There was a time in the quite distant past (oh, how depressing that is) when I became obsessed with football. And with that obsession came the peer pressure: Liverpool or Manchester United??!
Well, my first experience of footballclubreplicakitmania was actually not the real McCoy, as they say. My mum very skilfully copied the Derby County ram and stitched it on to a pair of plain white shorts. And I wore those shorts with pride. This was the first time I had had football gear specifically for me. Before this, I’d had the usual hand-me-downs from my big brother: England ’82, Villa ’81 (already a hand-me-down for James), then another unofficial Napoli effort from the Maradona era, Liverpool ’84, and then Liverpool ’85-ish away.
And then, I gave in, and the pestering of my parents began. My first full football kit came as a proud 9 year old boy with my full Liverpool kit in red. I was on the bandwagon and it was Liverpool-bound. The next season saw me running around on that red Liverpool kit with the white flecks on that looked like I’d been flicked with paint – the one they wore when they last won the title. I also celebrated England’s World Cup success with a full away kit (again, red – must have been my favourite colour or something).
Then something inside me changed. Even now, 20 years on, I find it hard to explain or justify. One April lunchtime I was sitting in my parent’s loung watching the FA Cup Semi-final between Arsenal and Tottenham. James was rooting for Arsenal, and something that I can only put down to healthy brotherly competition stirred me to support the Spurs. Gazza’s free-kick started off a glorious Tottenham victory and a new glory-seeking affiliation was born. Spurs won the cup sporting a fancy new kit, and weeks later, I was wearing that very same kit (less the beer sponsorship) on the school field in a summer football course run by the legendary Frank Clarke. But to us kids he was just ‘Frank’.
A few years later, I was one of the many excited Tottenham fans awaiting the new season with Klinsmann, Dumitrescu, Anderton et al. I was suitably adorned with the Tottenham shirt of the time (with the funny double collar thing… you know the one), playing football with my mates, celebrating goals with Klinsmann dives through the mud. I even went as far as to buy Germany shorts on a school trip to Germany!!
And then, the replica kits dried up. Mostly because I was considered ‘too old’ by my parents to have a football kit bought for me, and then lack of funds meant I couldn’t by my own. But for my 21st Birthday, my brother kindly helped me fill the void with the all-white Italy kit of the 2000 European Championships (complete with shirt number 21, and name Ercoli – a Sopranos in-joke for those wondering). Then, if I remember correctly, it wasn’t until the 2002 World Cup that I bought my next piece of replica merchandise. It was England again.
Then, in the summer of 2004 (I think, I may be wrong) I purchased my first and, to date, only Shrewsbury shirt. A special day indeed. Being different, of course, it was the away shirt, but classy all the same.
A couple of years later, I picked up a Glasgow Rangers away shirt in a JJB sale for a tenner, much to my now ex-wife’s chagrin.
And my most recent purchase came in the form of last years Rangers 3rd kit shorts, and home socks (basically both black). I’m always on the look out for a bargain – my next purchase may well be from Austrian football (yes, they do play it, and yes, they’re not particularly good at it).
But last weekend, for the first time, I took my eldest son and got him a football kit. His head has been turned by the financial masters in the blue half of Manchester, but, just like his dad, he went for the away kit. A chip off the old block.
And I’m still waiting to buy him his first Shrewsbury shirt, but you know all about that…