It only seems like five minutes since we were playing Aston Villa yet barely have the side got back to the pub (I’m sorry, but I’m still laughing about that ) we’ve got another game on top of us. This time Preston North End are the visitors to Griffin Park as Brentford go looking for a win that would, potentially, propel the Bees into the play off zone.
And, as ever, part of the build up to a home game includes a revisit to the Kit Obsessive feature. With Preston at Griffin Park tomorrow, it’s another chance to wallow in kit heaven and kit hell.
If Brentford have had trouble, on the surface, in finding variations on red and white stripes then one has to feel for the back room staff at Preston North End. In a problem similar to that faced by the national side, how do you improve on perfection – kitwise, at least?
Save for a couple of tweaks in the five years prior to their becoming founder members of the football league back in 1888 (including rather familiar red and white stripes the previous season c/o the ever wonderful HFK website) their shirt remained plain white up until the mid-seventies. Sure, there were some cosmetic differs on the badge and a few collars along the way, but things remained pretty much ‘as they were’ for the best part of a century.
But then we entered the era of brand names, of sponsors and of colour. All of a sudden variants began to appear and Preston haven’t looked back since. To be fair, they have done well to keep an eye on the origins that have also seen them based at the same field in Deepdale that has been their home since 1875 (and which first saw football in 1878).
However, the last forty years have provided plenty to supplement what has been one of THE classic football shirts. As we delve into the historical kitbag, our four categories, which are all based purely on my own personal opinion, remain: The best; The worst; The away; The unfortunate design/Retro Classic
The Best: Home 1949-58 Whilst Umbro were the first ‘technical’ sponsor to display their brand on the shirt, Adidas dominated a period from late seventies to mid eighties that saw some intriguing efforts. I’ve always had a soft spot for the German giants (indeed, for many Brentford fans our own 1980/81 home shirt is the stuff of folklore/fantasy – delete as applicable). That said my own take is that, if anything, these are a bit over cluttered. Free from the shackles of ‘all white’, the club allowed advertising and double badges to run riot.
Instead, we’ll keep it simple and recognise one of Preston’s greatest players in their greatest kit. The image of Sir Tom Finney in the plain white collared shirt is an absolutely iconic one in footballing terms. With the famous PP (Princeps Pacis) badge still retained, almost identically, today it is a fine shirt to boot and one that reeks of class and tradition.
The worst: Matchwinner 1992-93 Just as the likes of Reading discovered, sponsorship from a company in the painting & decorating industry does not guarantee a shirt as stylish as the product it is endorsing.
And just as Reading’s Matchwinner efforts were more likely to induce a migraine than promote the likes of their ‘Hat Painting’, Preston face a similar scenario.
With both Matchwinner and wallpaper magnates ‘Coloroll’ in the bag, surely they couldn’t make the same mistakes as the Royals. Alas not. The 1992-93 home shirt is wrong on just about every level. The only saving grace is the club badge remains intact. Otherwise, where do you start?
Well, the shirt IS white. Kind of. Unfortunately, the effect is ruined by two areas of dark blue and yellow wavy, diagonal lines. The predominate patch drifts across the shoulders down to the middle left, but is then also repeated below the sponsor. The whole effect is further marred by a subtle (relative to the rest of the kit) interlocking diamond motif woven through the entire shirt.
It’s almost as though somebody has looked at the infamous Hull City ‘tiger stripe’ shirt (also Matchwinner), produced an ‘away’ version, but then just rolled it out to North End instead.
The away. Matchwinner 1993-94 Matchwinner’s previous ’away’ effort was a marginally more discreet version of their 92-93 ‘home’, done out in yellow and black. So I’m going for the next one they produced for Preston, also sponsored by Coloroll.
Anybody with a copy of the programme from the Oxford United cup ‘game’ may recall my mention of the fuzzy fractals and soft focus geometric oddities that seemed the fashion at the time. And nowhere more so than at Matchwinner HQ where they produced what was described as the result of “being short sighted then losing your glasses whilst looking at a deck chair. On acid.“
It was an audaciously brave attempt and one they also bequeathed to Preston North End. A shirt so glaring it’s actually brilliant. A true classic.
The unfortunate design. Footy 1994/95. Let’s be clear – I DO actually love the vast majority of Matchwinner efforts and their regular appearance in these pages should be seen as a complement. They have been innovative in terms of design and colour scheme – sometimes successfully yet at others, not so. However, as their star began to fade (for reasons unknown) their legacy lived on as they weren’t alone in push the boundaries.
With with ‘Footy’ picking up the baton, that tradition continued. A blue stripe to the right of the club badge saw Coloroll’s ongoing sponsorship laid out in a vertical format rather than the traditional horizontal. All well and good except the lettering was also flipped over, rendering it somewhat impossible to read without suffering some form of neck injury.
A brave effort but one that has been rarely repeated since at any English club as vertical sponsors died along with Coloroll’s contract.