I’ll try not to bang on about Mexico 86 too much in any posts I make here, but given it was a hugely pivotal moment in my life, it’s gonna happen. Let’s just all come to peace with that and move on - about six months in fact, for it is now January 1987, having been subsumed by football and discovered in myself a perhaps unhealthy obsession with football kits. (I say unhealthy, I wasn’t doing weird things with them - I just like them... a lot... I’m not David Mellor you know – contemporary reference for you there.) And so it was that I came to be at Highfield Road on a foggy January morning, visiting the tiny chip-shop-counter-style cupboard known as the Club Shop.
Firstly, however, let me give you some background info, for this was technically not my first ever kit.. No, that was a red thing in the guise of the once successful outfit of Liverpool FC. Half of my family are from that part of the world and so it was that before I was actually interested in football my only contact with the sport was via them and this meant occasionally receiving Liverpool-themed gifts.
One Christmas, my brother received a Liverpool kit. I'm not entirely sure it was a genuine replica, but more of a market stall special as it had no badge or manufacturer label and was just all red. This was around 1984, when pinstripes were in. No matter, as we were told it was the official kit and that was all that mattered. A year or so later, it was handed down to me and I proudly ran out in it at school... next to my mate who was also sporting the Liverpool kit... which had pinstripes... which induced confusion in my non-football following brain. “Mine’s the official Liverpool kit,” I naively declared. “So’s mine,” the response. Brain meltdown. So apparently teams change kits every year or so... ooooh this football world is full of surprises!
So, picture the scene - a foggy morn, a bolt-hole outlet beloved of ‘sell to the public’ industrial estate retailers, and an excited pre-birthday 11-year-old gazing at all the merchandise nailed to the wall (OK, OK, I’m exaggerating. A bit...)
Sorry, bit more background required here: why was I at the club shop, which, being at the ground itself (none of your town centre megastores in those days my friends!) was a fair trek for my non-football loving parents? Well, despite this being a time before Sports Direct or internet shopping, we did have quite a few sports shops available to us. There was Davies (an Intersport), some other place whose name I can’t remember and a small independent sports shop, the type that has a ‘musty’ as its central design theme... it also sells school uniforms.
Davies was the place to get your kits though, being a great shop full of proper sporting equipment, including the cricketing helmet I yearned for. £125 though! And kits they had... Liverpool (on whom I had turned my back for the glamour of my home town of Coventry City... oops!), Man Utd, Arsenal - even England. And Coventry of course, what with this being Coventry? No...it’s like the Subbuteo World Cup all over again! Not even my home town shops stocked the blue and white stripes of CCFC.
So to the club shop again. "Do you have the Coventry kit?" "Yes we do." Hmmm...that was easier than I thought. After a while debating what other goodies would constitute my birthday pressie, I ended up with the shirt, shorts and socks... the whole outfit. Interestingly the boys' version of the shorts used a completely different material from the youth's size and given I preferred the boys' ones, opted for those. I ended up changing them for a different size the following week as they were just that bit too small after alland this was the 80's where 'tight' meant circulation problems.
So was I happy? Yes! And no. See, when I obsess about something, I do it full on. I can’t stand seeing a kit for sale on eBay which clearly isn’t ‘right.’Argentina’s 1990 World Cup shirt had two blue stripes on the collar, who doesn’t know that? It was also actually the same tea bag type material as the 86 one too and no retail replica had either of those features, but that’s not the point! You see what you’re dealing with here?
What’s most surprising when I look at that kit now (replete with a red number 7 made from some old pyjamas that I stitched on myself), is how tiny it is It’s like a doll’s shirt. OK, so I was a child and now both my age and waist size are nearing 40, but it’s still shockingly small. It’s also aged very well. The badge does have bits missing from repeated wearing / washing and the Triple S Sports logo is similarly jaded, but the colours are still as vibrant as when I first got it.
Of course, Coventry went on to win the FA Cup in this shirt and I not only took great pride in following my home team, but also got called a glory hunter for doing so. To be fair, that happened in January when we were about to face Man U in the fourth round - a long, long way from ‘glory.'
This was surely the start of great things to come, and due to that Cup win, we had some money to spend. So what did we do with our winnings? We bought David Speedie. I believe this is the dictionary definition of a false dawn.
Well at least we have the memories. Unsurprisingly, this is one of the Coventry fans’ favourite kits, but not mine. My personal favourite was to come the following season as we moved into the world of 'name brand' kit manufacturers: the gloriousness that was the Hummel ‘Denmark 86’ style kit - one of the least favourite kits amongst CCFC fans.
And finally the replicas carried the sponsor's name too... that well known brand...Granada Bingo. A Coventry fan’s lot is not a great one...
One last anally retentive fact: The shirt cost £10.31. What kind of price is that? The 80's, eh? Messed up times...