Was this the darkest day in our history?

14 Apr

February 28th 1998. A date that will go down in history for Brentford fans. The opposition York City. The result – well, it doesn’t really matter these days. At least, the on pitch one. Instead what happened on the touchline has become one of the most controversial things to ever happen at Griffin Park. It was the day we decided to show the fans our shirt for the following season (something one can only dream of these days). You know the one . The version that added black spray paint to the traditional red & white stripes. The design which, at the very best, looked like a poor man’s graffiti artist had got to work on a Bournemouth kit. But much, much worse. It was slated to go on sale at the final game of that campaign, against Luton Town. 

Screenshot 2020-04-14 at 06.51.22

I’ve seen this picture before and was actually there at the time. I even own one of these (thanks to the birthday based generosity and resourcefulness of Mrs. Bruzon). But the history of what happened has all gone a little hazy over time.

Then, whilst leafing through the Big Brentford Book of the 90s to see if I could find a picture of an Umbro / Cobra crossover goalkeeper’s kit I’d seen for sale on eBay, there it was once more. 

Not just Graham Benstead wearing a top with two technical sponsors – one of which (right) is still available on the internet based auction site should anybody be looking to pick up historical curio –  but the infamous ‘smudge shirt’ , along with the newspaper clipping from the time which ran the subsequent story.

Those of us of a certain age know what happened. Half-time in a late season game saw Peter Gilham announce that we were about to be shown the aforementioned home shirt. One of the youth team then walked around Griffin Park to a shower of boos as the most untraditional of kits was unveiled before our eyes. At least, those are the details I remember.

The article cast a little more detail on events. There were apparently not one but two kids modelling the kit (Lee Tunnell and club hero Michael Dobson) and it was the York City game. When cross referred with other sources, that turned out to have been played in February – I’d have bet on it being April. Probably the first, in retrospect. So this detail was shared on Twitter. 

Being day four of a long bank holiday and not much to do after Martin Allen had blown all entertainment out of the water on Saturday afternoon, this was a last gasp attempt to kill thirty seconds. Thankfully, it ended up killing an awful lot more as Bees’ fans responded to add detail.

I wasn’t alone in thinking it was later than February whilst the one player / two player conundrum was resolved by the fact that each went in a different direction around the pitch so that only one was on view at a time to each stand. It made no difference to the chorus of boos and chants of “Red and white. Red and white.” Nor did it make any difference to the comments on the feedback form that was also handed out to supporters to give their opinion on the ‘coal smudging’ effect.

The other interesting piece of information confirmed by several supporters being that this was the result of a supporter’s competition to design our kit. What a wonderful idea, in theory, and one I’d love to see happen again. Come on Bob  how about it? (I’ve got dozens – although no brown/orange given the lack of apparent taste in our fan base) .

 One can only imagine what was rejected to go for this. One can only imagine the marketing meeting that not only came up with the selection for the winning design but then chose to launch it in such a fashion. “Listen chaps, I’ve had an idea. Two youth team players. A vandalised kit that’s like nothing we’ve ever worn before. And we spring it on the fans as a surprise…..” More drugs anyone?   

As fellow Kit nerd Luis Adriano noted on Twitter “I wonder how the person who designed the ‘winning’ competition entry must have felt/feels?! To see and hear that reception then know that their design was canned before it was ever worn in a match!

Luis also knocked up his own take on the competition entry. At least, I hope it was his own take and not twenty years of built up frustration finally finding cathartic release.

One thing’s for sure, it never went on sale against Luton Town.

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Luis in no way suffering from Bank Holiday boredom

Nick Bruzon 

One Response to “Was this the darkest day in our history?”

  1. Hobbo at 5:31 pm #

    As far as i can remember Nick, the youngsters wore more then one design and it was up to the fans to choose? witch we did vocally.

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