Who kept all the shirts? The butler did it


With time on our hands – no football of the sort that matters to us until a week on Saturday – Salut! Sunderland‘s thoughts started to stray.

So it seemed a good time to introduce you to a fellow supporter with a dress sense all of his own.

Chris Butler collects football shirts. Not just any, but – for the most part – Sunderland shirts. And not just any SAFC tops (we all have those, and they’re replicas), but ones that have actually been worn by our players.

So he has the shirt worn by Gary Rowell for the home game against the Mags on April 8 1977 (a 2-2 draw), and Nicky Summerbee’s from our hapless promotion play-off final against Charlton in 1998..

In all, Chris – Sunderland born but living down south since he was a young lad – has about 100 shirts, of which the overwhelming majority, 85 or so, are Sunderland match-worn players’ shirts. He also has a signed replicas from the 1973 FA Cup-winning year.

Read on for Chris’s own story – and visit his website: www.sunderlandshirts.com

How did all this start?

I have always collected Sunderland memorabilia in one form or another but shirts are my main love. I have a large collection of SAFC first day covers, many of which are signed. I also collect SAFC FA Cup programmes and have them all back to 1954 and a good few earlier ones.
I have had a red and white shirt on my back for most of my life so shirts were a natural thing for me to collect. For the last couple of years, I have specialised in players’ match-worn shirts and a few rarer signed replicas as well.

Is it a full time job, ?a little earner on the side or just a labour of love?

The shirt collecting is purely for my own pleasure. A mad hobby that costs way more than it should (according to my other half anyway). Player worn shirts are always going to hold their value in years to come. While it is not recommended as an investment strategy, I’d rather have some great shirts to look at than lose money on the markets or the banks. I think of it as a nice way to stash your money under the mattress!

I have a collection of old tops, from long-forgotten away ?replicas to the 1937 FA Cup Final reproduction. What is your own ?favourite?

Some of those old replicas are worth a good few pound now. If you have one of those blue away tops with the TUBOURG sponsorship then put it away for a rainy day.
My favourite tops are the older 70s and 80s shirts. The Hummels of the 80s were great and the old Umbro shirts of the late 70s were rather nice too. The current polyester and fancy fabrics just don’t have the same feel.
If I had to pick a favourite, it would either be the match worn 1982 Le Coq Sportif home shirt with the thin red stripes or Gary Rowell’s 1977 home shirt. You can’t beat red and white stripes!

How do you acquire the signed tops? From other fans or by standing outside the ground getting ?the Lads’ autographs?

My collection is mainly player match-worn shirts. They come from a variety of places. Shirt dealers, auctions, other supporters, a few contacts I have for players shirts and occasionally from Ebay. There are a good number of fakes on ebay however so this can be a minefield. You need good provenance with a shirt to prove it is a players shirt rather than a badged up replica. A lot of the shirts have some differences however so it is easy enough to tell if you know what to look for.

Give us ?some details of your history as a Sunderland fan.

I am a Sunderland fan through and through. Was born in Sunderland and my grandparents lived in Duke Street North. My first games were as a very young lad being taken into the back of the Fulwell end when they opened the exits half way through the second half!
Once I was moved down South, my match visits were sporadic until was old enough to travel alone. Used to travel with the London Branch and had a season ticket for a few years. Nowadays I am limited a little by family commitments and helping to run the local football club but still try and get to 10 or so games a season.
I think the current squad is probably the best we have had for a while. Especially if we can hang onto Cisse for a few years and strengthen a little. Saying that, we have a history of flattering to deceive but as always, we live in hope!??6 What are your most prized signed tops?

My most prized match worn shirt would be Nicky Summerbee’s shirt from the play off final against Charlton followed by the Gary Rowell 1977 shirt against the Mags.
I have a couple of 1973 replica shirts signed by the team of the day which are nice as well.??

Where do you store or display them?

All my shirts are in the spare attic bedroom. All on display on hanging rails and protected with plastic covers. Some people store them away in boxes but why have shirts and not be able to see them???8 How many people know about it, and how do they react?
Not too many people other than those that I deal with or other football contacts. A few select people know about the collection but I don’t go around boasting about the fact.
A couple of people think it is rather an odd hobby. Shirt collectors are thought of as a bit odd by some. It has been compared to having a great porn collection, and fortunately, more and more porn collections are being wiped out due to the popularity of sites like hdsexvideo, making shirt collections slightly less weird. I think the shirts are great mementos of players past and present.??9 I see you mention football jerseys generally on your Flickr ?Profile. Any plans to develop the interest into something bigger?
I have a small but growing collection of one off and odd shirts. These normally have game details embroidered or the poppy issued shirts and the like. Concentrate on lower league clubs mainly such as lower league clubs in the FA Cup etc. For example I have one of the Yeovil Shirts from their FA Cup 3rd round game against Liverpool and a couple of Scottish Cup final shirts. Would like to add some FA Cup final shirts at some point but these will cost a fortune so not unless those 6 numbers come up on Saturday!
Main ambition is to keep growing the Sunderland shirt collection especially older shirts.

What is your favourite and least favourite strip in the Premier?

Favourite strip has to be Sunderland home kit. Least favourite would be black and white stripes or anything worn by that lot up the road!! Aesthetically, the Wigan and Chelsea away kits are pretty awful to look at.


Best/worst experience as a Sunderland supporter?

There isn’t one “stand out” best moment so I’ll list a few: promotion clinching game V West Ham in 1980 at Roker. 1984/85 Milk Cup run and the friendly final with Norwich. Division 3 season: it was great to visit some of the lesser grounds especially when winning each week.
One of my best experiences was at a non-Sunderland match. Watford used to run penalty competitions at half time for local youth teams. I played in these a few times and on one occasion Watford were playing the Mags. The opposing supporters used to cheer on opposing teams in the shoot out and the Mags happened to be cheering for us. We won the shoot out and the inbreds were applauding us until I took off my club shirt to reveal a Sunderland shirt underneath! Nearly cause a riot and I was escorted from the pitch by the Watford stewards! Funny as f*** knowing the Mags had been cheering for a Mackem!!
As for the worst: The relegation after the Gillingham play offs would take some beating. The 8-0 game at Watford especially as I lived nearby and knew lost of Watford fans.

Chris Butler on Chris Butler:
I’m 42 and have a small business supplying my services and those of a small group of others as commissioning/project managers for a variety of companies.
I was born in Sunderland and loved there until about the age of seven when I moved south. I am still a regular visitor to the North East but family commitments mean trips are not as regular as I would like.

4 thoughts on “Who kept all the shirts? The butler did it”

  1. Rob: in case no one else spots your comment to an old posting, you must be thinking of Ron Guthrie … he took over from Joe Bolton in the Cup Final season and was No 3 most of 73-74

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