After reading this you might enjoy a travelogue of City’s trip to Slovakia to face AS Trenčín, which first appeared on the Amber Nectar site – Pivo, Policia and THAT Penalty: A City in Europe travelogue

The past is a foreign country, wrote novelist LP Hartley. As we contemplate away trips to Fleetwood and Rochdale next season, it’s hard not to wistfully contemplate the summer of 2014, when we made excursions to Slovakia and Belgium in support of the Tigers. Playing competitive games in foreign countries is in the past, it seems.

Let’s put aside the bitterness of relegation for a while, and choose instead to look back fondly on the wonderful, if brief, European tour, with an emphasis on the kits worn, naturally.

City qualified for the preliminary stages of the UEFA Europa League by virtue of being FA Cup runners-up when the winners had already qualified for UEFA competition. Stoke did this in 2011, West Ham in 2006, but Hull City would be the last English club to qualify for Europe this way. From 2015/16 the highest ranked league side without qualification for UEFA tournaments would get the place of an already qualified FA Cup winner.

The Tigers entered the tournament at the Third Qualifying Round stage, alongside veterans of European football PSV Eindhoven, Real Sociedad, Dynamo Moscow, Torino and Brondby, though seeding based on country coefficients meant facing those at this stage was not possible.

Still, that didn’t stop us dreaming…of City winning the final in Warsaw, holding aloft that beautiful trophy designed and made at the Bertoni Workshop in Milan, becoming the first Europa League winner to qualify for the Champions League, after beating numerous luminaries such as Inter (joined Qualifying Play-off round), Feyenoord (also Play-off round), Sevilla (entered Group Stage), Anderlecht and Roma (joined at the Round of 32 stage after Champions League group stage exit).

First though, we’d need to advance from one of the 29 Third Qualifying Round fixtures. On Friday 18th July in Nyon, Switzerland, UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino and UEFA competitions director Giorgio Marchetti conducted the draw. Hull City would face the winners of the Second Qualifying Round tie between AS Trenčín  of Slovakia or FK Vojvodina of Serbia.

This draw was made the day after AS Trenčín had crushed Vojvodina 4-0 in the first leg, a scoreline that had confident Tigers fans booking accommodation and travel for Slovakia. However that confidence disappeared when Vojvodina went 3-0 up in the second leg, leading to frantic checks of hotel refund policies and alternate flights. The Serbians though, were not able to add a fourth and Trenčín advanced 4-3 on aggregate.

That travelogue of City’s trip to Slovakia once more – Pivo, Policia and THAT Penalty: A City in Europe travelogue

City’s first competitive European fixture then, would take place on the 31 July 2014, in Slovakia. Not though, in Trenčín, whose Štadíón na Sihoti ground had a capacity of just 4.500 and used artificial grass, falling short of UEFA requirements. The game was moved to Štadión pod Dubňom, in the town of Žilina, about 50 miles north-east of Trenčín. With a capacity of 11,258, it is home to seven time Slovak Super Liga champions MŠK Žilina and frequent host of Slovak national side games.

City v Trenčín: The kits

Though Trenčín’s crest has quite a bit of blue in it, the club tend to play in just white and red, the remaining crest colours, which suggests the blue was added to reflect the Slovak flag. Trenčín’s had Umbro kits between 2005-09, went with a brand called Royal 2009-12 (don’t know much about them) and Nike 2012-15.

With no colour clash, both sides wore their primary kit for both legs. Trenčín’s home kit comprised of: white shirts with self coloured V necks, a bold ‘university red’ cut and sew vertical panel on the left side (as worn) in which sat the club badge, and a corresponding red band on the right sleeve (as worn) that left an inch or so of white before the cuff. Aegon, a multinational financial services firm, are advertised on the front of the shirts, and on the back under the number(s) is a small patch bearing the logo of Nadace SYNOT, a foundation for the “development of spiritual values”, righto. The shorts are white but for a thin black band on the back near the cuffs, black numbers and the Nike swoosh in black. The socks are white save for black swooshes at shin level.

The shirt was a fairly common teamwear template named ‘Striker III’ that was also used by in 2013/14 by Ukrainian side Dnipro (who reached the Europa League final the season City were in the competition), and in 2014/15 by Polish side Lech Poznan for both home and away kits in 2014/15, by Blackburn as part of their third kit, and by the Finnish national side 2014-16.

We have one of these shirts that was worn in the second leg at the KCOM Stadium by the Serb defender Milan Rundic. He was a late sub. in that game having played the full game in the first leg.
As for the Tigers, they wore the standard primary kit both in Slovakia and at home. Player names were not used above the squad numbers, which were the Premier League appliqués featuring the ball trapping lion logo. Umbro wordmarks on the sleeves were evident, but this would change in the next round. UEFA kit regulations apply from the Play-Off round onwards, including the stipulation that “Around the figures, there must be a zone free from any item and comprising a single-colour background”. We’ll return to this shortly.

City drew 0-0 in Slovakia, with Tom Huddlestone having a penalty saved and his rebound shot crashing against the bar.

At the KCOM Stadium disaster struck early when Tomáš Malec put the Slovakians ahead on 2 minutes. Ahmed Elmohamady became the Tigers first Euro goal scorer with an equaliser on 27 minutes, but that would only have value if City could get another, as a 1-1 finish would see Trenčín advance on the away goals rule. Sone Aluko proved to be City’s hero, coming off the bench to score with ten minutes left on the scoreboard. Trenčín stretched the Tigers in pursuit of the goal that would see them through, but City held on and would be in the draw for the Play-Off round.

In addition to the 29 teams advancing from the Third Qualifying Round, 33 sides joined at the Play-Off stage, among them Borussia Mönchengladbach (winners of the tournament’s former guise the UEFA Cup in 1975 and 1979), Saint-Étienne, Panathinaikos and Tottenham Hotspur (UEFA Cup winners in 1972 and 1984). On Friday 8th August, the Tigers were drawn against another side who joined at this round… Belgian side KSC Lokeren.

City v Lokeren: The kits

Lokeren qualified as winners of the Belgian Cup (after beating Zulte Waragem 1-0 in the final in Brussels), their second cup triumph in three seasons. Known as the Tricolores, their primary kit was white, black and yellow.

They agreed to wear their all-black change kit in the first leg at their Daknamstadion home however, so that City could wear their newly released third kit, the designated change kit for UEFA sanctioned games.

This is permitted under section 04 of Article 19 in the Regulations of the UEFA Europa League 2012-15 Cycle (PDF):

For all competition matches, the home club has the first choice as to which of its official kits announced on the entry form it wears for its home matches. The clubs agree on the colours to be worn from the kits announced on their entry forms. If the clubs are unable to agree on the colours to be worn by their teams, they inform the UEFA administration who will take a final decision.

The kit was a pleasing mix of change kit tradition and nascent convention, a white shirt (an established part of the club’s kit-sets since foundation in 1904) and light blue shorts. Light blue was used on the Centenary away shirts (as a nod to the single season of light blue primary shirts after World War Two, caused by dye rationing), the full 2009/10 change kit and the 2011/12 away shirts (a tone called ‘Argentina blue’ by adidas).

The change shirts issued for Europa League games differed a little from those used as a third shirt in the Premier League at Newcastle and Liverpool. The 2012 edition of the UEFA Kit Regulations (PDF) were still in place in 2014, and stipulated:

10.02 The number must be of a single colour with the required minimum contrast with the background colour according to Annex D.

This meant that Premier League numbers, as used in the Third Qualifying Round would no longer cut it, as they have a contrast outline, and therefore are not of a single colour. Plus the ball trapping lion logo fell foul of…

10.07 The bottom of each figure comprising the number may contain the emblem of the club, the member association or the UEFA competition badge (see paragraph 48.03), which may be incorporated up to a maximum size of 5cm².

So we could use the FA’s logo if we wished to, but not the Premier League’s.

In regards to the the position, quantity and dimensions of manufacturer identification, the rules stated…

41.01 The five types of manufacturer identification referred to in paragraph 38.01 are allowed in the following positions and quantities:

a) Shirt:

One of these five types of manufacturer identification may be used once on the shirt, on the chest, above the position of any sponsor lettering.

So the Umbro wordmarks that appeared on the shirt sleeves of all 2014/15 City kits would not be permitted in Europa League games. While were looking at the rule book, the reason we went with white and light blue as a Euro change kit is explained in Article 9:

9.01 In order to minimise colour clashes, a team’s first-choice and second-choice kit must differ visibly and contrast with each other and with the colours of it’s goalkeeper’s kits so that they could be worn by opposite teams in a match. Teams may be requested to mix the first and second-choice kits (shirts, shorts and socks) in order to create a visible contrast with the other team.

Both the first and second-choice 2014/15 kits were comprised of black and amber, indeed both had black shorts, not quite meeting the contrast requirements. Article 9 was expanded in later editions for greater clarity: “9.02 If one playing attire comprises predominantly dark colours, the other must comprise predominantly light colours, or if one of the playing attires is hooped, banded, striped or checked, the other must not contain either of the colours of the hoops/bands/stripes/checks”.

When City walked out onto the Daknamstadion pitch, two things were noticeable:

1) A bespoke typeface had been created for our European adventure (more on that in a while)

2) The Umbro wordmarks on the sleeved had been manually picked off on most player’s shirts, though a few slipped through. Both Harry Maguire and substitute Tom Ince had rogue Umbro text.

An error by ‘keeper Allan McGregor proved costly, he was caught in possession by Hans Vanaken who rounded the perma-grouchy Scot to score the only goal of the game, as City lost the first leg 1-0.

Cotton Eye George Boyd’s shirt from this game is in our collection, he played 80 minutes before being replaced by Ahmed Elmohamady (whose shorts we have).
The typeface, though lovely, is made of a material that is thinner, shinier and more prone to creasing than the ‘Pro-S’ appliqués supplied to the Premier League by Sporting-ID. Imprints of the removed Umbro wordmarks are visible up close.

Ok, let’s take a look at the bespoke typeface that would be seen next on our Euro home shirts in the second leg… Numbers and letters alike are split in a stencil style. Is this in reference to Hull being a port? It recalls the stencils used to mark cargo boxes, and since Hull City’s kits would be shipped abroad for use in Europa League games, it seems somewhat fitting, whether by accident or design.

The away leg coming first gave Umbro additional time to knock up some UEFA regulations compliant shirts for the home game (and hopefully the Europa League group stages). There would be no need to pick off sleeve text, the wordmarks were never applied, and another feature would satisfy this rule:

10.03 Around the figure(s), there must be a zone (Annex C) free from any item and comprising a single-colour if so required, according to Annex D (Number zone).

Annex C states: “The number zone contains one single colour. Its surface is defined by the height and width of a two-digit number (e.g. 11) used on the back of the shirt. Its vertical boundaries are 2cm above the highest point and 3cm below the lowest point of the two digits. Its horizontal boundaries are 3cm from the left edge of the left hand digit and 3cm from the right edge of the right hand digit.”

To satisfy the number zone requirement, Umbro elected to give the shirts an amber lumbar panel aperture on the back, with the amber and black stripes beginning three quarters of the way down on a separate panel.

Having asked Lokeren to wear their change kit at home in the first leg, it was on the Tigers to act to avoid a shorts clash, and Lokeren used black shorts for both their first-choice and second choice kits. City then, wore their amber alternate shorts, ordinarily used away so the primary shirts can be used against a team with dark shorts.

Although a solution for a single game, this has all the hallmarks of a Euro kit tradition, should we ever qualify for UEFA competition again! After all Manchester United replace black socks with white, and Tottenham wear white shorts on European nights.

We have Ahmed Elmohamady’s shirt and shorts from the KCOM Stadium hosted Lokeren game…

As for Lokeren, their kits were made by Jartazi, a small Belgian mark founded in 1997 who have also supplied Gent and Mechelen. Lokeren’s primary and change shirts were of the same design, featuring a centred vertical yellow band split by a space for the sponsor Q Team, tyre specialists and car servicing centre operators, and flanked by thinner contrast stripes, black on the white ‘home’ shirts and white on the black change shirts. The back of the shirt had the yellow stripe only at the bottom, leaving plenty of white space for the player name and number, and above the player name was a Belgian flag screen printed into the shirt.

In fact apart from the name and number all detail on Lokeren’s shirts was sublimated into the shirt, the club crest, the sponsor and on the left sleeve as worn the Europa League logo. This would have to move in the event of Group Stage qualification as the regulations specified “19.14 From the group stage, the UEFA Europa League competition badge must appear on the free zone of the right shirt sleeve.”

The shirt worn by Greek right back Georgios Galitsios at the KCOM Stadium is part of our collection.
A goal down from the first leg, City restored parity quickly when Maynor Figueroa’s cross was badly misjudged by ‘keeper Davino Verhulst, allowing Robbie Brady to bundle the ball into the net after 6 minutes.

Lokeren restored their advantage early in the second half however when Jordan Remacle smashed a shot between a thicket of Tigers players and past Allan McGregor.

City were handed a lifeline when Denis Odoi cut out Elmo’s cross with his hands in the box, and from the resulting spot-kick Brady scored again.

The Tigers though, could not add to their tally, a task made more difficult by Yannick Sagbo’s sending off, and although City won 2-1 on the night, Remacle’s goal sent the Belgian’s through to the Group Stages on the away goals rule after the overall tie ended 2-2 on aggregate.

Devastatingly, the Tigers’ first European Tour took in just two games on foreign soil, and the Euro shirts were later repurposed as Cup shirts, used at West Brom in the League Cup and at Arsenal in the FA Cup.

The Europa League sans City

Tottenham, the other English side involved at the Play-Off stage, advanced to the Group Stage after beating Cypriot’s AEL Limassol 5-1 on aggregate. Borussia Mönchengladbach, Internazionale, Torino, Saint-Étienne and Panathinaikos advanced too, but surprisingly Real Sociedad fell to Russian’s Krasnodar, and Lyon suffered the same fate as City, eliminated on away goals after a 2-2 aggregate draw with Astra Giurgiu of Romania.

The Group Stage comprised of 48 teams split into twelve groups of four. Lokeren were placed in Group L, where they faced Poland’s Legia Warsaw, Ukraine’s Metalist Kharkiv and Trabzonspor of Turkey. It’s not correct to say that is who City would have faced had they got past Lokeren, as the seeding was based on league coefficients. Of the 24 teams that qualified for the knockout phase by finishing first or second in a group, the most surprising was Ukrainian side Dnipro, who like Hull City began the competition at the Third Qualifying Round (after exiting the Champions League Third Qualifying Round). Both English entrants to the Group Stage, Tottenham and Everton, navigated their way to the Round of 32.

The 24 Group Stage qualifiers were joined by eight teams that finished third in their Champions League groups: Olympiacos, Zenit Saint Petersburg, Roma, Sporting Lisbon, Liverpool, Anderlecht, Ajax and Athletic Bilbao. In the Round of 32 Internazionale edged past Celtic 4-3 on aggregate, Zenit Saint Petersburg destroyed PSV Eindhoven 4-0 over two games, and Sevilla, holders of the Europa League trophy (after beating Benfica in Turin in the 2014 final) eliminated Borussia Mönchengladbach 4-2 on aggregate. Of the English sides, only Everton made it to the Round of 16, comfortably besting Young Boys 7-2 over two games. Tottenham were dumped out by Fiorentina (3-1), and Liverpool suffered shoot-out defeat to Beşiktaş after drawing 1-1 over 210 minutes of open play.

In March 2015, the Round of 16 whittled down the entrants to just 8 sides. Everton fell 6-2 to Dynamo Kyiv, ending English interest in the tournament, Wolfsburg stunned Inter 5-2 on aggregate, though Napoli and Fiorentina advanced to ensure Italian participation of the Quarter Finals. Fiorentina’s win came at the expense of compatriots Roma. Holders Sevilla blew past fellow Spaniards Villareal and Ukrainians Dnipro pulled off a shock when they eliminated Ajax, advancing on the away goals rule after a 2-2 aggregate draw.

The Quarter Finals had a national make up of: 2 Italian sides, 2 from Ukraine, and 1 each from Spain, Germany, Belgium and Russia. Holders Sevilla survived two encounters with Zenit Saint Petersburg winning 4-3 on aggregate. An all-Italian final was still a possibility after Fiorentina and Napoli eliminated Dynamo Kyiv and Wolfsburg respectively, and plucky Dnipro kept plucking, overcoming Club Brugge 1-0 on aggregate.

The draw for the Semi Finals kept the Italian clubs apart, but both fell at the penultimate hurdle. Fiorentina lost both games to Sevilla and were thrashed 5-0 on aggregate, Napoli put up more of a fight, drawing 1-1 at home before losing 1-0 in Ukraine, with Dnipro reaching their first European final, where they’d face three time tournament champions and current holders Sevilla.

That final was held at the impressive Stadion Narodowy, or National Stadium in Warsaw, Poland, on 27th May 2015. Hull City may not have made it beyond the Play-Off stage, but at least four Tigers fans were present at the final, where they witnessed Dnipro take a 7th minute lead, only for Krychowiak and Bacca to wrestle Sevilla in front. An all-action first half ended with parity though as Dnipro’s Rotan equalised from a free kick. Carlos Bacca’s second goal on 73 minutes proved to be the winner and gave the Andalusian side a record fourth UEFA Cup/Europa League title.
Hull City are not the only 2014/15 Europa League contestants to have suffered a precipitous drop in league standing. Lokeren, who eliminated the Tigers at the Play-Off stage, were relegated in 2018 and declared bankrupt in 2020. The club has since merged with KSV Temse to form KSC Lokeren-Temse and they will play in the fourth level in 2020/21. Finalists Dnipro suffered a similar fate, falling foul of Financial Fair Play and being relegated to the Third Tier for 2017/18. They were relegated again by FIFA edict in June 2018, and the club did not participate in any competition in 2019/20.