Regular contributor to the site Philip Marriott, a diehard Newcastle United fan and kit obsessive has sent in this wonderful article on the Toon’s strange use of away kits over the years. A fascinating read from a fan’s point of view. Cheers Philip!
They play in black and white….or most other colours!
The situation with Newcastle’s away kits has always been a curious one. The Magpies have traditionally opted against change colours in the past or even changing the shorts and socks on the home kit. Indeed, the Toon wore white home shorts for the first time at Chelsea in 1980. Since then, white shorts and socks have been worn on the home kit many times, even at the expense of seldom worn change kits. Third kits have been irregular for Newcastle pre 2003, with the Green asics design of the 90’s and plain red or blue being worn very occasionally in the late 60’s/early 70’s. This is peculiar considering that away designs have often been unhelpful, sometimes in white or silver. The latter was worn on a regular basis in the 80’s causing regular clashes as Spurs and Luton among others.
The concept of a new away/3rd colour every year is a clear way to lead Toon fans to part with their hard earned, but also provides great anticipation as the colours often change yearly. In 03/4 there was a black away and silver third whilst in 04/5 there was a two tone blue effort and a great yellow third kit. The change kits were traditionally seldom worn up until 03/4 when each kit was worn several times regardless of clashes, exceptions being the 07/8 Argentina style kit and the 08/9 silver strip.
The addition of new kits has often proved popular, with a surge in the club shop for the 08/9 purple kit and 98/9 shiny blue away shirt. The only problem with some of these kits has been the inconsistency of their use. In 98/9, the home kit was sported at Spurs whilst the shiny blue design remained in the kit bag, likewise at the Southampton and Leeds matches that season.
The two designs of focus on are the away kits for 95/6 and 97/8, possibly the best and the worst Toon kits ever.
Worn with ecru shorts and maroon socks, the maroon and blue hooped kit in 1995, created by adidas in their first season and resembling the old kit worn by Newcastle West End was an instant hit yet saw only 5 competitive matches, the last of which was in October 1995! Strangely, it was not worn at Blackburn or Leeds later in the season. This great kit was worn during happy times, made even more iconic by stars such as David Ginola and Les Ferdinand. The shirt is a great reminder of traditional values and modern materials being merged into a classic design which reflected the wishes of the fans and the rigours of Premiership football.
Now contrast this with the outrageous 97/8 design, worn only three times competitively. This kit was neglected for the matches at Derby, Spurs, Bolton, Sheffield United, PSV and more. It was used in three defeats, 4-1 at Leeds and then 2-1 at both Sheffield Wednesday and Southampton. Crazily, it was worn with three pairs of shorts and three pairs of socks, using similar colours! The standard kit at Leeds, customised white shorts and socks at Hillsborough and then the white HOME shorts and UNMARKED purple socks at the Dell. The curiosity here is the inconsistency of use and the number of shorts and socks worn. The rationale for kit choices by kit managers can be no more baffling than on these occasions, where the kit should probably have been worn regardless of its unpopularity. Nevertheless, the shirt sold well, as this was 1997 when replica shirt sales were soaring in this country. But surely the fans deserved more for forty pounds than 3 matches that season? Surely the clashes at Bolton, Spurs etc should have been avoided?
Whilst teams like Milan, and in most cases Manchester United, have a set away colour, Newcastle never have. White prevailed from the 1920’s until the late 60’s but this is highly unpractical and was before kit replicas became a fact of life. Should teams have a set away colour? A yellow and green design similar to the 70’s would sell well, but are Newcastle, by luck rather than design, at a commercial advantage to most teams? If yellow and green was worn every year, sales would surely decline but if there is anew colour each time, fashion conscious fans are faced with two forty pound change kits a year, and a good income for the club. Quite what has happened with the away kits over the years or why, only the kit manager of the time can answer. But like the strange two blue kits scenario at Portsmouth in 03/4, it remains one of the Premier Leagues’ kit mysteries. What is indisputable though is that the shirts will sell, money will be made and we can expect new designs each year. Enjoy.