shirts, shorts, socks – part three

Finally, we get around to part three of the new Premier League kits for 2016-17. We’re three games in so far, the big rich clubs who couldn’t distinguish their clunis from their articulatio cubiti last year have all won their first three with big Zlatan/Hazard/Pep shaped victories. As Leicester showed last year though, this league is not just about the big clubs, so let’s focus on the ones who are down near the bottom, the teams who avoided relagtion last year, and the three teams who were promoted from whatever the second division is called these days.

PREMIER LEAGUE PART THREE: THE LAST (AND PROBABLY LEAST) SIX

CRYSTAL PALACE:

Crystal Palace 1617Nice to see Palace still in the top flight, and spending money too. I wish they had won the Cup last year, though Pardew’s little dance was just too much. Will they do well this year? Yeah, they should stay up, because they have a nice pair of kits. The home one seems to have more blue than usual, forgoing the stripes for a large blue band. It’s pretty stylish. The away kit hearkens back to older Palace kits, and I like it when they have a yellow change. The original Crystal Palace was in Hyde Park housing the Great Exhibition of 1851 – the year ironically in which the hated ‘windows tax’ was abolished (you would be taxed for how many windows you had on your house, MPs called it “daylight robbery”), Crystal Palace was a building made entirely of windows). Well, let’s hope Palace prove to give us a “Great Exhibition” this year, otherwise their Premier League status will go out the window. I’m here all week, folks.

BOURNEMOUTH:

Bournemouth 1617Sorry, this one must have gotten mixed up, there’s no way Bournemouth are still in the Premier League. What? They are? What witchcraft is this, when Bournemouth are in the Premier League, (a league of which Leicester City are the reigning champions?), and they just went and signed Jack Wilshere on loan from Arsenal. Bournemouth is known for being a favourite retirement destination for senior citizens who want to live beside the seaside. Wilshere is in his early 20s, I dunno, kids get older every year don’t they. Their home kit is decent again, the third kit is a bit of an ugly shade of mint ice cream, probably tastes very nice down on the beach though.  I love the away kit though, it has a similar design to last year’s Marseille away kit. Bournemouth are the Cherries; let’s hope their season has one on top.

SUNDERLAND:

Sunderland 1617Ok, I’m sorry, but last year Sunderland were the absolutest shittest. They were dreadful, utterly gobsmackingly awful. So how the bloody hell are they still in the Premier League? Oh right, three teams were actually worse than them. But how? Oh right, Norwich, Newcastle and oh my god you’re right, Aston Villa, they were just crap. Well Sunderland avoided relegation because they brought in Samwise Allardyce, who Don’t Be Goin Down, bro. So they should be ok, because he will keep them up. What? He left? Where is he – what? Managing England? Bloody-hell. At least England will avoid relegation now too. So who did they bring in? Someone good I bet, with a solid record. Hold on, David Moyes? Now, to be fair, he is probably a good man for the job. Nobody in the world could have taken over from Fergie at United, but he was always pretty solid in the past, and there’s no reason he wouldn’t be able to pull Sunderland into shape and keep them up. He won’t though, because unfortunately they have decided on what is by far the ugliest away kit in the whole division, and for that crime against kits they must go down to the EFL and think about what they have done. Also for being the city whose early ‘leave’ vote in the referendum was the moment when the pound plummeted. Although ironically, this meant that it became cheaper for me to buy football kits in England. That purple and hot pink thing though looks a bit too cheap; who would buy that? Except maybe 1980s New-Mutants-era Magneto, he probably would. Verdict this year? Days of Fuchsia Past.

BURNLEY

Burnley 1617

I like Burnley. I saw them play Spurs years ago in the 190s in the League Cup, I think it was called the Endsleigh League Cup or something back then, and they had a cool Mitre kit, and Tony Cottee I think. It was ages ago. I like their accent too. Their kit of claret and blue and white puts them in the claret and blue category of clubs, your Villas and West Hams, something classic and old-fashioned about them. This kit is alright, not amazing but it does its job. The away kit is similarly ok. I don’t know. I haven’t really got anything bad to say about Burnley. I’m glad they are up in the top flight. Ok I’ll say one bad thing, they sound a bit like a team from Roy of the Rovers. You know how they all had names like Eastoke, Burndean, Blackport Rovers, those generic made-up dull-sounding English small-town names. Actually that isn’t a bad thing, that is bloody cool. Will they get relegated? I hope not, but I think they might. Unless Roy Race comes out of retirement and brings his famous Rocket! Sorry.

MIDDLESBROUGH

Middlesbrough 1617

Middlesbrough, aka “Boro”, aka “Bro”, or “Bra” for short, were promoted (or were they “bro-moted”?) from the Championship, passing Newcastle on the way down, and now they can have a north-east derby with Sunderland, who, well, they don’t really see it as a derby, because theirs is with Newcastle. Get your own damn local derby, bra! they say. Who with, bro? I dunno, Hull City is only down the road, be a derby with them. Nah that’s too far, bra. So Middlesbrough’s home shirt looks like it was left in the road when the street-line painters were in town. I mean look at it.  And they put that blue line under it to make it look like they meant it. The away kit is ok I suppose if you need a very very very dark blue shirt with a chevron made of three shades of aqua on it. But in tandem with the home kit it looks like they got pull into a Dulux paint demonstration. I expect a big fluffy dog to show up. How will Boro do this year? Will they have a brush with relegation, or will they get into the Eu-bro-pa League? Yeah, I know that was clutching at straws.

HULL CITY

Hull City 1617

Hull are definitely getting relegated. Except, they have started well. They were unlucky to lose to Man U, otherwise they might be top of the league. Well not top, but you know what I mean. They do have a nice home kit, wide black and amber stripes, none of the tiger-stripes of old, and they also aren’t called FC Tigers of Hullchester United Bros, or whatever that owner wanted to call them.The away kit will come in handy if they play someone in amber, otherwise don’t you think they may need another kit with a little less black? Hull is one of those places that nobody wants to go to, because they haven’t been there, and because (like coastal neighbours Grimsby and Scunthorpe, it just sounds a bit crap – it actually got named in a book as the most ‘Crap Town’ in Britain) but I’ll have you know, Hull is actually really cool. I say this with absolutely no personal experience of the place, but Hull is the 2017 European City of Culture. That’s right. They don’t just give that to anyone; Plovdiv, Wroclaw, Turku, Linz, the list goes on. Philip Larkin was from here. So was Maureen Lipman, she used to be funny. Even better, the Housemartins, and the Beautiful South, who were, top paraphrase Alan Partridge, the band the Housemartins could have been. Fat Boy Slim: the DJ the Housemartins could have been. A lot of music came from Hull; Roland Gift, remember him? No? Kingmaker? I had one of their singles. Actually it isn’t even called Hull, it’s Kingston-upon-Hull, so it’s even better. Even the author of Crap Towns has changed his mind. I really want to go to Hull; as an urban sketcher, it sounds pretty interesting. I also used to occasionally visit Scarborough, further up the coast, and I like it up that way, in the Ridings. Will the Tigers stay up? I’m going to give you the truth, the Hull truth and nothing bu- no, no they won’t.

Ok this is your lot. I might maybe do kits for the Champions League, maybe not the group stages, maybe the knockouts. If Spurs are still in it by that point. In the meantime, have a fun football season, and look out for all these shirts. I guarantee that when you see Middlesbro’ play you will be bro-splaining to every-bro about their unfortunate street-line-paint bra-ccident.

shorts, shorts, socks – part 2

Right, part two of the Premier League kit round up, and without further ado, let’s get going…

PREMIER LEAGUE PART TWO: THE MIDDLING MID-TABLE

LIVERPOOL:

Liverpool 1617

When I was a kid Liverpool were pretty much the best team in the world. Not to me of course, I supported the even greater Spurs, but that Liverpool team of Rush, Dalglish, Hansen, then Beardsley, Barnes, Aldridge, the Grobelaar years basically, they were spellbindingly good. They are less so these days, no league titles since 1990 (yeah, more than Spurs) but with Klopp at the helm, maybe they can claw it back into the top four again. They opened with a 4-3 win at Arsenal which sounds good, but 4-3 games don’t mean championship form. Their kit is pretty slick and basic, gold trim, nothing fancy. The away kit has a few little flashes here and there, but the third kit is an odd lime green of the sort that these days, we look at and say, whatever. If it isn’t a broccoli kit or a ham kit or a human interior anatomy kit I’m not even interested. Prediction? Fifth or sixth I suppose.

STOKE CITY:

Stoke 1617

“But could he do it on a rainy Tuesday night in Stoke?” Is the oft-mentioned cliche when speaking of fancy foreign football fops frolicking about the field. Hardly anyone ever says it about the man who washes cars and waters gardens mid-week in the evenings in Stoke. Stoke were the team of Stanley Matthews (them and Blackpool), one of the greatest ever footballers ever to come out of England. But enough reminiscing about the wizard of dribble; stoke’s kits are made by Macron this year and are smart, quite nice, bit boring perhaps that is ok. How will Stoke do this year? Well if they can do it on rainy Tuesday nights in other places than Stoke they will stay up. Next…

CHELSEA:

Chelsea 1617

Well well well, Chelsea, fancy seeing you down here rubbing shoulders with the common folk, the Stokes and the Watfords. Weren’t you reigning champions a year ago? Mourinho got sacked, your rich guy players farted around, and then you celebrated a 2-2 draw with Spurs like you had won the league again. Well with a top new manager in Conte they might find their form again, but I can’t see them getting back to top spot so quickly. The kits are nice though, I’ll say that. Even the second one. Prediction? Fourth. I dunno.

EVERTON:

Everton 1617

Ronald Koeman is now the manager of the Toffeemen. I loved him when he scored that rocket for Barcelona in the 1992 European Cup final against Sampdoria (I liked both those teams). I hated him when he helped knock England out of the World Cup qualifiers in 1993. I hope he does well at Everton. They will finish mid-table again. I don’t know, 8th. The kits are nice, home kit is simple, Umbro doing a decent job, though the sponsor having a picture of two elephants standing under a fountain, what is that supposed to be exactly? Maybe it’s fireworks? Two elephants playing with fireworks. Or is it spaghetti, and explosion of spaghetti? I don’t know. The second kit is nice, dark. I like the third kit, yellow. Hard to muster up much enthusiasm for these though when you have two elephants standing under a massive exploding spaghetti fountain.

SWANSEA CITY: Swansea 1617

Swansea have done away with flashy Adidas detailing and switched to the classy Joma for 16-17, going for a pure clean white look. The sponsor has a dash of blue which then turns into the away kit, a gradient affair that has an overall calming effect on anyone who sees it, like a peaceful lake or a waterfall. this is scientifically proven to reduce instances of hooliganism in football grounds, so effectively they are bringing a message of peace over from the southern Welsh coast. they will need a third kit. how about an angry fiery red? Fun fact. Swans, did you know they are all owned by the Queen, swans? Where will Swansea finish this year? I don’t know. 11th maybe. 200th. I don’t know. They’ll be fine, they’ll stay up.

WATFORD:

Watford 1617

How are Watford still in the Premier League? Well midtable last time so I suppose they weren’t too bad. I just thought they would go down. Oh right, Villa, Norwich and Newcastle were completely pants. This year the Hornets have ditched Puma for ‘Dryworld’. Dryworld? Who the bloody hell are they? The kits are fairly ho-hum, none of the buzzing horizontal stripes from last year, and why does the away kit have black socks in an all white kit when the home kit has black socks? Answer me that Dryworld, whoever the hell you are. Where will Watford finish? I think this year they go down. Sorry Watford fans. You’re still better than Luton.

WEST BROMWICH ALBION:

West Brom 1617

“West Brom” or “WBA”? Nobody calls them “WBA” any more. Well I don’t think so anyway. For all I know they do it all the time, I don’t know, I don’t live in England. West Brom, the great survivors. How do they stay up every year when it looks like they should just go down? I think it’s Horcruxes. I think that is their secret. I think Saido Berhaino found out and that is why they won’t let him leave. I do like their kit this year, one of the nicest. The light blue trim makes a nice addition and goes well with the Baggies blue. The away shirt is black with pinstripes. It looks nice. West Brom will stay up again. They will not win the league like Leicester did. Unless they use the Imperiatus curse of course.

Ok that was the middle, stay tuned for the bottom six.

shirts, shorts, socks…

In a few hours, finally, the football is back. I know you are thinking that only five minutes ago we had Euro 2016 and yes, sure, and of course the Olympics is going on, and right, ok if you can get past all the swimming and gymnastics, sure there is technically some football going on, but tomorrow the Premier League starts a new seson, Spurs will be back, and all will be well again. Last season was so fun. Leicester winning the league, Spurs having a blast, Mourinho getting sacked, Villa finally going down, it was a Rollercoaster within a Helter Skelter within a, er, Ghost Train? Waltzers? This season the Big Boys are hoping to be back – United have Mourinho (didn’t he, last season, er..), City have Guardiola, Chelsea have Conte, there’s Zlatan, Pogba, and of course Arsenal have bought…er… This whole silly soap opera of the Premier League is back and I love it. I’m so cynical about everything else in the world (seriously, how many swimming events are there at the Olympics, does Phelps get extra gold medals just for taking a shower afterwards?) but for this I am as excited as I was when I was ten, and of course what I love the most are all the new kits. And so as is now becoming tradition here is the first of three posts going over the new outfits for the season, along with, I dunno, a prediction based on nothing whatsoever. For those of you who enjoy reading about football kits / soccer uniforms, read on! For those who don’t… I’ll be back posting my sketches from Manchester tomorrow. All of these kits were drawn by me in old-school MS Paint, and are presented in the order they came in last year’s Premier League. I’ll try to keep it brief.

PREMIER LEAGUE PART ONE: THE TRULY MAGNIFICENT SEVEN

LEICESTER CITY: Leicester 1617Last season I predicted that Leicester would be champions. No, no I didn’t. I said they’d either go down (sad Lineker face) or stay up (happy Lineker face). Lineker himself promised to present Match of the Day in his underpants if the Foxes won the League. They only went and did it. Everyone loves Ranieri. Vardy couldn’t stop scoring. Mahrez tore teams apart.  They surely can’t do it again, can they, but…you can’t rule out Vardy and the Foxes. Their kits this year are in Leicester’s typically straightforward, nothing silly fashion. The subtle pattern on the shirt is similar to Slovakia’s in the Euros, but otherwise is smart and classy. They ARE the champions.

ARSENAL:Arsenal 1617 In case you were not aware, Arsenal came second last year. Nobody is quite sure how that happened, but it did, and Spurs came third. I was annoyed because Spurs haven’t come above Arsenal for about twenty years, and it came at the end of a season when Spurs were generally mercurial and Arsenal were generally stale, but the table doesn’t lie. I think the impression I got from the players is, 2nd and 3rd, who cares – it’s not 1st, and both go straight into the Champions League, so it’s practically  the same – let’s get ready for the Euros. Anyway Arsenal’s kit – the home kit’s collar is a throwback to the team of 92-93, remember Tony Adams dropping Steve Morrow? They won a couple of cups that season, and looking at the table that year, oh, they came two places below Spurs. Away kits are pretty nice. Prediction: Wenger’s final year, but they won’t win it. Maybe.

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR: Tottenham 1617 If you have ever followed me on Twitter, you will be well aware this is my team. Last season was epic, albeit ending on a down note, but a year ago if anyone said “Spurs will come third” I would have bitten their hand off and thrown away the key. Kane, Alli, Lloris, Alderweireld, Dier, we were so much fun to watch. Spurs will be in the Champions League this year but playing at Wembley, as part of White Hart Lane is already gone, with the rest being demolished at the end of the season. We move into the new ground, being built over part of the current one, in 18-19. This year’s prediction…third would be a very big achievement again, to be fair – we have enough to go all the way, we have a pretty sharp and solid team, bolstered with new boy Jansson, but those billionaire Big Boys want their cake back. Our kits are absolutely lovely. I have so enjoyed the Under Armour years. The home kit is superb, but the away kits are classics. I have the third kit, my son has the second kit. We kick off tomorrow away at Everton. Come on you Spurs!

MANCHESTER CITY: Man City 1617City have a new manager in Pep Guardiola, who has long been coveted by England and finally graces us with his tiki-taka. Being at a club funded by billionaires should make the transition from the biggest club in Germany and one of the two biggest in Spain that bit easier for him, though England is slightly more competitive, and he won’t necessarily walk it. City have a very strong squad though, which probably just needs a bit of managerial know-how. So their kit is ok, the shirt is stylish in that Vapor template Nike really loves, but there go Nike with those different colour socks gimmick they are beating the hell out of this year. The away kit takes that catchphrase even further with unusually wild yellow socks. Verdict? They will get better than fourth, but might not win it.

MANCHESTER UNITED: UMan Utd 1617nited sacked Van Gaal, and brought in Jose Mourinho. Not content with one massive ego they bought Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who makes sure he is at a club that will win titles every year (I’m surprised Zlatan didn’t sign for Michael Phelps). Then they spent just under a hundred million quid on Paul Pogba, who they let go a few years before. They really really want to win the league again, and sure, they might be in a position to now…but do you remember Chelsea sacking Jose last year? So their kits. The home shirt is bizarre, having two halves of different reds, with a honeycomb border down the middle (I now know that this is because the bee is the symbol of Manchester, hence the honeycombs). The pattern comes up again on the sleeves of their third kit. The second kit is nice; my image doesn’t do the blue pattern much justice, but it’s a nice shade, and I like a United away kit in that sort of blue. Will they win the league? Probably, or maybe not – they have the Europa League to worry about first…

SOUTHAMPTON: Southampton 1617Ronald Koeman has left, but the Saints have been a decent team the past few years so I expect that to continue. Actually I don’t know. I do know that I love their kit. Under Armour have taken over and this home kit is an unusual design, but it feels like the sort of thing Southampton would do. Even the sponsor works well. Their away kit of grey and dark grey is a little less inspired but looks alright. I bet you anything they get a third kit before the year is out. Where will they finish up this year? Top ten, I reckon. I don’t know. I think when you get to this part of the table you kind of stop caring. They might make Europa League, or they might not. I’m not making for a good pundit, am I.

WEST HAM UNITED: West Ham 1617The Hammers left the Boleyn Ground last season as you probably heard, and have moved into the Olympic Stadium in Stratford. That will be an interesting change for them. Their kit is standard claret top with blue arms stuff, nothing fancy. The special commemorative third kit, which is not an all black kit but very very very dark blue, refers to their founding as Thames Ironworks FC (TIWFC), who wore dark blue and one time had a British flag on their chest. West Ham have simplified their badge to just show the crossed hammers once more. Also they have added the word “London” to the badge in case people don’t know which city West Ham is in. Other London clubs have yet to catch on to this, causing massive confusion among the tourists. I doubt it will be a classic first season at Stratford, but a healthy mid-table should do it.

Okay then! If you got this far and found it vaguely interesting then you are in luck, part two will come in the next couple of weeks with part three following after that. In the meantime, back to the urban sketches…

goodbye euro 2016

Euro 2016 GER-ITA

What will you do, now that it has gone, now that it is over? Euro 2016 is finished, Portugal walked away as champions, and that is that, no more football for a little while. Well, the football wasn’t always of the highest quality – it is international football, it rarely is – but there were a few good games, and a few historic results. Here are the last few sketches I did during some of the games, starting above with Germany beating Italy. Sorry, technically Germany did not beat Italy (they never actually have, in a competitive tournament), they drew, and it went to penalties, hilariously bad penalties, penalties you would not believe. Simone Zaza. I did enjoy the creativity of Twitter after his very odd pre-penalty river-dance routine.

Euro 2016 POL-POR

Speaking of penalties, Portugal played out another draw, this time with Poland, beating them on swift and well-taken penalties. What else happened? Lewandowski scored in the 2nd minute making everyone think “this will be a great game!” but it wasn’t, and I can’t remember much else. Ronaldo probably took his shirt off.

Euro 2016 WAL-POR

Wales were the last British team to exit Europe (if only there were some useful contraction to describe that phenomenon). Seriously, Wales got to the semi-finals of the Euros. I was starting to imagine that they might in fact go on and Do A Leicester. It was that sort of year. In the end, they Did A Tottenham, sis us all proud but ultimately fell down just before the end. They wore that black and grey kit (I must say, I don’t like it much) to play Portugal (who also for some reason wore the away kit, that odd teal number (I don’t like that either). It was a decent match though, but Portugal had enough to get past the Welsh, who frankly suffered from losing two of their best players (Ben Davies and Aaron Ramsay) due to simple yellow cards (UEFA, your stupid rules ruin these tournaments). If they had played, I’m pretty confident it would have gone to 120 minutes or penalties, like all of Portugal’s games.

Euro 2016 FRA-POR

And so the Final at the Stade de France. Portugal looked like they were going to stand aside and let France do what was necessary in order to win the final at home, until they realized that France just couldn’t do much. Portugal defended rather a lot. It was a terrible game, but in the end Portugal won it with a wonder-strike by a player who Swansea didn’t think was good enough, Eder, a kind of modern-day John Jensen but in reverse. No, the Final was notable for two things – moths, and Cristiano Ronaldo. So the whole stadium had been invaded by billions of moths after some clever sod left the floodlights on all night. It was an invasion of moths. Anyway, a little while into the game, the Portuguese star Ronaldo was tackled and fell badly, his leg hurt. He tried to play on, like Gazza in 1991, but eventually collapsed. He sat on the pitch in tears waiting for the medics to come and get him. The camera did a close-up of him, and at that moment a moth came and landed on his face, as if to lick up his tears of sadness. What a cold, heartless moth. He was too sad to even swat it away. I know he gets a lot of stick, but I felt sorry for him, and he didn’t need some giant moth creature coming up and taking the mick out of him and feeding on his tears. I wondered whether the moth actually said something to him, like “Lionel Messi sends his regards”, Red Wedding style. All I knew is that when Ronaldo went off I knew, from the flashbacks to Gazza in the 1991 FA Cup Final, that this game would end up going to Portugal. And that’s how it went. It took a long time and a lot of very uninteresting football, but they came together and did their captain proud. He was Happy Ronaldo again by the end. Maybe that moth actually said to Cristiano, “don’t worry my man, we got this” and rather than just flying about randomly, they actually influenced the game, distracting French forwards, swerving the ball away from the goal, doing whatever meddling moths do. Remember that little moth Gandalf spoke to when he was imprisoned by Saruman on top of Orthanc? Same concept, but with football. Happy Ronaldo. Sad Messi, but that’s another story. So, Euro 2016 is over. The Premier League starts in August. Cannot wait…

how to leave europe

Euro 2016 ICE-ENG

It has been a week, hasn’t it. Hell, it’s been a year. Did nobody realize that 2016 is only ‘advisory’ and ‘non-binding’? We’ve only had less than half of the year so far too; instead of celebrity deaths, terrorist attacks and Brexits, the rest of the year might be all, well, no, there’s an election coming up in America and probably the UK so no, 2016, please just go away and think about what you have done. At least the footy has been good. Oh, except for England. They slipped up against Iceland (I don’t get it either) in one of the biggest shocks that day, culminating in the manager Roy Hodgson resigning at the end of the match because everyone else is doing in. Iceland were pretty great though and they are refreshing to see at this tournament, and while I am sad to see so many of my Spurs players get knocked out with England, I’m happy for Iceland. England winning the Euros might have been good for the country, in its current state, but Iceland will now go on to play the host team, France. Iceland might end up as the Leicester of international football.

Euro 2016 CRO-POR

Croatia lost to Portugal. Portugal have Cristiano Ronaldo. Oh ok you say, that’s that. No, Croatian were in my view much the better team, and Portugal only had one shot, late in extra time, from a Ronaldo cross, that won them the tie. But Portugal wore the odd teal green thing, while Croatia finally got to show off the famous home kit. I had to sketch that game, especially the guy with the read and white checkers on his hair. I will miss Croatia, I actually thought they’d go all the way after watching them beat Spain. As it is, they have to fly home while Portugal moves on to play Poland.

Euro 2016 WAL-NIR

And finally, the UK smaller-two clash, Wales vs Northern Ireland. It’s like Ringo vs George Harrison, with Wales being George because they have Gareth Bale. My heart is in Ireland, and my Grandad was from Belfast so I supported the boys in green and white, but they could not hold on against the red dragons of Wales. The Welsh go through to the quarter finals to face Belgium as the only British team still in Europe. Another week and a half until the football distraction is over again. Please start soon, Premier League! 2016 needs you back!

how to stay in europe

Euro 2016 IRL-ITA

I love this Euro 2016 football tournament. I love Europe in general, let me be clear about that – I was born European, and will remain European. The EU referendum news is fresh, new and bitter – and Cameron just resigned a few minutes ago – so to cheer you up again, I’ll bring it back to the football. I’ve often been frustrated by the European Football Championships, the less fun little brother of the World Cup. Perhaps it was the Years of Hurt – as a fan of both Ireland and, yeah, England disappointment went hand in hand. I still have a celebratory t-shirt from the famous Ireland victory over England back in 1988 (“These boys made history” it read, my mum got it for me from the Irish festival in Willesden Green). Despite some World Cup fun times since, the Republic of Ireland have either not qualified or just been rubbish at the Euros. England, well, Euro 96 was a fun ride, with a depressing end. These Euros have seen Wales, England, Northern Ireland and now the Republic of Ireland qualify for the knockout stages in dramatic fashion. Kind of pales into insignificance now with the political earthquake of “Brexit”, but while the two final group matches played yesterday lunchtime I sketched them both simultaneously (I do love split-screen). Ireland beat Italy 1-0 with a late winner, and I leapt off my seat, fist pumping. Even the Italians celebrated with the Irish. Both Ireland teams in the next round! Wales and England too! And Iceland, who are close enough to Scotland! Another of the teams I like, Belgium (I lived there for a year, during Euro 2000 funnily enough, I lived opposite the stadium where England beat Germany) beat Sweden, and I sketched some of them to, Belgium in their cool away kit. The outcome was finely balanced, but Belgium scored about 20 seconds before the Irish did, and suddenly Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s international career was over. There he is there, looking rather like a comic villain, Dick Dastardly but without the evil smirk. At least he wasn’t throwing on-pitch tantrums like Ronaldo was (though at least Ronaldo looked more like he cared, and scored a couple of goals out of it – not free kicks, of course). Zlatan has left the building – “Zlexit”, as I’m calling it.

Euro 2016 BEL-SWE

I sketched these partly for practice. I just finished writing a book about sketching people in five minutes (coming out in the Fall!) and one section is about sketching people playing sports, live, so these are my efforts. There’s no football tomorrow, either. Well it’s already tomorrow now. But two days without football, just as all these teams celebrate staying in Europe, and what goes and happens? It all starts up again on Saturday – Wales v Northern Ireland! – and then the big one for Ireland against France on Sunday (6am wake-up for me), with England v Iceland on Monday. Allez les Euros.

the kits of euro 2016: groups e and f

The third and final kit review of the Euros. I should have done one for the Copa America too (Columbia’s home kit is now white?) but it took me a little by surprise. We are at the end of the Group Stages now and the worst teams are starting to pack up and go home, while the teams coming third in their groups are waiting to see whether they will be one of the four best-placed third-placed teams out of six, causing heads to implode trying to figure out the permutations and arrangements. Albania for example might yet go home if other teams are deemed to have done better. In the case of teams having identical records, it goes down to goals scored, goals against, coefficient, length of beards, number of supporters arrested (outside the ground against inside the ground), and if they are still tied after all of that then Cristiano Ronaldo gets to judge how much of a “big country” or “small country” mentality a team has. It’s a complicated system. I still think it should all come down to kit design. On that note, let’s crack on with the final two groups: E and F.

GROUP E

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND

Republic of Ireland-Euro2016My team. Well, them and Northern Ireland. And England I suppose, though I’ve a soft spot for Wales, etc. Gone are the days however when I knew the names of all the players – Tony Cascarino, John Aldridge, Pat Bonner, Ray Houghton, you know, Phil Babb, all those guys. Now, I know Robbie Keane, and all the other guys. The same to be honest can be said of any team, international or club, except of course for Spurs, even though I watch football all the time, read football magazines and collect football sticker albums. “I Am Forty”. I do have a lot of Ireland shirts though, dating back to the USA 94 kit (the special jersey my mum got me commemorating Ireland beating England in 1988 doesn’t really count, I doesn’t fit any more too). My favourite is the last one, more of an old rugby shirt style, and this new one does something similar, but is a little less to my liking, although the orange trim is quite tastefully minimal. It’s still a much nicer shirt than, for example, the Northern Ireland home shirt. The away is alright, the little stripes on the arm look like something someone suggested and then looked at it afterwards and said, “meh, but who cares”. Now the Irish started well, being unlucky to only get a draw out of the Sweden game, but they got utterly tonked by Belgium. Yeah, we may not beat Italy in the last game but you never know. I still have a t-shirt celebrating “beating Italian ass on American grass” in 1994. Come on Ireland!

ITALY

Italy-Euro2016Italy have started well, couple of decent wins. They defend well, have a good manager in Conte (Chelsea-bound), and the best national anthem of all, probably. The kit is decent as well, simple effort, unfussy (they like the word ‘fussy’ these football kit describers, “it’s a bit of a fussy design” they say, to make themselves sound like real fashion and design afficionados) (I like “unfussy” because it’s not really a word; well it wasn’t, but I suppose it is now). Italy don’t have the superstars of old (well, they still do, like Buffon, but they are actually old) (Buffon by the way, the legendary goalkeeper, is my man-crush, he’s a handsome chap is Gigi). I like Italy but I need to explore a bit more of it, I’ve been to Venice three times but that’s really it. On the third time in Venice, I got engaged to my wife. Happy memories! Italy – the Azzurri – wear blue because that was the colour of the royal house of Savoy, and boy do they wear it well. The traditional white away kit has the Italian flag running down the middle.

SWEDEN

Sweden-Euro2016Sweden is all about Zlatan. It shouldn’t be, but it is. He rolls around the pitch being a genius looking frustrated that the rest of his team aren’t all Zlatans, but if the were all Zlatans then he would not be Zlatan. Zlatan has what you might describe as a rather large ego. In fact it’s better to just zlatan the way Zlatan does. This zlatan is the latest zlatan to come from Zlatidas and features three zlatans down the zlatan and a slightly more zlatan shade of zlatan. The away zlatan is zlataning, with its zlatanesque zlatans. In the first zlatan, Zlatan were zlatan to get a zlatan against the Republic of Zlatan who I felt zlataned the whole zlatan, though Zlatan did zlatan the zlatan the zlataned the Zlat defender to zlatan an own-zlatan. Ok Zlat’s enough of Zlat. I do like an Adidas Sweden kit, thinking back to the great Swedish side of the early 90s (or “BZ” as Zlatstorians prefer to number those years), Tomas Brolin and co. This one is lovely. Shame you won’t see much more of it this summer.

BELGIUM

Belgium-Euro2016Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner. This is my favourite kit of the Euros. I have a soft spot for Belgium having lived there for a year back in 1999-2000 (I lived right across the street from the stadium in Charleroi where England played Germany, remember that one, fans of chair-throwing and water-cannons? I’ve wanted a Belgian shirt for a long time and they have had so many duffers (those Burrda ones for example) but I think I will stump for this one. The yellow is a more day-glo shade and the black on the chest really offsets that red. I can imagine wearing this while wandering the streets of Brussels with a sketchbook. The away shirt is nice too, reminds me of a cycling jersey, since the sport of cycling is very popular in Belgium. That year I spent there was very formative in many ways for me, though I could have been more creative with my time, I felt I didn’t get a lot done. I had a guitar and wrote some songs, I did a lot of personal writing but very little concrete stuff of substance, I drew a little bit but not that much, and I didn’t know many people so would just go to the chip shop and then to the local pub with the other locals, but looking back I think all of this was a life-long inspiration of as-yet-unformed ideas. Maybe I was just lazy. I would go up to Brussels and spend the whole day going around the city on the streetcar reading novels, then go to see a movie, go for a beer, and get lost on the Belgian train system trying to get home. And then there is the rain, the endless, constant rain. I think of all of this when I see that Belgian football badge, and I’m glad I got to know the place for that one year. As for the football team, I like them because they have a few of the best Spurs players on the team, though I’m not a fan of their goalie Thibault Courtois, because he a) plays for Chelsea and b) looks like the Republican speaker Paul Ryan.

GROUP F

AUSTRIA

Austria-Euro2016Okay, I am drifting in these reviews a little, lets get back to the kits. Austria have a standard enough Puma kit, which is red because a few years ago when they co-hosted the Euros with Switzerland, who also wear red Puma kits. Austria used to wear white withblack shorts, so when they turned up to the party wearing EXACTLY THE SAME BLOODY CLOTHES AS SWITZERLAND, the Swiss just facepalmed at their neighbours, oh you are so embarrassing. Oh right, next you are going to copy the whole mountains, watches and cuckoo clocks thing too aren’t you. Well this time, they still wear red but their away kit looks decidedly more like traditional Austria (which was itself, er, very similar to Germany). I first went to Austria in 1991 with my German class from school, spending two weeks with a family in Vorarlberg. When I was a kid I had a pen-pal from Vienna, and was always so impressed at Austrian handwriting. European handwriting is generally much nicer looking than messy English handwriting; French might be the best, but I like German too. Here I go again, talking about handwriting, completely unrelated to the football shirts. Let’s hope these Puma kits don’t rip easily like the Swiss ones in that game against France – four of the shirts had massive holes torn into them, prompting hilarious jokes about Swiss Cheese. Austria had been quietly fancied before these Euros, but it looks like they will be dropping out very soon.

HUNGARY

Hungary-Euro2016Right, so Austria vs Hungary conjured up images of the old Habsburg Empire, and it was all, oh yeah. Back in the 1920s Austria had the ‘Wunderteam’ (which roughly means “wonder team”), but in the 1950s, Hungary truly were the wonder team. How they managed to not win the World Cup in 1954 is a mystery matched by Holland not winning it in 1974 or 1978. The team of Puskas, the Mighty Magyars, famously destroyed England at Wembley in 1953, dubbed the Match of the Century. They will always have a legendary history. In modern times Hungary have been decidedly more shit. Come on, they have. Which is why it’s so exciting that they are back in the big time now, and they’ve done alright so far, beating Austria, and managing a draw with, er, Iceland. The kit, classic colour combo, and an Adidas template which is two years old (tsk, living in the past). I had some great Hungarian friends when I was younger, back in London. Another friend of mine (who is English and an actor) goes to Budapest several times a year, as it’s a common place for TV and film production.

ICELAND

Iceland-Euro2016Now this really is a surprise. Iceland? The land of actual ice? They qualified ahead of the Netherlands. Holland! The Dutch! Iceland are I suppose our substitute for not having Scotland there, it’s kind of close enough. They have a fairly recent history of football, and some famed Icelanders have become Premier League stars (Eidur Gudjohnson, Gylfi Sigurdsson). Everyone loves Iceland (except Cristiano Ronaldo). Of course, I’ve liked them since they were called Bejam. Alright you won’t get that one if you’re not British. Basically there is a chain of food stores, predominantly frozen food, and they also sell fridges and freezers, and they are called Iceland; well they used to be called Bejam before changing their name. It was a bit like Snickers used to be Marathon. I actually spent a day delivering fridge-freezers for Iceland with my brother-in-law around Hampshire a couple of decades ago. None of this is relevant of course. The kit here is made by Italian company Errea, I always like their designs though this one is kind of okay. In years to come it will be an Icelandic classic. Will Iceland go through to round two? Probably. I hope so. Their away kit is very similar to the one worn by the Allied POW team from Escape to Victory. I hope their goalkeeper is better than Sylvester Stallone.

PORTUGAL

Portugal-Euro2016This is the age of the one-superstar-dominating-the-team. When I say that I don’t mean the 2010s, I mean the past century or so. For Sweden it is now Zlatan. For Portugal, who have always had a lot of great players, the main man is, well you know who it is. He has a great freekick record at major tournaments – 36 taken, none scored.He added to this in the recent 0-0 against Austria, even missing a penalty to boot. I imagine he is the sort of person to invite his friends over to watch him play video games, declining to let them actually play because it wouldn’t be fair, he’d just win against them. But whenever Messi calls and asks for a quick round of MarioKart he always pretends to be washing his hair (haha, “pretends”). Portugal won’t win it; maybe after he retires.The kit is alright, another Nike Vapor template, with the different colour socks thing Nike are playing with like they bloody invented it. The away kit is a garishly ugly greeny-teal colour I just can’t understand. Ok fine it’s “interesting”. It was probably his idea, you-know-who. No not Voldemort. I went to Portugal in 2011 for the urban sketching symposium and had a lovely time in Lisbon, eating sardines and drawing fire hydrants.

And that is all you get. This was possibly the most rambly post I have ever done so if you have made it this far, thanks for just scrolling to the end, now go back and actually read it properly please. There will be a test later. Anyway, back to the actual footy.