Football shirts are a lot like pop songs. You have a favourite, remember the year and there will always be a little memory to go with it. Certain players make you relate back to a shirt, a golden moment, club hero or just an obscure design. Growing up, I would say 99% of the time I wore a football shirt on my back. Value for money? Certainly.
The fascination with football shirts grabbed me at an early age. My first football shirt was the England World Cup Mexico ‘86 Umbro shirt, Memories of that shirt would be Lineker with bandaged arm, winning the golden boot and of course the infamous Hand of God.
A visit to Luton airport to welcome the England World Cup Italia ‘90 squad home after a semi-successful tournament came a few years later. Before this trip, I would wait for the Match and Shoot magazines or Kays catalogue to preview the designs for the new season shirts.
This time I didn’t have to wait. Fans flocked to Luton from all corners of England for the open bus tour. I was mesmerised by my first sight of what is now viewed as a classic, the 1990 Manchester United Away shirt by Adidas on a member of the crowd. The design was like nothing else seen before, but typical of the ‘90s classics with underlying patterns that were to follow. I was hooked.
A very high percentage of fans throughout their supporting lives have owned a club replica shirt at some point. It’s your club’s identity, your colours, your pride and joy, from either walking to the ground on a Saturday afternoon or along the promenade on your holidays. It’s a financial investment you make to your club, often a higher price point than most of your other garments.
It was an investment my own Mother was happy to make considering, in her own words, she could, “wash them over and over and they wouldn’t age”. Therefore, there is so much anticipation for the release of the new season’s shirt and the upset if the club gets the shirt design wrong, potentially jeopardising the club’s brand and identity.
I started following the Imps in the GM Vauxhall Conference Season 87/88. I was living at the Golden Cross public house with Sincil Bank Stadium on my door step. If I wasn’t sat at the front on the West Bank wall at 3pm, I’d otherwise hear the celebratory roar of a home goal scored carry down Queen Street and through my bedroom window. Growing up so close to the home of the Imps had its advantages. Watching training, attending the Saturday soccer specials, Subbuteo club and the odd footballer popping in for a quick half. A local football community feeling.
My first Lincoln City shirt was in the 89/90 season, made by Spall and sponsored by Wheel Horse. The shirt will always remind me of Graham Bressington, one of my Imp heroes. I bought the match worn shirt, with number 12 on the back for 50p at a club open day.
Foolishly, I sold it on eBay years later to a collector because the curled-up collar niggled the hell out of me. I now know every one of that design had the same fault. I once entered a competition to design the Imps shirt for the ‘94/’95 season. I came runner up but so was disappointed with the result, I couldn’t bring myself to purchase the winning design.
So, why Wolves? As some of you will know, I follow two teams. Wolverhampton Wanderers were my late Grandad Bill’s team. Born close to the Molineux, he would get his morning jobs done and then go climb to the terraces and watch the Old Gold take to the pitch. He watched the Stan Cullis Glory Days and witnessed the darker days.
Thankfully there was a light at the end of the subway. My Grandad talked often about his beloved Wolves when I use to visit him, talks of Billy Wright, Derek Dougan and Steve Bull. He’d taken my Mum and older brothers to stand on the South Bank terrace but at that time I was too young to go. When I visit the Molineux now, there’s a feeling of family pride. I enjoy hearing those Black Country accents again and keeping the Old Gold flag flying high for him.
The Wolverhampton Wanderers Old Gold shirt always fascinated me. No other team plays in that colour. They are unique and instantly recognisable as a club. The colours evoke flashbacks of Steve Bull’s goal celebrations, John de Wolf’s distinctive flowing locks and Steve Froggatt and Robbie Keane’s oversized baggy shirts emblazoned with the Goodyear sponsorship logo.
Please enjoy the collection of shirts and memorabilia we have collectively displayed to commemorate this Checkatrade Trophy match between Lincoln City and Wolverhampton Wanderers, their first meeting since 1989. We hope it ignites some nostalgic memories within you and leaves you with a sense of pride for your team.