MURumb

Shirt Swapping : Manchester United (away)

MURumb A look at the best, worst and current kits of City’s forthcoming opponents.

Manchester United. Man Utd. Man U. Whether you use the full name or an abbreviated form, the most successful team in the land don’t often go by their nickname of The Red Devils (you hear that Assem Allam?), but the rarely used sobriquet does slyly refer to the most striking part of the club’s visual identity, the red shirt.

Founded as Newton Heath in 1878, the club played in green and gold halved shirts until 1887 when they foreshadowed a future guise by wearing red and white home jerseys, doing so until 1893 when green and gold returned. Deciding to expand their sphere of representation beyond the Newton Heath part of the city, the club became Manchester United in 1902*, and switched to the red shirt, white shorts, black socks combination that is now instantly recognisable.

We’re not going to consider Manchester United’s distinguished home shirt history however, they’re the away side when they meet Hull City this weekend, and although they’re unlikely to wear an away kit (having done so only once in the three Premier League fixtures between the sides played at the KC Stadium) when they visit Hull, it’s Manchester United away kits we are going to ponder in this edition of Shirt Swapping.

In terms of change kits, United had a chaotic first few decades: They started with blue and white striped shirts, then tried out shirts of white, solid blue, white with a red chevron (which became the home shirt for a while, so red shirts were used away when a change was needed) and maroon and white hoops (also used as home shirt for a time) before going with solid blue shirts with white shirts post World War Two. Blue and white was used away for almost a decade when all white with red trim became the standard change uniform until the mid Seventies when black sorts were used with white jerseys.

In the mid Sixties blue jerseys with white shorts were again used away, but as a third choice. Blue shirts as part of a third kit became the norm following Manchester United’s first European Cup triumph, they wore all blue when beating a red and white clad Benfica 4-1 after extra time at Wembley.

A kit set of red home shirts, white away shirts and blue third shirts became standard until the Nineties, when United (along with the rest of the league) went along with the experimental whims of kit makers who could now employ state of the art printing techniques and use black, after referees expanded their uniform colour palette. When considering the best and worst Manchester United kits, we’ll largely be looking at designs from the polyester era (and shoehorning in photos of a youthful Steve Bruce wherever we can).

*Somebody will say it, so we’ll get the answer in early. No, Newton Heath becoming Manchester United is not justification for Hull City becoming Hull Tigers. There is a world of difference between making a change ten years into your existence as a Football League club having achieved little of note because you want to represent a whole area rather than just a small corner of it, and making a change because the owner has a grudge with Hull City Council because they quite reasonably won’t illegally gift him a community owned stadium but barely hides that with the quasi-racist suggestion that it’s really because Asians are so gullible that they’ll throw money at anything with Tigers in the name and begin wearing Tom Huddlestone shirts rather than ones with Messi, Ronaldo and Rooney on the back , when (in the words of the FA) there is no compelling business plan presented for the change, and when you’re at the apex of your 110 year history rather than near to the beginning.

Best Away Kits

3. 1990-92 away
giggs

As the Eighties drew to a close, clubs were realising the revenue making potential of replica shirts and kit makers had new printing techniques to show off. Fast forward a few years to the mid Nineties and the envelope was no longer being pushed*, it was being ripped into small pieces, eaten with laxatives and then shat out. Onto a sketchpad, and whatever pattern the liquid bab made was scanned, given a day-glo colour change and printed onto a football shirt. It was a period of migraine inducing monstrosities, see examples here, here and here, and if we’re being honest, here.

In between those years there was some fun kit design experimentation that pushed boundaries but still referenced tradition. The 1990-92 Manchester United away shirt by adidas is a perfect exemplar of this: Blue and white, so therefore using traditional away colours, but featuring a sublimated pattern that was achingly modern (by the standards of the time). I’m not entirely sure how to describe the pattern, and come to think of it I’ve never seen a description that succinctly sums it up in the 25 years since it was released.

It’s like a blue maple leaf conforming to EU straightness standards that gradually fades into white, repeated ad infinitum. Or how about a new and fiendishly difficult to fit Tetris block designed by a sadistic Russian mathematician.

Rumours of the design being a magic eye pattern that reveals the face of Russell Beardsmore after 20 minutes of staring are totally unfounded. Maybe the pattern was chosen because the lighter negative space behind the blue leaf-form creates a stylised M, or maybe that is entirely coincidental. From afar, the royal blue and white blend together to create the impression of a much lighter shade of blue, which might have caused consternation for some Mancunians of a United persuasion, but then the sight of Manchester City wearing red and black away shirts must be even more galling.

This shirts most famous outing was in the Rumbelows sponsored League Cup Final when a United side featuring City manager Steve Bruce and assistant boss Mike Phelan beat Nottingham Forest 1-0 at Wembley. It’s an ugly-beautiful kit, a little shocking when released and oozing retro-coolness now, adidas Originals reissued a sans-United crest version a few years ago which is testament to its cultural imprint.

*Yes, yes, the phrase pushing the envelope isn’t about postal envelopes, but rather the mathematical envelope, defined as ‘the locus of the ultimate intersections of consecutive curves’, but let me have this one.

2. 1992-94 Third
greengold

The seeds of retro shirt releases germinated and reached full bloom around 1996, when the staging of the European Championships in England had everyone misty eyed over past glories and the delightful simplicity of red cotton jerseys decorated only by the shield borne three lions, unsullied by maker’s marks and lager logos.

Those seeds had been planted a few years previous by Umbro, who gave otherwise state of the art/high tech kits a throwback element by adding collar laces to the home shirts of Aston Villa, Sheffield United and Manchester United. Umbro went one level louder with retro styling on Manchester United’s 1992 third shirt: They based it on Newton Heath’s green and gold halved jerseys from a century past (give or take a few years).

The shirt was yellow on the left side (as viewed) and green on the right, and featured tapered collar panels that reversed that colour  order and had black laces criss-crossed in front of a yellow ‘tongue’ panel, underneath a green turnover collar with black trim stripe. The club crest was placed on a black shield sewn on with yellow stitching, and both the makers mark and sponsor were applied in black. A shadow pattern woven throughout the shirt had large Ms (each with UFC contained within) repeating, alternating between right way up and wrong way up to create a pattern not too dissimilar from the adidas Tetris maple leaf motif used on the 1990-92 away shirt.

The ‘knickerbockers and stockings’ of Newton Heath’s late 1800’s green and gold jerseyed kits were white and black (1878-1866), then navy for both (1886-1887), but on the 1992-94 third kit United went with black shorts and socks with gold and green trim.

Umbro enthusiastically embraced the retro angle, describing the new third shirts as ‘a hundred years old’ and getting the team to appear with late Victorian-era hairstyles and facial hair in a team photo used to promote the kit (Eric Cantona and Mark Hughes had the most impressive moustaches, the lip fuzzes of Denis Irwin and Andrei Kanchelskis’ though didn’t pass muster).

Although this kit is striking, it isn’t necessarily the aesthetics that make this an ace kit, it’s the recognisability and the back story, and those things go hand in hand. Without the back story being established when this kit was launched, it wouldn’t be so recognisably Manchester United, and it most certainly is, evidenced by the adoption of green and gold by the Love United Hate Glazer movement over a decade later .

Nowadays every kit supposedly ‘tells a story’, the whole concept has gone too far and eyes are rolled whenever we hear straight up bullshit such as “the shirts… feature subtle references to the armour of English knights in the pinstripe” (2014 England home, Nike) or “these kits will look electric, as if powered by batteries, and will provide an almost electric flash of colour on the pitch” (2014 Manchester City third, again Nike), breathlessly uttered by po-faced over-caffeinated marketing wonks.

The 1992-94 Manchester United third shirts though, DID tell a story, about the formative years of Manchester United, and that is enough. If this shirt was being released now they’d probably say that the lace up collar “pays tribute to the hobnail boots worn by railway workers at the Newton Heath depot”  (seriously kit designers, shut up with all that shite), but all that ultimately mattered was that a very old club shirt was being used as inspiration.

This kit successfully planted the association of green and gold with Manchester United into the collective consciousness, an association that remains today, even though United haven’t worn the colours since 1994, and even though other clubs wear yellow and green regularly. Norwich are the most notable club, but when you think of Norwich you think of yellow shirts and green shorts, not green and yellow halved shirts with black shorts, this despite the fact that The Canaries have worn kits like that, in the 1920s and 1930s. That the green and gold halves with black has come to be recognisably Manchester United instead of Norwich is a powerful testament to the recognisability of this very kit. That is why it’s one of United’s finest away kits.

One suspects that this change kit design might have become part of a third shirt style rotation (along with all blue and all black) had the green and gold NOT been adopted by the Love United Hate Glazer protesters, who are rightly unhappy that a hugely profitable club has been plunged into eye-watering debt in order to leverage the Glazer’s purchase of the club. Maybe when the Glazers have moved on, green and gold can again be used.

1. 1991 Cup Winners Cup shirt
CWCkit

If Manchester United’s contemporary styled blue and white away kit (first used in the 1990/91 season) was the ridiculous, then the one-off third kit created for the 1991 Cup Winner’s Cup final was the sublime. All white with red and black trim, unsullied by sponsor branding, it was classier than Ron Bergundy’s beloved San Diego.

The kits very existence though, is a curious thing. Firstly because United already had a white third shirt, worn with black shorts at Aston Villa in the league and with the home kit’s white shorts in Hungary versus Pécsi Munkás in the first round of the Cup Winner’s Cup. Secondly, because Barcelona didn’t wear their red and blue primary kit. The Catalan’s home strip would have clashed with both United’s red home and blue away shirts, however given the choice of kits after winning a coin toss, Barca elected to wear their silvery blue third kit. United’s kitman played it safe, all white was distinctive from all three Barcelona kits.

The regular white third shirt featured a V neck with red overlapping collar panel and raglan sleeves that were separated from the main body by black piping, had no cuff trim and adorned only by adidas’ trademark three stripes in red. Shadow stripes with club initials MUFC spelt out vertically repeated throughout the shirt and the wordmark of sponsor, Japanese electronics firm Sharp, was applied in red across the chest.

The white shirt worn in Rotterdam for the Cup Winner’s Cup final however, had more in common with the home shirt. Both shirts had an  overlapping crew neck, this shirt’s was  red with a contrast stripe of white dashes broken by black dots.  This pattern was evident on the sleeve cuffs also, which somewhat strangely (given this shirt was made for a game under the auspices of UEFA)  had the Football League sleeve badges sewn over the adidas three stripes. Shirt sponsorship was not permitted for the final by UEFA decree (who didn’t allow sponsors on shirts in Cup Winner’s Cup finals until 1997) so the maker’s mark and club crest were placed lower than on the regular third shirts.

cwcshirt91

The logo of adidas, a trefoil, was smaller on this shirt than on other United strips from the same year, and the club crest had ‘Cup Winners Cup’ embroidered above and ‘1991’ below. The shadow pattern (different from that of the home shirt) was quite abstract, vaguely resembling shattered glass, but that was only visible up close, for all intents and purposes, this was a very simple and classy looking affair. The white shorts used were home kit’s regular shorts, but the socks were different to the white hose used previously. Instead of white socks with black shin level trefoils and red foldover bands decorated with two stripes in black sandwiching a third in white, these stockings were white with red trefoils and red foldover bands split by three white stripes with black outlines.

In a memorable final, United triumphed, beating Barcelona 2-1 courtesy of two goals by Mark Hughes, who in typical selfish striker style robbed Steve Bruce of glory by blasting our manager’s goalward header into the netting for the first. The kit though (never used again as United went back to the V necked white shirt when a third shirt was needed in 1991/92), is even more memorable, prompting a Spanish newspaper to comment on United’s best change kit ever: “The Red Devils came dressed…like angels.”

Worst Away Kit

1995/96
9596away

The primary function of a football kit is to distinguish one team from another. In the Premier League era however, that function has often been viewed as secondary to revenue generation, and the merchandising tail has wagged the dog. Manchester United’s 1995/96 away kit is a case in point.

The club’s traditional change colours of white and blue weren’t really an option, as both has been fused together on the third kit, in use for a second campaign after two outings in 1994/95. Instead, suppliers Umbro went for a three tone grey change kit with black and red trim.

Umbro had an odd fascination with tonal greys for away kits around this time, they’d already given Chelsea a visually disturbing grey and orange away kit and had an England away shirt in the works that they insisted was ‘indigo’, but it most certainly looked more grey than blue, and wasn’t particularly popular.

It was as if they were more focused on the leisurewear aspect of shirts, on what it looked like on fans when worn with jeans, than on creating a kit that made the team wearing it stand out. This design sensibility was roundly condemned, most publicly by United manager Alex Ferguson who considered the grey change kit a contributory factor in a series of poor performances while wearing it.

The shirt featured two dark grey chest hoops edged by red trim, in between those hoops sponsor Sharp’s Viewcam range was advertised, with the wordmarks similarly dark grey outlined in red. Above the top hoop the shirt was light grey, made up of a white background with rows of abstract grey dots repeating inside grey pinstripes, though the pinstripes didn’t feature on the sleeves. Underneath the bottom hoop the shirt was a darker grey, though not as dark as the hoop grey, as that tone was used for pinstripes on the bottom ‘panel’. A dark grey turnover collar was trimmed with white and red, and the club crest was placed on a field of dark grey with a red outlined and sewn on shield.

Completing the kit were mid grey pinstriped shorts with red trimmed dark grey hoops and mid grey socks with a red trimmed dark grey hoop on each foldover band. This full kit was used at Aston Villa on opening day in a 3-1 defeat that had Match of the Day pundit Alan Hansen rubbishing United’s title hopes with his famous “you’ll never win anything with kids” line. It’s next outing was in a 1-0 defeat at Arsenal in early November, then came a 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest later that month before a ‘grey day’ at Liverpool in December saw a 2-0 loss.

The most notable use of the grey shirts though came in April 1996, and would prove to be their last outing. At Southampton, United paired the grey jerseys with the home kit’s white shorts and alternate white socks for a first half that was similarly mismatched. The Saints raced to a 3-0 halftime lead with goals from Monkou, Shipperley and Le Tissier, prompting an outfit change for United. They emerged for the second half wearing the blue and white third kit, and clawed back some respectability from the scoreline with a Ryan Giggs goal, ultimately losing 3-1.

Was the grey kit simply unlucky? Not according to Alex Ferguson who explained the kit-change: “The players couldn’t pick each other out. They said it was difficult to see their team-mates at distance when they lifted their heads.”

So there you have it, a miserable looking kit directly caused miserable performances, if you believe the manager that is. He might have had a point though, given that Manchester United were formidable when not clad in grey, they won the title in 1995/96 and those ‘kids’ that Hansen felt could not be relied upon, had become household names.

Current Away Kit

2014/15
currentMUFCaway

‘Less is more’ isn’t a philosophy you naturally attribute to Nike, who often take a brash and bold approach to both sportswear design and marketing. Take the current range of Nike boots for example: garish neon colouring and promises of ‘explosive speed’ and ‘enhanced multi-directional grip’.

By contrast, Nike’s kit design has been somewhat understated of late, almost minimalist. Manchester United’s 2014/15 away kit, conforms to that clean cut aesthetic as well as the club’s post 1974 away kit tendency of black shorts with a white shirt (as opposed to all white with red trim which was favoured between 1957 and the early Seventies).

The white shirt has a simple turnover polo collar in black and a long white placket. The set-in sleeves are ended with white cuffs, and laser cut ventilation holes under the arms are arranged in groups creating chevrons, subtly referencing the chevron emblazoned shirts used in the 1909 FA Cup final (as well as Nike’s 2009/10 home and away jerseys). Unusually, the logo of sponsor Chevrolet is polychromatic and rendered to appear 3D, on a busier shirt design it would look rather incongruous and a simplified, solid colour version would be needed, but on an effectively plain white jersey it isn’t so bad.

The shorts are, club crest and red swoosh aside, plain black and the kit is completed by white socks with black foldover bands and a red swoosh and MUFC initials at shin level.

Minimalism is probably our preferred kit design ethic, but there is a pitfall to be avoided when employing a stripped down ethos, and that is genericism, an ‘everyteam’ template conformity. Granted, it’s not as big a deal with away kits as it is with primary uniforms, but if you’re using traditional change colours you still want a kit to readily identify a team without needing to see the club crest. This kit falls into the template trap somewhat, cover up the United crest and what about this kit says ‘MUFC’? Not nearly enough.

A tiny bit more trim would have achieved that without compromising the overall simplicity of the kit, a thin red outline stripe on the shirt’s turnover collar and on the sock’s black foldover band would have made all the difference and elevated a shirt that as is elicits only a ‘Hmm, it’s alright’ response. There are some club related flourishes, a devil on the placket panel obscured when the shirt is buttoned up and ‘Youth, Courage, Greatness.’ printed on the inside collar, supposedly stating club values, but these details are hidden and not immediately apparent. This kit is close to excellence, but doesn’t quite make it, rather like Louis van Gaal’s 2014/15 side.

Nike won’t get to make amends next season though, as this is the last year of a 13 year association, and German firm adidas will outfit United from 2015/16.

Verdict 6/10

 One last thing…

David Beckham he is not, but Steve Bruce was once also a model for adidas gear…

Bruceadidas

The liked and loathed list 2012

What did you like about City kits in 2012?

JGHull: The black away kit is far and away the best kit adidas have come up with for City and whilst accepting that all our kits have been templates, this is the one which most looks designed for us. I’m also a fan of the FA rule change which has stopped excessive white tape or ridiculous length white ankle socks being used. Whilst coloured tape being used is hardly earth shattering, I’m pretty certain no kit designer ever expected to see their kits worn with white golf socks. Glad it’s been stopped.

SombreEthyl: I think the black away kit is tremendous, and winning at Leeds wearing it puts it on the path to being an iconic City away kit like the 2003/04 all black affair. I’m pleased we’ve used last years away kit as a 3rd kit this year too, the Argentina blue shirts are quite classy. Considering my oft stated disdain for Cash Converters association with the club, I actually found the Tash Converters appliques at Bristol City good fun. I also appreciate adidas producing undershirts that are nearer to amber than last season’s yellow efforts.

What did you loathe about City kits in 2012?

JGHull: It’s become a bit too easy to bash the sponsor but, well, it’s Cash Converters. It’s not a great look really is it? Aside from that, we’re still waiting for the auctioning of the Poppy shirts. Come on City, I’ve some cash that I wish to chuck your way.

SombreEthyl: First time round, the Tash Converters things was fresh and novel, but the second time? I wasn’t keen at all. I thought Cash Converters had seen the light about big patches after needlessly ruining a good home shirt last season, but they did it again, needing an ‘amber’ patch to cover their normal logo on the home shirt, only it wasn’t the same amber as the shirt and looked naff.

What other kits have you liked in 2012?

SombreEthyl: Green shirts did it for me this year, Germany away is my favourite kit of 2012 and it was a travesty that it didn’t get an airing at Euro 2012. I also adore Northern Ireland’s green with white pinstripes shirts. Domestically, Umbro continue to do a great job for Manchester City, the ‘zinfandel’ away kit is truly beautiful, that Nike have mugged Umbro and taken the Manchester City and England accounts off them is criminal. Sashes always look good, and Fulham’s third shirt is brilliant, kudos to the sponsor for being content with a smaller wordmark to not impact design integrity.

JGHull: It’s been a decent year for kits. I’m a fan of the new Spanish shirt which will be worn in the Confederations Cup. The V neck styling without a v neck just works really well and whilst the FIFA patch is a bit big, it doesn’t really stop the shirt looking smart. I too was a fan of the Germany away kit and would also have liked to see it worn at the Euros. Other lookers – Rangers home, Bolton home, Chelsea 3rd and AC Milan away.

What other kits have you loathed in 2012?

SombreEthyl: I don’t know what has gotten into Nike the last year but some of their current stuff is horrific. Barcelona’s orange gradating into yellow away kit is near vomit inducing, and Arsenal’s purple, black and red hooped away kit? Blimey, that’s not a good look. Nor for that matter is Manchester United’s gingham check home shirt, it’s an interesting concept that shouldn’t have left the drawing board. They seem so poorly made too, I saw some kits up close in a Niketown store and they were pulled and frayed before anyone had taken them home to wear. All this made from recycled bottles stuff, who wants to wear Panda Pops bottles?

JGHull: Barcelona home and away are hideous. How can such an esteemed club let their supplier get away with such nonsense? I’m bored with the Nike 3 inch cuffs and plain shirt look too – Everton, Brazil, Arsenal etc etc. Yawn. To say both of those kits are Nike, you wonder what their process is. From wild and wacky (which doesn’t work) to plain, understated and well, a bit boring. On another note, was the Millwall away kit worn at the KC this year the worst kit to ever play on the turf of The Circle?

Hopes for 2013?

JGHull: Stripes for our home kit please with no faffing. I’d be more than happy with the current WBA kit delivered in our colours. I’d also like Nike to forget they ever did a deal for the England kit and let Umbro carry on…

SombreEthyl: I’d like stripes too, but what I really want is hooped socks. We’ve had them before and they look great. Hopefully the Cash Converters deal won’t be renewed, and we’ll be in the Premier League so can drop back of shirt ads, which don’t look good.

Shirt Swapping : Millwall (Home)

A look at the best, worst and current kits of City’s forthcoming opponents.

Millwall rarely feature in discussions about classic kits or worst shirts. It’s not as if the South Bermondsey club has a shortage of defining identity, but that’s usually related to the fans and their visceral impact, rather than the team’s visual essence, and it’s the latter rather than the former that we take an interest in.

Once known as ‘The Dockers’, the team we now know as ‘The Lions’ began life in 1885 as the factory workers side Millwall Rovers, they turned out in navy blue jerseys, white pants and navy stockings. In subsequent years they’d wear white jerseys and pants with navy stockings, red shirts, thin black and white stripes and thin navy and white striped jerseys. They changed their name to Millwall Athletic ahead of becoming founder members of the Southern League, wearing kit that was all navy but for white stripes on either side of the ‘knickerbockers’.

A move to The Den in 1910 saw Millwall go sans suffix and pairing black socks with navy shirts and white shorts, a look that was in place when The Lions joined the Football League in 1920. Navy blue remained the club’s primary colour until 1936, when a lighter shade of blue was introduced. Despite spells in all white, 1968-75 and 1999-2001, royal blue and white is the colour scheme most readily identifiable with Millwall F.C. In 2010 however, Millwall marked their 125th anniversary with a return to navy blue, and they’ve stuck with that historic tone since.

Best Kit

Think ‘Millwall in the 80s’ and what comes to mind? Terry Hurlock’s ‘Queen guitarist’ hair? Well, yes, but what else? Teddy Sheringham in short shorts that’s what. Those shorts belong to the 1987-1989 Spall home kit.

There’s a fine line between looking dated and being retro chic, this kit straddles that line for sure, but when losing its balance, falls on the side of retro chic. Just. This kit maybe the only time we’d champion Spall as a manufacturer, but the diagonal shadow stripes are sweet and we’re a sucker for an overlapping V-neck collar with contrast trim. The rampant lion is a far better crest than the two red lions playing pat-a-cake, which looks like the logo of a budget formal shirt maker.

Worst Kit

“Wait a minute” I can hear you saying indignantly, “that’s a really nice football kit!” and you’re right, it is a nice football kit, but a Millwall kit? Nah, it doesn’t work as that. Yes, yes, Millwall Rovers wore white early in their existence and ‘modern’ Millwall went all-white in the late 60s and early 70s, but it doesn’t say ‘Millwall’ at all, whereas solid blue shirts (whether royal or navy) and white shorts do.

If this shirt had been blue I’d be singing the praises of its simple design with enough trim to prevent it being drab, the unobtrusive sponsor and dignified discretion of the manufacturer who had their wordmark on the shorts, but not it seems, the shirts.

You want to give the past white kits some recognition? Then have the away kit all white. That Millwall brought out a blue third kit to mark their 115th anniversary kit in 2000/01 and wore it at home on occasion seemed to be a tacit admission that changing to white was a mistake, but that move merely compounds the error rather than putting it right. Daft.

Current Kit

Having changed home shirt colours for their 115th anniversary, Millwall did it again for their 125th, reverting to navy blue and white for 2010/11. This switch is a positive one we feel, lots of teams wear royal blue, but few use navy blue as a principle colour (hardly surprising, it clashed with referee black until officials went colourful in 1992) and looking distinct is a good thing, especially when that distinction honours your club’s inception.

The Lions kept navy blue beyond the noted anniversary, hurrah for them, and Macron did a relatively good job (relative for them anyway) with the 2010/11 and 2011/12 kits, but for this season they appear to have fobbed Millwall off with last year’s Napoli training wear. It isn’t a good look.

Current Home Kit ranking (out of 100): 55

Shirt Swapping : Charlton Athletic (Away)

A look at the best, worst and current kits of City’s forthcoming opponents

Aside from adopting Catford South End’s two tone blue kits in 1923/24 (the two sides considered a merger at one point), Charlton have consistently worn red and white at home since borrowing a set of kit from Woolwich Arsenal in 1905.

There’s not been much consistency with ‘The Addicks’ away colours though, they’ve mostly cycled through white and red (a reversal of the home kit), royal blue, all yellow or black in the last 30 years, with a few other styles thrown in too. We’re unlikely to see Charlton’s current away kit when they visit the KC Stadium in February, it’s all black, but let’s consider the aesthetic qualities of that and previous change kits for the Valley dwellers.

Best away Kit

Charlton’s kits were twice made by adidas during the 80s, from 1980 to 1983 then between 1986 and 1988 after a three season spell where the Addicks were supplied by little known brand Osca. The German sportswear giant provided all yellow away kits at the start of the decade but introduced blue as a change colour when they resumed technical sponsorship in 1986/87. The all blue away kit (though at that point all games were played away as they were forced to share Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park) had a look of ‘Manchester United third kit’ about it but was lovely nonetheless. The shirt featured a wrapover V-neck collar, a diagonal stripe shadow pattern and the club badge picked out in white stitching.

Try as we might, we can’t find an image of that kit, so we’ll look at the next time Charlton used all blue away. The adidas kit, used for two seasons, lastly in 1987/88, evidently had some impact with the club and fans, as they introduced another all blue outfit two years later, for 1989/90. By then, Charlton had switched to the Admiral brand, their tendency in that era was to use the same design of the home kit, just changing colour.

The shirt then, like the home strip, had a round collar with black and red trim, and a chequerboard  shadow pattern. The chequers were smaller on the shorts, which had a white stripe on each side that was punctuated with a diagonal red band. The blue socks carried the Admiral logo at shin level and had a red tipped white stripe across the foldover band. Whereas the adidas shirt picked out the Addicks badge in just one colour, this kit had the Charlton crest in the club’s red and black, though only on the shirt, no badge appeared on the shorts. The club, still at Selhurst Park at this point, succumbed to relegation from the top flight in 1989/90 and faced City in Division Two in 1990/91. Charlton wore the blue kit in a 2-2 draw at Boothferry Park.

Honourable mention: The 2000-02 Le Coq Sportif away kit was designed so that each item was interchangeable with parts of the the home kit. The French firm created an Inter Milan-alike 3rd kit too for 2000/01, but this was the best of three kits that season.

Worst away Kit

There are several candidates for worst Charlton away kit, and all are produced by Quaser, the now defunct company that was once endorsed by Gary Lineker. Quaser produced kits for the Addicks between 1994 and 1998 and their first away kit was relatively traditional, white shirt with two chest bands, one red, one black, black shorts and white socks. In 1995 though it all went a bit mental, tradition went out of the window and Quaser decided green and purple were now Charlton’s away colours. They introduced this as a 3rd strip…

It was paired with purple shorts and green socks and used for 1995/96 and 1996/97. Crikey. Once again we struggled to find images of a Charlton away kit in action, maybe it cracked lenses as they tried to snap it.

Dishonourable mentions: Follow up Quaser away kits were at least equally dreadful, they stuck with green and purple in 1997/98, adding those tones to white. The same year they had a 3rd kid that was dark green and white with red trim. The hoopy nature of the shirt gave it a lower division rugby league feel.

Current away Kit

Charlton have switched to Nike for 2012/13, and though it would be easy to dismiss their new kits as Sunday League teamwear catalogue stuff (and they do have a whiff of that) the new gear is at least tasteful. The away kit is all black, with no trim colour apart from a white swoosh and the club logo on the shirts and shorts (plus white sponsor on the shirt), whereas the socks are topped with white with a chevron/swallow-tail white stripe an inch or so underneath the black.

The shirts have a long, thin placket underneath a small turnover collar, similar to what Nike have given recent France shirts. Charlton have ditched Macron who usually overdesign kits, but they produced relatively sober affairs for the Addicks, though that large logo on each sleeve never looks good.

Charlton away kit ranking (out of 100): 60

West Bromwich Albion v Blackburn Rovers

Shirt Swapping : Blackburn Rovers (Away)

A look at the best, worst and current kits of City’s forthcoming opponents

Here’s how it works: Before City home games, we’ll review the best, worst and current home shirts of the away team, but before away games, we’ll critique the home side’s away shirts. Got that? Ok then.

The Tigers make their first road trip of the 2012/13 league campaign on Wednesday, visiting Ewood Park, but the Blackburn shirts we’re taking a look at will never have seen match action there.

Best away Kit

Rovers have flirted with orange and silver, all navy blue and black and silver away kits in recent years, but have mostly worn either red and black or yellow (with blue or black) when a change from their familiar blue and white halves was required. Red and black is by far the stronger look, especially when worn as stripes, which the Lancashire lot have worn most recently in 2000/01, but the shirt of that Kappa kit was sullied by the green patch of sponsors Time Computers. Better was the away kit from 1994/95, when Blackburn won the Premier League. That kit consisted of a largely black shirt with thin red stripes, red shorts and black socks.

Better yet though was another outfit made by Japanese firm Asics, the 1992/93 and 1993/94 away kit. The positively Milan-esque shirt was simple and elegant, with a black turnover collar. The black with red trim shorts and socks were of the same design as those that completed the home kit. Yellow and black became protest colours last season as Rovers fans sought to vent their dismay at the direction the club was taking under the ownership of Indian poultry firm Venky’s, so the club are unlikely to play in that style of away kit soon. This year Blackburn have gone with navy blue, but they’d be on to a winner if they reintroduced red and black stripes.

Honourable mention: When you’re home kit is blue and white halves, a navy kit with a blue and a white stripe on the shirt doesn’t quite provide maximum contrast, but nonetheless Umbro’s 2007/08 Blackburn away kit was quite lovely, even on ‘Crabman’ Keef Andrews.

Worst away Kit

Asics produced some lovely, simple kits for Blackburn during their six year tenure, but they blotted their copybook in 1996/97 with a brash and lurid bright yellow design. Perhaps red and black had fallen out of vogue after being associated with the infamous scrap between team-mates David Batty and Graeme Le Saux in a Champions League tie at Spartak Moscow.

The left sleeve and right hand side of the shirt featured an abstract pattern of Rovers’ crests in navy, but from distance it appeared as if an avifaunal bramble binge had left it spattered with bird poo. The same pattern adorned the left side of the likewise asymmetrically designed navy shorts, and yellow socks completed the ‘look’. Nasty, though Asics did redeem themselves with a non-traditional but stylish orange and silver affair a year later. An odd colourway yes, but it somehow worked.

Dishonourable mention: Lonsdale’s black for blacks’ sake 2005/06 effort, with unflattering silver neck panel and 2 x manufacturer’s logo as they doubled up as main sponsor. Blee.

Current away Kit

Umbro’s 2012/13 home shirt adhere’s to their successful ‘tailored for football’ principles, and since it isn’t blighted by a sponsor’s logo, it’s another classic from the Cheadle firm. The all navy away kit is, though, a little dull in comparison, it needs a little something more, the funky socks (which feature the same thin, bunched together stripes as used on Manchester City and Nottingham Forest’s home kits last season) aren’t enough. Hell, even a sponsor patch would liven it up, but we’re not fans of diluting club branding with corporate logos here at HCK (two words…Cash Converters) so an additional design element would be preferable. Those stripes on the sleeves maybe.

Another tone of blue really isn’t the best idea for Blackburn, but maybe they want to offset the lack of shirt sponsor revenue with sales of a third kit, which a blue away kit pretty much necessitates. The white with pinstripes 3rd strip is rather nice though, much better than the first choice change kit, and was used at Ipswich on Saturday in the 1-1 draw. Some people don’t agree with our stance on shirt sponsorship, which is fair enough, but you have to agree, sponsor organised crud like this is quite undignified.

Blackburn away kit ranking (out of 100): 65

Shirt Swapping: Brighton and Hove Albion

A look at the best, worst & current home kits of City’s forthcoming opponents

Before Brighton & Hove Albion were born in 1901, the conjoined Sussex towns were represented by Brighton United, who wore green, white and black, and Brighton & Hove Rangers, who played in Juventus style black and white vertical stripes. Albion began life wearing solid blue shirts, light blue between 1901-1903 and a much darker blue for 1903/04, before the kit most readily associated with Brighton, blue and white vertical stripes was adopted. The Seagulls have gone plain shirted on occasion, they played in the 1983 FA Cup final in largely blue shirts, but have mostly gone with stripes, though sometimes varying the shade of blue used.

Best Kit

The 1970s were kind to Brighton strips, with them not only being similar throughout the decade but all equally strong looking kits – that strong in fact that more recent kits appear to hark back to these days.

The outstanding kit of the era is the 1977/78 Bukta creation with large flappy 70s collar, three simple blue stripes with white sleeves and Bukta brand detailing along the outside of the sleeve. Coupled with plain blue shorts and white stockings, it’s what most would expect a Brighton kit to look like.

Honourable mention: This 80s stripeless affair was rather good.

Worst Kit

Brighton spent much of the 80s playing in solid blue shirts but went black to stripes late into the decade. The 1991-1993 Ribero shirt was a decent, traditional affair with blue stripes bordered by pinstripes. The mistake was carrying on the stripes to the shorts. That’s right, vertically striped shorts.

Introducing Brighton & Hove Albion’s home kit for the 1992 season:

The club persisted for two seasons (as was typical in the days before kits being changed every year) and sadly for the Brighton fans, the remainder of the 1990s were not kind to the club attire either, only returning to some sort of normality in the early 2000s.

Dishonourable mention: Ribero’s unkind on the eyes fine striped 1993/94 shirt.

Current Kit

Modelled on the traditional kit, the sponsor cuts across the stripes working well and giving the sponsor logo room to breathe.

Gold trim introduces a third, and in my opinion superfluous colour but doesn’t hurt the overall look. The collar is a modern slant on the 70s style and when paired up with solid blue shorts and white stockings, overall it’s a pretty solid looking kit.

We’re not massive fans of the white and gold detailing to the rear thigh on the shorts but at least they aren’t vertically striped…

Brighton have had some horror away kits (as have we!) but we’ll look at those before City travel to the Amex Stadium.

Brighton home kit ranking (out of 100): 75

Shirt Swapping: Rotherham United

A look at the best, worst & current home kits of City’s forthcoming opponents

When Rotherham began life in 1925, they were kitted out in amber and black, but the Millers soon stopped aping City and adopted red and white in 1928, a colour scheme they’ve used ever since. The TOSS fanzine once amusingly described Rotherham’s kits as  ‘modeled on Arsenal, worn by arseholes’, red shirts with white sleeves has been the style of shirt used most often since 1947.

Best Kit: 2011/12

Last season’s Millers kit was a doozy, it may have been a template used by many clubs in the league (Burnley, Reading and Sheffield Wednesday among others) but it was a strong template.

The shirt was fairly simple, red body, white sleeves and a white v-neck collar, the only bit of flash being the two white bars that went from collar to sleeve on the left (as viewed) shoulder. White shorts and red socks completed the kit. An honourable mention goes to the Le Coq Sportif 1995/96 kit, the shirt for that year had a white criss-cross pattern on the body.

Worst Kit: 2000-2002

Rotherham inexplicably reversed their regular scheme for two seasons at the turn of the century, relegating red to a secondary tone on this Bodyline branded kit, at least from the front.

The front of the shirt was mostly white, with red stripes starting at the shoulder and going all the way down, connecting with red stripes on the sides of the white shorts. The back panel though was all red, meaning players facing opposite directions looked like they had different kits on. Not a good look.

Current Kit: 2012/13

Another Puma template, and not a drastic change from last season. As in 2011/12, the Millers home shirt features asymmetric striping, with a single white bar connecting the white collar to white sleeves. The shoulder height bar contains the Puma leaping cat logo in contrast black.

After a few years at the Don Valley Stadium in Sheffield, the Millers are moving back to Rotherham this season, making the curiously named New York Stadium their new home. To mark the move the new shirt features the town coat of arms, containing a gold buck, a gold griffin and an underfed looking black horse, opposite the club badge. Not bad, but not as good as last year’s. The civic crest is a classy touch though.

The liked and loathed list 2011

 What did you like about City kits in 2011?

JGHull: I *heart* the all amber strip that has been used away this season. My little boy has the white away strip from last year and the full kit looks ace. Under used and under appreciated that strip.

SombreEthyl: I really liked the white away kit from last season too, I think adidas have done a better job with away kits for City than homes overall, I like this years Argentina blue shirt and the navy alternate shorts were a nice surprise. Using amber shorts and socks with a home shirt when away isn’t new, but this years version looks better than all the others, I’d love a pair of those amber shorts.

 What did you loathe about City kits in 2011?

JGHull: Whilst the sponsor was contentious, I think the lack of foresight as to how their logo would appear on the striped home shirt was a bigger issue and being honest, a bit of a clanger. At least the away shirt sponsor was applied properly – in the end.

SombreEthyl: That black sponsor patch on this years home shirt is just awful. I’m not impressed by the calibre of the company sponsoring us, regardless of how much they paid, but even letting that go, they didn’t need to ruin what is a better home shirt than the one it replaced. The yellow undershirts worn with short sleeve jerseys irritate me, I wish players would just wear long sleeved jerseys, and I didn’t like the constant mixing of bits of home and away kit last season.

What other kits have you liked in 2011?

JGHull: Inter Milan away, River Plate away, a splendid kit from Adidas for the Chelsea third strip, the newly released Germany kits (both) for use at Euro 2012 and the away kit Sweden wore at Wembley. As you can see I have a thing for contrast sashes on shirts, although I’d have moved the details of the fixture on the chest into the sash below the double diamond branding.

SombreEthyl: Initially I wasn’t keen on AC Milan’s thin stripes, but now I love that shirt. I agree about Germany’s kits, that green away shirt is gorgeous. Umbro have been consistently good the last few years, the current Peru shirt is delicious, Sweden away rather lovely, and I like the navy England away shirt and respect the brave choice to go away from red. Coventry’s retro kit is lovely, it deserves to be worn by a better side, and Darlington’s Errea home shirt is uncharacteristically good.

What other kits have you loathed in 2011?

JGHull: There are a few in the MLS which make me feel a bit “kit sick”. New York Red Bulls take branding to a whole new, and unacceptable, level and as someone who owns a few LA Galaxy bits of kit, the new kit is ruined by a horizontal yellow pipe across the collarbones. Not quite sure what Adidas were thinking there.

SombreEthyl: Nike have produced a few horrors this year, that Barcelona shirt with the stripes that change width is rank, I don’t like the fuzzy striped Juventus shirt either. My estimation of Puma kits is quite low, but even by their standards they messed up Newcastle’s home shirt, it’s ‘orrible!

Hopes for 2012?

JGHull: I’m looking forward to seeing what Umbro come up with for the Euro 2012 challenge with the England kit hopefully being more than just subtle changes as per the last home kit release. I’d imagine it’ll continue on Umbro’s “retro” theme (see Manchester City) but would be nice for it to be visibly different from the last couple. City to remain in stripes please, coupled with an all white away kit (it’s white’s turn for 2012/13!)

SombreEthyl: That Cash Converters go bust, voiding their deal with City. Failing that, Tiger Leisure releasing an unsponsored batch of replicas would be nice. Using Milan’s template for the 2012/13 home kit shirt be ok with me, as would using the Germany away kit for City’s change duds, we could sing the “who sometimes play in green” bit of ‘Black and amber team’ again.  England need to drop the lighter shade of blue for the shorts, back to navy for the Euro 2012 kit please, and Puma, please, please, don’t make Borussia Dortmund look ridiculous.