It’s time for the second of our pre-season round-up of what teams in England will be wearing over the coming season, and today we’re covering the Championship. It’s the fourth most-watched league in Europe, and with a reorganisation of money going into the Football League as a whole benefitting clubs in this division to the detriment of Leagues One and Two, it seems likely that the perception of the Championship as the Premier League’s little brother will be greater than ever this season.
Once we are down into this division, though, there are a couple of sartorial differences that we can note. Sponsors’ names start to appear elsewhere, on the backs of shirts and so on (a sure sign of the desperation of clubs at this level to bring more money into their club), and the larger manufacturers are more likely to simply stick a badge on a template shirt from their catalogue than they might be for a bigger club. Still, let’s get on with the show – you can click on the clubs’ names in bold text to see the shirts.
Barnsley: First up, then, are Barnsley, who have a nice, local sponsor, but whose kit is about as non-descript as they come, courtesy of the Italian manufacturers, Lotto, who have beeen providing their shirts without having particularly setting the world alight since 2008.
Bristol City: Adidas have been responsible for some pretty atrocious kits over the last couple of years or so, but they seem to have got it right for their new contract with Bristol City. This may be a template kit with a Bristol City badge sewn on it, but it’s nicely understated, though it’s a pity that the signature three stripes don’t run the full length of the sleeves.
Burnley: Relegated from the Premier League after just one season, Burnley stick with Puma and they have come up with another decent design for the Lancashire club. The white flashes at the bottom of the sides are a little unnecessary, but Burnley have a good record of protecting the integrity of their shirt over recent years and, whilst this effort seems unlikely to win any awards this season, it’s certainly no embarrassment for a club with their heritage.
Cardiff City: Quite what Puma are doing with this particular collar design is anybody’s guess, but it feels difficult to believe that it would be anything other than an irritant for the individual wearing it. Other than that, this is another relatively anonymous effort for Cardiff City this season.
Coventry City: The same collar can be seen on this year’s Coventry City shirt, although Coventry’s kit is rescued by eighties-style horizontal pin-stripes, which give it a slightly more rakish air and rescue it from the anonymity which seems to blight so many of the other kits designed for clubs in the Championship this season, and the sponsors logo is one of the more restrained that we’ll see, too.
Crystal Palace: Crystal Palace had a kit vote at the end of last season as they started to emerge from the financial crisis that threatened their very existence. The supporters opted for this number, which is based on the kit that the club wore in the mid-1970s. As with so many other designs based on those from the past, it is the sponsors logos and other adornments that are the problem with it rather than the design itself. People of a certain age will be delighted to know that they have voted for a return to a white shirt with a diagonal red and blue stripe for their change kit this season.
Derby County: If Derby’s kit looks somewhat familiar to you, that will probably be because it seems to be an identical design to the Bristol City kit that we have already seen, except in different colours. Quite why Adidas don’t seem to have the time to develop different kits for both of these clubs is a question that only they can answer.
Doncaster Rovers: Doncaster have switched to Nike for this season, and also stick with the red and white hoops that they have maintained for the last ten years. Considering the way that their fortunes have improved over the course of that decade, they can certainly be forgiven for believing the hoops to be lucky. Unfortunately, though, this kit has a plain white back with a single red hoop, which looks somewhat odd.
Hull City: The quality of the team’s kit might be the last thing on the mind of the supporters of Hull City, if rumours of their financial plight turn out to be anything like correct. This, however, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take Adidas to task for the, umm, “thing” that they have designed for the club this season. This shirt has a completely plain back and sleeves and fuzzy stripes, which, upon closer inspection, seem to be a loose relative of those once popular “magic eye”pictures that have a subliminal, three dimensional picture contained within them. Likely to induce vertigo if you look at them for too long.
Ipswich Town: Ipswich supporters voted for this shirt for two seasons during the summer of 2009. They have launched a black away kit for this season, however, which we can only assume to be representing the demons that torment Roy Keane’s soul.
Leeds United: Having finally escaped the purgatory of League One, Leeds United supporters are probably feeling somewhat relieved at life returning to something approaching normal again. Their new kit for this season, made by Macron, is a tasteful enough all-white kit (as one might expect), sullied only by the presence of a second sponsor on the base of the back of the shirt. Uncle Ken’s gotta make a buck, you know?
Leicester City: Leicester City are one of the clubs that have switched to Burrda this summer from Joma, although their home shirt is practically identical to the one that they have just given up. The biggest change for the coming season seems likely to be the introduction of sponsors after a break for their 125th anniversary. That black change kit with a blue sash, though…
Middlesbrough: In an attempt to generate a little more money this season, Middlesbrough are offering ten monthly shirt sponsorship details (we’d bid for one if we could afford it), and this could turn out to be good news for Boro supporters that don’t like being considered walking advertising hoardings, as they will be sold without sponsors logos. The return of the white band across the middle of them is also likely to be popular amongst their supporters.
Millwall: Millwall are another club celebrating their 125th anniversary this year, and they have decided to revert to the original, darker blue (known as “Dundee blue”) that they wore when they were first founded in 1885 for a season in celebration. We will leave it up to you whether to decide whether you believe this to be a genuine tribute or, well, a marketing opportunity. It seems doubtful that Millwall’s 1885 kit had a big, disfiguring manufacturer’s logo on the shoulders.
Norwich City: Like Millwall, Norwich were promoted back into the Championship but they are sticking to something approaching a traditional design by at least sticking to yellow shirts and green shorts. This disappointing kit, however, has the look of a paint-by-numbers design straight from the template pages of the Xara – who have been producing their kits now for almost ten years – catalogue.
Nottingham Forest: Forest have gone for something like a 1980s look this season, with this slight pinstriped design. It’s not a terrible design (there are certainly worse in the Championship and it at least looks as if someone at Umbro has taken the time to design this specifically for Forest), but the white flashes under the arms are completely unnecessary, yet again.
Portsmouth: Portsmouth supporters may yet have more pressing concerns to worry about than what their kit for next season, and last season saw a case of life imitating art as their kit suppliers, Canterbury, went into administration. The good news for them is that they signed a new deal with Kappa and will be starting next season in the same kit that they played the 2010 FA Cup final in. Kappa kept it plain and simple for the cup final (with the exception of a huge logo on each shoulder), and they called it right.
Preston North End: More from the Puma cookie-cutter for the first ever English league champions, who may consider that they deserve something better than this level of mediocrity. The hooped socks are a nice touch, though.
Queens Park Rangers: It’s all very well complaining about mediocre football kits, but Preston North End supporters will be at least offering a sigh of relief that they don’t find themselves in the situation of QPR supporters. Where to start with this dog’s breakfast? That the hoops don’t even cover the whole of the chest? That the sleeves are left untouched? The big, blotchy Lotto logos on the sleeves? Queens Park Rangers supporters deserve better than this.
Reading: And Puma have hardly covered themselves in glory with this number for Reading. There must be something in the air when it comes to blue and white hoops this summer. This particular Puma template worked reasonably well for African nations during the World Cup, but it it is less effective when transplanted to Berkshire and the start of the Championship season. The thin white lines across the blue hoops make it look as if the designer has let his or her young child loose upon the shirt with a bottle of Tippex.
Scunthorpe United: After several years with the lesser known sportswear company Carlotti, Scunthorpe United may have had cause for excitement at the news that their 2010/11 kits were to be supplied by Nike. What they ended up with, however, seems to be last year’s Aston Villa kit as their home kit and the Celtic away kit as their change kit. It’s not that they’re bad designs (well, a case could be stated for saying that the away kit it), it’s just that, well, they’re not really Scunthorpe kits, are they?
Sheffield United: Macron are making this year’s Sheffield United kit, for which the stripes are only slightly defiled by the massive white strip across the middle of it, presumably to make that sponsors logo a little more noticeable. Still, at least the logo itself is relatively understated.
Swansea City: Swansea City keep it simple, to very good effect. A plain white kit with a hint of black trimming – Umbro have brought the understanding of the culture and heritage of a club that have demonstrated on a number of Premier League kits to their design for Swansea.
Watford: Red shorts or black shorts? Watford can wear either, but they usually look more at home in black. Burrda’s first design for Watford is the pick of their bunch, with a vertical red and black stripe that calls to mind the stripes on the sleeves of their shirts during their rise into the First Division during the early 1980s.
League One will follow next week.