Umbro knocks the socks off City’s first Premier League kit

Anniversaries are for reflection, and 2018/19 represents the tenth anniversary of City’s inaugural season in the top flight of English Football, and with it an iconic kit worn in wins at Arsenal and Tottenham that shocked the world, as did a side tipped to be the worst in Premier League history avoiding relegation. Reflection can lead to discovery, and it was while looking back on a campaign that will forever live in Tiger’s folklore that we discovered something previously missed: between early promotional photography and its first use in match action, the primary kit changed slightly.

Less than three months after Dean Windass volleyed the Tigers into the top division at Wembley in May 2008, City were playing their first fixture in the Barclays Premier League, at home to Fulham.

Preparations for life in the Premier League became a maelstrom of activity: new press facilities had to be installed to accommodate international media,  the dug-outs were upgraded, league branded material was delivered, including the signage the players shake hands in front of, and of course the sleeve patches, numbers and name-set appliqués that would be added to the kits.

In between all of this, the annual ritual of a home kit launch took place on the 4th of July. The club were again outfitted by Umbro, who’d signed a three season deal with City that begun in the summer of 2007, and after a promotion winning season in solid amber shirts that shared a template with the England national side, the brand with the double diamond logo supplied the Tigers with a kit more befitting of their big cat nickname, one with a shirt that had traditional amber and black striped shirts. Completing the kit were black shorts and black socks, both with amber trim.

Whereas preparations to play in a new division could only begin in earnest when promotion was secured and the champagne hangovers had subsided, plans for a new kit can happen much sooner. Typically the next season’s kits are signed off at the start of each year, production begins on the replicas soon after and promotional work for a summer launch is started in the March.

That was the case with the 2008/09 home kit, and on the 20th March 2008, a Thursday, a photo shoot was done to capture imagery for kit launches. At this point the home kit unveiling was over three months away, but the reveal for the ‘flint grey’ change kit was only weeks away, that kit was promoted in the April and went on sale on May 2nd.

Involved in the photo shoot were club captain Ian Ashbee, defensive rock Michael Turner, record signing Caleb Folan and surprising in hindsight, Danish midfielder Henrik Pedersen. Why surprising? Well, because Pedersen would never wear any of the 2008/09 kits in match action, he left the club early in July 2008 citing family commitments that took him back to Silkeborg in Denmark.

The pictures contain another surprise however. Instead of the black socks with amber trim we are familiar with, the players are wearing socks that are a chromatic reversal: mostly amber with black foldover bands, a thin black hoop containing connected solid diamonds at mid-shin level, and the Umbro double diamond above the hoops.

These socks were never worn in match action, and were not seen on the reveal imagery either, having been Photoshopped to look like the socks used when the season started (here’s the original image of an amber socked Ashbee holding a white board that later had the date of released added digitally)

Yet amber socks were used on three occasions with the primary shirts and shorts, but those were of a simpler design than the hose worn in the photo shoot. Those amber alternate socks were self coloured aside from black double diamonds at mid-shin level, and were worn in the 1-0 win at Tottenham, in the thrilling 4-3 reverse against Manchester United at Old Trafford and in a 2-2 draw at Portsmouth.

The reason for the switch from amber to black socks for 2008/09 eludes us, as does use of a distinct sock set as alternates. Perhaps we’ll know when it’s the 20th anniversary of Hull City’s first Premier League campaign.

My favourite kit: Bo Myhill

On the eve of his return to the KC Stadium with Birmingham, We texted* bonafide Hull City hero Bo Myhill to ask him what was his favourite kit during his 7 and a half years as a Tiger? We were delighted to get a response, one so long that [Receiving more text] appeared on screen for what felt like an eternity until the full message arrived. His answer was…

“The grey kit I wore at Wembley (regular version shown above left, embroidered Wembley version above right) was my favourite. I liked it so much I had two spare sets ready and changed into a clean one straight after the game. After a shower I put the last clean kit on and wore it for the party and I didn’t take it off till the next day when I woke up in it! I wore that kit in the first Premier League season too, I didn’t like the jade one much, it seemed a bit girly.”

So there you have it, the 2007-08 grey/black Umbro keeper kit is Myhill’s favourite.

*via a club employee who kindly acted as intermediary (many thanks!). It’s probably best we don’t have Bo’s number, lest we irritate him with a million tedious kit related questions, such as ‘why did he alternate between Uhlsport, adidas and Selsport gloves?’

Kit Review: 2007/08 Away

Remember what happened in 2008?

That’s right – Hull City had the finest away strip in their 104 year history.

OK, City also managed to end their long wait for a Wembley appearance in 2008, winning there too, and yes, in doing so they entered the top flight for the first time. However, this kit is pretty memorable too, and would surely have been just as fondly remembered if it didn’t feature in a promotion year, if it had been worn in a “typical City” season of mid-table obscurity.

Before departing to be replaced by Paul Duffen, Adam Pearson signed a 3 year deal with Umbro to design and produce City’s kits. The very same Umbro who supplied (and continue to supply) the national team.

This change in manufacturer is worth remembering – I grew up wearing Pelada, Avec, SuperLeague and Olympic. Admittedly, in the years before 2007, the kit manufacturers were more well known with Patrick and latterly Diadora, but Umbro? This was a large step forward in the kit make credibility stakes.

A template kit “shared” with Glasgow Rangers (the same template was used as their home kit the season previous), City’s away kit was an all white affair. A simple v-necked shirt with a double stripe of amber and black around the neck and from shoulder to shoulder. Under the arms, shaped panels provided ventilation as well as a design feature.

Plain white shorts with diamond detailing on either seam and plain white socks with the double diamond logo of Umbro on the shin completed the kit.

The sponsor was fundamentally the same on both home and away kits, local telecomms company Kingston Communications, but they chose to reflect their different brands with the home shirt carrying the KAROO brand wordmark whilst the away shirt carried the parent company logo and name.

The marketing agency I’m based at were involved in the launch and encouraged by Umbro, ran a ‘teaser’ campaign that gave glimpses of both kits ahead of the summer 2007 launch. I was fortunate to see the kit early and knew it would be a hit. The players modelling it during the “lifestyle” shoot, Damien Delaney, John Welsh and Andy Dawson loved it too.

Above is an unedited, never before seen image from the studio shoot. Photography by Paul Edgar and R&R Studios.

The kit’s first outing was in the always eagerly anticipated annual friendly at North Ferriby, with City wearing the home kit for a half and the away kit for a half. The first competitive game it saw use in was at Coventry and it was later used in games at Blackpool, Wolves, Norwich, Crystal Palace, Watford, Scunny and Sheffield United.

The finest hour for this kit came in one of City’s finest hours (or hour and a halfs if you must) – away at Watford in the Championship Play Off Semi Final first leg, a pulsating game that culminated in a 2-0 Tigers win. The sun shone, we won and we looked superb in doing so.

I’m fortunate to have a signed and framed version of this shirt on the wall next to my desk – that’s how highly I regard this strip. Having said that, if anyone wants to pop round to the office and tell me which signature belongs to whom, feel free!

A memorable season as a City fan for many obvious reasons but for me, one of the reasons I’ll remember it is for the away strip which accompanied *that* historic season.