you’ll be hard pressed to figure who the Reds are playing.
Anyway, back to business. When I tune into Everton’s annual twatting (the suspicious 2014 anomaly aside) of Manchester City at Goodison, the £400million City defence will have their collective breakdown wearing red and black stripes. When The Ev go to Chelsea, they too will don yellow and blue in the spirit of Joe Royle and Bob Latchford. And, they will also revert to another 70s custom — being absolutely fucking awful.
Outside of the Premier League, Nottingham Forest will return to the dastardly yellow with blue trim that ruined my life between 1978 and 1980, yet now has me strangely reminiscent and nostalgic for Kenny Burns and John Robertson. Coventry City will adopt an old favourite. The travelling Sky Blues will take up an old away favourite, shoot up the leagues and “do a Leicester” draped in brown with white piping — see photo.
Another insane new fad will be banned from August 2016. Teams will wear change strips (much as I believe in the idea of black and red striped sheaths for Oasis fans) only when absolutely necessary. If I have to bear Simon Mignolet gifting Newcastle a point at Anfield, I want to feel that pain with the visitors marauding in front of the Kop in black and white, not in a silver and indigo disguise.
If Suarez ever comes back to Liverpool in his dotage for one last season, will Norwich City have the decency to turn up in Canary yellow for their ritual humiliation?
So, that’s all sorted then. We’re all kitted out and ready for the season. I can have an extra pint and still know what game I’m watching.
And seeing as we started with international football, we can all look forward to Sam Allardyce’s England winning the World Cup with England in traditional red and white with red socks.
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