Beauties and beasts: (4) Manchester United, Wimbledon and my lucky/unlucky shirt

Jake: ‘that’s what I call a top’

Jake is our treasured but exiled graphic artist. Most of the images at Salut! Sunderland emanate from his place in Spain. Here, he joins the Beauties and Beasts parade with scathing comments about modern football gear and find reminiscences of shirts of the past, though not always the matches he wore them too …

OK let’s start by saying I don’t like modern football shirts.

Made from smooth and shiny sweat inducing man-made fibres, with the maker’s logo all over and a huge sponsor’s name emblazoned on the chest they really are ugly to behold. Less a shirt and more an advertising opportunity.

I’ve often thought that if I was rich, I mean Manchester City rich, that I would pay the club NOT to have a shirt sponsor, well I can dream can’t I?

And then there’s the ridiculous cost, fifty quid for a polyester t-shirt? I often wonder if the players’ shirts are made of the same horrible stuff that the replicas are made of, it doesn’t seem conducive to physical exertion to me.

The only shirt I’d ever considered buying was the 1937 Cup Winners shirt, made from the kind of double thickness heavy duty cotton that looks capable of resisting Luis Suarez’s fiercest bite! All in all I thought shirt marketing, including new designs every five minutes, to be a way of exploiting the ever loyal fans who they know will pay all they can to buy something that identifies them with their team. I come from the generation before replica shirts were worn at matches, you had a scarf and a bobble hat if you were lucky. (Adopts a croaky old man’s voice) Kids today eh?

Buy now at
Sunderland tops galore can be seen and purchased at the website of Classic Football Shirts; check out the range at

Anyway, the 1996/97 season, our last at Roker Park, saw us playing in what I thought was a rather attractive little number. A central red stripe, simple v-neck, and a special badge commemorating 99 years at Roker. Even the sponsor’s logo wasn’t too bad, at least Vaux Samson was promoting a local business. Better that than Boylesports, Tombola, Bidvest or bloody Dafabet! Who are they anyway? These names mean nowt to me! So, I was tempted by this new shirt and was finally seduced by its polyester charms when some time in the second half of the season it was reduced to half price.

I remember the first match I wore it, memorable because it was the first match I’d ever watched from the Clock Stand seats. I’d decided that as it was the last season at Roker that I’d have to watch at least one game from the only part of the ground I hadn’t previously watched from. It was against Manchester United, featuring Schmeichel, Cantona, various Nevilles and Beckham amongst others. But we had Gareth Hall and what do you know we beat the sods two one! This was my lucky shirt, or was it? They went on to win the title, beating them-up-the-road into second place, we went on to be relegated.

Me and my lucky shirt witnessed mostly rubbish the rest of that season, the only high point being the three-nil thumping of Everton, including Waddle’s great free kick, a result which gave us false hope going into the last match away to Wimbledon. My shirt and I and thousands of others went down to Wimbledon, or should I say Crystal Palace, to be predictably disappointed and drop through the relegation trap door with 40 points, the kind of total that looks like an unattainable dream this season.

Two days after the Selhurst Park nightmare there was a friendly against Liverpool to finally close the doors on old Roker Park. I can’t remember much about the game, but I do remember walking down the big steps at the back of the Fulwell End after the match, surrounded by silent friends, trying to swallow the dry lump that had stuck in my throat.

The essential detail from the last season SAFC tops had the famous old badge showing the ship

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1 thought on “Beauties and beasts: (4) Manchester United, Wimbledon and my lucky/unlucky shirt”

  1. I agree with your thoughts about fans wearing shirts.

    I only have the 1937 shirt, which comes out for special occasions. Even this was a surprise gift. It was built to last and it is closer to a rugby shirt than a football one.

    The person who bought it for me put a number on the back but they didn’t use numbers in that cup final.

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