Ich bein ein bluenose – Birmingham City’s German Flag Kit

Posted by John Devlin

Birmingham City Third Kit 72-74

Conversations concerning memorable kits from the past often omit one of the more bizarre outfits worn in recent years: Birmingham City’s third shirt from the 72-73 and 73-74 seasons – the era of Bob Latchford, Trevor Francis and the club’s iconic blue and white ‘Penguin’ home strip.

Thanks to its resplendent amber, red and black thirds, the curiously coloured concoction is fondly remembered as the ‘German flag shirt’. Legend has it that the design originated from a pre-season tour of Germany when a Birmingham board member thought it would be a good idea to dress the team in the country’s colours.

The Umbro-produced jersey was only actually worn a handful of times competitively. It was originally unleashed on an unsuspecting and rather shocked set of travelling Blues fans in the 1972 1st Division 2-2 draw at West Bromwich Albion whose white and navy stripes clashed, not only with Birmingham’s home ‘Penguin’ shirt, but also its red and white away equivalent. Supporters credited the shirt with an assist that evening as depending on which way the Birmingham players were facing, the unique three-panelled jersey rendered them almost invisible under the floodlights, allowing Bob Latchford to pop up undetected to claim Blues’ late equaliser against their local rivals – and his own brother, Peter, in goal.

The kit also appeared twice the following season at Queens Park Rangers (another 2-2 draw followed by a 2-0 FA Cup win for the Hoops), before being consigned to the back of the St Andrews’ kit cupboard.

Despite supporters’ mixed opinions the shirt has entered the club’s folklore and modern day replica versions are still sold today.

Although the ‘Penguin’ was reinstated at St Andrews in 2007 with the return of Umbro, it remains to be seen whether the ‘German flag’ will ever fly once more on the backs of the Blues’ players.

(Despite conversations with two Blues fans – one, the club historian – that confirmed my research, since this article was originally published in issue 6 of Backpass Magazine it has been pointed out that this kit was actually first worn a week earlier then stated in a match against Spurs.)


11 Responses to “Ich bein ein bluenose – Birmingham City’s German Flag Kit”

  1. Jon Says:

    I would have thought Birmingham wore this strip at Leeds too during that era, because of the white clashing with both the home and away kits.

    If anyone wants to see that classic German flag kit in action I even found footage of that FA Cup tie with QPR on YouTube

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-01unmKm6E

    Also notice that in this match Birmingham wore yellow socks with a black turnover.

  2. John Devlin Says:

    Great stuff Jon, cheers – I’ll head over to YouTube straight away. That was the second season of use so it looks like they probably switched sock colour. Funnily enough, in the game at Leeds they wore the red and white penguin.

  3. John Devlin Says:

    It looks even odder in action doesn’t it?!

  4. Matt Wilkins Says:

    Perhaps a retro remake is in order :-)

    personally, I love the kit, it just looks brilliant on the players, and there would be few issues with the colour clashes. Personally, I think Brum should always play in their shade of blue, and always with a white stripe down the middle. You see the penguin, you know its the blues!

  5. John Devlin Says:

    Hello Matt – I agree with you that the Penguin should always be worn. Its just so distinctive and would really give the Blues character. Incidentally, I think retro versions of many of Birmingham’s 70s kits are available from http://www.toffs.com

  6. Matt Wilkins Says:

    Theyve plumped for an all black away kit. How boring, made even more so in that its just a standard Umbro template with the old Umbro crest. What happened to “tailored by Brum”? :)
    http://www.footballshirtculture.com/09/10-kits/birmingham-city-2009-10-away-umbro-kit.html

    Worst of all, that means the “Ajax” Penguin wont be worn next season. Shame, I thought that was a great kit.

  7. dan myatt Says:

    can i point out that it was actually called the belgium top

  8. John Devlin Says:

    Hello Dan – from the many Blues fans I’ve spoken to my understanding was that it was called the German flag shirt. Although the colours were placed vertically (like the Belgian flag) they were in the German flag order not the Belgian flag order.

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  10. DerInselaffe Says:

    I think you mean “Ich bin” not “Ich bein”. (Bein is German for leg.)

  11. Tony Spike Says:

    OH GOD ……..BIRMINGHAM ARE WEARING THIS AGAIN THIS SEASON (2015-2016)

    http://www.historicalkits.co.uk/Birmingham_City/images/birmingham_city_2015-2016-2nd.gif

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