Is it that time again? It seems to come around so quickly. The new season kicks off again in a shade over a month’s time, so it’s time to kick off our previews of the new season’s kits (we’ll be doing all four divisions and possibly the Conference too) before the start of the season with the nightmare of cheap polyester and static electricity that is the Premier League. Considering the importance that so many clubs put on marketing these days, it is somewhat surprising that they seem so coy about letting us know what they look like. I know that the temptation is there to keep their supporters on the edge of their seats until the last possible moment, but we are now about four weeks away from the big kick off, and it is still impossible to see the new West Ham United kit, whilst several of the others seem to be only available in the form of grainy snapshots taken by the disgruntled staff of sportswear companies with the cameras on their mobile phones. This contrasts with the majority, who still gleefully turn out in “next” season’s kit on the last day of the season before. Some sort of uniformity (if you’ll excuse the pun) might be in order. Anyway, here’s the first part of what they’ll be wearing in the Premier League next season – the good, the bad and the downright horrible. The rest will follow tomorrow.
Arsenal: Starting off with the downright horrible. You’d think, wouldn’t you, that Arsenal’s kit wouldn’t be too difficult to get wrong. Red shirts. White sleeves. Nike badge. Not too hard, is it? Well, apparently it is too hard for this year’s bunch of Nike designers, who have decided that Arsenal’s white sleeves are somehow passé, and have chosen to replace it with a thick white and thin navy stripe on a red sleeve. I’m not sure what the reason behind this could be, but it will make Arsenal look like they’re wearing a design rejected by Charlton Athletic. Herbert Chapman, the legendary Arsenal manager whose idea the white sleeves were in the first place, will be spinning in his grave.
Aston Villa: We’ve already talked up Villa’s decision to hand over their shirt sponsorship to the Acorn children’s hospice, so it’s pleasing to see that the shirts that they will be wearing next season are a relatively pleasant design. The piping around the neck would appear to be a nod towards the shirts worn by the 1982 European Cup winning team, and otherwise this is a comparatively simple and elegant design.
Blackburn Rovers: Blackburn Rovers are one of the clubs that are still being coy about what they’ll be wearing next season, so all we have to go on is this shirt modelled by Paul Ince upon his unveiling at Ewood Park last month. I’m tempted to think that this is a one-off, hurriedly knocked up on the spot with the name of their new sponsors, Crown Paints (a brand name that will bring out an almost erotic sigh from Liverpool supporters of a certain age) ironed on at the last minute by one of the apprentices. If this does turn out to be what they’re wearing, then at least Blackburn will have cut back on the red clotches that have blighted their famous blue and white halves over the last few years or so.
Bolton Wanderers: Achtung! I had it on very good authority that Bolton weren’t changing their kit for this season, but they have, and they’ve come up with this absolute affront to the senses. Dear lord. White shirts and navy blue shorts, off-set with what I can only describe as a whale-vomit bib on the front of it. This has presumably been designed to prevent Ivan Campo dribbling down the front of his nice, clean, white shirt. They’re going to get relegated this season, you know.
Chelsea: In true Chelsea style, they couldn’t wait to get this one out into the public eye – they were wearing it before the end of last season. Again (and this is, I rather suspect, the same for almost all Premier League clubs), it’s pretty tough to get the design of a Chelsea shirt wrong. This seems to be slightly lighter hue of blue than they were wearing last season, and the only slight disappointment for me (to the extent that such a thing can be a disappointment) is that the three Adidas stripes stop halfway down the shoulder. They don’t do this on the long-sleeved version, by the way.
Everton: Like Chelsea, Everton have decided to play it safe this season (and they have come up with the occasional fashion disaster in the past – hands up who remembers this terrible number from the 1980s?). So, it’s a simple, plain blue shirt with a little white piping and whose funny little fake collars that seem to be all the rage these days. Dull, if truth be known.
Fulham: Fulham had the best shirt in the Premier League last season (invoking, as it did, the spirit of Best and Moore for their extraordinary pull clear of relegation), so this year’s was always going to be something of a step in the wrong direction. This is, again, alright. More little fake colours, and the black trim is back. I suspect that I won’t be completely happy with any Fulham badges until they chuck out that terrible badge and replace it with their original one.
Hull City: Now, this is a bit more like it. It makes a change to see some different colours in the Premier League, and Hull’s shirt is very nice, especially as it is manufactured by Umbro, the undisputed recent kings of the football kit disaster. They’ll probably be relegated by the middle of November, but at least they’ll be pleasant to look at. Dean Windass excepted, of course.
Liverpool: Another bunch that couldnt wait for the end of the season (I’m sensing the pushy hands of the Adidas marketing machine here), Liverpool have gone for a straight copy of Chelsea’s chirt, except with some silly patchwork around the back of the neck (where no-one apart from the actual shirt wearer themselves will see it), and a little gold liver bird on the back. I’m looking from a distance, but it also appears that they might have got rid of the European Cup stars, as well. An improvement on last year’s distinctly average effort. They’ll be hoping for the same from the team.
Manchester City: When City turned out at Old Trafford on the fifitieth anniversary of the Munich air disaster earlier this year in elegant shirts with no sponsors’ names on them, we hopeed amongst hopes that they might this may be a return to form for them after a couple of years of mediocrity. However, Le Coq Sportif (who, let us not forget, were the manufacturers of the greatest football kit ever worn) have let themselves down by going asymmetrical on us. Make up your minds, chaps. Either go with the white stripe or the navy blue piping. Using both of them makes it look as if you couldn’t make your minds up. Ugly, ugly shorts, as well.
And that’s your lot for now. Manchester United through to Wigan Athletic tomorrow morning, and we’ll be revealing the most secretive club in the Premier League, as well.