It is around 3.45pm on April 13th 1996 on the South Coast at the Dell. Southampton are hosting Manchester United, the hosts are 3-0 up. The Man Utd squad clad in grey enter the changing room to an apparent furious Alex Ferguson. The fiery Scot is annoyed and in one of his more bizarre moves in football forces Man Utd to change their kit.
They had been wearing a grey kit, a kit in which they had never won a match. Man Utd go out and get a consolation goal in the second half. Sure they didn’t win but Fergie believes they were better in the second half, due to changing their strips to blue.
This may to an impartial observer seem a trivial matter but if it was your team you would definitely care. This is the time of year when photos, genuine or not, are leaked onto the internet, fans get the first opportunity to see their club’s strips for the forthcoming season.
It can be a lottery: a brilliant kit will have you running to the shops to buy it, perhaps with your great new south American striker’s name across the back, and looking to the new season with enthusiasm and high expectations; an absolute dirge and you may lose interest in the season before it starts.
This may seem capitalism at its highest but it’s a piece of football I love, I find football kits fascinating and own ten, which I wear on a regular basis. This is the phenomenon that this article will explore: kits and what impact they can have.Firstly lets fade to grey again, grey has been perhaps the most notable choice of kit colour. Other than the aforementioned Man Utd kit; is the equally infamous and grey Euro 96 England kit (modelled by Gareth Southgate, see picture) and the current Liverpool away kit. Grey is seen by superstitious fans as a terrible colour of kit to have, and the Euro 96 semi final is a case in point.
England the home team were forced to wear their grey away kit, in contrast to Germany in their (and England’s) traditional white. England played well but went out on penalties to Germany once again, missing out on arguably their greatest chance for a major honour since 1966. Many fans say the kit put a depression into the team and this was the reason why Southgate missed his crucial penalty.
Needless to say this may no longer be the case soon as another grey kit could gain mythical status come the end of May. The grey kit of Liverpool could be regarded as a lucky kit, as the one that Liverpool were wearing for their famous 4-1 victory over Man Utd. A victory which could help immeasurably in finally ending their long wait for premiership glory. This is important in illustrating the superstitious and near-religious emphasis fans place on kits.
This could not be simple football voodoo or mumbo jumbo. There is a scientific basis for kit phenomena, a study published in the journal of sport sciences in 2008 suggests such a fact. Scientists from Durham and Plymouth universities examined the results of 68 top sides in the post war era. Their findings were that teams wearing red as a home kit won more home games than those that didn’t. In addition to this, Olympic competitors wearing red won substantially more gold medals.
When looked at logically, this may make sense; three of the top four wear red kits. Sounds more convincing now doesn’t it? Also the reason Liverpool wear all red is that Bill Shankly, in turning Liverpool into a footballing giant, decided they would look more intimidating clad in all red. Red also reflects the natural colours of aggression, suggesting high levels of male testosterone.
So this summer, if your team bring out an all red kit, you could well be in for a memorable, if not interesting season. Shankly isn’t alone in his interference in kits; with Don Revie changing the Leeds United kit to all white in an attempt to emulate Real Madrid.
Another idea is that kits take on a life of their own and become synonymous with ideas, events and matches. This is evident from my own team Greenock Morton, from their experience in the 1995-96 season. The story goes that their kit was originally intended to be the traditional royal blue with white in horizontal stripes. This didn’t happen as the team took to the field for the first game of the season with the stripes in sky blue.
Apparently the makers had messed it up. The club apologised and said they would change it back but this never happened and the team went on and won the game. The fans loved what they dubbed the “Argentina kit”. The team were champions of the Scottish 2nd division that season and it is believed that any season in which the Ton wear stripes, they will do better.
This belief also exists in the current premiership crop. If Hull City go down this season the fans may irrationally blame superstition and blame the strip. Hull have an interesting history with strips, and not just the crazy tiger print design that they carried in the early nineties. Their belief that a kit that has just a plain amber shirt equals success held true last season , their greatest ever. It was an all amber top Dean Windass wore, with peroxide hair, when he lashed in the most important goal in the club’s history, last May at Wembley.
As we head towards another crazy season and the new kits are released, I hope your team gets a good one. But, don’t place too much emphasis on the significance of your traditonal colours as they could be down to convenience. Particularly West Ham fans; the reason for their claret and blue simply comes down to a wager which took place with the league champions of 1899, one Aston Villa.
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