The new Sunderland strips are out and we’ve got off lightly again. As Jeremy Robson put it yesterday, at least we still look like us It wasn’t always thus, but the abomination of the early 80s toothpaste tops is still insignificant compared to what Cardiff City fans have been asked to endure. Jeremy’s look at club tradition also recalls the dramatic makeover that once befell Leeds United …
Apart from the Euros and the news from the courts reaffirming John Terry’s credentials as a stand up human being, it’s been a quiet summer on the football front.
The attention of fans is drawn to fixture announcements and the design of the coming season’s new kits.
When I was a boy you didn’t have to concern yourself with the style of the new kit because the “strip” as we used to call it back then was the same as last season, as well as the season before that. Nothing much changed for decades.
Shirts were made of cotton, and not some breathable, man made crud that would wick away perspiration. The disappearance of the tried and tested cotton shirt began back in the 1970s.
In Sunderland’s case it made precious little difference as new fabrics meant less fading, and the colours remained the same.
Nice thick red and white stripes, same as before but brighter colours which stayed that way for longer. We did of course have to suffer the horrible pin stripes and red shorts kit in the early 80s for which my visual memory can only ever provide images of Mick Buckley, Barry Venison, and Ally McCoist. We looked as if we were advertising Signal toothpaste.
Nowadays there is something of a trend in wearing the shirts from yesteryear, and these can be found in any sports shop in the North East, including I am sorry to say this terrible pin stripe shirt, although I have yet so see one being worn.
Retro designs are all the rage. Why do people want retro shirts? I suppose they allow the wearer to demonstrate that they were part of the era in which the shirt was worn, and particularly is the design invokes memories of a successful period in the history of the club. The 1973 Cup Final replica is quite naturally popular amongst SAFC fans. It says “I was there … remember this?”
Colours, history and tradition are woven both literally and metaphorically into the identity of the club. The colours are what provides the club’s identity.
Our opponents in the ’73 Cup Final, Leeds Utd, were one of the few clubs to change their colours; it happened during the early years of Don Revie’s management.
The traditional blue and yellow strip was abandoned in favour of the all white outfit which they still wear. Revie wanted them to play and look like Real Madrid. Leeds fans still wear scarves which are blue and yellow half a century after that change was made. In one of the most unusual stories of the summer, Cardiff City’s new owners have announced that their traditional blue kit will be replaced by an all new red design, with the badge featuring a dragon.
There will be no sign of the bluebird which has always been part of the club crest. As you might expect, this has not been greeted with universal approval among the Cardiff faithful who no longer being “Bluebirds” are now looking forward to a future as “Red Dragons” or something similar.
Protest letters which have been translated into Malaysian, and sent to the new owner, whose “rebranding exercise” seems to have the support of at least some existing board members as well as the leader of Cardiff Council. Quoted from the BBC website.
Cardiff council said it fully supported the club’s decision.
Council leader Heather Joyce said: ‘I have spoken to Dato Chan Tien Ghee today to welcome the financial support that is being given to Cardiff City FC and he has outlined to me his commitment to the club and the city.
‘I made it clear that the council appreciates the challenges the club will face in relation to some of the changes that need to be made but we will fully support what is being proposed.
‘As a council we are business savvy and recognise the importance of this investment that the owners are putting in and the confidence that the club has in the city.’
I have no doubt that the council welcomes any sort of investment in the city’s football club, but in terms of cultural understanding, and of which Vincent Tan (the new owner) seems to have very little, we see an example of acceptance of this misunderstanding as “a price worth paying”.
“A price worth paying” is a phrase which has cropped up in various articles on this topic. Investment at any price is what they are saying, even if it means that the identity and tradition of a club is consigned to history on the whim of some Johnny-come-lately Far Eastern businessman with hitherto no connection to South Wales or Cardiff City.
Yet Cardiff City are “The Bluebirds” and not “The Dragons”. It is no coincidence that the proposed new kit looks remarkably similar (even down to the crest) to the Welsh national kit. I wonder if Vincent Tan is going to take over the national side as well. Given the tone of some of the official responses in Wales they would probably sell their grannies for a pocketful of Mr Tan’s change.
Nicknames associated with birds are common in English (and indeed Welsh) football. Notts County and another club whose name escapes me (Exeter City?) are “the Magpies”, Sheffield Wednesday are “the Owls”, Swindon Town “the Robins” and Norwich City “the Canaries”.
Nicknames, colours, shirts and tradition also give our clubs identity. I wouldn’t even want the Mags to change. Why would I? It’s ridiculous. Imagine having to learn to refer to them as the “green and blue b*******!” Unimaginable and unacceptable.
The funniest thing about this whole fiasco was hearing that Cardiff City are prepared to refund the money paid by season ticket holders who had bought new blue shirts. They have 16,000 season ticket holders, but have offered refunds to only 70 of them.