There are often people at different football clubs who play a pivotal role in the day-to-day running of the business who are often overlooked by the average football supporter. One example of this is the kit man, the person responsible for ordering, sorting and maintaining all of the kits and equipment for the playing staff. It’s a thankless job but someone has to do it.
One kit man in particular that deserves mention is Neil “Nello” Baldwin, a kit man who was at Stoke City in the 1990s while Lou Macari was manager of the club.
Nello recently was awarded an honorary degree from Keele University in recognition of his positive impact on university life over fifty plus years in residence. That Nello had never actually attended the university as a student or teacher says much about his impact on the community, which has taken him to their heart.
Similarly, Nello was accepted by the Stoke City community and was described by Macari as his “best ever signing.” Impressively, the Scot devoted an entire seven pages to Nello in his autobiography.
When Nello recently received the honorary degree, stories were shared of some of the antics he got up to while he was at Stoke. His appearance in a chicken suit on the substitutes bench away at Bournemouth, and making an appearance as a substitute in Gordon Cowan’s testimonial, were just a couple that were told.
Stoke’s local newspaper The Sentinel recently featured a story by Simon Lowe. He explained that at an away game against Tranmere Rovers as the players left the dressing room for the second half, Macari ordered Nello to undress and put on all the players underwear. Starting with a pair of silk boxer shorts belonging to Martin Carruthers, he adorned himself with 13 pairs of briefs in total. On returning to the dressing room Nello removed the under garments striptease style. The players were then waiting to see whose underwear were closest to his skin, much to Carruthers chagrin.
Macari explained that Nello was the dressing room spirit and that he knew he was the man for the job when he was told his last role was as a circus clown. Macari told the tale of Nello attending an away fixture at Hartlepool in top hat and tails, being introduced at the hotel they were staying at as Lord Baldwin of Keele. So successful was the ruse that by the end of the evening a hotel employee offered a selection of tobacco for Nello’s perusal, asking if “Lord Baldwin would care to choose a cigar.”
Here’s one of my favorite YouTube clips of Nello in action:
Rio Ferdinand could have done with Nello’s comic timing on his awful ‘Merk’d’ offering.
Nello is a memory from my youth, when the club were located in the center of the city and, without the Internet, you hung in and around the area to pick up on news emanating from it and became immersed in it. In this modern, clinical, PR and spin-based age, individuals like Nello are airbrushed out as they don’t suit the Premier League image.