While the current football season is on pause for the moment, we’re taking time to reflect on the history of the beautiful game, and in particular some of the iconic kits that have been worn over the years.
Some jerseys are loved because of the memories they bring back and the players who wore them, while others are remembered because of their retro credentials that make them modern-day must haves.
So, here are some football shirts from the archives and the stories attached to them…
By the late 1980s, Liverpool were repeatedly dominating English football and had been for a considerable amount of the past two decades. The big surprise of the 1988/89 season was the strong start of George Graham’s Arsenal – he had cleared his team out of the ‘egos’ and brought in some fresh new faces alongside favourite Lee Dixon, Steve Bould, Alan Smith, David Rocastle and more.
The Gunners were not favourites for the title but by Christmas time they were top of the table and 11 points clear for a little while until a string of defeats and draws saw the gap continue to close.
The final game of the season – postponed and rearranged due to Hillsborough – saw Arsenal face Liverpool at Anfield on 26 May 1989. This rearrangement and the points difference between the teams led to the game having a cup final feel about it. To win the title, Arsenal had to win by two clear goals at a stadium they had not won at for over 15 years. George Graham went with a much-maligned defensive set-up believing that if Liverpool scored it was over. Arsenal went 1-0 up just after 50 minutes but could not clinch the second until injury time and even then they had to not concede for the remaining few minutes.
The match is considered to be one of the most dramatic conclusions to a league season in the history of the English game and is sometimes seen as the starting point of a renaissance in English football.
Buy the Anfield 89 Icon Shirt here.
There will likely never be a more dramatic Champions League Final with a more nerve-shredding ending than this. Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool side met Carlo Anceloti’s AC Milan in Istanbul in May 2005, with the Italian giants being favourites going into it. This was their second final in three years while Liverpool had not appeared in one since the ’80s.
A disastrous start for the Reds saw them concede to Milan’s captain Maldini after one minute. Hernan Crespo scored another two within five minutes of each other (39, 44) and by half-time Liverpool were 3-0 down. The second half saw one of European football’s most remarkable comebacks as Steven Gerrard, Vladimir Smicer and Xabi Alonso all scored in a six-minute period to level the game up not long after the hour mark. What followed was a tense hour of football as 30 minutes of normal time became a scoreless 30 minutes of extra time and then the dreaded penalty shootout.
With Milan missing their first two penalties, Liverpool won the shootout 3-2 and Gerrard took home the MOTM and UCL trophy. The rest as they say is history.
Buy the replica Istanbul ’05 Shirt with embroidered UCL Winners stitching here.
England at Italia ’90
“Football is a simple game, twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.”
This has since become one of football’s most famous quotes and was spoken by none other than Gary Lineker after England were defeated on penalties (shock) to West Germany in the semi-final of the 1990 World Cup in Italy.
As with most stories about the England Football Team, it is one of heartbreak but one that started with much promise. England were in a great shape going into Italia 90 – a tournament which is still one of the most loved World Cup tournaments to this day – managed by Bobby Robson, the team consisted of Lineker, Gascoigne, John Barnes and more.
An inevitable defeat to West Germany on penalties left Linker with a ‘What If?’ moment as they would have played a totally out-of-form Argentina in the final. Looking back on it, Andreas Brehme, who scored the World Cup winning penalty that year said “Argentina had a terrible World Cup but a lot of luck. Would England have beaten them? Definitely, 100 per cent.”
Buy the replica Italia ’90 England Home Shirt here.
Aston Villa: Champions of Europe
They may have fallen on more turbulent times in recent seasons but the Birmingham club remains one of the most historically successful in the country. With seven First Division league titles and seven FA Cup titles, the early 80s saw the club win the league one season and the European Cup 12 months later.
The final, held against German giants Bayern Munich in Rotterdam, got off to the worst possible start for Villa when experienced goalkeeper Jimmy Rimmer suffered a repeat of a recurring shoulder injury and had to leave the field after just nine minutes. His replacement – Nigel Spink, was about as green as a goalkeeper could be and was making just his second appearance for Villa on one of football’s biggest stage. Of course, he kept a clean sheet and Aston Villa lifted the trophy after winning 1-0 thanks to a goal from Peter Wither mid-way through the second half. Representing a golden time for English football, Aston Villa were the sixth consecutive English club to lift the trophy.
Buy the replica Aston Villa ‘Champions of Europe’ Home Shirt here.
Manchester City: Play-Off Final 1999
The blue side of Manchester might play some of the best football in Europe right now but one of their most famous moments (next to Aguero’s last second winner in 2012) came against Gillingham in a play-off final in the third tier of English football.
A year prior to this, Manchester City were relegated to the second division (now League One) after a disastrous season for the club but a strong campaign secured a third place finish in the 1998/99 season which led them to a play-off final.
Like many of the most memorable finals, it came so close to being a totally different story. Remaining scoreless for the majority of the game, Gillingham netted two incredibly late goals in the 82nd and 87th minute, which should have put the game to bed. Kevin Horlock snatched one back in the final minute which should have been little more than a consolation goal but five minutes deep into injury time Paul Dickov rifled a shot into the top corner from 15-yards past goalkeeper Vince Bartram to take the game to penalties. City would win the shootout 3-1. Poetically, Bartram is one of Dickov’s close friends and was the best man at his weeding also. In 2005, the 95th minute equaliser was voted in a poll as City’s Greatest Ever Goal.
Buy the replica Manchester City Away Shirt from the 1998/99 season here.
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