Poll Withey, Lotus Cars, Colman’s, Norwich and Peterborough, Asics, Aviva: Alex Murray, in his debut piece, says the importance of a Norwich kit isn’t in its design, it’s in the memories it makes
These are strange times for the football shirt.
There was once a time where official kits just appeared from nowhere in the club shop, ready for the first day of the season. If you said ‘Kit Launch’ to someone from the 1990s, they’d think they were going to be shot out of a cannon. Nowadays, if new kits aren’t being shot out of a cannon with confetti, fireworks and chip and pin machines, it seems an opportunity lost.
Now, the norm for most teams is the good old team-wear kit: the shirt you can buy for about £20 for your five-a side side, but which some teams decide they can flog for £45 as it has a badge on it (*cough* Ipswich *cough*). The rent-a-kits.
Then, you also have the shirts that just, well, look a bit rubbish. The awful chequerboard ones, the far-too-safe ones, the shirts with unnecessary stylings everywhere, and the ones with the weird sponsor logos that make them look like an evil corporation in a dystopian film.
But the golden age of football shirt isn’t dead just yet. Far from it.
Even with the dullest of designs, the football shirt still has the unique ability to recall memories. Every important moment in a club’s history is associated with the fabric worn by the 11 players who step out onto the pitch every weekend.
Nathan Redmond slotting in the second goal at Wembley? The great 2014-15 home shirt, which I thought was naff at first but then came to love. Anthony Pilkington’s header against Fergie’s United? The classy-collared 2012-13 kit with the fancy canary on the back.
You can go even further back. The Milk Cup win brings back memories of the Hummel Poll Withey shirts worn by Steve Bruce and co. Then you have the ’59 Cup run kit with its black shorts and classic design (which was ruined when they tried to commemorate it with a defeat to Charlton).
Every single fabulous moment in Norwich City’s history links with one of our kits. They pop up in your mind.
The Wembley shirt has created so many different memories for so many different people. To me, it’s the train journey down to London, the annoying one-and-half-hour wait in Frankie and Benny’s while the other fans got their orders in surprisingly quickly, and grabbing the German fan sat next to me – who had travelled over to watch his first City game in years – in total euphoria when Nathan Redmond drove it into the Middlesbrough net. That kit triggers them all.
Not all of our memories are good, and a good kit doesn’t necessarily mean a good memory. That white and black away shirt from 2013 was a fantastic piece of art from our Italian friends. But we’ll forever remember it as being the kit in the Beware of the Big Bad Wolf advert.
But less with the bad stuff. Norwich’s third kit this year makes some fans revisit happy memories. The 92-94 kit is possibly the most iconic yellow football shirt in the world behind the classic yellow and green of Brazil. To people outside of East Anglia they laugh at it mainly because, well, it’s unusual. But the memories of Jeremy Goss scoring the last goal at the old Anfield Kop, Mark Robins lobbing David Seaman, and of course the Bayern Munich games, are unforgettable.
And when I say unforgettable, I mean I can’t remember them. I wasn’t born. But it’s Norwich City folklore. That 92-94 kit is currently in the loft as my family heirloom to eventually sell on eBay when, in the future, kits are changed weekly.
My first Norwich memories begin with my first shirt. The colours were thrust upon me at birth by my Grandad, who first sang me On the Ball City to make sure I wouldn’t turn into a glory hunting United fan. My Grandad passed away two years ago, but the shirt now hangs proudly in my little collection: the 1997-98 Colman's Mustard shirt, which holds a special place in my heart for this reason.
Then, the shirts from my youth. The massively underrated green-and-black striped 2004-06 away shirt, which I proudly wore on the Carrow Road pitch for a charity game. Dale Gordon taught me how to pass a ball properly that day, and I did the trademark awful finish into the net just so I could say I’ve done it. I also have the distinct memory of sitting on the Carrow Road bench, alone, with a completely empty stadium around me. It blew my six-year-old’s mind.
It’s these reasons why the football shirt will always be important. Try it. Go and find your old shirt collection and the memories will come flooding back. Yeah, they might be rubbish ones of a cold, wet, Wednesday night in Shrewsbury. But they’re still memories, and importantly, they’re yours.
You can follow Alex Murray on Twitter at @Alex_Murray