World Cup 2018: the group stage

Group stage kits WC2018

So, the Group Stage of the World Cup is over. This chart shows each of the kits worn in those first 48 games. As you can see, red v white is popular. Almost every team wore both of their kits at least once. Some wore different combinations than expected; Colombia wore white shorts twice for some reason, rather than blue, and then blue shorts with the blue away rather than orange. France wore three combinations, none of which were blue-white-red (they will wear that in the next round against Argentina though). England looked good with the old navy shorts back. THAT Nigeria kit got a single outing before they went back home. As predicted, Croatia wore their away kit more than the home kit. That Mexico away kit looked bloody good in real life. The kit combinations were a bit bizarre – I had thought that colour-blindness was being taken into consideration, I know that UEFA have directives, but the fact that the first game was red (Russia) vs green (Saudi Arabia) means that they weren’t taking this into account at all (not sure why the Saudis couldn’t wear white). The games have been great – every team has scored and there have been some super exciting games, especially the finale of Sweden v Germany. Some hilarious moments, such as Michy Batshuayi kicking a ball into his own face in celebration, and that Iranian player whose name escapes me who tried to do a flip-throw but ended up with a sad roly-poly. Argentina were bad, Messi looks so downhearted, while Cristiano Ronaldo is well up for it, and a hat-trick against Spain is pretty impressive. Kane is top scorer so far, his last goal being being scored while he was at a cafe reading a newspaper and eating a croissant, when a ball bounced off the foot of his table and over the line; he will take it. VAR has been fun, controversial but on the whole pretty correct. My favourite thing now though is when players go down, they don’t wave imaginary cards now, they make the imaginary tv screen sign. As for my predictions, well I don’t think Argentina will win now, but they made it through. Germany didn’t top their group, unless you put their group upside down (I still can’t believe they are out), while Sweden were definitely no bottom-of-the-groupers, and nor were Japan. Croatia have been a big surprise. Ok, so the next round is up. I predict that Argentina will beat France and Portugal will beat Uruguay, to set up the Messi v Ronaldo quarter-final. However Ronaldo in the Uruguay game will get booked and will miss it. England will struggle against Colombia but will make it. England will of course just win the World Cup, that is obvious, now that Germany is gone nobody can stand in the way, right? No, Spain will win it, proving that to succeed, you just need to sack your coach one day before the biggest tournament in the world. Brazil look alright. I have no idea who will win it, but maybe this year it will be someone new. Regardless folks, after this very very exciting World Cup so far, get ready for the 0-0s and penalty shootouts because they are coming.

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The Russia World Cup, part one: Ronaldo, Messi, and that incredible amazing Nigeria shirt

“The World Cup starts next week!” I said last week to an American I know. I know quite a few Americans, what with living in California, and most of them are actually quite into the game they call soccer. Soccer by the way is a term that came from England, not America, being shorthand for ‘Association Football’, as opposed to ‘Rugby Football’ which the public school boys still call  ‘rugger’. By the way, my American friends, in England ‘public school’ is what we actually call our private schools. If that sounds odd to you, well you call bums ‘fannies’ so I think we are about even. Anyway this particular American just gave a ‘yeah, so what’ type of facial response. Ten or fifteen years ago I might have taken this as normal but these days, I know so many Americans who are so into the game that they look forward to the World Cup almost as much as I do, so indifference is more unexpected than it used to be. And then I remembered – the USA aren’t in it this year. This is a big deal. They don’t have a team to root for. They might like another country for family reasons, or because they have the best shirts or the coolest players (all reasons I myself use, after all my team – Tottenham – is never in the World Cup) but it isn’t the same. America has gotten used to having a team on the biggest stage. Not a successful one, but they are there. It will be strange this year. No USA. No Holland. My own preferred team of Ireland (family connections, and historically my main supported national team) are not there. Even Italy are not there, mamma mia! Italy! It’s just not the World Cup without Italy. It’s like Christmas without the Sound of Music, or New Years Eve without endless Top 100 List Shows on Channel 4. It’s like a World Cup build-up show not making reference to Gazza’s tears. Still, I wouldn’t rule them out, dark horses, they always start a tournament late and so on. I am excited. I love all the flags, all the anthems, all the dodgy haircuts, the Panini stickers, the nostalgia for 1990 or other random World Cup we complained about at the time, but most of all I love the kits. For me, 1994 was one of the best World Cups for kits, but this year is looking like the best one since then, mostly because many of the Adidas kits are taking inspiration from that era. And so, as I do every big football tournament, I am going to do a run-down of every team along with an MS-Paint-drawn version of the kit.

If you come here for the sketches, well I still have plenty of those I am still scanning, so stay tuned. That said, this has been the least sketchingest year, compared to last year which was the most sketchingest. And that isn’t even a word. Ok, there are 32 teams in 8 groups, I’ll do 16 teams each post for 2 posts. Let’s start with Group A, which contains this year’s World Cup hosts, Russia.

GROUP A

RUSSIA

RussiaThere was controversy when Russia was selected, but that was largely because (a) England wasn’t selected and (b) Qatar was selected at the same time for the 2022 tournament. The biggest country ever to host the World Cup to the smallest. Despite current political climates, Russia is a much more traditional choice for World Cup host than a country that has never come close to the competition (cough cough Qatar), and has a long and storied World Cup history both as the USSR (Lev Yashin, Igor Belanov, Oleg Blokhin – oh yeah those two were Ukrainian, but still, played for USSR) and post-Soviet Russia (Oleg Salenko, and you know, some other people). Now the great Soviet teams played in, you guessed it, red, but the first post-Communist Russia teams played in white shirts – blue shorts – red socks, the order of the Russian flag. After a while they decided that the Soviet era was something to harken back to, so reverted to rich red shirts, and this continues with the current kit, in brighter red with white trim. It is a reminder of the Soviet kit from the late 80s, not the one they lost the Euros in, but the one they wore when they won the 1988 Olympics Gold Medal (2-1 vs Brazil, who had Romario in the team). The Soviets played well up front, they had a good perestroikers. Ok, Soviet era pun alert. This is one of Adidas’s retro feeling designs this summer and it is pretty nice. The away kit is strange, it has a graphic I do not understand. I want teams to do well based on their kits and this one should get them out of the group at least. They might not beat Brazil in the final this time though. From what I hear the team are pretty rubbish. However, I do think they will somehow get out of the group stage, if only so that Mister President has someone to support. PREDICTION: 2nd in group, out in Round of 16. KIT: 6/10 Home, 6/10 away.

EGYPT

EgyptThere is always a Group of Death in the World Cup, but Group A isn’t it (unless it’s in a kind of James Bond spy thriller kind of way). Egypt aren’t going to win the World Cup, but it is surprising that they haven’t been at the tournament since 1990, given that they are often one of Africa’s best teams, frequently winning the African Cup of Nations. This time they have the Liverpool star Mo Salah, coolest player in the world, though he is in a possibly-shoulder-dislocated state thanks to pantomime villain Sergio Ramos. This is also the Group of Easy, with only Uruguay likely to prove a challenge on the field. I would love Egypt to do well, however I think the hosts Russia will have the Host’s Bounce and edge them to 2nd place. Egypt play in red, with a white away kit just to be different, but the Adidas shirt this year is remarkably plain considering the company’s other offerings. Just lots of little red squares, what has that got to do with the Russia World Cup. I can’t offer anything like the ‘Perestroikers’ pun for Egypt, Pyramidfielders maybe. I’d like to go to Cairo someday, my mum went years ago and loved it, but she said the traffic is insane. PREDICTION: First Round exit. KIT: 4/10 home, 3/10 away.

SAUDI ARABIA

Saudi ArabiaNeighbours of Egypt, across the Red Sea, the Saudis were last in the World Cup in 2006, but the one I remember most was 1994, Saeed Al-Owairan, scoring that amazing goal against Belgium. That was brilliant. Honestly I have no other things to say because it’s the only thing I remember about Saudi Arabia at the World Cup, other than they usually have really boring kits. This year Nike are providing the boring kit. Well, we say boring, you might say plain and simple, classic, no nonsense, stylish. Ok, then you can say that. My ten year old son knows more about Saudi football than I do though, as one of his friends from the country supports one of the big club teams, and he has played as them in FIFA. For me, it’s all Saeed Al-Owairan, that goal was better than Maradona’s, the sort of goal you see on the schoolyard, not on the telly at the World Cup. That by the way is the sort of cliche you see in the schoolyard, not on the telly. Actually no it’s exactly the sort of thing they say, and maybe it’s not a cliche but it’s plain, simple, stylish. PREDICTION: First Round exit, bottom of the group. KIT: 2/10 (both)

URUGUAY

UruguayUruguay will win this group, no question. They should win all of their games, Egypt in the first match being their toughest opponent, but by the time they face Russia they will already be through and so will probably not worry too much about that game, given that they will play either Spain or Portugal in the next round. Suarez will probably not bite anyone this year, but if they face Spain I foresee an exciting clash with Sergio Ramos. Cavani would have a shot at top scorer this year if he manages to do hat-tricks in the groups, because I don’t think they will get past Spain or Portugal. You never know with this team though. Their kit is nice, another Puma effort, with a large detail showing the ‘Un Sol Para Atlántida’ monument (which is an homage to Uruguayan artist Carlos Páez Vilaró), across the belly. The away kit is plain, another simple white change shirt, the typical sort you get at World Cups. PREDICTION: Top of the group, out in Round of 16. KIT: 6/10 home, 4/10 away.

GROUP B

PORTUGAL

PortugalCristiano Ronaldo. As always until his memory fades and the world changes and the Great River has washed the World of Men into the Sea, we have to talk about Cristiano Ronaldo when we talk about Portugal. Growing up, until the likes of Figo and Rui Costa and Paulo Sousa came along the rule was you had to talk about Eusebio, Portugal never matched anyone like Eusebio. Well the same is now true of Cristiano, and it’ll be a long time until we see another one of him. Love him or hate him (and I do think the ‘hate him’ crowd are a little bit unfair on him), he is an absolutely phenomenal player. That overhead kick he scored this year in the Champions League was spectacular. There are very few current players who can jump like him. Sure he is all about CR7, he loves to rip off his shirt and show us his abs, and he clearly spends a lot of time on his hair, but lads, he’s worth it. He has received the Ballon D’Or an incredible five times. Yet even he has a nemesis. I don’t know if you have heard but there is another player in the world who is arguably even better. I’ll not give any spoilers away but he is also playing in this World Cup, for a different team. This may even end up as the final World Cup of these two historic Titans of the game and I expect them to still be the big talking points (much to Neymar Jr’s annoyance no doubt), though I don’t think they will end up meeting. Cristiano got Euro 2016, while the Other Guy has never won an international trophy. Portugal however might not have it in them to go all the way this time. Ok that is enough going on about Cristiano Ronaldo. So Cristiano, who are you wearing? “Well I’m wearing a Nike template.” It is pretty standardized stuff, a little disappointing at this World Cup, but it is a classy shirt. I wish the shorts had been white. The away kit is interesting with a bunch of tiny green crosses, which according to the marketing “represent the amount of crosses that go into the box before anyone other than Cristiano will score from them”. PREDICTION: I think they will come second to Spain, play Uruguay in the next round, and lose to France in the quarter-finals. Sorry Cristiano. KIT: 6/10 home, 6/10 away.

SPAIN

SpainSpain are one of the favourites, for sure. I think they might be able to win it. They should top their group, though it is not an easy group and has two local derbies for them (Portugal and Morocco). However I can’t quite put their current group of players up there with the 2010 champions. If they win the group their passage to the quarters should be a breeze given how weak the non-Uruguay teams in Group A are. They might meet Argentina in the quarters though and that could mean Madrid vs Barcelona’s star, whose name I will not mention yet. Anyway enough about the football, get to THE KIT. It’s lovely, but only because it is based loosely on the 1994 kit, an adidas template used by Spain among several other teams (France, Strasbourg) which I just adored. Brings back good memories. I was going to buy this kit, because it is tradition for me to get one team’s World Cup shirt each World Cup (let’s see, in 2014 I got France, in 2010 I got England away, in 2006 I got USA, in 2002 I got Ireland, in 1998 I couldn’t afford one, in 1994 I got Ireland, and in 1990 I would only wear Spurs shirts). However I wear red so much less, so I went for another shirt this year. The away kit is interesting, it has a detail reminiscent of adidas shirts from between 1988 and 1992, like a blend of USSR 88 and Arsenal away 92. I think it falls a bit short with the vermillion/orangey trim though. PREDICTION: Top of the group, but out to Argentina in the quarters (even as I write it, I know it not to be true and Spain will likely beat them). KIT: 8/10 home, 6/10 away.

MOROCCO

MoroccoI remember Morocco from England’s group in Mexico 86, and have had a soft spot for them ever since. I love it when they put in a bid for the World Cup, which they have done yet again this year (it’s their fifth one I think?). Also Casablanca is one of my favourite films. I don’t know much about their team, although one of my favourite players from the 90s was born in Morocco (though he played for Spain), Nayim, he of the Half Way Line. This kit this year is bog-standard adidas template stuff, nothing special, just in their classic red shirts and green shorts. The away kit is white but the template with the red up top is really stylish, so they get extra points for that. I think they will relish playing against neighbours Spain and Portugal, in the ‘Pillars of Hercules Derby’ (I just made that up, is it actually called that?). However, like the red shirts from Star Trek, they will fall early in the first act. (Yeah I know most of the teams in this group wear red shirts). PREDICTION: Bottom of the group, home early but will unexpectedly win the bid for 2026, annoying Donald Trump quite a lot. KIT: 1/10 home, 4/10 away.

IRAN

IranIn the last World Cup they had this Uhlsport kit (I think it was Uhlsport) with an Asian Cheetah design and this year they have switched to another adidas template, pretty bog-standard. I’ve said this twice now. In 30 years time they will probably look back at these templates and go oh that was a classic wasn’t it, remember those templates, so cool and clean and classic, a bit like how we look back at some of the less interesting 1990 World Cup shirts now, like retro masterpieces. Iran are a decent team. They were unbeaten in the Asian qualification groups, only letting in 5 goals in 18 matches. Consider that my AYSO Select U10 team recently let in 99 goals in 29 matches and you get an idea for how good that record is. They are a little unfortunate to get Spain and Portugal in their group because otherwise I’d give them a shot. PREDICTION: Third in the group. KIT: 1/10 home, 1/10 away.

GROUP C

FRANCE

FranceThe French are many people’s favourites to win it this year. They have a young squad, exciting players like Pogba and Mbappe, and it is now 20 years since Les Bleus lifted the golden ball of custard aloft in the Stade de France; I wonder what Zidane is doing now, wonder if he is still winning trophies. I think they will go far as well, but alas, like the armies of Napoleon (you know this headline is coming, brace yourselves tabloid readers) they will fall at the last in Russia and be forced to take the long march home. Yes I am saying they will get to the final and lose to Argentina (or maybe Germany, more realistically). I am saying they will beat Brazil in the semis (again probably not realistic). Their kit is in the new Nike template but with the addition of a totally necessary little button on the collar. It’s pretty modern looking. I love that they will again have the classic white shorts and red socks, because they will only wear those once until FIFA says, look France please just wear all blue, we can’t handle more than one colour, thanks dudes. The away kit has a lot of people excited, with the little red and blue marks all over it, but to me it looks like a shirt you’d wear as part of your supermarket staff uniform. PREDICTION: Top of group C. Winners against Nigeria. Vanquishers of Portugal, Conquerors of Brazil. Unlucky against Argentina; they’ll lose the final.  KIT: 7/10 home, 5/10 away.

PERU

PeruMemories of 1978 are pretty distant for me now. All I can say is that I probably ate cat poo and definitely scribbled in a lot of my brother’s Beano comics. So I don’t really have the nostalgia for the Peru team of that time (Teofilo Cubillas, the great red sash on white, a really-convenient-for-hosts-Argentina 6-0 defeat against Argentina). I do remember the Baddiel and Skinner ‘Phoenix from the flames’ episode though. Peru were the very last team to qualify for this year’s World Cup, beating New Zealand in a play-off. They have such a good kit, everyone says, remembering not this one but the 1978 one. It is a Classic of World Football, no doubt, because it is slightly more inventive than simple white or red shirts. The kit this year is made by Umbro, their last one by the British firm (and the only Umbro kit of Russia 2018), and it is a decent effort, with maybe a trim or two too many. The away kit is almost a reverse. However just seeing that sash will bring back floods of 1978 memories to a bunch of people from a certain generation, or maybe they will suddenly want to drink a can of Red Stripe. I would love to see them go through but I think Kronenbourg and Carlsberg will lead the group. PREDICTION: 3rd in the group.  KIT: 5/10 home, 5/10 away.

DENMARK

DenmarkHave I told you all that I love Denmark? Well I love Denmark. You probably haven’t scrolled down this far. I might just talk about strawberries for this post. You won’t read this bit anyway. This whole thing is really just for myself, my future self, to look at in years to come and say, haha look at how my mind worked then, wow I was dumb. I don’t know. I get dumber as the years go by. So does the rest of the world though so at least I am finally following trends. Denmark, I spent a summer there picking strawberries in 1995. Anyone who knows me rolls my eyes like George McFly’s kids when he talks about the Enchantment Under The Sea dance, even though I didn’t dance or meet my wife there, nor punch Biff in the face. I do remember the absolute love of the Dannebrog that the Danes have, and also of the 1992 European Champions team (they were the current champions at the time as well). And strawberries, many ugly strawberries. This Danish team is good because they have Christian Eriksen, one of my beloved Spurs players. The kit is really stylish, with a barely visible X across the middle to remind us of the Danish royal guards (like on the biscuit tin). It is the little hummel chevrons though that make this retro, they are designed as a reminder of the 1986 style. Very subtle but I love it. PREDICTION: 2nd in the group, knocked out in the next round by Argentina.  KIT: 7/10 home, 7/10 away.

AUSTRALIA

AustraliaThe Socceroos are more regulars now than wannabes, increasing the English language quota at the World Cup now that the USA and Ireland have stopped qualifying (not to mention Scotland and South Africa, and well it’s been a while for Wales, Northern Ireland and Canada, though New Zealand came close). Lots of other countries speak English though, but this year the most widely spoken language (official language of most countries in the World Cup, not number of speakers) is of course Spanish (8 countries), followed by Arabic (4 countries). French is next (France, Belgium, Switzerland, Senegal), and then English with 3 countries having it as an official language (England, Australia and Nigeria). Australia play in a golden yellow with a dark green trim, just like their far more famous rugby union team. I love it when countries have kits that are different colours than their flag, which I have always felt to be a boring way of choosing a kit. Italy for example playing in azure blue, the colours of the House of Savoy; the famous Dutch oranje (orange); Germany’s traditional white home shirt and green away shirt; Malaysia’s distinctive yellow and black; Japan’s classy Samurai Blue;  New Zealand’s All Whites (or All Blacks for rugby). This year’s Nike kit has a distinctive design on the arms; my pixelated drawing makes it look like zebra stripes but it really is nothing like that, it was the best I could do in MS Paint doing each pixel by hand. The away kit is dark green with a light green flash going up and another going down, for some bloody reason. PREDICTION: Bottom of the group (or ‘top’ if you look at it from an antipodean point of view).  KIT: 6/10 home, 5/10 away.

GROUP D

ARGENTINA

ArgentinaI know they aren’t a great team this year. I know the likelihood of them winning the World Cup is slim. But they have a certain player who may be having his last chance to show us if he is the best player of all time.  His name is MESSI. If he helps Argentina win it, he will finally have reached the plateau that Maradona sits on. Messi is no individualist. He is a team player, because everyone likes him more and so we have to say that. Do I really believe he will inspire them to win this time? Yes, I believe it, and even as I write I know my belief will be dashed against a solid dull defensive display from the first solid dull defensive team they play. But we need this! If we want those World Cup dreams, we NEED this. We needed it last time. Do you even remember the Germany team that won it last time? The guy who scored the winner, Gertcha I think he was called, isn’t even coming this time around. Ideally, an ideal world cup final in an ideal world would be Argentina v Portugal, to act as the final chapter in the Messi – Ronaldo story. It is the perfect movie finish and we will not get it. But I still dream. I was 10 when Maradona and Argentina won it in 1986, my son is 10 now. Also, they have some of the best kits. I adore this year’s home shirt, which is a reminder of the early 1990s (when they last won something…), but with a cool graphic design in the stripes. Plus it’s nice to see the black shorts back but again, you know FIFA, they’ll make them wear white shorts. The away kit though is my favourite of this World Cup (except for maybe Nigeria). It’s black and a total retro beauty, but I can’t quite figure out which old Argentine it is based upon. I am hoping it is the one they will wear when beating Germany in the semi-finals (unless Germany wear their extraordinary retro away kit). I actually bought this kit on Saturday. PREDICTION: 1st in the group, fantasy champions overall. Messi-anic.  KIT: 9/10 home, 10/10 away.

ICELAND

IcelandCan you believe Iceland, getting to the Euros, then getting to the World Cup? Plus they have 3 for 2 on chicken kievs right now, bargain. Yeah, everybody loves Iceland, and their viking claps (vikings were well known for getting together and doing big handclaps), and that bloke who looks like Thor (God of Thunderclaps), and of course my main man Gylffi Sigurdsson, who looks like Kevin Bacon, who might be one of the Avengers, I don’t know. Iceland have the means to do it, and get into the knock-outs, but I think they will heroically fail this time, but only because I like Nigeria’s kit more (and I want to predict an African team doing better than round one). The Iceland kit is made by Errea, whose shirts I have been a fan of for years, but has a pixelated volcanic lava style design on the upper arms. PREDICTION: 3rd in the group, and we remember the claps for decades to come.  KIT: 5/10 home, 5/10 away.

CROATIA

CroatiaThe Croats have made their famous red and white checkerboard kit with bigger squares this time, though the back is just plain old white, but with red arms. FIFA I think hate that they want a checkerboard kit. They and UEFA hardly ever let them wear it at tournaments (because most teams play in either red or white; boooorinnnng) so they often have to stick with the blue away kit. This year the away is black and blue and looks pretty cool. Given the blue shirted opponents in the group (plus Nigeria whose kit is like WOOOOW) I think we should see more of the home kit, but not much more. I think despite Modric they will go out early. “Don’t Cro Home Too Soon”. “Don’t Cro Fro Me Argentina.” “Yugo Out Early.” “Balkan-trol Lets Croats Down.” I’m clutching at straws here for headlines, or should I say “Zagrebbing at straws”. Ok enough, I am going to Split. Unless Croatia come up with a goal in the Dubrovnik of time. PREDICTION: 4th in the group. “Straight home, as the Cro flies.” KIT: 6/10 home, 4/10 away.

NIGERIA

NigeriaOh come on. We have a winner. Nigeria have had good kits before but this one is insane. It’s such a fun design. The green is lighter than usual, then there is the black on the arms, it has a total 90s reminder about it. Remember that team from the 94 World Cup (that was by the way my favourite ever Nigeria kit), Amokachi, Amunike, Oliseh, Okocha, celebrating by grabbing the goal net and yelling, I watched that on my tv in my bedroom late at night. I would have loved this kit, but I cannot pull it off. I’m a pasty freckly redhead. I am not worthy of this shirt. It is an instant classic and for that reason, I really want them to get through the groups. Sorry Iceland with your special on Findus Crispy Pancakes, sorry Croatia with your Daily Star sub-editor wishlist of headlines, it is Nigeria who will go through alongside Messi’s Boys. The away kit is dark green and a bit simple but necessary, like having something healthy after a massive ice cream sundae. PREDICTION: 2nd in the group. Winner of all the kit competitions. KIT: 10/10 home, 5/10 away.

If you are still with me, stay tuned for Part Two…

The kit parade (part 2 of 2)

Thanks for joining us for the second part of our presentation of the 2017-18 Premier League kits. Let’s not beat around the bush.

WEST HAM

West Ham 1718The Hammers had a dull time at their new stadium last year, but managed to come in 11th, which isn’t that bad. The bottom half of the table last year was pretty rubbish overall, it has to be said.West Ham, aka the Armie Hammers, aka the Jeremy Irons,  are still with Umbro who are creating some simple kits, including a black away shirt. The home kit has a two-tone claret design that looks like the chevron shape of one of their kits from around 1978 I think it was? Their sponsor ‘Betway’ sounds like it should be in a list with ‘Between’ and ‘Betwixt’. Where will they come this season? Stay up, probably, but not better than 11th. They will have a third kit, which I believe is white with an ancient style West Ham badge.

LEICESTER CITY

Leicester 1718I remember when Leicester won the league. Seems impossible now in the age of multi-billion pound transfers and Pep Guardiola level coaches, but there was a time when teams like Leicester could do the impossible. Innocent times they were. Yes before you say “hang it was only last year”, just think about how different the world was back then in May 2016. Yeah? Now you see what I mean. Leicester managed to stay up after sacking their title-winning manager Ranieri, stopping their slide from Champions League to Championship, and got a respectable 12th place in the end. I think they will be a lot better this year, not champions but challenging for the European places. As long as they can find the net. The kit is ok, sticking with the gold trim again, and staying all blue (I’d like to see white shorts back, personally). Puma have given them decent clean kits again; Leicester never go in for snazzy nonsense.

STOKE CITY

Stoke 1718Probably time for Stoke to get relegated, I think. I just don’t see them staying up. The home kit is ok I suppose, the away kit has League One written all over it. The third kit is really imaginative. At least they are made by Macron, also the leader of Free France. Stoke are probably still too good to get relegated but I just have a feeling they will be down there. Mark Hughes might get sacked, I dunno.

CRYSTAL PALACE

Crystal Palace 1718It’s be great if at the centre of Selhurst Park they actually had a Dark Crystal floating above a shaft of air and fire. I like that Palace are in the Premier League and I hope they stay, I want as many London clubs up there as possible (well maybe not QPR). But the thing about Palace being in the PRemier League is that it’s a bit like being really excited about connecting with an old friend from the 90s again, hallo mate how you goin’ mate, wow you aint changed mate, good to see you mate, then friending them on Facebook, and then just being bored by all of their boring posts about work, that’s kind of who Crystal Palace are. If they were a Game of Thrones house they would be House Mallister. Their kit is still made by Macron, who make pretty good kits, but the new sponsor is a bit of a mess. “ManBetx”??

SWANSEA CITY

Swansea 1718Gylfi is going to leave Swansea again isn’t he. I love Gylfi Sigurdsson. He looks a bit like a younger Kevin Bacon, but with more Icelandic awesomeness. I though Swansea were going to drop like a dead duck last season (hang on, dead ducks float, right?) and they even had an American manager very briefly, Lord Voldemort’s stunt-double Bob Bradley and he didn’t last very long, but in the end they steadied the ship and stayed afloat. Will they go down this year? Maybe. I hope not, as I want to keep a bit of Welsh in the Premier League. Their away kit is quite Welsh, being in the classic red and green worn by the national team, while the third kit is in the also very patriotically Welsh colours of black and yellow, the colours of the flag of St. David. The home kit is classic Swansea white with black trim, made by Joma, who also make the Sampdoria shirt I own (so I can assure you they are quite good quality).

BURNLEY

Burnley 1718Burnley stayed in the Premier League, I am glad because I quite like them, but I wish their shorts were white this season. They are using a Puma template for the home kit, while the away kit has little horizontal pinstripes running along it that actually consists of the word ‘CLARETS’ over and over again. Which is an anagram of ‘SCARLET’. Frankly, I don’t give a damn. Burnley, like Swansea, also have one of those great Icelandic players we fell for last summer, Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson, who doesn’t look much like Kevin Bacon. Burnley will probably get a third kit, they all do.

WATFORD

Watford 1718Are we nearly there yet? I should have had a gap here around Watford. I like Watford, they are a kind of nearby club to where I am from (it’s actually about as far as Tottenham is but it’s outside London; the 142 bus goes straight there from Burnt Oak but it takes forever. You don”t care, sorry). There were quite a few Watford fans at my school as a kid (and one of my good friends in England, James, is a big Watford fan), I just remember them all singing about how much they hated Luton, oh they really hate Luton. I can’t say I’m a fan of the airport much. One of the greatest names ever associated with Watford (aside from the famous former owner who worked alongside him to make Watford great in the 80s, Elton John, yes my American friends, that Elton John, big lover of Watford) was Graham Taylor. He died in January and I must say I am very sad, I would have loved to have met him. Sure I fell into the whole ‘calling him a turnip’ category back in the day, when I listened to all the tabloids when he was England manager (only because he subbed off my beloved Gary Lineker) but listening to him talk about the game over the years, he was a proper geezer and right gentleman. However he made Watford play in red shorts (which I like) but Watford fans generally prefer them to play in black shorts. This year they are in adidas, and have an all red away kit, using a template similar to Middlesbrough last year, which looks like a car with some paint on its wheel has driven over it. By the way, did you know Watford is twinned with Whoville? Also with Wensleydale, Ware, Hounslow, Ypres, Wearside and Wichita.

NEWCASTLE UNITED

Newcastle 1718 copyThey had to come back up didn’t they! Led by the great Benitez, the Toon Army (not affiliated with Cartoon Network or Nicktoons) (or iToons), the Magpies and their black and white stripes are back in the big time. This time next year they will probably be back down in the little time again (no, I don’t think so this time, but lads, it’s Newcastle, they will find a way). I have a good mate Simon who is a long-suffering Newcastle fan. I would love it if they did a Man City and got a super rich owner, just love it. Their away kits are boring this year, has to be said. Not kidding anyone with that sponsir either, ‘Fun88’ but it’s better than their old ‘Wonga’ one. Prediction – top half of the table, knock knock knocking on Everton’s door. If they were a Westerosi house, definitely the Starks. Or maybe the Karstarks.

BRIGHTON AND HOVE ALBION

Brighton 1718 copyYes folks you read that right – BRIGHTON AND HOVE ALBION are in the Premier League! They deserved it too, and their boss is one of my favourite former Spurs players, Chris Hughton. Now I am old enough to remember Brighton, aka The Seagulls,  in the top flight back in the 80s, with that big guy Steve Foster who wore the headband, he was a proper Roy of the Rovers style legend (probably because I remember reading about his life story in Roy when I was a kid, remember they used to do that? I never thought I would see Brighton up in among the big boys again but here they are, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Burnley, Watford, Bournemouth, Stoke, Huddersfield, Swansea, and Man City. Their kit is a simple Nike template with the Brighton stripes. I remember when they had stripey shorts too, a long time ago. I think Brighton will stay up, but only just. I stayed up once in Brighton, New Years Eve, all night, went to like seven parties with this group of people, interesting night but I got lost coming back to the place I was kipping over and ended up walking round and round for ages this place called Seven Dials, a roundabout that had seven streets coming off of it. I knew it was one of those streets, but which one, I had no clue. It was very much daylight and 2001 by the time I finally found it. I remember one of the guys living at this house was a Dr Who fan, or a “Brighton Whovian” as a said, instantly thinking that’s a terrible pun as I said it. Like that has ever stopped me saying terrible puns. So anyway, do watch the Seagulls this season, they will really Brighton your day…

HUDDERSFIELD TOWN

Huddersfield 1718 copyI am so thrilled that Huddersfield are finally in the Premier League. I can’t believe it, it doesn’t sound true. That makes three teams with blue and white stripes in the top flight of English football since I don’t even know when (and one of them isn’t even Sheffield Wednesday). Huddersfield, aka The Terriers, are wearing a really interesting design for their maiden Premier League appearance, the stripes appear to be made of tiny circles. The spots of red really go well with the light blue and white, and they also have one of those sponsors with a lot of Chinese writing beneath it. I have to say I enjoy recreating those in MS Paint, not super acuurately but as best as I can do. The away kit, is, yeah but the third kit is oh my good look at that! My MS Paint skills do it no justice but it is based on an away kit they wore back in the 90s, I think, I do remember it. There were some crazy kits back then, craaaazy kits (I fully approve of 90s crazy kits). Huddersfield were great back in the day, that is almost a century ago, winning three league titles in a row back in the 1920s, yes, Huddersfield have more league title trophies than Spurs. Dammit.

And that is it, these are the new kits of the English Premier League season. I predict Man U will win it, though I’m not confident of that, and the following will go down: Stoke, Huddersfield (sorry Terriers), and Swansea. Though I am famously terrible at predictions. Now, I will be posting more kits soon, some of the different ones from around Europe, but in the meantime sit back and enjoy the footy, the urban sketches are coming back next post…

 

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…

the kits are alright (part 3 of 3)

The World Cup Final is upon us. The semi-finals were a little unbelievable: Brazil, oh Brazil. Didn’t I say, “keep the white shorts“? Didn’t I say that? I think I did. “Those white shorts look better Brazil, they’re lucky, don’t change back to blue!” Brazil wore their proper combination of yellow / blue / white, and…um…. let’s say the last time Brazil suffered a home World Cup humiliation, in 1950, they wore their once-traditional white shirts…and never wore them again. It’s safe to say their 7-1 defeat to the Germans (a scoreline which flattered Brazil) was a little bit more humiliating, given their galactic history since the Maracanazo against Uruguay. Maybe it’s time to change to, I dunno, all green or something. Germany wore the nicer of their two kits, the black-and-red Flamengo kit, but I think they could have run around in big frilly Victorian dresses and still score at least four goals. And then there was Argentina vs Holland, the polar opposite. I got very excited when I saw Holland in orange shirts and white shorts, against Argentina in their proper black shorts with the blue and white striped shirts. They looked right, finally. Unfortunately it was a match so boring, not even the proper-ness of the kits could rescue it. Who won again? I don’t care.

And as we prepare for the final (Germany against who was it again?), an all-Adidas, all-wrong-shorts affair, here is my run-down of the rest of the World Cup kits. I promise to post some of my recent out-and-about sketches very soon, but the World Cup month is nearly over, and boy will I miss it. I’m sure you won’t!

THE WORLD CUP KITS: PART THREE

  • MEXICO: (Adidas) mexicoMexico’s kit is a winning design this time around. Mexico have had some crazy outfits in the past (not to mention the fluorescent day-glo highlighter pen costume of their 1994 goalie, Campos), but this one has little lightning strikes on the home shirt, and little zigzags all over the red away shirt. No plain white shirts, no not-well-thought-out black shirts, just classic and unique designs. My son was a big fan, so I got him the green one, and it’s a really nice top, very well cut both front and back. Mexico were unlucky to go out.
  • NETHERLANDS: (Nike) netherlandsOrange is the new Orange. This is a very simple design from the Oranje this time around, nothing interesting but it is clean and thankfully not all one colour, with the white shorts (though all-orange was worn three times, which I think looks a bit too much like a Tango-taste-sensation, Tony). The proper outfit eventually came out against Argentina in the semis…ah yes, they lost that on penalties. The away kit got a couple of outings, an all-blue number in varying shades, which was bloody difficult to reproduce in MS Paint, I do hope you appreciate that one. This was forever be the kit worn when Robin Van Persie scored that header as they destroyed Spain.
  • NIGERIA: (Adidas) nigeriaOne shade of green isn’t enough. Two shades work much better. Nigeria have a mixed kit history, their best in my opinion being the 1994 home and away outfits. This is a decent effort, in the current Adidas template of choice, with a unique enough colour scheme. Nigeria played pretty well in the end and it was a shame to see them go out, but France just had a better kit. Not that quality of kit is what sees a team through (cf: Germany in the World Cup Final, if they wear white). From the TV screen though this shade is conveniently football-pitch-coloured. The away kit is all-white, I suppose.
  • PORTUGAL: (Nike) portugalRonaldo Ronaldo Ronaldo Ronaldo. If only. This was a very do-not-adjust-your-sets design from Nike (remember when you had to adjust your sets? Ah, the olden days) in two shades of red with a little green trim. I preferred the one they had at the last World Cup, the red with white shorts and green socks, but they were just so abject in this one that they did not even get a chance to wear their white and navy away kit, which is a shame as it was very nice. This is how England’s kit should have looked. Now, both this one and that one are in the out-first-round bargain bin.
  • RUSSIA: (Adidas) russiaI’ll first talk about the away kit, whose design is based upon how Yuri Gagarin (I think, or it may have been that dog Laika) saw the Earth from space. Funnily enough this is the same view Germany got of the field when they played against Brazil, miles and miles of space. I think it’s one of the nicest shirts at the tournament, though a bit disappointed it doesn’t come with big space helmets. The first shirt however is back in the USSR. Well, it would be if the USSR ever wore shirts like that, which I’m pretty certain they didn’t (preferring a more communist shade of red with a white trim and CCCP across the shirt; FIFA probably wouldn’t approve of that now). Nice try, Russia. They did move back to all-red a few years ago when they decided the Russian-flag-inspired white-blue-red wasn’t really their thing. I wonder what they will go for when they host the next World Cup. Hopefully a different manager, who actually likes football.
  • SOUTH KOREA: (Nike) south korea Korea’s kit was a pretty decent effort from Nike, which gave the effect of a French schoolkid wearing a backpack. That is a reference to when I was a teenager and you could always tell the foreign exchange students by the way they wore their backpacks, ie, with both straps. English schoolkids always wore backpacks with just one strap, as though it was so uncool to have both straps on. The away kit goes for what I can only think is a reference to a hitherto-unknown sub-culture who wears two backpacks one-strap at a time.  That must be pretty uncomfortable. It’s a tidy short though that would have looked nice on England, but alas both are now in the gone-home-early bargain bin.
  • SPAIN: (Adidas) spainOh dear. End of an era. Don’t mess with tradition Adidas, it never, ever works (except for Germany and Argentina to name two completely obvious exceptions). Ok, so Spain ditched their blue shorts, and plumped for a golden rather than yellow trim. They are the reigning World and double-European champions after all. They can do what they want, even include little pinstripes all over the shirt (what is it with that this World Cup?). But I mourned the loss of blue shorts in this design. Not for long though, as they’ll get them back next time no doubt. Now here’s a thing, Spain had three kits this World Cup, played three games and wore all of them. Their black second kit, a striking Chelsea-esque design with an ‘electric yellow’ trim (what is it with ‘electric’ yellow, electricity is blue*, or white, you have got a very funny electric company if your electricity is yellow) (*ask David Bowie if you don’t believe me) was apparently too dark for their opening match against Holland (who play in orange, but in that match they played in blue, I’m so confused) so FIFA told them to make a white kit, not available in the shops. This white one has little pinstripes too. Spain, the intergalactic-everything-champions, were the first team out. End of an era? Yes, but they’ll get the blue shorts back, and the good players too.
  • SWITZERLAND: (Puma) switzerlandRed home, white away. What do you want? It’s Switzerland, it’s what they do. They aren’t going to suddenly go all experimental and mess about with tradition and add whole new swatches. Or Swatches, for that. But don’t be deceived into thinking this is a boring kit. Those white stripes down the side actually open up to reveal a whole array of camping knives, tin-openers, nail files, corkscrews and other obvious cliches. No I actually like this shirt a lot, it’s pretty neat and timeless without being boring. 
  • URUGUAY: (Puma) uruguayThe collar of La Celeste’s famous sky blue home shirt looks as though a bite has been taken out of it, can’t imagine who’d do that. Yes there really is only one thing that can be talked about with regards Uruguay in this World Cup isn’t there, and it’s such a shame because they could have been so much better. They did well to get out of the groups after all. The Puma kits were pretty nice, with a cool little Uruguay flag-inspired bit on the arm. “Bit on the arm?” Oops, slip of the tongue there.
  • USA: (Nike) USAUSA! USA! Livin in America, coast to coast, across the nation. This World Cup, with its heroic team of endless tryers and its superhuman goalkeeper, has been massively popular over here in my adopted home. It’s funny that nobody will remember the home shirt, which they wore more often, but the Captain America-like away kit (maybe it’s more Iron Patriot) became an instant classic after their opening victory against Ghana. At Soccer and Lifestyle this shirt sold out very quickly, and I regret not getting it now. The home shirt is very stylish, like a polo shirt, one of the nicest they’ve had in a while. I live in America. I feel good.

And so that is that. Thanks for sticking with me this far. Oh, you didn’t? Well never mind. It’s back to nice sketches of little downtown buildings very soon. For now, there’s a World Cup Final to watch.