Sunderland Third Kit 1986-88

OK, this may not mean much to many of you loyal visitors to True Colours but Sunderland’s  1986-88 third kit has become something of a holy grail to me in the last few years. A short while after True Colours Volume 1 was published I was told by a diehard Sunderland fan that I had missed a yellow (or orange as he described it) third kit from the late 80s. It was worn, seemingly, only once in the club’s match against Wigan during the Mercantile Credit Festival at Wembley to mark the Football League Centenary. The search began in earnest but after purchasing scores of programmes and routing through hundreds of magazines I was unable to find any evidence of what this kit actually looked like. I knew it was made by Patrick and sponsored by Vaux but that was about it. I made contact with a couple of Sunderland shirt collectors and kit experts but they were unable to help despite having vague memories of the yellow kit being worn in that game. The club themselves had no idea either. Unfortunately the Mercantile Credit Festival was very poorly covered by the football media and precious little footage or photography of the games exist. Everytime I met a Sunderland fan the first question from my lips was “do you remember the yellow kit worn against Wigan?”. They always shook their heads and looked at me with a slightly bemused expression.

I made a minor breakthrough a few years ago when I found in a Wigan biography a small black and white pic of the game in question with the Sunderland kit displayed. Trouble was it was the back of the shirt and was therefore fairly useless. So near and yet so far.

And then – this weekend I visited a programme fair and picked up a load of cheap programmes. One, a Chelsea publication from 1988, I had picked up due to the great cover depicting a Brighton away kit. When I flicked through the programme on returning home my jaw dropped in amazement when I discovered on page 25 in glorious colour a full frontal view of the elusive yellow Sunderland third kit that I had searched for all these years!! A completely serendipitous surprise!!! Another surprise was to see that the yellow shirt and shorts were apparently worn with white socks.

OK, fair enough, I know what you’re thinking (apart from the fact that I should get out more), the kit IS a bit plain with its  lack of contrasting trim and embellishments apart from the shadow pinstripes, but at last I can now complete the gap in my Sunderland kit history.

Worn in: The 0-0 draw with Wigan in the above mentioned Mercantile Credit Festival in April 1988. Wigan eventually won the game 2-1 on penalties.
Worn by: Marco Gabbiadini

31 Replies to “Sunderland Third Kit 1986-88

  1. Always great to have that moment of epiphany when doing this kind of research. If anyone could track down a colour photo of Manchester United’s (second) white away kit in the 1974/74 season – the one with the contrast collar worn against Villa and Forest – I’d be able to experience that feeling too…

  2. Well done John, I know the feeling of looking for something and seemingly continually coming up against a brick wall!

    If you’ve nothing better to do now, you could always look for photographic evidence of a white third kit Arsenal wore against Luton in 1975? So far it has eluded me 🙁

  3. Luton wore orange that season, meaning that Arsenal’s red home and yellow away would have clashed, so white was apparently worn (quite possibly the same set used as an away in the early- to mid-60s).

    Bar talking to a guy on an Arsenal forum who was at the game, I have no other sources for it (Luton were unable to help me when I emailed, still waiting for an reply from Arsenal), the fact that it was a midweek game means that pics are probably even harder to come by!

  4. Nice one John, another elusive kit finally tracked down!

    Reading this article reminded me of the time when I tried to find out more about a very rare Everton third shirt from the mid to late 80’s (white with blue diagonal criss-cross, like an inverse of Chelsea’s home shirt from the same era). I eventually found out a few months later after posting it on another site that it was their official third shirt from 1986 to 1988 (a mate of mine in school had the shirt). However it was never worn on the pitch, though possibly with the exception of the Mercantile Credit Football Festival (having said that, Everton played Wolves and Man U in that tournament, so I’d have guessed they’d worn blue for both matches).

    I vaguely remember the Football League’s centenary events, the Football Festival event was hardly covered in the media, maybe except the final, but I certainly recall the Football League v Rest of the World match, which was definitely on TV (all talk was of Maradona’s participation in the game).

  5. i remember the maradona match,he got booed throughout!! think it was live on itv and both teams wore umbro strips.
    The football festival was hyped up as a ‘hoolie-fest’ the papers were predicting a riot with around 20 odd different sets of club fans at wembley that weekend,nothing happened because no one went!!!
    Then there was the mercantile credit trophy between arsenal and Man.United at villa park, another half empty stadium!

  6. I think Sunderland will wear the white/stone away kit at Stoke, Jon.

    I think Sunderland probably think they don’t need a third kit, as when they play a team in red (Liverpool)- they can wear the white away kit. If they play a team in white (Fulham) – they can wear the red and white striped home kit. And, if they play a team in red and white stripes (Stoke) – they can wear the white away kit.

    And they are probably correct. Although, it only takes one picky referee and they are in a bit of trouble…

    If they are smart, they will have retained the black and blue third kit from last season, just incase. They are still with Umbro, so it should be fine, although it would mean having the shirt sponsor changed from Boylesports to Tombola. But changing the sponsor is a fairly common practice. I see that Manchester United have done this with last season’s black and blue third kit being retained, even with the chang from AIG to AON.

    Before I go, a couple of things I noticed from the weekend’s matches. It was strange to see Liverpool wearing a different font for their numbering and lettering on their shirts at Old Trafford.

    Odd as it’s only usually used in European matches. Did anyone else notice it?

    Also, I noticed Barcelona didn’t change their socks for their match with Deportivo La Coruna.

    It’s not the first time Barca haven’t changed their socks when playing away from home this season. I’ve only recently started watching matches in La Liga, and was wondering if maybe socks clashes aren’t really taken seriously there?

    Or, and I find this hard to believe, Nike haven’t provided Barca with some red change socks.

    Oh, and congrats John on finding the mystery Sunderland kit! 🙂

  7. Thinking about it they could probably get away with the stone kit at Stoke. I do recall Liverpool wore their old écru kit at Southampton all those years ago and was distinguishable, but back then they didn’t have pedant referees either.

    It’ll be interesting to see what happens.

    I noticed Liverpool wearing different fonts on their kit too, and it had Premier League badges on the sleeves which made it even more strange. Tottenham did the same this weekend, wearing kits featuring their logotype font, and with the Investec sponsor logo instead of Autonomy, but no sleeve patches. They had worn these shirts in the League Cup too earlier this season.

    I noticed Barça’s blue socks against Deportivo, they did the same in the derby game with Espanyol. It doesn’t seem to be an issue in Spain by the looks of it.

  8. As you say, Jon, maybe socks clashing isn’t an issue in Spain, but I remember Barcelona played Osasuna away, earlier this seasons and Barca wore their light green with navy away kit.

    Barca’s away kit has navy blue shorts, which clashed with Osasuna’s black shorts. For the match, Barca wore change light green shorts.

    It seems strange that socks clashing wouldn’t be an issue, in La Liga – yet shorts clashes are.

  9. That is odd MS, especially as when Barca have blue shorts they don’t change them against Espanyol or Deportivo. Of course in other countries such games (blue and white v blue and red) would have one side in an away kit but in Spain this is never the case.

    Just on shorts clashes, over the years I often recall Atletico Madrid wearing red shorts at the Nou Camp but Barca never reciprocating

  10. Thinking about it, Denis, maybe Barcelona are just like Arsenal, when it comes to changing shorts. They never change the home shorts, but are happy changing away/third shorts.

    Which, I think is fine.

    But surely socks shouldn’t be allowed to clash.

  11. Real Madrid are just as bad for “doing an Arsenal”, especially last season’s game at Xerez where they turned up in a navy away kit, all because Xerez wear white shorts.

    The problem was, Xerez wear blue shirts as well, so in effect both teams were in blue, albeit Real’s shade was much darker.

    Anyway kit clashes in Spain aren’t as bad as they used to be in the past, it was very rare to see some teams in their change kit. Barça would sometimes kit when playing a team in red (particularly Osasuna), but against teams in blue they’d wear the home kit, despite the fact their kit is predominantly blue. Also, a number of the teams who wore stripes often had superfluous away kits in one of the home shirt colours, e.g. Atlético Madrid had a red away kit for years, Betis had green (which was ultra rare, but they often changed their white shorts for a black pair), Real Sociedad in blue, etc., yet used to wear the solid coloured shirts against the teams whose shirts were similar to their usuals.

  12. That was meant to say “Barça would sometimes change kit when playing a team in red”. The perils of posting after 11pm at night does that to people!!!!!!!

  13. You’re right about Real Jon, I don’t think they’ve ever ‘sullied’ the all-white kit with a change of shorts and socks, at Old Trafford in the Champions League they’ve worn the away kit due to Man United having white shorts and socks

  14. It’s the “holy grail”, in respect of John trying to track down a missing kit, Ciaran – not in terms of design.

    Also, I find it hard to believe anyone thinking the kit is an “epic fail”. It’s on the plain side – but it’s pretty much a standard football kit.

  15. Im aware of how rare the kit is and thats what John is trying to highlight but that for me doesnt detract how awful it looks.

    yellow with lines running across the shirt is never a good luck.a bit of an unwelcome glow from the kit.the sponsor is a bit too big for my liking and very near the crest.

    also i dont understand why patrick placed its logo on the sleeves.they did this with derby county in the early 80s aswell.its not as if there wasnt room on the front of the jersey.

  16. The kit may be rather pedestrian in design, but before the boom of the football shirt replica market, such rare change kits were never sold at retail and just served as necessary, functional items.

    These days we take rare kits for granted, because of the easy access to the mass media we have now. It was a different proposition entirely 23 years ago, especially as in this case the kit was used in a football tournament that hardly got a mention in the media, and was not used competitively because teams didn’t use a change kit unless it was absolutely necessary. Hence why this Sunderland kit is a bit of a holy grail because obviously John was told of the kit but spend a lot of time and effort tracking it down until he eventually found the proof of its existence.

    Myself, I’m trying to track down more info on a kit worn by Liverpool for one game in the 1960’s, when they played Ajax at home. As the home team had to change as per UEFA’s recommendations at the time, and both of Liverpool’s kits clashed with Ajax, they had to wear a completely different shirt colour, so they wore yellow. I found very grainy YouTube footage from a Dutch video clip and saw a black and white picture in a book, but all that I know is that it was “yellow”. I still can’t find any more info, and the older the rarity the harder it is to track down.

    Anyway, placing the manufacturers logos on the sleeves with the badge in the centre was a fad during the 80’s, usually from Patrick as well as Le Coq Sportif and Scoreline. I think manufacturers back then were unsure if putting the logo on the front would look right if the badge was centrally placed, so they “played safe” and put their logo on either sleeve.

    We all know this would change in the 90’s when the likes of Adidas and Umbro started putting their logo in the centre of the shirt above the badge, with the sponsor logo underneath, like a stack. Sleeve logos would disappear briefly but soon came back, much larger, especially on any shirt you see today made by an Italian sportswear company.

  17. I did try posting a reply but for some reason it didn’t show up…… hmm anyway yes that’s the kit Denis.

    I did recommend it to John for a Kit Cupboard article but I don’t think he got my e-mail.

  18. I found 2 photos of the game in a book, When Football Was Football: Liverpool. both were black and white, one was of 2 Ajax players and the Liverpool keeper, the other was very grainy but showed Ian St John. it appears the shirt had a black roundneck collar and black shorts.

  19. Thanks Andy – really appreciate your comment! I do all of my illustrations in Adobe Illustrator and finish them off in Photoshop. I keep meaning to add my entire archive of kits to the site but am struggling to find the time…maybe one day soon!!

  20. you also missed an Ipswich white third shirt from 1989. it was similar to the Chelsea and Everton away/third shirts at the same time. I always remembered the shirt but not in detail. recently my brother gave me a match dvd of the only time it was worn. it was worn on jan 1st 1989 at Oxford.

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