Before fashion took over, football kits had one primary function: to make a team identifiable. Although Don Revie claimed his switch to all-white was to emulate Real Madrid, it wasn’t lost on him that it made the players easier to spot, too.
When, at an evening cup tie at Bolton in 1996, the linesman failed to spot Tony Yeboah standing ten yards offside, a doubt that had been in the back of Howard Wilkinson’s mind for months finally found confirmation. “I asked the players and they confirmed my fears,” he said after the game. Their dark blue and green striped shirts, blue shorts and green socks were like invisibility cloaks on a dark night. “With people like Tony Yeboah, Rod Wallace, Brian Deane and Carlton Palmer, the colour of their skin just adds to it and makes things worse,” added Wilko. “It’s essential that the next time we play away from home in the evening we have a lighter strip.”
Asics delivered, and then some. They’d already delivered an all-white home kit that managed to combine retro chic with the timelessness of the seventies original, and the new away kit refined it, replacing the unpopular turtle neck — the players had been cutting gaps for their Adam’s apples — with a three-button grandad collar. As on the home, the classic LUFC crest was joined on the front of the shirt by the contemporary Yorkshire rose badge, a double-crest arrangement that shouldn’t have worked, but did, alongside logos for Asics and Thistle Hotels. Best of all was the colour: perfect, gleaming, untrimmed gold cloth.
First worn at Port Vale in an FA Cup replay, it didn’t help Leeds much in the first half, but Tomas Brolin produced a feint, a cross, and a rare contribution to set up an equaliser for Gary McAllister, and then McAllister settled the game himself with a free kick blown like glass into the top corner. He celebrated by running to the stands, eyebrow cocked, arms spread, asking who else could do that. Nobody had an answer. They were all too busy looking at his shirt. ◉
(artwork by James Mason)
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