Ger-seys: A short history of Rangers’ kits from 1987 onwards – Part Three: The in-house years

In the third part of my blog looking at Rangers kit miscellany, we turn our attention to the four year period between 2002 and 2006 when the club manufactured their own playing kit.

2002-03

Manager – Alex McLeish. Kit Manufacturer – Rangers. Shirt Sponsor – Diadora/NTL

Home – Blue shirts, white shorts, black socks with red tops.

Away – Orange shirts with blue trim, blue shorts, blue socks with orange tops.

Third – White shirts, white shorts, white socks with blue and red tops.

If you’re nerdy about kits (and if you’ve found your way to reading this, then there’s a good chance you are,) then you might have looked at Rangers’ three new strips in the summer of 2002 and thought ‘hmm, they don’t really look like Diadora kits.’ If you did, then you’d have been right.

Lots of businesses make decisions each week on whether they should continue delivering key parts of their business themselves, or whether they should pay someone to do it for them. An example is transport; a manufacturer may analyse the costs of shipping their wares to their customers, and decide that the cost of maintaining their own fleet of vehicles and paying drivers’ wages is less effective than simply paying a haulage contractor to do it all for you. That’s outsourcing. Sometimes the converse might be true, where bringing the operation back in-house represents an increase in costs in some areas, but you’re able to offset them against other parts of the business, and you have full control again.

Sometimes the benefits and disadvantages are little more intangible. It’s like when you want your house painted and decorated; you can pay a professional £500 and they can do it in 3 days, or you can do it yourself, only paying for the paint, and you don’t have strangers in your house, but it takes you three months to finish the job.

Football clubs face the same decision-making process with parts of their operation; whether to outsource or not. Commonly, big clubs seem to outsource catering, because there are a lot of catering specialists out there – it’s relatively straightforward to start up a business that deals with the vending of hot and cold snacks once a fortnight. It’s low risk and low value for the club, but at least it gets it off their portfolio and potentially reduces overheads.

On the flip side, the production of kit has almost always been outsourced because designing, developing, and manufacturing performance athletic wear is a bit more specialised than selling a pie. That’s being slightly facetious, but I think it’s broadly true. The football shirt that you see on display in a high street shop is the result of contributions from graphic designers, textile designers, pattern makers. It’s been subject to all sorts of testing, how it looks under floodlights, how effectively it wicks sweat, how well does it repel rain, does it give the wearer runner’s nipple? Is it fashionable, does it dovetail neatly enough with the club’s history?

This does generally require suitably experienced and trained professionals. The biggest suppliers have arguably the best designers, and will factor this cost into the bids they make to clubs, who don’t really have much of a choice but to outsource given that they don’t have access to the required specialist expertise and manufacturing bases.

That hasn’t stopped some teams from designing their own kit though. There are numerous examples of clubs doing so, one of the more notable examples being Leicester City’s Fox Leisurewear, whose kits the Filbert Street outlet wore for eight years in the nineties.

As mentioned in the previous instalment, a graphic design student, on placement with the club, had apparently had some input into the 2001-2002 kit (although to what extent this was debated,) with the student observing that David Murray was ‘pleased with her work.’ Perhaps this set pins tumbling in the mind of the steel magnate. Rangers already owned a chain of retail outlets, the Rangers Megastores, with branches at Ibrox, in Glasgow, Paisley and Belfast. They had their own telesales arm, and they evidently felt they could source a competent designer inexpensively enough. All they needed then was someone to manufacture the kit, and the club could cut the middleman (Nike, or Adidas,) out of the picture. The costs might be higher, but the profit margins would be gigantic, and they’d all go into the club’s coffers.

According to a Sunday Mail article in April 2001, the club were already considering producing their own kit. By November of the same year, a break clause in the deal with Nike had been exercised, with David Murray noting in an interview with the Herald that “by producing our own strip we’ll maybe sell a third fewer than the 600,000 Nike sold nationwide for us under our previous deal, but the profits will go to us instead of to retailers.” It’s not entirely clear if Murray was intimating that fewer shirts would be sold because kit manufacturers had better distribution avenues, or because the products would be less fashionable, or potentially of a lower quality design and manufacture.

However, as ever with Rangers kits, things weren’t that clear cut. The day after the Daily Record ran a story about the new strips in January 2002, the Sun published a fax purportedly from Rangers ‘clarifying’ some of the points. Notably, it stated that the club wouldn’t actually manufacture the kit themselves but a ‘third party specialist’ would do so on their behalf, which appears to rebut the Record’s claim that David Murray’s Carnegie Sports International had been awarded a contract. However, a month later the Mirror insisted the English-based Dewhirst Group would make the strips, a claim which certainly seems to check out; as of December 2017, Dewhirst’s website listed ‘Glasgow Rangers’ as one of their clients. Rangers’ annual report, issued with their accounts in September 2003, observes that ‘manufacturing continues in a Nike approved factory, which also produces replica shirts for Manchester United and Barcelona.’

Regardless of who designed and actually made them, the new strips were launched shortly afterwards, in April 2002. They would certainly make an impact.

Home

The kits were, as had perhaps been lampshaded by David Murray, less sophisticated garments than those served up by Adidas and Nike. They carried on the Advocaat tradition of V-neck collars (the Dutchman was still nominally Director of Football at the club by this stage); it would be another 3 years before the outfield players would don some other type of neckline.)

The royal blue home shirt featured a Johnny collar. Johnny collars, essentially a combination of a V-neck and a wing collar, were first introduced into football’s design vernacular in the late 1970s, and while prone to drifting in and out of fashion remain popular to this day – Northern Ireland’s 2018 kit features one. The wrap over V-neck part was contrasting white, while the wing element was body blue with a red line offset from the edge. Wedge-shaped, body-coloured breathable panels appeared under the arms, lined with red piping at the front edge; arcing armscyes made an appearance on all three outfield shirts. Shirts of this pattern are said to have raglan sleeves, after the 1st Baron Raglan. Apparently he, or someone on his behalf, had devised the raglan sleeve following the loss of his arm at Waterloo (the battle, not the station,) as the larger armholes made it easier for him to put jackets and coats on.

The unique selling point of the home shirt was that it featured a repeating graphic comprised of the lion from the club crest, in various sizes and positions, and a modulating halftone effect woven into the fabric itself. Supporters were told that each jersey would feature a singular and unique manifestation of the graphic pattern, and so no two shirts would be alike. I suspect that it was cheaper and more efficient to simply cut the shirt’s pattern at random, rather than ensure the designs aligned perfectly for each jersey, as the similarly complex Adidas design of 1994-96 had.

And that was essentially all there was to the shirt. The RFC monogram appeared on the left breast, and tellingly, the RFC crest could be found on the inside of the neck where the manufacturer’s logo traditionally appears. Football authorities normally allow kit manufacturers to place their marque on the strips they make, within certain parameters, and their emblem is usually found on the right breast of the shirt. As Rangers were ostensibly the manufacturer, they hit upon the cunning wheeze that they could ‘rent out’ the space. In their March 2002 piece linking Dewhirst to the manufacturing of the kit, the Mirror also claimed the Italian sportswear manufacturer Diadora had agreed to pay Rangers £1 million per year just to have their logos on the kits and attendant leisurewear.

The shorts were also of traditional construction, white with blue horizontal piping an inch above the hem, and still a slightly shorter cut than contemporary fashion dictated. The socks continued the theme, being a thoroughly respectful interpretation of the traditional black with red tops, incorporating the monogram in white on the shin.

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Rangers 2002-03 home shirt detail

Away

While the home kit was nothing to write home about, the away kit would inspire dozens of angry words, letters, and articles.  The club had apparently engaged with 3000 fans via focus groups to consult on the concepts for the new kits. The home and the all-white third strip were traditional enough, and uncontroversial. The away…well, it was orange.

There are a number of clubs throughout the world football who are associated with a particular group of society, be it economic or political – these associations can date from the time of the clubs’ formation, and might not necessarily be representative any more, but their spectre lingers on. Boca Juniors and River Plate, Sevilla and Real Betis, St. Pauli…these clubs have traditionally drawn their support from certain socio-political groups.

Rangers and Celtic are potentially unique in world football in that their supports have been traditionally delineated by politics, and religion, and by extension, social standing. I don’t want to digress too much into analysing this element of the west of Scotland’s culture, because that’s a five-part blog in itself, but I do think a bit of a recap by way of background is helpful.

People with a passing knowledge of the Old Firm rivalry, even within Scotland, probably delineate the two clubs followings along the following lines – Rangers fans are right wing, Conservative leaning, Loyalist, Unionists, Protestants, voted ‘No’ in the Independence referendum, while Celtic fans are left wing, Labour voting, Nationalists, Catholics, voted ‘Yes’. And that’s true, to an extent, although like the examples mentioned above, it was probably truer in the early 20th century than it is today. It’s probably fair to say that your modern-day Rangers or Celtic fan probably doesn’t quite fit in with the stereotype formed for them, even by other Glaswegians.

At the same time, many Rangers fans do strongly identify with Protestantism, Unionism, and Loyalism, and Protestantism, Unionism, and Loyalism have connections to both the Dutch King William of Orange, and the Orange Order, and the Orange Order is a controversial organisation in Scotland. Virtually any other club in Scotland (well, maybe not Celtic…) could adopt an orange away kit and no-one would bat an eyelid, but the connection between Rangers supporters and the Orange Order led to the shirt being decried as sectarian on the day of its unveiling. For their part, the club described the colour of the kit as being ‘tangerine’, rather than orange, which didn’t make a lot of sense given that the retail director stated the colour was in tribute to the Dutch contingent at the club.

Despite its controversial colourway, the kit itself was fairly perfunctory. Following roughly the same construction pattern as the home and third shirt, it had an orange v neck collar that switched to blue where it intersected with the arcing armscyes.

The breathable panels at the sides of the jersey were also contrasting blue, while the Diadora logotype, the RFC monogram, and shirt sponsor were all picked out in white. There was a slight deviation from NTL’s branding on the home shirt here. While it probably seems a bit absurd today for a home entertainment provider to specify that you can acquire both digital TV and broadband from them, back in the early 2000s, this was quite a new thing. Thus, the home shirt’s branding was altered from the previous iteration’s ‘ntl:’ to read ‘ntl: home digital TV’, while the away and third shirts read ‘ntl: home Broadband’.

The shorts were variants of the home shirts, replacing white with blue and the blue piping with orange, and the socks were simple blue affairs with orange turnovers.

In October 2002, the Sunday Herald ran a story claiming the orange strip would be retired at the end of the season, and quoted a club spokesperson that this was a ‘commercial decision, not based on politics.’ Continuing, she said ‘we change the shirt every season with new designs to try to make it new and fresh.’ The kit did make two more appearances before heading to the great laundry hamper in the sky though, away to Kilmarnock in December, and unusually, a cameo in the Scottish Cup final.

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Rangers’ controversial 2002-03 away kit

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It was a very orange shirt (dust model’s own.) Note the blue tape trimming the cuffs of the long-sleeves, not present on the short-sleeved version.

Third

Rangers weren’t shy about admitting the point of producing their own kit was to generate revenue; David Murray had also observed that to generate revenue they had to shift more units, so in that context it makes sense that a third kit was introduced (well, it was unlikely to be for any potential clashes against teams wearing orange and blue.) Like its fellows it was a simple affair, predominantly white, down to the V-neck. While most V-necks are trimmed with colour at the free edge, this one had a thin strip of red material at the seam with the shirt. Otherwise, only the blocks of red and blue at the bottom of the sleeves gave it any sort of individuality. Like the home shirt, body-coloured breathable panels were featured at the sides.

The block motif was repeated at the sides of the shorts, at the hem, and the white socks were topped with turnovers formed of blue and red hoops, with all logos rendered in blue.

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Rangers 2002-03 third kit, Scottish Cup Final variant

Goalkeeper

Stefan Klos was once more the club’s first choice goalkeeper, playing in all 50 matches. In the last couple of years of the Nike deal, Klos had taken to wearing mainly black or sky blue, and these colour options were retained when the club started making its own kit, with a red jersey also thrown into the mix. Der Goalie and his custodian colleagues would mainly wear shirts in red, black, or sky blue in each annual template over the next four seasons.

The three shirts followed a similar pattern to, and were not dissimilar in form from, their outfield cousins: a standard collar type, arcing armscyes, and breathable panels at the sides of the body. But there were enough variants on the basic template to distinguish them aside from the colourways.

The black variant, ostensibly the first choice as it was worn the most often, was the simplest. It was a bloc of pure black, with only the crest and logos being a different colour – pure white in this case.

The red shirt surrendered a little more of its detail and its further design commonalities with the outfield shirts. Its collar was not a uniform black polo; a clerical collar effect was created by the portion between the two armscye seams being body-coloured. Additionally, a small band of black material continued unabated next to the neckline seam, not unlike the third kit. The body itself (and the arms) featured the same halftone/lion graphic of the home shirt, as well as the contrasting side wedge panels of breathable material also found on the away kit. Like the black shirt, the crest and logos were white.

The lesser-spotted sky blue version, meanwhile, featured a little more detail still. Red featured on the border between the black side panels, and on the collar arc, with the rest of the collar being black. All three jersey were available with both Digital TV and Broadband branding to match the outfield shirt being worn. Klos preferred to wear the black jersey, even in the two home games against the navy-wearing Dundee when his outfield colleagues changed to their alternative sets.

Miscellanea

In terms of kit mash-ups (copyright Denis Hurley), 2002-03 was a fairly quiet season with only a handful of variant kit combinations (10%, compared with an average of 28% per season between 1997 and 2006 *pushes nerd glasses up bridge of nose*.) In fact, from August to October of 2002 the club went on a run of 13 games without wearing a single alternative item of kit, the longest streak for five years, which they promptly bested in the second half of the season, failing to tinker their tailoring for 16 games.

That said, there was still opportunity for some oddness. Of the three occasions the orange strip was worn, one was at Ibrox, against Dundee. This would prove to be a semi-regular occurrence against Dundee in the early noughties, as the Taysiders adopted an Argentina-inspired sky and white away strip to go with their navy home kit. The third strip saw more action, worn four times, all against…Dundee, although in the January 2003 match, it was inexplicably paired with the home shorts. Equally, the May 2003 meeting at Dens Park saw Rangers wear the third strip with the bespoke white socks with blue tops that they’d worn a few times with the home kit that season. For some reason. I’m really not sure why.

Those white socks, in the same style as the home socks, and along with a complimentary blue-with-white-turnover set introduced the following year, would see action almost every season between 2002 and 2013, and the white set would appear as recently as July 2016. Usually (but not always) they were worn in European competition, but oddly they would sometimes be worn even in seasons where white socks formed part of an away or third kit.

As far as squad numbering and lettering goes, the SPL had introduced a mandatory uniform font for in 1999, and this typeface would remain in place until 2010; by and large this was what you would see on the back of Rangers’ own brand shirts.

There were the odd exceptions however, where the club might appear in jerseys with a different lettering font, in a style very similar to that worn on occasion during the Nike years, and/or unbranded SPL numbers. In terms of shirt identifiers , the club would follow a fairly set, if typically strange pattern, as follows:

League: SPL letter and number font, squad numbering in all matches.
Domestic cups: SPL numbers, own brand font and squad numbering in early matches (occasionally 1-11), SPL letter and number font and squad numbering up to final, SPL letter and number font and 1-11 numbering in finals.
European competition: Own brand font and unbranded SPL numbers.

The club won the treble that season, and for their two Hampden finals there was some unusual apparel. In the League Cup final, against Celtic, they decided to switch to red shirt numbers outlined in white. They also ditched the squad numbers for 1-11 with names instead; clearly this was at the club’s discretion, as Celtic retained their squad numbers.

1-11 numbering was also in place for the Scottish Cup final against Dundee in May, with the exception that it was the third kit worn. Curiously, goalkeeper Stefan Klos wore the third shirt in that final, along with his regular black shorts and white socks. He wouldn’t be the first or last Rangers goalkeeper to wear an outfield shirt in goal, but I’m not entirely sure why the need to change was felt. It would be the controversial kit’s last competitive appearance.

As there was a period of strange tranquillity this season regarding kit variations, so too were the squad numbering changes few and far between. A few big players left (Kanchelskis, Vidmar, Flo, Dodds, Latapy) without any notable replacements coming in, save the young Spaniard Mikel Arteta, who took the 23 shirt vacant since Kenny Miller departed the previous December. Meanwhile, the young pair of Bob Malcolm and Allan McGregor took numbers more befitting of first team players, moving from 31 to 12 and 33 to 22 respectively.

Competition patch-wise, the SPL changed their patch from rectangular to oval. As Rangers had finished second in the league the season before, they wore the standard navy versions rather than the Champions’ gold. The SPL patch appeared in all 38 league games, the early rounds of the League Cup, and the middle rounds of the Scottish Cup.

In the League Cup semi-final and final, CIS Cup patches were worn, and a similar case prevailed in the Scottish Cup final. Rangers’ European adventures didn’t last very long this season, consisting of a brace of matches against the Czech side Viktoria Žižkov, The jerseys were bereft of patches in both these games, as they were in the third and fourth rounds of the Scottish Cup.

Several of the big name players from the Advocaat era departed in the summer of 2003, which meant some changes to the squad numbering. Shota Arveladze slipped down from 24 to 7, vacated by Claudio Cannigia.

Kit Type Matches Used
Home 39
Home alternatives 4
Away 3
Away alternatives 0
Third 2
Third alternatives 2

Table 1 Rangers kit combinations, 02-03

2003-04

Manager – Alex McLeish. Kit Manufacturer – Rangers. Shirt Sponsor – Diadora/Carling

Home – Blue shirts, white shorts, black socks with red tops.

Away – Red and white striped shirts, blue shorts, Red socks with white tops.

Third – White shirts, white shorts, white socks with blue and red tops.

Background

On the morning of 24th May 2003, Rangers fans might have opened their Saturday newspaper and found a picture of Barry Ferguson, Bob Malcolm, and Ronald de Boer smiling back at them, kitted out in the in club’s new home strip.

It probably wasn’t great timing. Any other week, rather than on the eve of the club’s biggest match for four years might have found supporters in a more receptive mood. The following afternoon, Rangers would play Dunfermline Athletic at home on the last day of the season. In the 9-in-a-Row era, this type of game would have been little more than a kickabout in the sun, a chance to play some promising young players and to parade the Championship trophy. Over the intervening 5 years though Celtic had got their act together and were now proving to be more than a match for Rangers. After going nearly a decade without a title, they’d won the league in 1997-98, 2000-01, and 2001-02, and on that particularly gorgeous day the old rivals would go into the last round of SPL fixtures neck-and-neck, on the same number of points and with the same goal difference. The league title would be decided by which team got the better result on the day, but in order for Rangers to secure the Championship, they not only had to match Celtic’s result, they had to at least match their score.

Celtic beat Kilmarnock 4-0 at Rugby Park, but a 90th minute penalty from Mikel Arteta saw Rangers better Celtic’s goal difference and secure their 50th domestic league title, the first club in the world to do so. And then someone in marketing put their thinking cap on to work out how the club could commemorate it…

Home

Between the kit being launched and being worn competitively, the club had decided to commemorate their 50th title by adding 5 stars above the crest, one for each ten titles, akin to Serie A’s convention. The first iteration of the motif was a little gauche, with all the stars being the same size and plonked in a line atop the monogram and it would take a little time to settle down to a finalised version.

The home shirt adorned by this updated crest was a bit of a departure from its predecessor, having done away with the unfashionable collar and the complicated graphic print for a start. Collarless shirts had become de rigueur in the football world over the previous 5 years or so; the away kit of 2001-02 had featured one, but this was the first home shirt with a collarless neckline. It formed an interesting partnership with a set of raglan sleeves. Tucked into the right angle between the armscye and the white tape-lined v neckline on each side were two red triangular darts, joined by a red band of fabric that looped round the back of the shirt. Similar to the 01-02 away, this gave the impression from the back that the shirt had a red collar with white trim. The underside of each sleeve was of body-coloured breathable material, and red tape described their ends. The overall effect, with the collar ‘fangs’ was a shirt that had a passing resemblance to Manchester United’s home shirt, released the previous summer.

Shirt sponsor NTL’s parent company had filed for bankruptcy protection in the US the previous summer. Their joint sponsorship deal with the Old Firm clubs was due to expire in the summer of 2003 anyway, so perhaps it wasn’t a surprise that the telecommunications firm weren’t keen on renewing the arrangement. Rangers and Celtic instead struck a deal with the Canadian brewing company Carling, and would display their upwardly-slanting inverted parallelogram logo on their shirts for the next seven seasons. There was a bit of a twist here though; the Carling logo of the time featured red chevron-like flashes between the wordmark and its top and bottom, a colour that doesn’t really appear in either Rangers or Celtic’s colour schemes, so the chevrons appeared in blue and green on the club’s respective shirts instead. Well, for the first two seasons of the partnership with Rangers at least – Celtic retained the green flashes for the full seven years. Diadora returned as kit sponsor, their logo unchanged.

The shorts were very simple. In standard white, they had a lazy blue ‘s’ at each side, tapering from hem to waistband, red piping tracking the rear edge. They came complete with the monogram and Diadora logotype in blue.

The socks were interesting. I’ve written in the previous two parts about how designers struggle to resolve Rangers’ traditional look with contemporaneous trends, resulting in the Gers almost always ending up with identical black socks with red tops, and only minor cosmetic differences between each pair. This time something different was attempted. The strip worn on the launch day in May 2003 featured black stockings with red tops true enough, but in a dramatic break with tradition they also had red feet and ankles, and the monogram on the shin was blue. However, as far as I can tell, these socks were never worn in a professional game…well, not with the 2003-05 shirt anyway. Instead the club appeared to spend the next two years wearing the 2002-03 socks instead.

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Rangers’ 2003-05 home kit

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Rangers’ 2003-05 home kit, European variant

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Rangers’ 2003-05 home kit, ‘Everton’ variant

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Rangers’ 2003-05 home kit, ‘Chelsea’ variant

Away

The away kit was identical in pattern to the home, but in a different and unusual colourway for the club. The red faux collar and ‘fangs’ of the home were swapped out for white and blue respectively, and the blue body was replaced with red and white vertical stripes. Blue tape demarcated both the neckline and the ends of the shirt sleeves.

Normally the stripes on the sleeve of a shirt appear perpendicular to those of the body when the garment is laid out in a ‘T’ shape, so the sleeve stripes appear parallel to those on the body when the garment is worn. The sleeve stripes on this shirt however were laid out diagonally, making for a slightly strange effect, although they broadly appeared horizontal. If you squinted. The materials used in the away shirt were notably different to the home shirt though; while the latter was a traditional polyester fabric, the former was formed of red and white stripes of knitted polyester woven together. The bottom half of the each sleeve was made of breathable material, as per the home kit, but unlike the first choice, the ‘fangs’ were also of the same breathable fabric. The crest and Diadora logo appeared in blue, with the Carling logo in the same arrangement as on the home shirt.

The blue shorts were similar to the home set, if slightly different. A white contrast stripe ran almost straight, waistband to hem at each side, before deviating forwards halfway down. A red triangular wedge sat snugly in the resultant space, and the set was completed by a pair of red socks with white tops which gave the impression of a large degree of interchangeability with the home set. Typically, if there was any modular nature to the kits, the club didn’t use it all that often. However…

Winning the league the season before gave Rangers a decent crack at qualifying for the Champions League again. Aside from the first and last of the 8 game European campaign, an all blue kit was worn instead of the traditional outfit. Rangers have historically periodically worn all-blue in Europe (it was Denis Hurley’s Museum of Jerseys piece on the all-blue 96-97 strip worn against Ajax that inspired this blog in the first place) but it wasn’t until the early noughties that the club seemed to embark on developing a ‘European kit’, a concept that’s been used by Manchester United (Red shirts, white shorts and socks,) and Tottenham Hotspur (all white.) In fact, in 45 European matches in which the home shirt was worn, from July 2000 to March 2006, the rest of the kit was all blue on 11 occasions, with black socks and white socks worn with the blue shorts once each.

Third

The previous season’s white third kit was retained, perhaps because the club realised how daft a red and white striped away kit was when the only time you wore an away kit was because your opponents wore blue and white stripes. The sponsor was updated to a blue chevroned Carling logo, and the 5 star motif appeared over the monogram. Rather than upgrade the shorts as well, the club appeared to take the practical decision to wear the home shorts, which had the star motif, instead. Well, that’s what the logical centre of my brain had assumed for the otherwise incongruous reason to never wear the correct third shorts. When Denis sent me through the illustration of the 2003-04 third kit arrangement, I nearly replied to him pointing out his error, then I thought I had better double check…and lo and behold, neither the home nor away shorts featured the star motif. The decision to go with the 5 stars had apparently been something of a spur of the moment decision in June 2003, but evidently the club had decided not to order any sets of shorts with the new crest on them.

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Rangers’ 2003-04 third kit

The white socks with the red and blue turnovers were mercifully (if only for the sake of my sanity) retained however, and even saw duty with the away kit in the second of its two outings. Used only twice competitively, the Atletico Madrid-style outfit didn’t even last a full season. Its successor was introduced in the last home game of the season against Hearts, Rangers taking to the Ibrox turf (for the third time domestically in two seasons) wearing a change outfit.

As the ‘in-house’ kit design arrangement continued, the offerings seemed to get more and more simplistic and reductive. This new away kit was white, had a collarless v-neckline with blue tape, and a red and blue sash sloping from right shoulder to left hip. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. No graphics, no fancy trim, no oxter vents. Apart from the usual collection of logos, there was nothing to distinguish it from any other blue-trimmed shirt. The monogram was also slightly modified with the placement of the 5 stars tweaked to better integrate them with the crest in the ten months since their hasty introduction. For a start, they were now a contrast colour, appearing in red opposed to the letters’ blue, and instead of appearing plonked in a line atop the monogram, they were now arranged in an arc around their counterparts. It’s not entirely clear from the execution on the shirt, but the stars decreased in size from the central pole star outwards.

For the first time since the Nike days, an authenticity tab appeared on the bottom right of the shirt, comprising of a crest commemorating the 50 league wins, and next to it, housed in a separate blue field, a small hologram.

The shorts and socks were perhaps more notable, if only for circumstance rather than design. While Dick Advocaat had certain mandates that had to be observed in terms of kit design, since he left to manage the Netherlands, his influence over the playing kit was understandably beginning to wane a little. True, the shirt still had a V-neck, but the shorts, unfashionably skimpy for the best part of five seasons, were beginning to grow in length long after it had become fashionable, much like George Martin’s hair in the seventies.

The new away shorts were long and blue, with two 3cm contiguous red and white stripes at each side. They don’t sound out of the ordinary, and they looked fine in the press call, but in an actual match situation they looked a bit like a pair of boxing trunks, the cut too voluminous and the side stripes appearing to dominate the garment. It’s probably not surprising that the shorts were never seen again, with the home shorts being paired with the away shirt whenever it was required.

The socks were plain white, aside from a red and blue stripe, recalling the motif on the shirts and shorts, on the shin just under the turnover (and not dissimilar to a Diadora design conceit of the time.) Unusually, these socks were (okay, not unusually, this is Rangers,) not worn very frequently, only appearing in 3 of the 7 matches their parent shirt was worn in.

Goalkeeper

Traditionally, Rangers’ goalkeeper had worn a yellow jersey, and had maybe a red spare in case of a clash. This was broadly the case up until the early-90s when goalie shirts across the world exploded into a cacophony of colour and geographic shapes, looking like the proverbial explosion in a paint factor (or if someone had paused a VCR playing any scene containing Unicron’s innards from Transformers: The Movie.) In the last 90s however, the shirts worn by custodians started to get more reserved again. In Rangers’ Nike era, the colours black or navy, sky blue, and red became the favoured colours for keeper kits, a convention that would remain in place until the Umbro years proper from 2006 onwards.

In keeping with the first year’s in-house efforts, Stefan Klos’ new set of shirts were similar to the outfield shirts – did this represent design consistency, or lack of ideas? Each featured an interesting variation on the age-old goalkeeper’s polo neck though; ostensibly a knitted collar with a contrast stripe around the free edge, and two contrasting ‘fangs’ at each side breaking the collar’s complete circle.

The navy and sky variants complimented each other by each utilising a third shade of blue roughly that sat between the two main tones. This mid blue was present on the collar trim and fangs of the navy shirt, while it only appeared as collar and cuff trim on the sky jersey, navy being used for the collar and fangs. A set of navy shorts trimmed with mid blue tape at the leg hem were available, and matched both shirts, as did a pair of navy socks. A red shirt with black fangs, and black shorts were also available. The navy version would be the one to appear most often that season.

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Miscellanea

While 2002-03 had been unusually placid in terms of weirdness, this season saw things start to get a bit freaky again. Rangers wore four outfield shirts during the season, only the second occasion they’ve done so in recent times. Seven combinations of shorts and socks were paired with the four shirts, with the most common alternative being the European all-blue strip. White socks also made an appearance with the home shirt and shorts on three occasions.

Rangers made the semi-final of the League Cup, but there was no repeat of the 1-11 numbering that had occurred in similar situations in recent seasons. The elegant SPL font continued to be used domestically and in European competition; white with black borders for the home shirt, black with white borders for the away and third, and blue with a white inset border for the new away.

The oval SPL sleeve patches were updated to the gold-detailed ‘Champions’ versions. The Champions League Starball patch was worn in the group stages of that competition, and the CIS Cup patch appeared in the semi-final loss to Hibernian. However, the club also turned out in four matches without any competition markers on the shirts at all – the two Champions League qualifiers against Copenhagen, and two early League Cup ties against Forfar and St. Johnstone. The latter two occasions don’t appear to have been anything to do with the Scottish Football League, who ran the League Cup – it was just one of Rangers many kit peccadilloes.

On the squad numbering font, Shota Arveladze switched from 24 to 7, and Chris Burke continued his route from Academy to first team as he swapped 30 for 17. Similarly, Alan Hutton bounced down from 32 to 20 as the club continued its philosophy of youth team players approaching zero season on season.

Kit Type Matches Used
Home 38
Home alternatives 9
Away 1
Away alternatives 1
Away 2 1
Away 2 alterantives 0
3rd 2
3rd alternatives 0

Table 2 Rangers kit combinations, 03-04

2004-05

Manager – Alex McLeish. Kit Manufacturer – Rangers. Shirt Sponsor – Diadora/Carling

Home – Blue shirts, white shorts, black socks with red tops.

Away – White shirts with a red and blue sash, blue shorts, white socks.

Third – Red shirts with navy trim, navy shorts, navy socks.

Background

As, for the first time in four seasons the club retained the home kit for a second season, and the away kit had already been introduced at the tail end of the previous season, there was only one new outfield outfit to be launched.

Third

Adopting a white away kit meant that the existing white third shirt was redundant, and with the 2003-04 red and white away kit not really fit for purpose as an emergency option (although to be honest, when has ‘fitness for purpose’ ever affected a club’s sartorial thinking?) a new red third kit was introduced.

If you’re nerdy about kits (and if you’re still reading this, then there’s a good chance you are,) then you might have looked at this new third strip in the summer of 2004 and thought ‘hmm, that looks like a Diadora kit.’ If you did, then you’d have been…well, you’d have been confused. Confused and angry. Maybe hungry.

Despite no-one other than my paternal grandfather being interested in football, my family have always done their best to enable my fascination with playing kit. It was my mother and grandmother who bought me my first kits (Rangers 85-87 away, Scotland 85-89 home, Rangers 87-90 home,) and it became a family tradition that I could expect to receive some form of Rangers kit as a Christmas gift from my mum.

So was the case at Christmas 2004 when I opened a package to find a pair of the 04-05 Rangers third socks. I’m always stockpiling football socks for my misadventures in 5-a-side, so gifts like these were always welcome, but what I particularly observed and filed away in my brain was the clear Diadora branding on the socks.

Clothing is a strange intersection of the creative parts of the human mind, encompassing industrial design, and art, but both disciplines strive to develop a voice, a brand, an identity. This is no less true for a company designing kit for Morecambe Town than it was for Charles Rennie Mackintosh. You only have to look at the Adidas’ legal battles with Admiral and the Irish firm O’Neill’s to see how fiercely a company will protect their brand identity once it’s established.

That’s mainly because creating some form of branding that is instantly recognisable, associated with your product, and easy to reproduce, isn’t that straightforward. It’s probably more complicated now with the sheer volume of companies, brands, and firms that have been established in the last century since graphic and industrial design came into their own.

Adidas have been using the three stripe device since 1952 and it’s probably the outstanding example of a brand and its branding becoming synonymous – the company even refer to themselves as ‘Die marke mit den drei streifen’ – the brand with the three stripes, in German. They didn’t devise the three stripes themselves, instead buying the intellectual property of the Finnish company, Karhu, but they clearly knew a good thing when they saw it.

Diadora’s attempt was to take a ‘D’ shape, and elongate it so it resembled a round-nosed bullet. Rotated 90 degrees, this ‘bullet’ appeared on Diadora’s shirts (on the outside of the sleeves, above the cuff,) on the shorts (above the hem,) and on the inside and outside edge of each sock. It might have been a relatively simple device, but it was instantly recognisable

With each element of the kit marked with Diadora’s brand identity, it was difficult not to parse the new third kit as an actual Diadora offering. The fact that it was almost identical to a template worn by both Leeds United and Sunderland further reinforced the suspicion that this wasn’t an in-house production.

It might be reasonable to surmise then that, similar to 96-97 and 97-98, Rangers had hurriedly commissioned a third kit to avoid colour clashes that hadn’t been anticipated, and didn’t have the in-house resources to design something from scratch. But this is where the plot thickens.

By this time, most kit manufacturers were printing the sizing information, country of manufacture, and their logo straight onto the inside back of the jersey, just below the neckline (it reduced the irritation caused by the old style flappy labels.) Diadora’s style at this time was to arrange their corporate information in three boxes, arranged in a 2×2 grid, the corners of the boxes rounded where they corresponded with the outside corners of the grid.

Inside the collar of the Rangers shirt however was the club logo, implying it was a Rangers product. In addition, the shirt had been introduced at a photocall in July, ahead of what tabloid newspapers might call a glamour pre-season friendly against Tottenham Hotspur, which doesn’t entirely support the proposition it was a rush-release job.

I think it’s fair to surmise that Rangers licensed the use of a kit template from their sponsor, which the club then produced themselves, which explains the Diadora design and the Rangers logo. But the question remains why they felt the need to go to Diadora in the first place. Given the timescales, and what would come next season, the conclusion I’ve come to is that the club’s design and manufacturing arm were struggling with the demand of producing 6 new kits each season, and felt they had no option but to outsource the design and technical specification.

If they were struggling that much, could the club instead have developed a red version of the new away strip, with the red and white elements switched? It could have been teamed up with the existing away shorts and socks. Perhaps though the marketing department realised they needed something distinctive in order to sell units, and borrowing a design from Diadora was the only way to meet deadlines.

Regardless of the provenance of the strip, it was a fairly elegant effort, if only by the standards of the in-house designs. It was, as mentioned before idiomatic of Diadora’s designs at the time, with the ‘bullet’ flashes and the unusual approach to breathable material.

The patterns of football shirts had got steadily more adventurous as the decade had progressed, and the Diadora jersey offered a form of construction far more complicated than either of its stablemates. While the bodies of most leisure shirts consist of two pieces of material joined by a seam at the top of the garment, this Diadora shirt featured a yoke, not unlike a smart or dress shirt.

The yoke also bisected the collar, a twist on a variation of the standard collarless V-neck. Above the yoke seam, it was a simple navy tape-lined neck opening; below, there was a v-shaped insert, again navy, but with a gold bar across the top. All in all, this gave the effect of a single unbroken v, with the navy element ‘switching’ sides as it crossed the yoke seam.

The other characteristic Diadora twist was the placement of breathable material. While most manufacturers tender to place such fabric under the armpits or down the side of the body, The Italian kit maker’s approach was to build them into the body itself, in channels leading diagonally from the armpit to the hem, roughly tracing the line of…ahem…the milk line of mammals.

Channels is an apposite word, as the vents were long thin holes, with breathable material in a contrasting colour stitched behind. The outer material overlapped the inner panel, creating something akin to a dart, a tailoring seam used to create shape. While these vents had a function, they were also integrated into the design of the shirt, giving the shirt a Diadora-style twist.

In terms of colourway, the shirt itself was an attractive deep red, with the collar, vents, cuff tape and hem tape in navy. Navy was the main colour in the two sleeve mounted ‘bullets’, white being the other. The latter was also used to render the Diadora logo, while the Carling patch appeared with red chevrons, rather than blue, for the first time. A ‘Rangers’ patch, similar to the one on the away shirt, appeared near the hem, on the wearer’s right.

The shorts and socks were of simple construction, both being navy with red and white bullets in Diadora’s customary arrangement, on the hem at each side of the shorts, and under the sock turnovers.

Aside from the Rangers logo inside the neck, perhaps the only real difference between this and a Diadora-manufactured kit was the absence of the manufacturer’s 1-11 heat spots gimmick, a formation of 11 thermal sensitive heat spots that appeared on their kits at the top of the sleeves. Maybe the licence didn’t stretch that far.

Goalkeeper

Along with two new outfield kits, there were three new goalie shirts that carried on the duo-coloured stripe motif introduced by the away kit. The new jerseys adopted the red, sky blue, and navy/black template of the previous few seasons, but they were much more basic affairs. Each had traditional vertical armscyes, and a simple polo neck.

The black and sky versions both had matching blue collars and cuffs, trimmed with red, while the red version had black trimmed with blue. The sky shirt had a matching set of shorts, similar to the away kits, with sky and white stripes down the sides, while the red and black jerseys shared a pair of black shorts, trimmed with red and blue stripes.

Stefan Klos had started the season as first-choice goalkeeper, as he’d been for the previous six, but a serious knee injury in January ended his season. Going into the title run-in, and apparently unwilling to trust the 23 year-old reserve goalie Allan McGregor, Alex McLeish signed Ronald Waterreus instead on a short-term contract. The Dutchman did appear in the black, and sky 04-05 goalkeeper jerseys on at least two occasions each, but more often than not he wore a red 03-04 shirt instead.

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Miscellanea

While Alex McLeish’s appointment as manager had coincided with a period of relative stability in terms of strange kit combinations, by 2004-05, his third full season in charge, incidences of non-standard kit being work were beginning to creep up again – 14 examples in 51 games, comprising nine combinations across the three kits.

There weren’t as many variations on the home kit as there had been the season before, with the white shorts and socks and the all blue iterations appearing in six matches. 2004-05 also saw the return of the lesser spotted ‘Chelsea’ version (blue shirts, blue shorts, white socks,) worn against Maritimo away, in the first round of the UEFA Cup.

The away and third shirts also fell victim to excessive mixing-and-matching. For a start, the white shirt was never worn with its designated shorts, instead appearing each time with the home shorts, as the white third kit had done the season before. The correct socks were also barely seen, appearing twice, in September and December. In the away shirt’s four other outings, the 2002-03 third socks were used three times, and the white and blue set mainly used with the home, once.

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As for the third kit, it was worn twice, once as it was intended, and once with the home shorts and socks. Due to the lopsided nature of the SPL’s new fixture arrangement (12 teams played each other 3 times each, home and away, then after 33 games, the top and bottom 6 split off into ‘Championship’ and ‘Relegation’ groups and play a further five matches against teams in their mini-division,) clubs are no longer guaranteed an even number of home and away games against each team. So it was in 2004-05 that Rangers only played Kilmarnock away once, but Dundee away twice, though there’s no explanation for why the Gers wore the away shirt and the third shirt in each of those visits to Tayside.

There was some semblance of normality in terms of the competition patches worn by the club this season – the SPL logo adorned the shirts in all but ten matches. Two of those were the League Cup semi-final, which following the SPL split from the Scottish Football League, was run as a separate competition. The club also played four matches in the inaugural group stage format of the UEFA Cup, with their attendant patch, and in the four qualifying games, no patches were worn at all.

There were no significant changes on the squad numbering front; while a number of big name players had departed, a symptom of the ongoing rationalisation the cub was undergoing, they were replaced more or less like for like by a slew of canny new signings such as Jean-Alain Boumsoung, Marvin Andrews, Alex Rae, Nacho Novo, and the previous season’s losing Champions League finalist Dado Prso.

There was a slight tweak in terms of the squad numbering, but it was to do with the colour rather than any ranking oddities. As they had done in the 2003 League Cup Final, the home shirts were worn with red numbers and lettering outlined in white, a stylistic choice I’ve never quite been on board with. It doesn’t appear UEFA were either, as in each appearance in the UEFA Cup that season, the club switched back to white numbering (the away and third shirts weren’t used.)

Prior to 1994, embroidery on football shirts was by-and-large restricted to the strips worn by the professional players, with the logos on replica (the very word having connotations of ‘inferior copy’) kits being heat-sealed plastic. The first Rangers strip I remember having embroidered logos were the 1994-95 sets, and at that time the difference between the shirt the fans could buy and the one their heroes wore was virtually nil as computer-assisted machines reduced the cost of embroidery significantly.

There’s a line in the original Star Wars film where Han Solo languidly boasts that his ship, the Millennium Falcon can complete the ‘Kessell Run’ in “less than 12 parsecs.” A parsec however is a unit of distance not time, and since the film’s release there have been a few attempts at retrospectively explaining this apparent error. The most popular theory apparently comes from writer/director George Lucas himself – travelling at light speed requires careful navigation of star systems; black holes, asteroid fields and the like. Thus, the fastest ship is one that can plot the shortest route, rather than simply fly the fastest.

Whether you believe this or not, a similar approach applies to commercial embroidery – a machine carries out the stitching, but a ‘route map’ still has to be created, to tell the machine where to embroider. These maps are devised by humans, scanning the logo to be rendered into specialist software, then plotting the most efficient ‘route’ for the machine to stitch the logo in its respective colours.

There were however a few isolated incidences of Rangers players (Klos, Andrews, Boumsong, Ronald de Boer) turning out in shirts with logos sans-stars across 2004-06. This raises a potentially interesting question – had the club already produced a number of shirts when the decision was made to adopt the 5 star motif? Adding an element to an existing embroidered logo is time-consuming, but not impossible, and it does seem that’s what happened here, at least with the playing kit. That might also explain why the 2003-05 home, 2003-05 away/home alternative, and 2003-04 third shorts didn’t have the star motif.

Of course, another incident of shirts appearing without the stars around the crest was the League Cup Final against Motherwell, known to some as the Davie Cooper Final in tribute to the winger who had played for both clubs. For one match only, the stars would appear at the bottom of the left sleeve, with commemorative embroidery circling the crest, and the text ‘Davie Cooper, 1956-1995’ appearing on the right.

Kit Type Matches Used
Home 36
Home alternatives 7
Away 0
Away alternatives 6
3rd 1
3rd alternatives 1

Table 3 Rangers kit combinations, 04-05

2005-06

Manager – Alex McLeish. Kit Manufacturer – Rangers. Shirt Sponsor – Umbro/Carling

Home – Blue shirts, white shorts, black socks with red tops.

Away – White shirts with red central stripe, navy shorts, white socks.

Third – Navy shirts, navy shorts, navy socks.

Background

When Umbro and Rangers parted ways in 1990, the club were arguably one of the biggest in Europe, and the manufacturer were debatably the world’s best, creating some of the finest kits of the 80s and early 90s. By the time 2005 rolled around however, the pair were starting to look a shadow of their former selves. Not that the outfits Rangers would wear in the 2005-06 season were actually Umbro efforts; the club continued to produce their own strips, and Umbro had simply replaced Diadora as technical sponsor.

Commissioning a third kit from the Italian former partners the previous season suggested that the in-house design department was perhaps running out of ideas. Football kit aficionados like to complain about the number of near identical template kits the big manufacturers provide for each team they supply each year, but the truth is a little more complicated than that. Many of us would design our own fantasy kits when we were young; some of us still do. But an actual kit requires more development than simply jotting down some designs on a piece of paper. There’s technological development, of new sweat wicking fabrics, including how breathable panels might have an impact on how the kit it built, which impacts on the design. For a bespoke kit for a big client, a designer might then carry out in-depth research on the club’s history and kit past, to highlight any elements it can incorporate into the new design (and any it shouldn’t,) while ensuring the overall package adheres to the company’s current overall design strategy.

The kit would then be presented to the club, and possibly supporter’s representatives for approval. All of the above represents a substantial number of person hours, and you’d have to multiply that by the number of big teams each manufacturer supplies across the world. Adidas for example have to provide designs for dozens of teams across the top 6 leagues in Europe, plus the whole of MLS, as well as a score of international teams. Factor in the fact that many teams have 3 kits each now, plus goalkeeper strips, training gear, leisurewear, and you can see why templates are common in sport. It’s not a modern convention either; the only differences between the shirts the Netherlands wore while winning Euro ‘88, and Germany’s alternative worn during their successful World Cup 1990 campaign were the crests and the colourway. Otherwise they were identical.

So then were two of Rangers’ three new kits the same in terms of pattern, while the third merely similar, two sets of non-identical twins and a fraternal triplet.

Home & Away

I’ve previously written about the different types of collar football shirt designers tend to employ. For the first 120 years of the game, collared shirts of various forms were employed. The 80s saw the rise of the V-neck, the 90s the wing collar. Collarless shirts came into fashion in the early 00s, closely followed by hybrid collars, which were formed of a collar at the rear part of the neck, and a collarless portion at the front – a kind of football kit version of the mullet hairstyle, if you will.

Both the new home and away shirts featured a hybrid collar, a collarless segment at the front coupled with a short stand up element that ran around the back. This stand-up part was trimmed with white piping, which curved down to meet the red-taped neckline, subsequently flowing into the similarly white-piped arcing armscyes. Further white piping appeared in arcs that curled from the armpit down to the hem. Like the neckline, the sleeves were trimmed with red tape, an arrangement that carried through onto the white away shirt, but there the piping was picked out in navy. A broad single stripe was sublimated into the fabric down the middle of the front of the shirt; a slightly deeper blue on the home kit, contrasting red on the away producing an Ajax-style effect. Further detailing included red tape at the jersey’s hem, and a small authenticity panel at the wearer’s bottom right. This time around, the panel comprised of a Union flag and a Saltire, separated by a small silver bar that read ‘Rangers’. This device would feature on all three outfield shirts in the same location.

The shorts followed a reasonably simple pattern, all white with two red elongated triangles pointing downwards from the waistband, adjacent to the side seams.

By 2005, the stars motif above the logotype had completed its evolution into its final version; 5 stars arranged in an arc above the crest, decreasing in size from the central star outwards each way, and with the stars a different colour to the monogram. The crest was rendered in white with red stars on the home, and navy with red on the away.

In the first part of this blog, I mentioned how Adidas’ design identify had got a little confused during the 1990s as they bounced from the trefoil era through to the Equipment experiment. For a while in the late 90s they used their logotype only, a fashion followed by Reebok, Diadora, and Umbro.

Umbro changed their logo at least six times between 1992 and 2015; by 2005, they’d rotated from their iconic double diamond logo with wordmark underneath, to just wordmark, back to logo and wordmark, then to simply the double diamonds, a logo they’d display on the breast of the shirts they designed, with a tweak or two, until 2015. Of course, these Rangers kits weren’t Umbro designs, a point underlined by the manufacturer licensing only their logotype to Rangers, ‘Umbro’ appearing on the right hand side shirts’ front rather than the double diamond. More intriguingly, on the shirts worn by the first team, the Umbro wordmark was heatsealed on, a cheaper method of applying logos than embroidery, and a technique that had been phased out of use on replica kits, never mind player issue kit. By December, when the logos started peeling off the players’ kits on the pitch, the terraces reacted with bemused fury, although as they respond to almost any stimulus with bemused fury, it’s hard to pin down the logos as being the primary cause. And why were the logos heatsealed onto the kits anyway, particularly when the club crest was embroidered? Was it because the kit was designed and produced before the new kit technical sponsor partnership was sealed?

Elsewhere, Umbro’s fellow shirt sponsor Carling’s logo appeared with red chevrons, following the precedent set by the 2004-05 third strip, and that would be the way the brewer’s logo would appear on the away and third shirts, and all future Rangers kit. The club did turn out in two pre-season friendlies in Canada wearing shirt bearing the branding of Coors, with whom Carling’s parent company had recently merged.

The shorts were equally occamian (why isn’t that a word?) being simple affairs in white, with red darts depending down from the waistband at either side, and blue tape marking the hems.

Of course, socks were also part of the ensemble, and as usual, there was some kind of half-arsed fannying about with the time-honoured design. The pair launched with the kit, and worn for half the season, attempted to put a spin on the traditional black with red tops arrangement by including a broad vertical red stripe (echoing that of the shirt’s) down the shin, interrupted by a space for the customary white monogram. Despite being a decent, respectful attempt at doing something different, they were never seen again after the league game against Celtic in December 2005. After this time, any black and red stockings would be identical to the sets worn in 2002-2005.

In May 2005, Rangers had won the league after a dramatic last day of the season for the second time in three seasons. This gave the club a crack at qualifying for the Champions League once again, an opportunity they didn’t pass up for once. In both legs of the qualifying round against the Cypriot champions Anorthosis Famagusta, the team turned out in the now semi-familiar European outfit of all blue, with bespoke shorts and blue socks with white tops having been produced.

Surprisingly though, in the Champions League proper, Rangers mostly adopted their traditional first choice colours of blue shirts, white shorts, and black and red socks. The only exception to this convention were the home match against Inter Milan, when they wore all blue, the leg in the San Siro, when they wore all-white, and the game against Porto in Portugal (all-white again.)

When the 2002-03 kits were launched, there was talk of consultation with fans groups. Perhaps this explains why the club ended up with an orange away kit, an away kit with a sash, and then an England kit as an alternative strip. While again, like Protestantism and Loyalism, the level of Rangers’ supporters’ affinity might be overstated, it’s probably fair to say that a sizeable proportion of the Rangers’ support have a soft spot for the English national team.

At this period of time, the three lions were playing in a white shirt with navy trim and a red stripe down the left side of the front, coupled with the traditional navy shorts and white socks. Rangers’ new kit looked very similar, the red central stripe aping the offset version on the England shirt.

The navy shorts also gave off something of an England vibe, with a narrow vertical red stripe running down the left hand side, similar to the FA’s 2001-2003 kit. This red stripe motif was repeated on the turnover of the otherwise all-white socks. You wonder what new technical sponsor Umbro made of it all.

This choice of colourway did mean that only the socks were interchangeable with the home kit; similarly, only the home shorts really matched the away kit.

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Third

The third strip was no real help in the case of any kit clash, as the club plumped for an all navy affair in much the same template as its siblings. There’s not really much to say about this kit, apart from the fact it was navy; it was probably the least distinguished effort of the entire in-house era.

You could charitably describe the shirt as being a simplified version of the home and away template, but the only real similarity was the arced piping leading from the armscye to the hem. In short, the kit was navy, lacking a central stripe, with tape around the neckless collar, the arm hems, and the body piping being picked out in light blue. The Umbro logo was white, and the monogram was white and light blue.

The shorts also had light blue piping, picking out the outline of a ‘K’ without the stem at either side, and the socks had light blue trim at the bottom of the turnover, and a light blue monogram. Probably the most notable thing about this strip was that it was adopted for use as a goalkeeper shirt. While both Lionel Charbonnier and Stefan Klos had both turned out in outfield jerseys while playing in goal in singular matches for the Gers in the preceding seven years, here the third kit was worn in goal by three different goalies in at least 9 separate matches. Why that should be is unclear as the club had introduced three new goalkeeper shirts.

Finally, it might seem counter-intuitive to have a blue third shirt when the home jersey was blue, particularly when the white away kit wasn’t really suitable against Kilmarnock, but the navy was so much darker than the Gers’ and Kilmarnock’s home shirts that it proved more than adequate a contrast. This colour choice didn’t seem to sit well with UEFA however, as you suspect the third kit would have been worn against Porto away, rather than the away.

Goalkeeper

As had become the norm, the club ran up jerseys in three colour variations of a single template, in red, sky, and black. Being fundamentally a polo-necked jersey, this template wasn’t unlike the one worn the season before. There were a couple of twists to give it its own identity though.

The red and sky blue versions both had black collars, and black side panels that blossomed out from midway up the side seams before carrying on to the underarm of the jersey’s sleeves. The panels were outlined with then-fashionable reversed seams, where the complex stitching was displayed on the outside of the garment, rather than the inside.

Yet another template featuring raglan sleeves, the arcing armscyes on these jerseys were demarcated by 3cm thick black strips of material. And there’s more. While the bottom edges of this black strips terminated at the collar, the upper edges looped around and back down the other side, creating an island of red on the top side of the sleeve, and also creating the impression that the goalkeeper was wearing one of those shoulder holsters that American TV cops do (this was more or less before the event of GPS tracking harnesses in football.)

And that’s still not all. Modern football shirts quite often have their rear panel in two sections, with a horizontal seam running across the lower back area. So did these goalkeeper shirts, with the two sections delineated by another reversed seam; this one carried round on to the front of the shirt where it curved under the artichoke heart shaped side panels and down to the hem.

That’s all.

Matching shorts were available in the same template as the home shorts, with the white swapped out for black. Similarly, the sky blue jersey had its own black shorts with sky flashes, as well as black socks with sky turnovers.

The seldom-worn black affair was of the same template to the sky blue and red versions, the key differences being that fluorescent yellow trim was substituted for the ‘harness’ sections, while the collar remained black. It also had its own shorts, black with yellow flashes.

The red was used by far the most regularly, although as Ronald Waterreus continued as first-choice stickman during Stefan Klos’ injury lay-off, this should be surprising. Waterreus, you may recall, had expressed a preference for red during his brief cameo the season before, and would turn out in the colour on at least 24 occasions in 2005-06, half of his matches that season. The Dutchman would also appear to be the agitator behind the use of the 3rd kit as a goalie’s outfit. He first wore it in the game against Hibs in February and would don it more or less the rest of the campaign, apart from the April match away to Kilmarnock when his outfield colleagues were wearing out.

You may be dismayed to learn that the sock shenanigans spread to the custodians this season. In their defence, the only of their kits to have a clearly defined set of matching socks was the sky blue one…which were only worn once, as far as I can tell. The red shirt may have had a matching set, but if it did they were almost identical to the outfield set worn the previous season.

Things got a little more complex when the club entered European competition, and Waterreus switched to the same black and red socks with vertical red stripe the outfield players wore. Perhaps this was due to UEFA having stricter regulations around kit registration. The final Champions League group stage match against Inter Milan in December 2015 would be the last time black and red socks of any type would be worn by the goalkeepers, with a plain white set being worn in the remaining 20 games of the season.

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Miscellanea

I think one of the reasons I was so drawn to Museum of Jerseys’ Midweek Mashup feature is because, by-and-large, mashups don’t happen as much in Scotland as they do in England. While I’ve read on a couple of occasions stories of the home team in Scotland wearing white shorts and the away wearing black, or the home team changing in the event of a colour-clash, up until the mid-1990s, Scottish football had a very pragmatic (or bloody-minded) approach to kit management. Celtic would wear green-and-white hoops against the green-with-white-sleeved Hibernian. Rangers would wear blue against the blue-and-white hooped Morton.

However, up until 1992 south of the border, the Football League oversaw the matches of all 92 senior clubs and had a rule that shorts must not clash; this is still in force for the Championship, League 1, and League 2, but the Premier League has a slightly more relaxed approach to the issue. This is partly the reason why so many English teams have modern traditions around managing these secondary clashes. Manchester United for instance, along with their previously mentioned European strip, developed a notable ‘home alternative’ strip of red shirts, black shorts, and white socks. Arsenal and Leeds United on the other hand would simply change lock, stock, and barrel, and wear their away kits in the event of a short or sock clash.

There hasn’t been such a concern in Scotland, certainly within my lifetime. Shorts and socks clashed merrily down the years until the mid-1990s when clubs, referees, and the governing bodies started to realise that it would probably be a little clearer for everyone if the away team changed if there was at least a sock clash (shorts are still fair game, for now.) Indeed, from 1987 until 1994, there were around three instances of Rangers changing elements of their kit in 380 competitive games. After 1994, it became a lot more common, building up through the Advocaat era to a peak of 62% in the first half of the 2001-02 season (although how many of these changes were down to clashes is debatable,) before starting to calm down a little once Alex McLeish took charge in late 2001.

For some reason though, the variations began to creep in once again in McLeish’s second season and beyond, reaching a club season record high of 44% in his last term in charge. This is probably symptomatic of wider football cultural changes; UEFA and FIFA are more stringent about dress code than they have been in the past, and people with vision problems are more likely to be considered. In terms of fashion or football psychology, a single colour strip seems to be more desirable than a four-colour palette. Goalkeepers dress mostly now in solid blocks of one colour, rather than wearing the same socks and shorts as their outfield colleagues. From 1987 to 1994, Rangers didn’t wear all-blue once. From 1994 to 2006, they wore it on 16 occasions. All-white is much the same; no occurrences 1987 to 1994, 12 appearances from 1994 to 2006. They’ve also turned out in all navy a couple of times. These instances of monochrome strips significantly more in the period 2006 to date.

Perhaps it’s simply due to superstition in football and the law of diminishing returns. Incidences of mashups increased season on season for Smith (first spell,) Advocaat, McLeish, and McCoist; perhaps they were looking for any small advantage they could, and latched on to the psychology of kit colours. Walter Smith’s second spell is the only time a long-term managerial appointee has overseen a reduction in the number of kit combinations.

As such, it’s perhaps no surprise to see the club generating alternative kits; 9 combinations were worn across the three outfield strips in 2005-06, although that includes the bespoke blue alternative home shorts and two home alternative socks (blue and white & white and blue). In fact, it was as likely an alternative version of a strip was being worn as the actual version, and that’s not taking into account the two sets of home socks.

While the three strips were all pretty samey, Jimmy Bell found ways to mix things up. The home kit was worn in 5 different combinations, if you include the two different sets of red and black socks. The ‘Everton’ look of white shorts and white and blue socks returned, appearing ten times, while oddly against Dunfermline at home in October, the team ran out wearing the third socks from 2002-04, meaning they’d appeared in four separate campaigns. Not-quite Diadora socks combined with non-quite Umbro kit.

When the away shirt was required, the home shorts were preferred with the away socks, creating an all-white affair, resembling Ajax more than England. All-white alternatives had become a regular occurrence; since 2000, white shorts were combined with white shirts 24 out of the 34 times white shirts were worn, with 14 of those occasions representing a change from another colour (navy or blue.) In fact, I suspect if Falkirk hadn’t been wearing white shorts that season, we’d have seen all-white in all seven games the away shirt was used.

The club had also made a habit of occasionally turning out in the early stages of cup tournaments wearing jerseys without competition patches, a practice that again seems slightly unusual. There were no patches worn in either leg of the Champions League qualifier against Anorthosis Famagusta, nor in the League Cup third round match against Clyde. The Champions League starball appeared on the right sleeve of the shirts for all future European games, as did the golden SPL ‘Champions’ patch for all other domestic matches.

Shirt names and numbers were back to a sensible white with a black border for home, and third, with red with a white inset border used for the away. There were no notable changes in the squad numbering, although Sotiris Kyrgiakos moved from 16 to 14, presumably because the latter was luckier for him.

Kit Type Matches Used
Home 24
Home alternatives 18
Away 2
Away alternatives 5
3rd 2
3rd alternatives 1

Table 4 Rangers kit combinations, 05-06

Conclusion

Rangers’ performances wearing their off-brand kit were oddly mixed. They won the treble in the first season, 2002-03, then nothing the following season. A league and cup double was secured in 04-05, but the last season under both McLeish and the in-house kit saw the team finish 3rd in the league, but reach the last 16 of the Champions League, a notable achievement for a Scottish club in the modern era.

The own-brand years were an interesting experiment, a relatively uncommon attempt by a football club to bring their kit and leisurewear production in-house. However, as with other clubs who have tread a similar path, Rangers don’t appear to have found the approach sustainable (the longest in house operations I’m aware of are Leicester City, who made their own kits under the ‘Foxes Leisurewear’ marque from 1992 to 2000, and Southampton, 1999 to 2008.)

There are probably many reasons for this, most of which I’ve already mentioned. Researching, developing, designing, manufacturing, and distributing a football shirt from scratch isn’t that easy, and achieving the above and creating a fashionable, fit for purpose garment that your club’s fans are driven to buy is doubly hard. David Murray had conceded that the club probably wouldn’t sell as many units, back in 2001. There’s a reason medium and smaller clubs enter into agreements with licensed resellers of Adidas, Nike, and Puma kits; not only do there manufacturers have their own ready-established supply and production chains, their designs have a fashion value that cheaper, less-established brands can’t compete with. After thirty years, people are still happy to pay £50+ to buy jumpers and t-shirts and stroll about advertising Nike or Adidas because it conveys their status to other people, and football strips are no different.

This probably wasn’t helped by the quality of the design notably declining over the course of the four years. While the 2002-03 home kit was a reasonably bold departure, by the time we got to the 2005-06 third kit, there was nothing much to say about the shirt. It was navy blue.

It’s interesting looking back at the club’s accounts, filed at the time. 2003’s notes that over 429,000 kits were sold in season 2002-03, with ‘two new stores…opened…taking our number of permanent sites to thirteen.’ By autumn 2004, sales have dropped to 350,000, but another 3 stores were opened, including an outlet at Glasgow Airport. August 2005 reports the signing of the sponsorship deal with Umbro, and yet more new stores, but 12 months later, everything had changed.

Away from the kit, and off the pitch, the club was struggling with debt. While the Advocaat/Nike years had seen Rangers stake a place at Europe’s big table, the attempts to equal Celtic’s European Cup triumph had come at a high cost. Reported to be tens of millions of pounds in debt, every area of operations would have to be looked at to save money and generate income. You wonder if the Chief Executive Martin Bain mused if it would be more efficient to outsource the production of playing kit and leisurewear…

Notes

The first part of this series, covering Rangers’ kits from 1987 to 1997, was written in a very short timeframe, a visceral reaction to a sense memory inspired by Museum of Jersey’s piece on Rangers’ 1996 all-blue European kit.

When that piece was received well, I put a bit more thought into the follow up, did a bit more background research, and structured the essay a little better, and it took a little less longer to turn around.

For this third part, covering four seasons at the start of Rangers’ descent into financial basket-casery and sock madness, I quickly realised that the subject matter had become significantly more complicated, and as such demanded far more research and preparation. As the digital revolution continued, in theory there was far more information available about seasons 2002-2006 online than any previous campaign, but finding it wasn’t necessarily easy. Sports photographers, freed from the shackles of 36-exposure rolls of film, were shooting more and more individual images of players (particularly goalkeepers) than ever before, but the online filing by picture agencies for that era isn’t always great. Conversely, there also doesn’t appear to be much match footage available online, which may be due to the demise of the VCR. My local libraries would prove an invaluable resource, providing free access to regional newspaper archives.

I also took the decision to expand my base of research, completing my logs of kits worn by the club from 1987 right up to the present day, and also creating a database of kit manufacturers active in Scotland and England from 1990 to date. While this was an additional level of work, it did provide a level of comfort that I could quickly refer to other seasons and clubs, records, trends, and perhaps do a bit of foreshadowing. It should also make part 4 easier to research.

An increasingly demanding day job, three holidays (I know; the other half enjoys traveling to sunny climes almost as much as I enjoy being an inveterate nerd,) Christmas, and a protracted house move conspired to ensure that my free time to apportion to such research was limited.

I had completed an early draft by Christmas, but the 2005-06 element was incomplete. If I’m being honest, the overall piece was really badly written. There were some good ideas and I’m proud of some of the detective work I’ve done, but the whole thing just didn’t read very well, and at 12,000 words it needs to be relatively easy on the eye. I tried writing and editing on the train during my commute, but I found the small screen and limited functionality (compared to my laptop) made my writing even more fractured and compartmentalised.

I needed some time to sit down with the piece and find the critical path, the narrative thread. I managed to do that at Easter, beginning to break the back of the post, and more importantly to say what I wanted to say.

Thanks as usual go to Denis Hurley at Museum of Jerseys for his top quality illustrations (which are increasing in both accuracy and quality all the time,) additional research, and moral support when I was having my mid-blog crisis.

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Ger-seys: A short history of Rangers’ kits from 1987 onwards – Part Two: The Nike years

In the second part of my blog looking at Rangers kit miscellany, I’m going to focus on the period 1997 to 2002, a time when the club had a lucrative 5 year kit partnership with the American firm, Nike.

1997-98

Manager –Walter Smith. Kit Manufacturer – Nike. Shirt Sponsor – McEwan’s Lager

Home – Blue shirts, white shorts, black socks with red tops.

Away – White shirts with black trim, black shorts, white socks with blue tops.

While the remuneration the club received from its existing kit contract with Adidas could barely be described as paltry, David Murray had closed a deal with Nike to produce Rangers’ kit and leisurewear in 1995, and was quick to publicise the benefits it would bring to the club at the AGM in October of that year. He wasn’t wrong (for once.) Looking to expand their share of the burgeoning European soccer replica market, and achingly fashionable, Nike offered bumper amounts of cash and cachet that the slightly rudderless mid 90s Adidas perhaps couldn’t. Despite having grown into one of the largest sportswear manufacturers in the world in the early 80s, Nike hadn’t fully diversified into football playing kit. Like their German arch rivals, they’d started off producing running shoes before realising there was capital to be made in kitting teams out from the ankles upwards as well. While their logo appeared on the sleeve of the 1979 Portland Timbers home shirt, this was simply advertising – Barbalan made the kit. Nike did however produce the club’s away kit that season; fitting, as the Timbers are their local team.

Examples of European Nike football kits are few and far between in the 80s. They made their continental debut with Sunderland’s 1983-86 outfit which was again a case of them supporting their nearest team, as they’d opened a UK head office in the Wearside town in 1982. A smattering of deals with unusual teams followed (Kuopion Palloseura, AIK Solna, Cambridge United, Beveren,) before they landed their first big contracts in 1989 with the French pair of Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain. A famous ten-year tryst with Borussia Dortmund followed in 1990, but by 1996 the brand still had only a handful of kit supply contracts Europe-wide. Of the 98 teams in the big five leagues, they were the technical partners of 4 teams (by 2017, that number had reached 20.) In the mid-90s Rangers were still featuring regularly at Champions League level, so it was a good deal for both Nike and the Scottish champions.

Months of hype followed the announcement before the kits were finally revealed in the summer of 1997. And a neat set they were too. The technical term used in sewing to describe the plan that informs how a piece of clothing is assembled is the ‘pattern’, distinct from any graphical devices. Clothing is constructed by cutting cloth to match a paper or cardboard template, known as a pattern, which is then sewn together to create the garment. Both new kits were identical in terms of pattern, with only use of colour serving to differentiate. Each had a collar that was more or less identical to the previous year’s home shirt – a contrasting wing collar that was joined at the front centre of the neckline by a body-coloured triangular piece of material. Matching cuffs also appeared.

The home shirt was a slightly darker shade of royal blue than the 96-97 jersey, and Nike introduced a wide chest band in even deeper blue, topped with a narrower red line. This chest band housed the shirt sponsor (McEwan’s once more) and continued onto the underside of the sleeves and the back of the jersey, but it didn’t form a complete hoop (thankfully.) Instead a gap was left for shirt numbers. While the FA Premiership had switched that summer to a regulated font for all its clubs, the Scottish top flight teams would carry on with their own typesets for another two seasons. Rangers used the same number font that Arsenal had carried on their Nike shirts for the previous three seasons, being a standard variation of the 80s block numeral with an inset border. The home numbers were white with a red border while black with a white border featured on the away. Neither number set featured the Nike swoosh as the Arsenal kits had however. While the club wore shirt numbers and squad names in the 6 European matches, domestically they would stick to 1-11, the last time they’d do so in the Scottish top flight.

The club crest appeared on a shield as per the last couple of away kits, although this escutcheon was more elaborately shaped. Nike showed a bit of consistency here as well: a white monogram on a blue shield with a narrow red border was how the badge appeared on all shirts and shorts, regardless of colourway.

Completing the shirt were a label at the bottom left, indicating the individual shirt’s size and that it was an official replica, and a small tag on the right side seam with the monogram. This is more commonly known as a tax tab, grimly humorous in retrospect.

 

Figure 1 Rangers’ 97-99 home kit

Rangers’ kit colour palette is often described as ‘red, white, and blue’. But black has historically been a fourth colour, albeit limited to the home socks and occasionally the away kit. Here, Nike integrated all four colours into both kits in a way that hadn’t been done before. Black appeared on the home shirt in the form of two solid and speckled black bands on the edge of the collar and cuffs. The white shorts featured two full-length contiguous red and black pinstripes on each side, and the socks were black and red, of course. But you had to look at the away kit to see what Nike were trying to do.

Rangers’ recent away kits had tended to be white, red and white, or red and black. For the first time, white and black became the main colours on an RFC away jersey. The shirt was predominantly white, with a black wing collar and cuffs, all trimmed with red and white bands. From the bottom hem, interspersed broad black and narrow grey stripes reached up towards the top of the shirt. Only the greys made it, as the black stripes faded out halfway up, just below the blue McEwan’s Lager logotype; this graphic was repeated on the back. Unlike the club and sponsor’s logos, the manufacturer’s swoosh was picked out in black with a red border.

The change shorts and socks were identical to their first choice counterparts, simply with the colours rotated. Thus, the shorts were black with a red and white pinstripe, and the socks were white with blue tops. As with the home kit, the SFL shield competition patches appeared on each sleeve.

With black prominent on both kits, unusually for a fourth colour, it meant that Nike could provide the club with a fresh new home and away kit, entirely unlike the previous seasons’, and yet still retain a degree of interchangeability should it be required. The fact Rangers would only once mix and match any elements of the two kits is neither here nor there, and bloody typical of the club.

Figure 2 Rangers’ 97-98 away kit

The home kit made its debut in the exotic surroundings of the Faroe Islands, as Rangers travelled to Torshavn for a Champions League 1st qualifying round match against GI Gotu. Like France, the advertising of alcohol is banned in the Faroes, so the Gers once again turned out in kits that bore the branding of Center Parcs rather than McEwan’s Lager. This was also the first season that players were required to have their names on the backs of their shirts in Europe. The font the club used was a blocky, bold serif, quite unlike the more elegant Nike lettering that had previously adorned Arsenal’s shirts.

The 2nd qualifying round saw Rangers drawn against the blue and white striped shirts of IFK Gothenburg. For the second season in a row, a red third kit was hastily commissioned, and for the second season in a row, said red kit was worn in a hopeless European 3-0 capitulation (once more, each club wore their away kit in the home leg.) At least the Ibrox club didn’t need to worry about wearing a third kit away to Kilmarnock, as Killie had reverted to wearing white shirts. Paired with the away shorts and home socks, the red shirt (in a slightly darker shade than most of its spiritual predecessors) didn’t follow the same model as its home and away siblings, and was instead closer in form to Arsenal’s recently-released away jersey. Unlike the insert collars worn on the other shirts, the 3rd had a modified Johnny collar – two pieces of flat knit material joined in a symmetrical Y shape, which in itself formed the V of the neckline.

Narrow horizontal bands of white inset with a narrower black stripe were present at the top of the midriff, around 300mm below, and near the bottom of the sleeves. White trim was present at the edge of the black cuffs and neckline, but not the wings of the collar itself, in contrast to Arsenal’s version. All-in-all, the jersey was almost identical to Nike’s 1998 offering for Dallas Burn, down to the colourway, with the chief difference being more horizontal stripes on the Texans’ outfit.

Figure 3 Rangers’ 97-98 3rd kit

After the Champions League elimination, Rangers dropped into the UEFA Cup where they were drawn against, seemingly inevitably, a team from a country with a ban on alcohol advertising. The Center Parcs shirt made a reappearance in the away leg against Auxerre, this time coupled with blue shorts in the same style as the home and away versions, rather ruining the interchangeable aspect of the two kits. These shorts didn’t have the club crest on them, so there’s a good chance they may have been teamwear – in photographs and video of the game, sometimes the colour of the shorts appear to match the shirts, and other times they don’t.

Figure 4 Rangers’ 97-98 low alcohol home kit

This modular nature of the kits was not something the club chose to exploit in general, although the away socks were paired with the home kit once. Oddly, said away socks weren’t used with the away kit the three times it was called upon, with the home socks (twice) and plain Nike teamwear socks (once) doing the job instead.

Goalkeeper wise, Andy Goram and his two deputies Antti Niemi and Theo Snelders had a grey and yellow jersey to choose from, each in exactly the same style, and not dissimilar to those worn by Arsenal’s contemporaneous custodians. Single colour, with a contrasting modified crew neck collar, only the arrangement of colours on the neck and cuff trim was different from one to the other (yellow and white on the yellow, blue and white on the grey.) Andy Goram wouldn’t have been Andy Goram without a wild card, and twice during the season he turned out wearing a non-crested Nike teamwear shirt against Motherwell and Dundee (ironically, this shirt was identical to one his eventual successor Stefan Klos wore that season for Borussia Dortmund.) There was no real logic to which colour shirt was worn when, and indeed both grey and yellow were used against each other Scottish Premier team, except Motherwell.

Bespoke crested and padded goalkeeper shorts were supplied, although Theo Snelders tended to prefer jogging trousers when he played, a practise he’d been indulging since 1994.

Rangers finished that season without a trophy, something that hadn’t happened for 12 years. Walter Smith had already announced his departure, and a host of the 9 in a Row heroes followed him out the door that May. McCoist, Goram, McCall, Gough, McLaren, Laudrup, and Durrant – most in their mid-30s, heading off to the stud farms of smaller teams, to pass on their experience to younger players. Other not insignificant talents departed as well; Bjorklund, van Vossen, Gattuso, Moore, Petric, and Cleland. Dick Advocaat, Rangers’ first new manager in 8 years, and the first foreign manager to boot, had a challenge on his hands.

Kit Type Matches Used
Home 45
Home alternatives 3
Away 0
Away alternatives 3
Third 1
Third alternatives 0

Table 1 Rangers kit combinations, 97-98

1998-99

Manager –Dick Advocaat. Kit Manufacturer – Nike. Shirt Sponsor – McEwan’s Lager

Home – Blue shirts, white shorts, black socks with red tops.

Away – Red shirts with navy trim, navy shorts, navy socks.

Even by this stage of the 90s, it was becoming increasingly apparent that a new season meant at least one new kit would be launched, and 1998-99 was no exception. The sadly under-utilised white strip was withdrawn, replaced by a new red and navy set, unveiled in June. A simple enough affair, it was scarlet in the main with panels at the shoulders, underarms, and sides in a colour that looked black, but which was actually very, very, very, very, very, very, very dark blue. The collar was a simple V-neck made up of a blue V inside a white V, and a small band of red and white trim appeared at the foot of the blue sleeve panel. McEwan’s Lager, entering their 12th and final season of shirt sponsorship, jazzed up their logotype; the font was much the same, but now had slight serif flourishes, and the ‘lager’ part seemed to get even smaller. The Rangers monogram appeared without a shield. The shorts and socks were both mainly navy; the former had a narrow vertical white stripe at each side and a similar horizontal one on each hem, while the latter featured a twin line of red and white just under the turnover.

Figure 5 Rangers’ 98-99 away kit

The club retained the home kit for another season, but it too received a mini-makeover, if only because following the formation of the breakaway Scottish Premier League, the handsome SFL shield competition patches were replaced with more mundane elliptical SPL ones. The shirt name and number fonts were also updated to new, sleeker versions from the Nike warehouse. Perhaps more significant though in terms of shirt numbering were the signings of left-back Arthur Numan, goalkeeper Lionel Charbonnier, and centre-back Daniel Prodan – with the Italians Lorenzo Amoruso and Sergio Porrini already installed as centre-back and right-back respectively, this meant that the entire first choice back 5, including goalie, were from foreign climes.

The old-fashioned 1-11 shirt numbering never really made a lot of sense to me, in terms of the positions they referred to. This was until I learned that football hadn’t always been played using 4-4-2 as a formation. When shirt numbering first came into use in the late 1920s, the most common formation in British football was 2-3-5. Hence, numbers were allocated to positions from goalkeeper to attackers, right to left. So the right-sided defender wore 2 and his left-back partner wore 3. Later, as football became more and more cautious, they were joined by two of the three half backs (midfielders), wearing (most of the time) 4 and 5. 6 remained a midfielder, and inside right (8), right-wing (7), and left-wing (11) dropped in beside him, with 9 and 10 taking up position as the two centre-forwards. The Rangers 9-in-a-row teams didn’t always follow this convention. 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 10 and 11 tended to be worn by players of the corresponding position, but 2, 5, and 7 were a bit more of a free-for-all, particularly after Gary Steven’s injury issues during the period 1992-94. For instance, Stuart McCall wore all outfield numbers apart from 11 in the two seasons 1992-93 and 1993-94, while generally operating in defensive midfield (he later completed the set by wearing 11 against Juventus in the Champions League in 1995.)

All that said, the left-sided defender had traditionally worn number 3. That was until the summer of 1998, when Dick Advocaat persuaded the Dutch international left-back Arthur Numan to follow him from PSV Eindhoven to Glasgow, and subsequently handed him the number 5 shirt, a number Rangers’ left-back wears to this day. Advocaat clearly had designs on what his charges should wear on the pitch. Different external factors can have an influence on how a football team dresses. Regulations from the national or international governing bodies, a match day referee’s judgement call, what the kit controller packs (in what was once an actual hamper, but which is now more likely to be a series of expensive flight cases.) But sometimes it comes down to the manager having strong ideas about how his or her charges should look, with the belief that aesthetics are important to success.

An early example is Herbert Chapman adding white sleeves to the Arsenal jersey and blue hoops to the socks, ostensibly because he felt this made the players more distinctive to their teammates. Similarly, Real Madrid’s dominance of European football in the early 60s in their pristine all-white kit inspired Liverpool and, allegedly, Leeds United to change their kits in tribute to the Spanish team. It’s difficult to pick through apocryphal anecdotes nearly 60 years on, but it seems that Bill Shankly at Liverpool felt that a single colour kit had the useful psychological effect of making players look bigger and more intimidating to the opposition. Hence the Anfield club ditched their white shorts and socks for an all-red kit in 1965. Leeds had already gone one step further, abandoning their previous gold and yellow shirts for all-white in 1960. Interestingly, while this change is often said to have been instigated by Don Revie, he didn’t actually become manager of Leeds until six months after the team had adopted all-white.

It soon became apparent that Advocaat wouldn’t stop at tinkering with the team numbers. He also didn’t approve of Rangers’ predominantly black socks. The team began to sport white socks more and more frequently, initially in Europe but increasingly commonly domestically, the chief reason given being that it made it easier for the players to pick each other out. From 1987 to 1998, Rangers’ mixing and matching of kit elements was limited. Non-standard shorts were worn twice. It was more common to change socks, but we’re still talking about maybe less than a dozen occasions in eleven seasons. With Dick Advocaat in charge, kit controller Jimmy Bell’s life was about to get a whole lot more complicated.

Indeed, while the previous season had seen alternative socks and shorts worn on several occasions, under the Little General the sight of non-standard kit suddenly became commonplace, rising from 12% of matches in 97-98, to 24% in 98-99, and 35% and 43% in his final two full seasons. But it wasn’t just socks that the Dutchman fixated on. He was known to believe that V necks were better for footballers (not sure I disagree with this personally,) and it’s probably not a coincidence that the 7 Rangers shirts released during his tenure all featured necklines of that format.

The goalkeepers would tend not to wear V-necks under Advocaat though. In his first season, custodians Niemi, Charbonnier, and mid-season acquisition Stefan Klos would tend to wear the grey and yellow jerseys from the previous season. A red version of the template made an appearance in 8 or so games, and Lionel Charbonnier wore what appears to be a generic black Nike template jersey against Dundee United in October, with the McEwan’s Lager logo gauchely printed on.

In August of 1998, Rangers wore short numbers for the first time, in the matches against PAOK in the UEFA Cup. Bafflingly, they decided to slap white numbers with a thin border on the white shorts, rendering them almost unintelligible. They did this for the remaining 7 European games that season, and the match away to Haka the following season, before switching to a more sensible contrast colour. They would continue to wear numbered shorts in European competition, but would prefer un-numbered variants domestically until the 2010-11 season, perhaps because short numbers in Scotland are historically associated with Celtic.

With the SPL and UEFA (for matches in competitions proper) now both mandating squad numbers and shirt names, from 1998 onwards it would become more unusual for Rangers to wear unnamed 1-11 shirts, but it happened from time to time, 2012-2014 being something of an outlier. That said, there was still room for quirks. In the two matches against Shelbourne, some Rangers players wore numbers that didn’t correspond with the numbers they’d wear the rest of the season – Barry Ferguson wearing 8, and van Bronkhorst 12 for instance. Equally, in both the League and Scottish Cup finals, Rangers wore named 1-11 shirts, with some players adopting numbers they wouldn’t normally. This was despite their opposition in both matches wearing their usual squad numbers.

Kit Type Matches Used
Home 39
Home alternatives 8
Away 3
Away alternatives 5
3rd 0
3rd alternatives 0

Table 2 Rangers kit combinations, 98-99

1999-00

Manager –Dick Advocaat. Kit Manufacturer – Nike. Shirt Sponsor – NTL

Home – Blue shirts, white shorts, black socks with red tops.

Away – White, navy, and sky blue shirts, navy shorts, navy socks.

Third – Red shirts with navy trim, navy shorts, navy socks.

While the design of football shirts had shown no reluctance to go to strange new places, and innovations in artificial fabrics had appeared in the 50s, the actual construction of shirts was slow to change; even in the early 2000s many shirts (collars aside) were tailored in much the same way as their antecedents of the Victorian era. For many decades, football jerseys had essentially followed the pattern of a long sleeved t-shirt – loosely speaking, two rectangles of material sewn together with holes for the head and arms. A further two rectangles formed each sleeve; seamed lengthways to form tubes, these were attached to the body at the arm holes – properly called armsyces. As early as 1991, Adidas and Umbro had both launched shirts that were essentially two t-shaped pieces of material sewn together, but generally things didn’t change much in terms of how kits were put together. As the shadow-striped fabric of the eighties and bright graphics of nineties gave way to the noughties however, kit fashion began to change.

The football industry of 2017 is a world away from that of 1987. Elite players are mostly fitter, drink less alcohol, and have more closely-monitored diets. Fashion has also changed. Umbro had courted ridicule when their new kit for Spurs, launched ahead of the 1991 FA Cup Final, featured a longer, more generously cut short. Within 15 years however, this Knickerbocker throwback style was ubiquitous. At the same time, the players’ jerseys had started to get tighter and more form fitting – some of the lesser brands’ efforts in the 90s actually did look like the players were wearing brightly coloured bin bags.

But sporting advantage and technology is also more important than even in football apparel. The average human regulates its temperature by perspiring, releasing liquid from the sweat glands throughout the body. When this sweat reaches the surface of the skin, it undergoes a process known as evaporative cooling; the most high-energy molecules are transferred to the surrounding environment, becoming water vapour. This conversion requires heat (in the thermodynamic sense,) leaving behind a cooler liquid, skin, and blood, which then recirculates back to the heart.

In theory, this should help us keep cool during exercise, but factors often get in the way. Humid weather prevents sweat from evaporating, which is why 30 degrees with high humidity feels a lot less bearable than 30 degree arid heat. Humans didn’t necessarily evolve to wear clothing either, and different fabrics impede our ability to cool ourselves by trapping water vapour close to our bodies. However, some (mostly artificial) fibres have the ability to draw vapour away from the body using a process known as capillary action, or wicking. Wicking facilitates the passing of moisture through the fabric to the outside of the garment, where it is able to evaporate more efficiently. This is supposed to keep athletes cooler, or warmer, depending on the weather, but ultimately it’s all about keeping body temperatures regulated. An early version of this sort of thinking was England’s Aertex shirts, worn in the Mexican heat of the 1970 World Cup.

As sporting success increasingly depends on ever decreasing margins of superiority, sportswear manufacturers spend more and more time on developing fabrics that wick moisture ever more efficiently, seemingly at the expense of any design work. It would appear, and the burgeoning compression layer market would seem to back this up, that football shirts have got tighter to the wearer’s body over the last 20 years in order to maximise wicking. And this is where the assembly of football shirts started to get more complex and sophisticated as the big manufacturers modified their patterns to allow for the introduction of more wicking technology in special panels at the side of the midriff, and gussets under the arms, and to help make their shirts more closely fit players’ bodies. Manchester United’s 1997 European shirt had featured breathable panels under the arms, and in the summer of 1999, this innovative sweat-airing technology reached Ibrox when Rangers new home and away kits were launched.

The new home kit discarded the complicated six-colour scheme of its predecessor, and utilised a simple blue and white colourway (socks excepted. Mostly.) Under Advocaat’s mandate, it featured a V-neck collar, with a contrasting white V inset. While the shirt ostensibly followed the traditional football shirt pattern, it had breathable panels on the underside of the sleeves, as well as gussets under the armpit, this subtly different body-coloured material demarcated by contrasting white piping.

The back was equally complex. At the top of the body was a yoke, again outlined with white piping. This continued onto the sleeves, marking the seam between the breathable material of the underside of the sleeve and the standard material of the topside, as per the front. There were also 2 further small pieces of piped trim at the bottom of each sleeve. While the previous Nike shirt had had 8 seams, I reckon this shirt would have had 13. That sounds complicated, but from a distance, its monotone simplicity made it a very elegant shirt indeed, and 2 Champions League group stages in its 2 year lifespan mean it’s regarded as something of a classic.

The monogram (sans shield), Nike swoosh, and sponsor logo were all picked out neatly in white. McEwan’s Lager had departed as sponsor, to be replaced by the Cable TV provider NTL. Their logo was stylised as ntl: in lower case, large friendly letters. The ‘t’ and ‘l’ appeared in outline only. Perhaps my only grievance with the shirt was that the Rangers crest was a little undersized.

The shorts were equally understated – white with a blue pinstripe at each side and the club badge and manufacturer’s logo also rendered in blue. The socks were virtually identical as the previous iteration, black with red tops and the Nike swoosh in white. There was a change to the shirt numbers and letters, with the SPL having commissioned a bespoke letterset that all clubs were mandated to wear. It was a pleasant sans-serif font, with enough individuality to be instantly recognisable. Each character had a significant border, and the numbers had the SPL logo at the top. Unusually, despite being a sans-serif font, the u’s had small serif tails.

Additionally, as Advocaat had led the club to the treble in 1998-99, the team were entitled to wear the golden SPL ‘Champions’ competition patch. The league had switched to a rectangular shape, with every other club wearing blue patches.

Figure 6 Rangers’ 99-01 home kit

There’s much debate in football kit design circles about the wisdom of clubs having an away or third kit that is broadly the same colour as the home kit. On the face of it, this defeats the purpose of a ‘change’ kit,’ yet as ever there’s more to it than that. I mentioned in part 1 how the human eye focusses on light wavelengths differently, with the result that dominant colours in striped shirts look slightly different from a distance, e.g. Celtic’s green hoops are the dominant element of their shirts, yet from a distance the overall kit passes for white. That’s why historically Hibs and Celtic always wore their home kits in ties between the two. Similarly, Rangers had a blue-and-white striped away kit in the 60s. This would appear a pastille blue, or even white from a distance, and would have caused no uncomfortable clash against the dark blue of Dundee, for instance.

The modern era has taken things too far, as usual. There seems to be a drive at both UEFA and FIFA to ensure that teams play in contrasting tones, even if the colours aren’t similar, to better help individuals with difficulties perceiving colours. Where an alternative kit might then be useful in a shade of the same colour far darker or lighter than that used on the first choice, more and more often we’re seeing 2, or even 3 sets of kits that are tonally similar. Nike are particularly bad for this. The point of a change kit is that it’s supposed to provide an alternative when there’s a clash of colours, or tones. A change kit that doesn’t do this is egregiously pointless, no matter how nicely detailed. And you know what Morris said about uselessness…

Nike’s new away kit for Rangers was, essentially, blue. True, it was a combination of white, navy blue, and sky blue, but it was fundamentally blue, and not really distinctive enough to wear against Kilmarnock or St Johnstone. As such, it was only worn competitively twice, against the all-red of Aberdeen at Pittodrie.

Its uselessness belied how smart it was. The lower half of the shirt was sky blue, the top half (a separate yoke) white, with a thick navy band stretching from one sleeve across the chest to the other, straight along the top and concavely curved at the bottom. The monogram appeared in navy, and the Nike swoosh in sky bordered with navy, against the white part, with the NTL logo in navy on the sky blue section. The Advocaatian collar appeared in a Johnny collar format, a blue knit section folded over a white V with navy trim.

The shorts were plain navy with white badges, and their short cut (another mandate from Advocaat) was starting to look archaic at a time when shorts were generally getting baggier and baggier. The socks too were navy, with a broad and narrow sky bands just below the turnover.

Figure 7 Rangers’ 99-00 away kit

Presciently, the club had retained the previous season’s red away shirt, updating the sponsor to NTL’s logotype. The matching navy shorts, with the white trim, were consigned to the goalkeeper’s kit hamper as the team wore the navy set from the away kit whenever they sported the red shirts. The navy socks originally introduced with the red kit were worn once, against Kilmarnock in May, while a plain navy set turned up in the previous trip to Rugby Park in October. Otherwise plain white socks were used.

Figure 8 Rangers’ 99-00 3rd kit

As well as their hand-me-down outfield shorts, the goalkeepers also received some new shirts from Nike. You’ll be surprised to learn these were a standard template, in different colourways – white, orange, black. Again, the keepers didn’t get V necks, their jerseys having polo necks instead. The chest band, straighter than the away kit, was blue in all cases. The shirts also had elaborate padding on the shoulders, in the shape of a large diamond and triangle, something you don’t see as much these days.

The white shirt was used most often, with the orange its most frequent deputy, but in a league match against Celtic November, Lionel Charbonnier wore the 3rd kit, for reasons unknown. Intriguingly, when Rangers played Parma in a Champions League qualifier, Gianluigi Buffon wore one of Rangers’ orange goalkeeper shirts, the logos from a Parma shirt stuck over the Rangers equivalents, and with his name and number on the back in the SPL font. It’s not entirely clear why he repeated Theo Snelders’ trick from three seasons earlier, but in contemporary photographs of the match night, he appeared to be wearing a yellow and blue jersey in the warm up. Perhaps the referee felt it was too similar to Parma’s outfield jersey, and demanded he change it?

Rangers’ second season of using squad numbers full-time didn’t result in too many oddities. There were a few changes, most often players moving to smaller or preferred numbers – Lorenzo Amoruso went from 3 to 4, Craig Moore from 38 to 3, Rod Wallace from 16 to 10, Tony Vidmar from 25 to 14, and Stefan Klos from 19 to 1. Conversely, a number of players took higher numbers, always a sign that they’re straying towards the cold – Lionel Charbonnier went from 1 – 22, Gordon Durie from 9 to 24, Gabriel Amato from 10 to 15, Ian Ferguson from 14 – 26, and Derek McInnes from 17 – 27.

Nameless 1-11 shirts were used in the two Champions League qualifying matches against Haka, and in the Scottish Cup final against Aberdeen, Rangers once again wore 1-11 with shirt names. Incidentally, only 3 substitutes were allowed in the Scottish Cup at the time. In the final Aberdeen gambled on selecting three outfield players, and inevitably their goalkeeper Jim Leighton suffered a severe facial injury only a few minutes into the game. The Dons sent on the 5’11” striker Robbie Winters to play in nets, wearing the number 23 shirt of goalkeeper Ryan Esson (who wasn’t in the matchday squad.) Winters managed to keep Rangers at bay for 30 odd minutes, but the Ibrox club eventually knocked in 4 goals against him to win the Scottish Cup for the second season in a row.

Kit Type Matches Used
Home 32
Home alternatives 12
Away 2
3rd 0
3rd alternatives 9

Table 3 Rangers kit combinations, 99-00

2000-01

Manager –Dick Advocaat. Kit Manufacturer – Nike. Shirt Sponsor – NTL

Home – Blue shirts, white shorts, black socks with red tops.

Away – White shirts, white shorts, white socks.

Third – Red shirts, red shorts, red socks.

Close season means letting the grass grow back, resting weary players’ legs, and introducing yet another new kit. Not the home kit, which enjoyed a stay of execution for another year, and retaining the league title meant the ‘Champions’ competition sleeve patches also remained. Instead, feeling that a white and blue away shirt was pointless, the club decided that they needed a new white strip. Once again, Dick Advocaat seemed to have quite an input into the design process, as it was all-white, had a V-neck and skimpy shorts, and had the Dutch flag emblazoned across its front. Well, kind of. It certainly had a narrow red and blue horizontal bands on the chest, separated by a good 20mm of white space, in which sat the blue NTL logo. The collar was identical to the home shirt, but with a red contrast V inset, and there were narrow red cuffs on the sleeves as well. The Rangers monogram and Nike swoosh were in a very contrasting dark blue.

The most interesting aspect of this shirt was the construction pattern. Football shirts tended to have armsyces that were more or less vertical, meeting the shoulder seams roughly where the shoulder joint would be on its wearer. However, an alternative method was to use a diagonal, or arcing armsyce that connected directly to the collar. Adidas had used this type of seam in the early 80s, and it’s probably most recognised from its intermittent appearance on Arsenal kits from 1988 onwards.

It had appeared on a couple of Rangers goalie shirts, but this would be the first time it would appear on an outfield shirt. And it wasn’t just as simple as that. The back and sleeves were of a different material, with bands of alternating thick and thin horizontal shadowstripes. The body’s side seams were actually a few hundred millimetres further onto the front of the shirt than they would normally be, forming a lazy ‘s’ shape, as they meandered from the bottom hem to meet up with the armsyce on its way to the collar. The sleeves came in two parts, a plain material underarm section joined to a shadow-striped overarm part. This seam formed another loose ‘s’ as it moved up the arm before running parallel to the armsyce, connecting at the collar a few millimetres above the shoulder seam. Completing this overly complicated assembly was a hemline that dipped down at the front and back like a 1920s shirt tail.

It was partnered with a pair of white shorts with a thin band of red trim at the hem, and a pair of white socks with a narrow red band in the centre of the turnover.

Figure 9 Rangers’ 00-01 away kit

Perhaps mindful of the fact that a white away kit seemed to result in having to commission a third kit, the club commissioned a deep red third kit. The shirt was a real departure for the club, featuring a lace-up wing col…nope, it was a V-neck again, this time with some black edging, repeated on the sleeve hems. Like the away shirt, the sleeve was constructed of an underarm and overarm segment, this time the seam being demarcated with black piping. Other than that, the pattern was a more traditional version than its sibling.

The logos were white, and it was paired with red shorts with black pin stripes at the sides, and plain red socks. However, as Rangers had entered an era where mixing and matching of kit elements was now fair game, the full third kit would never be worn in the two years it was in use. The red shirt was normally worn with white shorts, and the home and away socks would also be called into action, alongside the proper red socks.

Figure 10 Rangers’ 00-02 3rd kit alternate, worn vs. Hibernian in October 2000


Figure 11 Rangers’ 00-02 3rd kit alternative, worn vs. Kilmarnock in August 2000 and January 2002.

The red shorts were worn with the away kit once as well. While the full white set would mostly be used when Rangers needed to change, a pair of dark blue Nike shorts were substituted away to Dundee in September, which given Dundee were also wearing dark blue shorts, didn’t make a lick of sense. In terms of alternate kits, Rangers mostly avoided any gratuitous changes, although they did wear the red shirt away to Hibernian.

Figure 12 Rangers’ 00-01 away alternative, worn vs. Dundee in September 2000.

Stefan Klos was once again the club’s first choice goalkeeper, and he and his deputies Mark Brown and Jesper Christiansen had a new set of jerseys to choose from. The most commonly used was a deceptively complex affair in teal. The front of the shirt featured a grid of miniscule loops set on a slightly darker background, with arcing armsyces curving in to meet a black polo neck collar. Black panels were present at the sides and under the arms, with the loops motif continuing onto the topside of the sleeves, where it became more intermittent.

The top half of the back of the shirt was black, and the bottom half body coloured. It’s hard to tell from photographs, but I suspect the tiny loops on the shirt were tacky, designed to help the ball adhere to the keeper’s jersey. While the teal shirt was preferred by Klos, there were also versions in dark grey and black, light grey, and yellow.

Figure 13 Rangers’ 00-01 1st choice goalkeeper shirt

The third full season of squad numbers had been the most settled yet, with only a couple of moves. Tony Vidmar switched back to 25 and Billy Dodds cascaded down from 47 to the 16 shirt vacated by Colin Hendry. Tugay Kermioglu did the same, moving from 26 to 17. Conversely, Sergio Porrini moved from 2 – 21 (new signing Fernando Rickson taking the number 2 shirt,) and Darius Adamczuk from 17 – 28, while Marco Negri and Lionel Charbonnier continued their slow egress from the club, dropping from 21 – 35, and 22 – 30 respectively.

Oddly, new signing Ronald de Boer had his name displayed on his shirt as ‘R. de Boer’ – the fore initial normally being a distinguisher for those players who might share a surname. This was only the third season in his 12 year career he’d played for a team where his twin Frank wasn’t also in the squad, so perhaps this was just a superstition on his part. Conversely, Barry Ferguson shed the ‘B’ from his jersey. The name Ferguson is unusually strongly linked with football in Scotland – aside from the Alex Ferguson dynasty, Rangers had at least 2 Fergies, mostly unrelated, in their squad from 1983 through to 2000, save the 1986-87 season when there was just Derek. They’ve been a bit more thin on the ground recently though.

Once again, Rangers wore unnamed, 1-11 shirts in the Champions League qualifiers, but unusually also in a pair of Scottish Cup matches, in rounds 3 and 4, against Brechin and Ross County.

Kit Type Matches Used
Home 28
Home alternatives 19
Away 4
Away alternatives 2
3rd 0
3rd alternatives 3

Table 4 Rangers kit combinations, 00-01

2001-02

Manager –Dick Advocaat (until 12th December 2001.) Alex McLeish (from 13th December 2001.) Kit Manufacturer – Nike. Shirt Sponsor – NTL

Home – Blue shirts, white shorts, black socks with red tops.

Away – White shirts, navy shorts, white socks.

Third – Red shirts with navy trim, red shorts, red socks.

An article published in the Sunday Mail in April 2001 had quoted a club spokesman saying that, as a result of Rangers wanting to do something different with the supply of player and replica kit, the club were considering exercising a five year break clause in the Nike deal. As such, 2001-02 would transpire to be the American manufacturer’s last season kitting out the Ibrox team. Coincidentally or not, the new Nike home and away kits launched in the summer of 2001 were underwhelming to me, although it’s worth pointing out that this might be the start of Nike’s descent into utilitarian templates. In a piece published on the Classic Football Shirts blog in September 2017, Nike designer Drake Ramberg noted that 1996 had been around the time that Nike ‘refocused on designing for the athlete’, rather than continuing with the like of the more elaborate designs they’d previously produced for Dortmund and PSG.

I’m not sure if relationships between the parties had soured as a result of Rangers breaking the contract, but the new designs seemed perfunctory and barely much of a change to the preceding season’s strips. Mind you, I sometimes think the same about the last two Adidas kits, but perhaps that’s just a result of looking back 20 years. A story did emerge in February 2002 where a design student, Kerry Hamilton, claimed to have designed the kits while on work experience. Nike, for their part denied these claims, although they did acknowledge that Miss Hamilton had some input to the socks, but more on that later.

The shirt itself was blue, as usual, but the presence of large red panels under the arms and red wedges at the sides of the body caused consternation among those fans that don’t like too much red on the Rangers shirt. White piping outlined these panels, joining up with the arcing armsyces, and continuing on to the collar, which was…are you sure you’re ready for this revelation? Okay. Definitely? Right, it was a V-neck.

You told me you were ready!

The collar was, for the most part white, apart from where it intersected with a small red triangular insert at the base of the V, after which it switched to body-colour blue. White tape trimmed the bottom of the sleeves. The back was subtly different, with no piping marking the shoulder seams. The piping outlining the red side panels carried round onto the back, eventually sloping down to meet the hem, but like the seams, there was no piping on the edge of the insert that joined the main body, which was also straighter than its forward fellow.

The monogram, Nike swoosh and NTL sponsor were exactly as they appeared on the previous home kit. As Rangers had failed to win the league in 2000-01, the SPL competition patches were back to standard blue versions, and the shirt numbers and names appeared in the mandated font. Well, apart from the two domestic cup finals where they would wear a different font, with squad numbers that were allocated to the matchday squads, rather than the squad numbers registered with the SPL.

The shorts were the standard white, and as plain as you can get, with no piping or pinstripes. The socks were a bit more contentious. While Rangers had previously not shied away from using sock colours other than the historical black and red, the announcement that the team would wear red socks with black tops during the forthcoming season was met worth consternation, and the club quickly backtracked.

Figure 14 Rangers’ 01-02 home kit, as per launch

That’s the story I vaguely remember at the time, and Denis Hurley asked if I’d be covering it in this piece. While I’ve found a photograph of the kit launch with Barry Ferguson sporting said red socks, I can’t find anything from the club that acknowledges the red socks were a mistake. They were certainly only worn in one competitive match – oddly against Celtic at home in the league in September.

Instead, Advocaat continued his sock putsch, with Rangers wearing the now familiar alternative white and blue stockings with the home shirt and shorts in 65% of games under his command. Conversely, when the childhood Rangers fan Alex McLeish was appointed as Rangers’ new manager in December, the team returned to wearing mostly black and red socks with the home kit, doing so on 88% of occasions.

The black & red and the white & blue socks were actually slightly different to the sets used in 1997-99 and 1999-00 (which were virtually identical to one another,) having the monogram on the shin and a Nike swoosh on the turnover. Conversely, the away socks and the red & black socks worn by Ferguson in June also had the monogram on the shin, but the Nike logo on the back of the sock.

But wait. It’s not as simple as that in the Rangers sock department. It never is. Whatever the reason for the club ditching the red stockings, they needed to come up with an alternative. They wore white & blue socks away against Aberdeen, and at home against Maribor, before the black & red ones appeared against Livingston at Ibrox in August. But they were the 99-01 iterations, if not the 97-99 ones. They were worn in three matches before the proper new set arrived. When the red & black socks were finally given an outing, against Celtic, they were different to the ones modelled by Ferguson in June, adopting the model of monogram on shin and Nike swoosh on turnover as used on the black & red and blue & white socks. Coupled with the away and third socks, this meant the team wore six different sets that season. A lot, but they’d manage to outdo themselves in this respect a few years down the line.

Figure 15 Rangers 01-02 home kit (black sock version)


Figure 16 Rangers’ 01-02 home kit (white sock version)

The new away kit, the eleventh in 12 seasons, was so similar to the one it replaced, it begged the question why the club even bothered. It was once again white, with red trim tape at the cuffs. The sleeves themselves were constructed of the now common underside and topside arm sections method, with a thin navy band offset from the cuff on the topside part.

Nike were among the first sportswear manufacturers to do away with collars themselves and simply have a hem at the neckline. And this was the case here, with red tape trimming the neckline. There was a small section of collar at the back of the shirt though, trimmed at the top in the red of the neckline, and at the bottom in navy, repeating the motif from the sleeves. The blue used for the trim, logos, crest, and shorts was notably darker than both the home kit and the previous away kit, but the overall effect was so similar to the previous shirt, one wonders why they bothered changing it, revenue generation aside. The shorts also had a red dart on each side, and the badges were picked out in white.

Figure 17 Rangers’ 01-02 away kit

The red 3rd kit appeared twice in its second season, against Dynamo Moscow in the UEFA Cup, and at Kilmarnock in the league. Clubs nowadays are expected to wear competition patches for up to five different contests, and it makes me wonder how kit controllers manage this – do they have multiple sets of shirts, all with the different patches on, or do they have to painstakingly swap them over from match to match? Perhaps a bit of both? There were a number of games in the 2001-02 season Rangers turned out in shirts that didn’t have any patches; most of these were in cup games, but the red shirt was patchless in the game against Kilmarnock mentioned above, as they had been against Dynamo.

Stefan Klos had been a little injury prone in his previous two full seasons, missing 35% then 16% of games respectively, but he managed to start 57 of the 59 games in 01-02. Allan McGregor deputised in three games, including one substitute appearance. Klos preferred to wear his grey and black shirt he’d retained from the previous season, but he had two new jerseys to choose from. Each was a different colourway of a new template that wasn’t massively different from the year before’s – the sky blue one in particular was almost identical from the front, but lacked the large black panels on the back and under the arms. That being said, the 00-01 version appeared in the UEFA Cup match against Paris Saint-Germain for reasons that remain Rangers-y. Allan McGregor also wore this shirt on his two starts for the club.

Figure 18 Rangers’ 01-02 goalkeeper shirt

You often hear the phrase ‘classic line-up’ used in relation to rock bands, when a certain cohort of individuals is associated with the group’s greatest critical and commercial successes. So it goes with football as well, and while Dick Advocaat hadn’t been in charge nearly as long as his predecessor, but you could argue that 1999 had been as much of a zenith for the club as, say, 1993, winning the treble and beating Parma and PSV twice. But then something seemed to go wrong. From a treble in his first season, he managed the double in his second, then no domestic trophies and a European collapse in his third.

The summer of 2001 saw a number of the players that had been stalwarts for the club for the previous 3 or 4 years move on. Albertz, Porrini, Wallace, van Bronkhorst, Tugay and Allan Johnston all left during the summer, and Claudio Reyna and Kenny Miller followed in December. The players that replaced them were solid enough, but perhaps a little past their best. After years of being spendthrifts, the club were starting to cut their cloth.

A new look squad meant some number changes. Neil McCann and Tore Andre Flo moved from 18 – 11 and 22 – 9, with Michael Mols switching from 9 to 10. Similarly, Andrei Kanchelskis vacated the number 7 shirt for the veteran Argentine superstar Claudio Cannigia, taking 17 instead. While the club failed to win the league for the second season in a row, they did win the League and Scottish Cups. As was now traditional, they switched to 1-11 numbering, with names, but this season they took things a stage further by using a font that wasn’t the standard SPL one, instead pulling the old Nike numbers from 98-99 out of retirement for one last shot at glory.

Having moved from manager to director of football in December, Dick Advocaat would depart the club entirely that November. Nike would precede him out the door, leaving a fair legacy – 7 domestic trophies in 5 seasons, and four decent runs in Europe. Perhaps with the noises coming out of the boardroom at the time, many of us at thought that Rangers might be going on to bigger and better things; surely none of us could have guessed what was to come.

Kit Type Matches Used
Home 30
Home alternatives 19
Away 5
Away alternatives 3
3rd 0
3rd alternatives 2

Table 5 Rangers kit combinations, 01-02

When I first posted part one of this series, I hadn’t expected it to be so warmly received. It didn’t ‘bang’ or ‘do numbers’ (I believe that’s what the kids say,) but those people that are interested in such things said some kind things. I then realised that if I was going to write more on Rangers’ kits, and present it to kit aficionados, it’d have to be far more comprehensive than the mostly half-remembered ramblings from 20 years past that the first part was.

From 1987-1997, I owned at least one of the kits Rangers would wear each season – often two. Barring three seasons, I’ve managed the same since 2002. Conversely, I never owned any of the Nike merchandise. Not a scrap. It wasn’t because their playing and training wear didn’t appeal to me; on the contrary, I thought they turned out some really nice stuff. This was just a period of my life when I wasn’t as interested in football as I had been. Other interests had taken hold. For instance, in the first season of the Nike kits I was saving my student bursary to buy my first guitar. CDs were more expensive then, relatively speaking, and there was the odd driving lesson as well.

From 1997 onwards, I think I went through a bit of a pretentious stage where I felt a middle-class intellectual that I clearly was shouldn’t really be having to do anything with such a working-class endeavour like football. This was a patently ridiculous notion of course, but it seemed to hold for a little while. In 2000, I started university, a fairly large polytechnic in a small city some 300 miles away. That 300 miles was significant because it meant the university was in England, a country that historically has only ever shown any interest in Scottish football when it’s to make money out of it, or to mock it. This was pre-widespread PC ownership, and certainly before the introduction of the smartphone, so my opportunities to keep abreast of goings on at Rangers became somewhat limited, despite my interest in the game becoming renewed.

As a result, I don’t have a great anecdotal recollection of the Rangers kits from 1997 to 2005, when I moved back to Glasgow. I’ve had to do a fair amount of research for this piece, and that was both easier in some respects and far more difficult in others. As the 90s had progressed, BBC Scotland’s Sportscene and STV’s Scotsport were carrying highlights of more and more games in Scotland; up until 1992 at least, only a couple of the weekend’s matches had TV cameras at them. Much of this footage can now be found in poor quality clips uploaded to YouTube, but it all helps. A similar case is true with print coverage – full-colour newspapers became common in the 1990s, and the development of high-end digital single lens reflex cameras and associated information communication technology meant that images could be zipped from pitchside to website in a matter of…well, 20 minutes. If you could get a connection. It was still early days. A lot of these pictures have since been uploaded to various picture archive websites, if you put in the mileage looking for them. It all means there were fewer places for strange combinations and unusual one-off kits to hide. You just have to know where to look.

Once again, Denis Hurley from Museum of Jerseys has gone above and beyond in providing illustrations. While his graphics for the first piece were a later addition, this time round has been more of a collaboration, as we’ve bounced ideas, shared research pictures, and come to consensus about exactly what bloody socks Rangers were wearing on a particular day.

Thanks also go to Stewart Brown for the reference pictures of the 97-99 home shirt.


Soccermetrics and Scottish Football – a follow up

A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog about the rise of soccermetrics in Scottish football, and how I wasn’t sure how much value they added. To be honest, my tone was a bit snarky. I’d like to say it wasn’t deliberate, but I think I’d snapped a bit after reading yet another tweet shared onto my timeline about how stats ‘proved’ Barrie McKay and James Tavernier were Rangers’ best players, and I went off a bit, at the wrong targets. I should have been criticising the credulity of people that were displaying their confirmation bias rather than the guys who spend a lot of time analysing data, and I apologise for that.

That said, I still think it’s important to critique, audit, and monitor soccermetrics to ensure their validity. I’m a big fan of looking at football as objectively as possible, as humans are terrible at processing stimuli – we’re far too emotional. Conversely, sometimes we can get a little too objective, and little bit of interpretation of data is often helpful. It’s getting the balance right that’s the trick. A lot of Rangers supporters were, and still are, fans of James Tavernier and Barrie McKay, and would regularly retweet posts from metrics accounts that highlighted when they had high Expected Assist (xA) scores, which seemed to me the type of confirmation bias rampant on social media. I have to be open here – I’m not a massive fan of either player, despite recognising each is talented, and so I convinced myself that there was an issue with the xA model.

For most of the 2016-17season, both Tavernier and McKay had far higher xA than actual assists. McKay ended the season with 0.15 assists per 90, and Tavernier 0.20. In context, there were 8 Rangers players who assisted more regularly, and four who racked up 2nd assists more frequently. Combining goals per 90 and assists per 90 for the entire squad, McKay was ranked 10th, and Tavenier was ranked 12th. This discrepancy between expected and actual assists was often put down to the paucity of the strikers who were receiving the key passes, although I maintain that by rights, if Tavernier and McKay were more creative than the rest of the team, they should have had more assists per 90 than the rest of the team, regardless of who was playing up front. Funnily enough, four strikers that Rangers offloaded during the summer have had impressive starts at their new teams, at comparable levels of the game (although sustaining early form over the course of the season is always hard.)

Player

Goals per 90 2016-17

Goals per 90 2017-18 (to date)

Joe Dodoo

0.44

2.05

Joe Garner

0.33

1.00

Michael O’Halloran

0.00

1.20

Martyn Waghorn

0.33

1.14

 

In the summer of 2017, new Rangers manager Pedro Caixinha made a few changes to the Rangers squad. Most pertinently to this post, Barrie McKay left to join former manager Mark Warburton at Nottingham Forest, and Daniel Candeias was signed from Benfica. The Portuguese midfielder has had an immediate impact, contributing 1 goal, 3 assists, and 4 secondary assists after 8 games in all competitions, and has hopefully ameliorated fears that the departure of McKay would make Rangers less creative (McKay managed 6 goals, 12 assists, and 10 secondary assists in 46 games in all competitions last season.)

Candieas isn’t a straight replacement for McKay though, given the Scotsman played on the left at Ibrox, and the Portuguese works on the right. Pedro Caixinha not only changed much of the playing squad over the summer, he tweaked the formation as well, from the nominal 4-3-3 favoured by Warburton (realistically more like a 2-3-5) to something more akin to a traditional 4-4-2 (although operating more like a 2-5-3.) Under Mark Warburton’s stewardship, Rangers tended to line up with a slightly asymmetrical formation, with Barrie McKay and Lee Wallace teaming up on the left and Tavernier tending to mostly have the right flank to himself for the best part of 2 seasons. There’s some data to back this up – the Rangers Report’s Controlled Zone Entries metric measured Tavernier’s tendency to get forward from right-back. This season Rangers have lined up with Wallace and Windass on the left, and Candeias in front of Tavernier on the right. The Englishman’s xA figures appear to have dropped off this season, which is consistent with having an out-and-out right midfielder playing in front of him, and limiting his chances to get into the final third. It should be noted that his goals per 90 and assists per 90 are actually up on last season at this stage, and his xA (at least before the international break) is more tolerably closer to his actual assist figure.

This does raise a little doubt in my mind again about expected assists models. Why was Tavernier’s xA and xG so high for most of last season, despite his actual A and G scores being lower? Was it due to the paucity of the strikers, who are now netting regularly elsewhere? I think this is down to an issue of quantity. Expected Goals and Expected Assists are designed to attempt to measure the degree of difficulty of an attempt on goal, something a lot of us would like to know. But when you start aggregating xA and xG over the course of a season, you begin to lose a bit of that hard-earned granularity. As you can probably tell, I’m still a little bit sceptical about xG and xA, as I think they can be decontextualized by aggregation. I like that the Backpass Rule factors in the number of attempts that have generated the xG figure – for me at least, this makes the figure far more intuitive, and I’d be interested to see the same thing done regularly for xA.

For example, we know that James Tavernier scored 1 league goal last season despite taking 45 shots, meaning that of those Rangers players that scored a goal, he had the worst conversion rate. The average xG figure per shot seems to average about 0.2, so Tavernier could easily have reached 5.4 xG over the course of the season just from his 27 shots off target. I suspect something similar happened with his xA tally – it was bolstered by aggregation of lots of poor quality passes. While Tavernier’s xG+xA seems to have dropped off a little, Rangers’ goals-per-game has increased, from 1.47 last season to 2.2 this season, so the team’s not showing any signs of a downturn in creativity. Of course, it’s early days yet as only 5 league games have been played, and perhaps Alfredo Morelos’ 1.35 goals per 90 stat shows he is a better striker than last season’s crop. Of course, I could have written this entire piece to try and justify what is primarily me subjectively not rating a pair of footballers. But I do think the data lends credence to my theory here, even as much as it lends itself to other people’s contrary opinion.

Ger-seys: A short history of Rangers’ kits from 1987 onwards

I first became interested in football in 1989, and my fascination with the aesthetics of the game closely followed. I’d always been interested in construction, having a father who had been an apprentice architect and a huge collection of Lego, so becoming intrigued by sports stadia was straight forward. Football kits were a different kettle of fish as to this day I still have almost no interest in fashion in general. I remember my primary 6 class being set a challenge. What the challenge actually was I forget, but my response was to design the football kit of the future. My concept was much like a standard football kit, but had an integral long sleeve and long leg wetsuit-like dry layer and a built-in watch, to add comfort. Looking back now, I’d managed to pre-empt the base layer and wearable tech era we now find ourselves in. It wasn’t deliberate at all.

I started drawing football shirts on a regular basis, and even invented my own league, populated evenly by real and fictional teams. For the real teams, I’d try to recreate their newly released kits (with my not especially stellar freehand drawing skills,) and for the fictional teams I’d design my own. I’d use both existing sportswear companies and my own fictional brand (used for the future concept mentioned above,) Venture. I had intended to make sportswear design my career, and even got as far as studying graphic design in college before I made a bit of a left turn into photography (and eventually ending up in supply chain management,) but I am still fascinated by the design of football kits.

I recently stumbled across the blog Museum of Jerseys, which has a cracking feature entitled ‘Midweek Mashup’ which looks at examples of where football teams have had to swap part of their kit for another colour, causing some odd mismatch in the process. Historically, sport teams of all codes have had two kits – their usual apparel, and a change outfit, which traditionally was of a contrasting colour. Sounds simple enough. But football kit design is widely diverse with dozens of combinations of different colour ways and arrangements. Stripes, hoops, halves, quarters, diamonds, different colour sleeves, third and fourth colours, multiple-coloured socks. Sometimes just one alternative kit isn’t enough. More and more teams have three change kits now, and sometimes even that isn’t enough if a referee feels that there’s a clash. And bear in mind apart from there being two teams, there are two goalkeepers, and a set of officials, who all have to wear contracting colours for ease of identification in split second decisions. (This is the reason undershirts, undershorts, and sock tape all have to be colour-coded to the respective piece of kit.)

Sometimes what is and isn’t considered a colour clash isn’t clear (Celtic vs. Hibs, or Newcastle united vs. Sunderland spring to mind,) and each manager, referee, and kit controller deals with a clash in a different way. And this is where the strange combinations come from. The English Football League has had a rule for some years where clubs must ensure “registered colours (shirts, shorts and stockings) to be used are clearly distinguishable from those of their opponents.” Some clubs will change only the shorts. Or only the socks. Or only the shorts and socks. Either way you end up with the odd unusual mixture of different colour garments.

I support Rangers, and in Scottish football there’s never really been a rule about short clashes (well, not in the last 80 years,) so weird and wonderful kit mashups are far less common. Rangers do tend to wear alternative socks at times, and so I thought it would be interesting to look at the Gers adventures in playing kit over the last 30 years.

1987-1990 Umbro

Rangers launched their new home kit in the summer of 1987. Styled by Umbro, and with a new sponsor in the form of McEwan’s Lager, it represented a dramatic shift away from the 1983-86 kit. As the technology of artificial fibres improved through the 80s, kit manufacturers were able to introduce subtle shadow patterns, woven into the fabric itself. While previously these shadow effects had taken the form of stripes, Umbro started to take things a stage further.

The British manufacturer supplied a huge number of teams in the 80s and early 90s, and 1987 saw them release new designs for Rangers, Celtic, and Aberdeen. Many sportswear manufacturers design only a handful of template kits each year and tweak them for each club they supply to try and maintain some sort of individuality. So was the case for the three arch rivals – Rangers’ kit had a small shadow check design, Aberdeen’s a large check, and Celtic’s were rotated 45 degrees to form a diamond effect. All three kits featured grandad collars with a plastic popper button fastening. Notably, Rangers’ kit strayed away from tradition by including blue socks. The previous set had been partnered with red socks, as well as the more traditional black and red stockings, but blue would endure for the next five years, which I suspect might have been due to Graeme Souness’ influence, after his time in Italy (Rangers’ footering with their black socks tends to coincide with continental management appointments.)

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Rangers’ 1987-1990 home kit (illustration by Denis Hurley)

The away kit for 87-88 was slightly curious. Introduced in 1985, it was ostensibly the same template as Watford’s home and Newcastle’s away of the same period. However, the collar was notably different, an open necked flappy affair that owed more to the 70s (in terms of design, if not proportions,) than the increasingly fashion-conscious 80s. The sponsor was updated from CR Smith to McEwan’s Lager, but it was rarely used over the next two seasons, appearing perhaps 7 times in total. In the summer of 1988, a striking new kit replaced it. Clearly inspired by Monaco’s iconic home colours, Gers’ new away kit was diagonally halved, with red on the left, white on the right, and contrasting sleeves. Interestingly, this is popularly said to have been released in 1987, which is mainly due to the use of the grandad collar at a time when Umbro were moving towards wing collars. There are tell-tale signs that give its 1988 provenance away though, namely the diagonal shadow stripe and the dart shaped contrast colour inserts on the sides of the shorts. Both white socks with red tops, and red socks were worn with it.

The goalkeeping situation was no less murky. Main custodian Chris Woods had three colour jerseys available to him each season – yellow (his preferred colour, and that traditionally worn by goalkeepers in the Scottish league,) red, and a rarely used grey. The standard template shirt he wore in 1987-88 and 1988-89 was identical save for the ‘Umbro No. 1’ goalkeeper branding being superseded by the normal Umbro logo the following season. Inexplicably though, Woods wore a yellow ‘Hampden’ template goalie shirt against St. Mirren in February 1989. Perhaps this had been supplied to the club in 1988, but had Woods had preferred his ’87 shirt?

In 1989-90, he adopted a new style of jersey; this one had a large quilted section over the chest and shoulders, and had one of Umbro’s most audacious shadow patterns to date woven through the fabric, in the shape of bands of alternating chevrons, as would appear on Leeds and Man City kits. Again, yellow was the preferred choice for Woods and his deputy Bonni Ginzburg, but a red version was available. Interestingly, while Woods normally wore a pair of outfield shorts, Ginzburg donned yellow goalkeeper shorts (with attendant hip padding) for the game against Hearts in September 1989. These had the club crest embroidered on them, which suggests they were part of the kit.

The eighties Umbro-donning Rangers were not particularly known for kit miscellanea, but there is one titbit. In a pre-season friendly against Spurs in the summer of 1989, Rangers took to the field wearing a home shirt that was without the shadow check pattern, and had a different number font. This kit was never worn again, to my knowledge.

1990-1992 Admiral

Admiral hold a special place in the hearts of many kit enthusiasts, but I’ve never really liked their designs. Famous in the 70s and 80s for their bold templates, they had gone bankrupt in 1982, despite holding the England replica kit contract. Remerging towards the end of the decade, they had begun to supply a number of clubs in Britain, and once more Rangers shared a template with a fellow Scottish club, this time Motherwell. The new kit was either somewhat underwhelming, or classically simple, depending on your point of view. Echoing the 1960-1968 kit, there were no flashes, accents or inserts on the main body of the kit, but the white V neck collar featured a blue band with a white zig-zagging line, and a single red border. There was a strange plasticky wood texture throughout the kit material, but this could only really be seen up close. Blue socks were retained, but perhaps the most notable thing about the new kit was the amended crest, which now featured a scroll above reading ‘Rangers Football Club’, with ‘Ready’ picked out in individual letters underneath the RFC monogram. Rangers are unusual in that they have had a number of different crests and badges, with the club preferring to use the ‘lion and football’ badge for everyday purposes, and retain the monogram for the playing kit. The monogram also featured, sans scroll, on the back of the shirt, just under the collar, on all kits.

The away kit was similarly non-descript, a white shirt-blue-shorts-white socks combo broken up by a red and a blue chevron on each shoulder, which looked uncomfortably close to the triple chevrons Adidas were employing at the time on some of their kits. It wouldn’t have been the first time Admiral ’emulated’ Adidas…

There was no third kit, and as far as I’m aware, no swapping of kit elements although the home and away designs were neatly interchangeable*. The goalkeeper kits replicated the colour formula that had been in place under Umbro, with Chris Woods and his successor Andy Goram able to choose from a yellow, red, or silver-grey shirt. Goram was far more likely to don the red or silver shirt than Woods, who seemed glued into his yellow jersey, even wearing it away against Motherwell. Interestingly, while the yellow and red shirts featured the same ‘flame’ pattern that would appear in next season’s Southampton’s away and third shirts, the grey shirt’s pattern was closer to a cross between Liverpool’s 1989-91 away kit and a similar Ribero graphic of the time.

Rangers had signed a multi-year contract with Admiral, but by the second season their patience with the supplier was running thin. The sale of replica kit and club-branded leisurewear was becoming increasingly vital to British teams, and so when colour-fastness issues with the official club shellsuit resulted in negative press coverage, Rangers opted to terminate the arrangement, and signed a five year contract with Adidas in February 1992 with the new kits unveiled at the same time.

*The reserves played at least one match away to Kilmarnock in the 1990/91 season wearing the home shorts with the away shirt and socks.

1992-1997 Adidas

The Adidas equipment templates of 1991-1995, divide opinion, but I always really liked them. They were big, bold and a different tack for the German company, and I’d love to see them return on a modern kit someday. Well, the templates Liverpool and Rangers used in 1992-93 anyway – some of the others weren’t great, but more on that later.

Rangers’ two new outfield kits were for all intents and purposes identical. Utilising the Adidas Equipment template that featured three vertical stripes arranged in triangles either side of a modified V-neck collar that connected to an isosceles trapezoid panel at the base of the ‘v’, where the manufacturer’s logo was situated. The Rangers crest sat directly underneath, in the middle of the shirt, which was something of a novelty at that time. The material itself was subdued compared to the previous Admiral effort, with three Adidas shadow stripes repeating vertically on the shirts and shorts. McEwan’s Lager returned as sponsor, but they had updated their logotype with the word ‘Lager’ now smaller than ‘McEwan’s’. Both words used different fonts to each other, and the previous logotype, and the result was a classier look for the sponsor.

Both home and away made use of a red-white-blue palette. The home shirt was blue, of course, with a red collar and white shoulder stripes, and white shorts. The away kit was white, but the shoulder stripes were red and the collar blue. Both collars had a red, white and blue accent. Perhaps most notably, the black socks with red tops returned. They had been a part of the home kit since 1904 but had only featured intermittently from 1968 onwards. Fashions change a lot in football, and sometimes managers have clear ideas about players wearing brightly coloured socks. However, save the 1972 throwback kit of 2012/13 season, they’ve been present ever since. The away socks on the other hand were red with white tops, with three Adidas stripes (blue, red, blue) on the turnover. While these sock stripes had been a trademark of the German company since at least 1974, they hadn’t appeared on the kits Adidas had manufactured for Marseille and Liverpool in 1991, so it’s a little surprising in retrospect to see them here.

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Rangers’ 1992-94 home kit (illustration by Denis Hurley)

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Rangers’ 1992-93 away kit (illustration by Denis Hurley)

Goalkeeper wise, Andy Goram and Ally Maxwell had the usual yellow, red, and grey versions of a manufacturer’s goalie jersey to choose from, although Goram did play at least two matches wearing a generic Adidas ‘Taifun’ shirt with McEwan’s Lager printed on it, for reasons unclear. Intriguingly, contemporary catalogues from retailers advertised replica versions of Rangers goalkeeper shirts for the 1993-94 season that utilised the ‘Rib Bar’ template (as per the 1993 Liverpool home shirt,) in purple. These were never worn by the first team, as far as I’m aware, but more on that later.

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Rangers’ 1992-97 ‘home’ goalkeeper kit (illustration by Denis Hurley)

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Rangers’ 1992-94 ‘away’ goalkeeper kit (illustration by Denis Hurley)

Speaking of the sponsors, in season 92-93, Rangers qualified for the inaugural Champions League, whose regulations precluded shirt sponsors (this seems faintly ridiculous 25 years on, but hey ho.) Rangers received a shipment of sponsorless jerseys for the first group match against Marseille, but the fact Mark Hateley, Trevor Steven, and Alexei Mikhailitchenko preferred to wear long-sleeved shirts had clearly been overlooked. Thus the two Englishmen and Ukrainian lined up against the French champions wearing long sleeve shirts with a rectangular patch from another home kit stitched over the offending sponsor. Due to UEFA’s rules on the home team changing if there was a kit clash, we also experienced the rare sight of Rangers wearing their away kit at Ibrox, in the group match against Bruges. Finally, a competition patch would adorn a Rangers shirt for the first time in the form of the Champions League Starball. The Scottish Football League wouldn’t adopt such patches until 1995.

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Rangers’ long sleeved home shirt with sponsor patch, worn against Marseille in the Champions League (illustration by Denis Hurley)

Despite a new kit supplier, Rangers kit would continue to display inconsistencies in terms of the shirt numbering font. Rangers, like most clubs, had historically used a rounded, simple font for their shirt numbering, before adopting the fashionable new block with inset border in 1982. They would stick with this format until the second season with Admiral, when they reverted back to the old-fashioned round numerals. But from season 1993-94 onwards, the club’s shirt numbering became a crap shoot. Both Adidas kits in 1992-93 had featured the rounder numbers (Ally McCoist went through a period of wearing one shirt in the first half with a slightly thinner number 9, before changing to one with a regular 9 for the second half, attributed to superstition in a Scottish fitba magazine of the time.) However, for the new season, the home kit reverted to bearing block numerals, utilising a design that was synonymous with Adidas. This type had three diagonal stripes at the top left of each number, and the Adidas logo on a bar, at the bottom.

As for the away kit, that was a little more complicated.

The first Adidas attempt at a change kit hadn’t proved to be popular, apparently because it was too similar to the previous Admiral kit, so a radically different alternative strip was launched in the summer of 1993. A bold statement in orange and navy stripes, it had half striped shorts, and socks with three bands around the mid-calf area. It was also the first Rangers kit with a modern polo-style wing collar. Intriguingly the kit worn by the club differed slightly from the prototype featured in the launch material. The changes mostly affected the shorts; the prototype had the Adidas logo on the right leg and the club badge on the left. This was switched to the conventional placing for the kit proper, which also acquired a solid navy waistband, with a Rangers scroll inset on an orange square on the front of the waistband. The socks changed too, from orange with navy bands and navy turnovers, to all navy with orange bands.

As mentioned previously, sometimes kit colour clashes are managed in a way that might not appear intuitive to many spectators at first glance. If team A and B both wear a solid blue kit, then it makes sense that team B would change to a different solid coloured outfit. But football teams often wear striped and hooped jerseys and this often confuses matters, particularly due to the optical illusion where colours bleed into one another from a distance. The human eye focusses differently wavelengths of colour at different point, a phenomenon known as chromatic aberration that affects all lenses, mechanical and biological – if you’ve ever had an eye test (most people have had an eye test, right?) this is the purpose of the black concentric circles on a red and green background element. Thus, Celtic’s equal sized white and green hooped shirts appear whitish from a distance, Kilmarnock’s blue and white appears whitish, Milan’s red and black appears reddish, and so on. Historically Celtic would wear their green and white kit against Hibs, and Rangers their blue against Morton and Kilmarnock.

Similarly, away kits being of a similar colour to the home kit is hardly a new thing. Rangers have regularly had a blue and white striped or even hooped away kit, so a navy and orange striped shirt is not the huge departure I’d thought it was at the time (colourway notwithstanding.) Due to chromatic aberration, the shirt appeared more orange than blue from a distance, and was worn against St. Johnstone, Levski, and Raith without issue (Kilmarnock had switched to white shirts that season.) Away to Dundee however, whose navy shirts were similar in hue to Raith’s, the Tayside club changed into their alternative sets as well.

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Rangers’ 1993-94 away kit (illustration by Denis Hurley)

The new kit was first worn at St. Johnstone’s McDiarmid Park in August 1993, with rounded numerals used, in contrast to the home kit’s use of the block Adidas branded numbers. However, as the season went on, more and more ‘Adidas’ numbered shirts appeared, firstly in the away tie against Levski Sofia in Bulgaria. By the time of the game against Dundee in January, there was an even split between standard and Adidas numerals, while by February against Raith it was all Adidas numbers in the first half, with some players changing into shirts with rounded numbers in the second half. The Adidas numerals featured the trefoil logo (apart from the Levski games, where this branding was covered up with pieces of white plastic to comply with UEFA regulations,) as did the orange shirt’s collar label and button, but the shirts and shorts featured only the manufacturer’s logotype (the 92-93 kits’ labels didn’t have the trefoil or the three bar logo, but a square with three stripes instead.) I’ve since seen a number of ‘match-issue’ 93-94 away shirts offered for sale on the internet, but these tend to have the Adidas ‘Equipment’ logo, and I’m not sure Rangers actually wore these in a match. The home kit certainly had ‘Equipment’ branded numbers. It that all seems a bit confusing and messy…I think it was.

I’m not sure who was responsible for supplying the shirt numbers, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it had been Adidas themselves; they didn’t seem to have a firm grasp of brand management at that period of time. Having introduced the new ‘Equipment’ marque in 1990, by 1993 they already appeared to be scaling back on its use…but instead of returning to the classic trefoil logo, they were using the company logotype by itself instead, with the trefoil appearing sparingly on labels and the like. This was no more evident than at the World Cup of 1994. The company provided kits for ten of the 24 finalists – United States, Romania, Sweden, Germany, Spain, Argentina, Bulgaria, Nigeria, Ireland, and Norway. As noted previously, Adidas were in the midst of a phase of reinventing their famous ‘3 stripe’ marque, and in the early to mid-90s were using a number of different branding concepts, some that explicitly used three stripes and some implicitly – the classic vertical 3 stripes, horizontal 3 stripes, ‘Equipment’ style bars, contiguous columns of flattened diamonds, and 3 stripes as part of the body of the shirt design were all used, and there were a couple of kits produced at this time that didn’t readily reference the three stripes at all.

The Adidas strips worn at USA 94 were a mishmash of these different ideas, all launched in 1994:

Team Logo Used Shirt Brand 1 Shirt Brand 2 Shorts Socks
Argentina (Home) Logotype Vertical stripes N/A Horizontal stripes Calf Hoops
Argentina (Away) Logotype Vertical Stripes Diamonds Diamonds Calf Hoops
Bulgaria (Home) Logotype Rib Bars N/A Hip Bars Calf Hoops
Bulgaria (Away) Logotype Rib Bars N/A Hip Bars Calf Hoops
Ireland (Home) Logotype N/A N/A N/A Turnover stripes
Ireland (Away) Logotype Body Stripes N/A N/A Turnover stripes
Germany (Home) Logotype N/A N/A N/A Turnover stripes
Germany (Away) Logotype N/A N/A N/A Turnover stripes
Nigeria (Home) Logotype N/A N/A N/A Calf Hoops
Nigeria (Away) Logotype N/A N/A N/A Calf Hoops
Norway (Home) Logotype Vertical Stripes Rib Bars Hip Bars Calf Hoops
Norway (Away) Logotype Vertical Stripes Diamonds Horizontal Stripes Calf Hoops
Romania (Home) Logotype Rib Bars N/A Hip Bars Calf Hoops
Romania (Away) Logotype Rib Bars N/A Hip Bars Calf Hoops
Spain (Home) Logotype Diamonds N/A Diamonds Turnover stripes
Spain (Away) Logotype Diamonds N/A Diamonds Turnover stripes
Sweden (Home) Logotype Rib Bars N/A N/A Calf Hoops
Sweden (Away) Logotype Rib Bars N/A N/A Calf Hoops
United States (Home) Logotype N/A N/A N/A N/A
United States (Away) Logotype N/A N/A N/A N/A

This melange of ideas suggested the new Rangers kits for the 94-95 season could be anything, but there already existed a far more accurate portent. On Boxing Day 1993, Liverpool played Sheffield United at Brammall Lane wearing a natty new gold third shirt. Its fabric featured a repeating motif in gold and black of the club’s badge intertwined mit den drei Streifen, broken up by a larger aspect of the motif on the right hand side. The shirt and shorts also had 3 horizontal stripes at the bottom of each sleeve and leg and a varsity jacket-style stud collar.

Rangers unveiled the new home, away, and goalkeeper kits in April 1994. The home set was virtually identical to the Liverpool 3rd kit, save for the colour, the stylised crew-neck collar, and the club badge fabric motif being a little more subtle. Notably there was no red on the shirt or shorts for the first time since the 84-87 kit, although the Adidas stripes had a very fine black border. Like the previous season’s away kit, there was another club crest on the front of the waistband.

But we should talk about the socks some more. Rangers very rarely wear any type of alternative shorts with the home shirt, but the socks are a far different story. It’s not just that they’ll occasionally wear red, or white stockings – quite often they’ll wear black and red socks, but which are from a previous season’s kit, assuming they’re not teamwear. Ostensibly, the 1992-94 socks, upon the kit’s release, were plain black with red turnovers, with the RFC monogram picked out in white, although it appears that black and red socks without the monogram were also used. Refreshing the design for 1994, Adidas simply added their logotype below the monogram, but more often than not the team turned out in the 92-93 socks instead. Against AEK at Ibrox in qualification round for the Champions League, the team wore plain red socks, as the Greek side also wore black socks. Bafflingly, both sides had worn black stockings in the match in Athens two weeks previously.

The red away kit took the varsity collar from the Liverpool 3rd kit, and combined with the black candy stripes, ended up looking something like a baseball uniform. The shirt had a large RFC monogram on its front, with the candy stripes changing to red wherever they intersected with the logo. The shorts were black with red candy stripe strips at the bottom of each leg, and the whole thing was complimented by a lovely pair of socks – red with black turnovers and 3 clean white Adidas hoops, the manufacturer’s branding being otherwise absent from the strip. While the full change kit was worn away to Falkirk in September, home socks were substituted in for the second visit in January 1995.

The new kit excitement didn’t end there though, with the introduction of the lilac ‘European change’ kit. With a similar collar to the previous season’s away kit, its fabric was constructed of solid and aertex-style stripes woven together (the Liverpool home shirt of the following season would be made of the same material.) Paired with black shorts with white-purple-white horizontal Adidas stripes, the socks were the same design as the away kit, but in purple instead of red. It was a gorgeous strip, one of my favourites, but ill-fated. With the club knocked out of the European Cup at the qualifying stage for the Champions League, the kit made one competitive appearance, against Motherwell in a 2-1 defeat in October 1994, when there was no clash of colours. It was never seen again.

As usual for Rangers, the greatest variety in playing kit came from the goalkeepers. The initial first-choice goalie kit was the new Adidas template, as worn by several keepers at the World Cup. For the previous decade or so, Rangers goalkeepers had worn either solid yellow or red shirts, but this design allowed both colours to be combined in one, with an Ajax-style central portion of red pebble-shaped blobs on a background, flanked by yellow pebbles. Would an alternate be needed, a purple and grey version was also available. Andy Goram would also wear this template in a grey and orange colourway against Kilmarnock in October. A point of interest is the use of crests this season; the home kit saw the return of the monogram sans scroll, while the away and European kit badges used the scroll version. The goalie shirts also had different badges, with the purple and grey and the grey and orange scroll-less, and the red and yellow with the scroll. On top of all that, Goram wore the old red Adidas Equipment jersey against Falkirk in the League Cup!

The numbering was at least straight-forward. The Adidas block template was used for all kits in all games, branded with the manufacturer’s logotype. There was now no sign of the trefoil or Three Bar logo anywhere on the kits. Well, aside from the shirt labels, which was still a mixed bag.

The club retained the home kit for the 1995-96 season, but released a new away strip, the beginning of a slow realisation for fans that clubs could make money by releasing more and more replica kit. On this occasion I’ll forgive them, as the new change shirt was a belter. Taking its cue again from a Liverpool’s get up, it had the same wide V-neck collar as the Anfield club’s new home shirt, but drew its quartered design from their away jersey, thankfully swapping the bottle green for red. It was complimented by 3 vertical stripes on the sleeves, being the only shirt that Adidas would produce for the club that would feature its trademark in its most readily recognised form. The shorts were simply black with three white vertical stripes, and like the home kit, the socks were identical enough to the previous season’s for it to be unclear what difference there was. The monogram crest had now permanently lost its scroll (at least when used on playing kit,) and sat inside a solid black shield. The back of the shirt was solid red, and the black Adidas numbers sat a little illegibly on it.

In domestic football anyway. After failing to qualify for the Champions League two seasons in a row, Rangers overcame the Cypriot side Anorthosis Famagusta to make it to the group stages. Oddly, they wore the new away kit in the home leg, and the home kit in the away leg. This had been the convention from 1991-93, but UEFA seemed to have reverted to having away teams changing in 1994. A new shirt number font would be used in European competition that seemed to be halfway between the old rounded number set and the blocky Adidas numerals, having the font weight of the former and the straight lines of the latter.

During the 95-96 season, Rangers used 4 goalkeepers, and as many goalie shirts. The club started the season utilising the ‘Predator’ template, as worn by the two other clubs in Adidas’ UK stable, Newcastle and Liverpool. Sticking to some sort of tradition, yellow & orange and grey & blue versions were available. But Andy Goram wouldn’t have been Andy Goram wearing just two jerseys. Oh no. By November he’d reverted to wearing the purple and grey Pebble shirt from the previous season, and would continue to do so for much of the season, with the orange & grey Pebble jersey popping up in March against Inverness Caley Thistle in the cup. In addition to resurrecting the Pebble shirt, Goram liked to combine it with a pair of Pebble template shorts, which he hadn’t done the season before. The problem was the Pebble shorts he wore were a different colourway to the jersey, being black with maroon and grey pebbles rather than purple and grey.

(Denis Hurley suggests the official name of the ‘Pebble’ template was the ‘Predator’, and I bow to his superior knowledge.)

With another two year cycle over, it was time for the last set of kits under the Adidas agreement. They had been launched in May 1996, in time to be worn in the Scottish Cup final as the previous two new home kits had. It was virtually identical to France’s Euro 96 national team shirt, which had debuted some three months earlier in a friendly against Greece. The differences were minor: the Rangers kit lacked the laced section of the France shirt, the collar accents were inverted (Red, Blue, Red for France, Blue Red, Blue for Rangers,) and the Rangers shorts didn’t house the vertical stripes in a blue panel.

Continuing the general theme of Rangers’ Adidas shirts not featuring the 3 stripes in their traditional position on the shoulders, on this shirt they were located in two white wedges either side of the chest, appearing almost like tricolour braces. The fabric shadow pattern was the monogram inside a shield, repeated throughout the shirt, and the shorts were simple enough – white with the three stripe ‘braces’ repeating in the same colour arrangement as the shirt at the sides. They didn’t run the full length of the shorts, being restricted to an elongated quadrilateral halfway up the sides. The socks again had only minor differences to the previous two home sets.

The away kit contrasted greatly with the previous year’s red and white quartered affair, but had some similarities with the new home kit. The material was exactly the same, and the tricolour three stripe also appeared as a ‘brace’, instead running the full length of the shirt, and on the right side only. A red panel connected the brace with the red right sleeve, and the shirt had a red grandad collar – otherwise it was predominantly white. The Rangers monogram was once more contained in a shield, this time red with a blue border. The short were also red, with white side panels housing the three stripe quadrilateral, and the socks were white with red turnovers containing three blue stripes. All kits featured the Adidas logotype again, and on the away it was located in a small white patch on the brace.

The 96-97 kits weren’t great. I’m not sure if I thought that at the time, but I certainly do in retrospect. I’m normally a big fan of Adidas, but I think at the time they’d lost a bit of direction, and weren’t quite sure what their brand identity was. Part of me thinks they looked a wee bit cheap as well, but kits from all manufacturers can do so from time to time. I’d mentioned at the start of this recollection how I’d been inspired by reading Denis Hurley’s Museum of Jersey’s pieces on kit ‘mash ups’ where teams are forced to introduce pair another piece of kit with their ensemble due to colour clashes. Sometimes this is from one of the club’s other strips, sometimes it’s an entirely new piece of apparel. Denis’ piece got me thinking about Rangers’ kits over the years, and kit clashes, and I thoroughly recommend you give Museum of Jerseys a read (particularly if you’ve got this far in my blog…seriously. They have pictures. Pictures are good.)

Rangers-adidas-1996-1997-home-shirt-Ajax-blue-shorts-01

Rangers’ 1996-97 home kit, variant worn against Ajax in the Champions League (illustration by Denis Hurley)

Apart from changing to the away kit when there’s a clash, Scottish football doesn’t have regulations or a culture of changing elements of a kit piecemeal (other than some weird rule about wearing black shorts away, rescinded in the 20s.) So 1996-97 was the first season I was aware of Rangers doing things like changing shorts or socks (yes, they had worn red stockings against AEK 2 seasons earlier, but that hadn’t registered with me at the time.) Over the next 20 years, Rangers would mix and match kit more regularly, but quite often there didn’t appear to be any rhyme or reason as to why such substitutions were made. At least not to my eyes.

Earlier I mentioned that Kilmarnock’s blue and white stripes often fade to white from a distance, and that Rangers historically wore blue shirts at Rugby Park. In fact, Kilmarnock happily wore their white and blue striped shirt at Ibrox in the Scottish Cup just two seasons ago. It’s not ideal, but more or less okay. Kilmarnock had been wearing predominately white, then blue, for the previous three seasons so there had been no hard thinking to do about what strip to wear. Faced with a Kilmarnock side that had returned to blue and white stripes, Rangers ended up in the white away kit and the results weren’t pretty. I’m not sure who made the decision, referee or club, but it suggested that a white away kit hadn’t been a wise decision, or that a third kit might be required. Still, no-one at Rangers or Adidas was in control of Kilmarnock’s design-hopping.

Oddly enough, Rangers had played in a third kit just ten days earlier, against Grasshopper in the Champions League. Utilising the same template that was common with some of Europe’s Adidas-supplied national teams, the red shirt featured three broad white stripes on each shoulder, curving gently as they converged near the bottom of the ribs, and a V-neck not massively dissimilar to the 92-94 home kit, trimmed with a red-black-red tricolour. The shorts were simple black affairs with three white stripes on either side – they’re almost identical to the 95-96 away shorts, but frustratingly from a mash-up point of view, I don’t think they’re the same. They’re even made of the exact material, but I can’t see a club crest on any of the images. The use of the home socks adds to the air of this being an ad-hoc effort, but the crest and Adidas logotype are neatly embroidered, and the sponsor logo doesn’t look like a rush job. It would certainly have been more suitable to wear against Kilmarnock than the white shirt, but perhaps the club felt that with Raith being the only other team that wore blue in the league, the white, commercially-released, shirt wouldn’t get many outings. Changed days, if that indeed was the case. I suppose we have to consider the possibility that Rangers hadn’t registered a third kit with the SFL, but I’m not sure even they would have been so unyielding to reject a solution to a colour clash.

Denis Hurley has already covered in his piece much of Rangers’ scattergun approach to kit control in the Champions League in 1996-97. They changed shorts and socks against Ajax away, but not against Auxerre away. Alcohol advertising was, and still is, banned in France, so the club commissioned a shirt that replaced the McEwan’s Lager branding with that of one of their parent organisation’s other concerns, Center Parcs. Bizarrely, this shirt wasn’t made from the same material as the 96-97 home shirt, but the 94-96 version.

Let’s re-introduce Andy Goram at this juncture. As custodian, he had two new jerseys to choose from. One was an all-white affair with a black roll neck, blue-red-blue shoulder stripes, and white club monogram in a red shield in the centre of the shirt. It was very similar to the away shirt, in point of fact. His alternate was, again, similar to a jersey worn by Newcastle. The body’s colour gradient, from red at the bottom to yellow at the top, provided a sunset-effect background for a graphic representation of the Archibald Leitch Ibrox main stand. Black sleeves with white Adidas stripes and a black roll neck completed the striking shirt. It wasn’t worn very often though, with Goram preferring the white shirt. He really didn’t like the sunburst shirt, because when Rangers played Kilmarnock in the match alluded to above, with both sides wearing almost all-white kits, he dragged the 1992-93 yellow Adidas Equipment jersey out of retirement (the fourth season it would appear in.) Intriguingly, this shirt doesn’t have SFL competition patches, but does have what appears to be black electrical tape covering a logo on the right sleeve. The Starball was worn on the left sleeve when Rangers played in the Champions League in 1992-93, so was this kit prepared for the campaigns in 1995-96 and 1996-97?

While Goram seemed to dislike half the kits Adidas provided each season, his back-ups didn’t appear so fussy. Theo Snelders donned the sunburst kit against Hibs in January, and late-season emergency signing Andy Dibble gave it an airing against Raith Rovers in April. Regarding the black jersey Goram wore against Auxerre at home, I suspect this was a 1993 era goalkeeper shirt, similar to the ones Liverpool and Arsenal used, but with the white rib bars removed. We know Soccer Scene advertised a purple-with-black-bars goalie strip, and if my memory serves, a black version was also commercially available. It’s a bit of a stretch, and it doesn’t really explain why he couldn’t have worn any of the other dozen shirts he’d had available up to that point. That’s why the Snelders Amsterdam shirt snafu is confusing as well, given that he changed at half-time from the borrowed yellow shirt into a sunburst jersey. He then wore the grey & blue 95 shirt against Ajax in the return fixture. And then there’s Andy Goram seemingly wearing the shirt from the Ajax game against Auxerre, having changed the number from Snelders’ 13, and steamed the logo off? It doesn’t make a lot of sense, and I can’t imagine Adidas would have been happy. That said, Rangers had signed a contract with Nike a year previously, to come into effect at the start of the 97-98 season, so maybe relations between both parties were a little frayed? It all seems a bit shambolic, particular when you consider the specially commissioned outfield shirts worn against Grasshopper and Auxerre.

Squad numbers (but not names at this stage) were required in the Champions League, from the group stages onwards, and this was a first for the club. While the English Premier League had adopted squad numbers and shirt names in 1993, it would be another five years before the concept would reach Scotland, with the advent of the breakaway Scottish Premier League (SPL). There weren’t too many controversies about the allocation of the numbers – you could perhaps argue David Robertson should have been 3 rather than 15, but as he missed the first 10 weeks of the season, it’s a minor quibble. Otherwise the font was the same as the previous season. 96-97 was the first season that Rangers seemed to pay attention to sock clashes though. Not only did they wear blue socks against Ajax in the Champions League, and Dunfermline domestically, after the first visit to Rugby Park, red socks with 3 white hoops were worn with the change kit for visits to Kirkcaldy and Kilmarnock.

Had Rangers made the Scottish Cup final, we might have seen the new Nike kit in that match, as was becoming tradition. As it was, the club’s last game of the 96-97 season, and wearing Adidas apparel, was against Hearts at Tynecastle, the 3-1 defeat notable only for the debut appearance of a 19 year-old Barry Ferguson. The Nike deal was supposed to signify Rangers moving onto a higher plateau, and breaking Celtic’s 9-in-a-row record. It wasn’t meant to be the end of era it ended up becoming. There had been some good times with Adidas, and some bad. Reaching the Champions League group stages 3 times from 5 attempts shouldn’t be sniffed at, in retrospect.

But it wasn’t just the great servants of 9-in-a-row departing Ibrox that symbolised the changing of a guard – the notion of what a football kit was supposed to be was continuing to change as well. It was no longer just a means of easily identifying who you were attempting to kick the ball to, and who you were trying to keep it away from. The 96-97 home kit was the last Rangers jersey to be worn domestically without mandated squad numbers and player names featuring at all during its lifespan. From the 1960s onwards, European teams started playing more matches in more competitions, using more players. In Scotland, matchday squads slowly got bigger, from 12 in 1987 to 18 in 2004. UEFA and FIFA became more pedantic about kit regulations (although consideration of visually impaired fans is good reason,) and clubs became cannier about replica sales, realising that three new kits every years spun many pennies. Manufacturers continually pushed the boundaries of technology, or so they told us. Nike were still making inroads to European soccer with the Rangers contract, and Adidas seemed to slowly be getting their act together after half a decade of confusing branding. In 1997, they settled with using the three bar logo, sans ‘Equipment’ tag for their football kits and general sportswear, and used the trefoil exclusively on their retro ‘Originals’ line.

Competition patches, squad numbers, mandatory fonts, bigger squads, fashion, technology, cold hard cash. All these factors made football kits how they are in 2017. With hundreds of teams across Europe, many releasing three new full kits every season, it’s no surprise that design has got a bit samey and uninspired – I’m specifically thinking of Nike’s vapid Vapor templates here. That’s not to say there weren’t templates back in the 80s and 90s – oh, there were many, and most of Rangers’ kits were templates. They were just spread out a bit more, and kit launches were staggered, and it was all a bit less samey. The 2017 approach to team apparel also made the club’s business of managing their kit more complicated. Most professional clubs started off like your uni or Sunday league team – they bought a set of 10-12 outfield shirts (the goalie wearing what appeared to be his dad’s Aran jumper,) and often the players laundered them themselves. Matching shorts and socks were a luxury! Nowadays, transporting the players’ outfits around Europe is a logistically intense operation, mirrored in the evolution of the term ‘kitman’ into ‘kit controller.’ It’s not just gender neutral, it reflects that there a big club will have scores if not hundreds of pieces of clothing circulating its training centre and stadium every day of the week.

This mid 90s crossroads in the world of football kits, and the end of the 9-in-a-row era, coincided with a juncture in my personal life. I’d left secondary school in 1996, and while I had long dreamed of designing football kits for a living, I had no idea how to break into the field. I acquired an ‘A’ Level in Art, a National Certificate in Graphic Design, and had been accepted onto an HND (Higher National Diploma – roughly equivalent to the first two years of a Bachelor’s degree.) But while I was ostensibly getting closer to becoming a designer, I was drifting away from football, and football kits, a little. Like many teenage boys my head was being turned by the twin devils of rock music and girls – I’d taught myself to play guitar, and was attempting to write songs. Terrible lovesick songs about the woman that worked in the butchers I fancied. All the while I’d taken up photography at college, and from pursuing a reasonably sensible vocational path, I suddenly found myself 300 miles away in Dudley in a dingy student hall of residence where I would study for a degree in photography, form a band, and entertain hazy dreams of becoming famous at something.

What’s worse, I convinced myself that it was time to put away childish things. My elaborately plotted and illustrated fictional football league was binned. Horrifically, my mother and I seem to have colluded to throw out my entire replica shirt collection. That collection included a fair number of the shirts referenced above, as well as some other stone-cold early 90s classics. I’m not sure I can even begin to figure out what I was thinking there, and it still chides me to this day. But I’m glad to say I got better. I started collecting shirts again at university, and the development of blogs and Twitter has allowed me to fully indulge myself in the nerdier elements of the subject. As you can probably tell by the length of this post. I think I’ve got it out my system now.

Well, the 80s and 90s kits anyway…I suspect part 2 will follow in the next few weeks.

(As part of my research for this, I heavily used the following site:

Museum of Jerseys

The Football Attic

True Colours

Historical Football Kits

(Updated to include illustrations of some of Rangers’ kits, used by kind permission of Denis Hurley at Museum of Jerseys.)

Par for the Course

I went on one of my rare trips to Ibrox this evening, to take in the Scottish League Cup second round match between Rangers and Dunfermline. (As an aside, the main reason I don’t go more often is the cost; the game cost me £30.20 for travel, food and a programme, just for one adult.)

It was a pretty good performance by the Gers. Resting Ryan Jack, who’s been impressive since he signed, the Ibrox side were nevertheless 2-0 up by the time the match clock ticked into double figures. Two more goals in the first half, and another couple in the second, saw Rangers secure their biggest competitive victory to date under Pedro Caixinha. While Dunfermline are a second tier team, Rangers dominated the game, using the ball well in midfield and converting chances when they arose, something they don’t always do. All-in–all, a resounding victory and a great team performance – symbolised by the fact I’ve been struggling to single out a man of the match. Some elements of the evening did annoy me a little – being 4-0 up after half an hour inevitably resulted in the foot being taken off the gas a little, although that might have been at the manager’s behest to try different things out. Caixinha’s decision to pitch Wilson, Kranjcar, and Holt in as his three substitutes peeved me as I’d liked to have seen Ryan Hardie get a run out. 

I also felt Jordan Rossiter looked a bit rusty in midfield, although that’s perhaps to be expected after all his injury problems. I didn’t think Alfredo Morelos was all that impressive either – two goals aside, he looked to struggle physically against Dunfermline’s centre backs, particularly  Jean-Yves M’voto, after the big Frenchman came on. 

However, Morelos won the sponsor’s man of the match award; not unsurprising, as this often goes to players if they’ve scored more than one goal. After I left the mobile internet graveyard that is Ibrox however, it became apparent that Morelos playing well and looking a talent was a consensus view. Ah well. I tweeted something about how my views always seem to run contrary to others, and continued my walk home. 

Five minutes later, I checked my phone to see I had a number of notifications. Iain Duff, who is a mutual follower and has written books on Rangers, had replied to me saying he felt the performance was overrated, and that seemed to instigate some kind of minor tweetstorm, with people telling us we were being miserable bastards, essentially. 

Which is probably a fair cop. 

What I do take exception to were the tweets saying that Rangers fans are celebrating a rare occasion when they were expected to win big and have, after five years of failing to, and that they’re not getting carried away. That’s simply not true. Each of the last five or six seasons I can clearly remember a big win early in the season in the league or challenge cup that has had Rangers fans purring and convinced of impending glory for a few days until a player makes an innocuous mistake in that weekend’s league match and doom is one more upon us. It’s emblematic of the magic bullet syndrome I’ve written of before. 

Some examples of the phenomenon include:

  • Rangers 5-0 Queen of the South (September 2016)
  • Rangers 6-2 Hibernian (July 2015)
  • Rangers 8-1 Clyde (August 2014) You can argue the toss McCoist’s reputation was too far gone by this stage. 
  • Rangers 4-0 Albion Rovers (July 2013)
  • Rangers 2-0 Motherwell (September 2012)

These pretty much all turned out to be false dawns. Or non-turned corners. It’s good to be positive about your club’s fortunes, but I do think it’s easier when it’s summer or early autumn and the grass is green and the sun is out and your marrow isn’t freezing in your bones. And let’s not forget that football fans are incredibly fickle. 

I do think that Rangers’ recent results and performances have been encouraging, and most of Caixinha’s signings have impressed me. Alves, Cardoso, Jack, and Dorrans in particular look like they’ve formed a strong girdle up the middle of the team, something we’ve lacked for a while. But I’m not getting carried away until the season starts proper. Fool me 28 times, shame on you…

Baad Stats

If you read my blog at all, you’ll know I bristle at the misuse of statistics in order to ‘prove’ dubious theories. I stumbled across another example on Twitter this afternoon. 


On the face of it, it a third-tier English side selling twice as many tickets as a first tier Scottish team doesn’t look good. But this is where regression analysis comes in. For a start,  Bradford has a higher population than Aberdeen (roughly twice the size.) England in general has ten times the population of Scotland, so direct comparisons like this aren’t helpful. 

Bradford have also introduced cut-price season tickets for under-11s – £5 for the entire season (46 league games.) 


Aberdeen are in “the big boy’s league”. And they’ll probably sell more season tickets than any other Scottish club, outwith the Old Firm. Leicester City and Villarreal only sell around 20,000 season tickets in their first tier leagues, and they’re able to compete with the big boys. 

None of that really matters though. The original tweet was meant at a dig at Aberdeen, and with 96 retweets and 242 likes, it certainly succeeded in its goal. 

Lies, Damned Lies, and the Big Count 2006.

In my previous blog, I wrote about the emergence of soccer data analysts focussing on the Scottish game, and how I wasn’t convinced a lot of the metrics they presented were accurate and disconcerted by how the methodology behind the metrics is less than transparent, proper methodology being key in producing accurate statistics. Since that blog Rangers and St Johnstone were both knocked out of the Europa League at the first possible hurdle, the sort of thing that always hurtles Scottish football into apocalyptic self-flagellation and also led to analysis going into overdrive with all sorts of information and graphs being posted online.

One such chart I saw on Twitter was the number of youth players in Scotland, compared to Denmark, Norway and the Republic of Ireland, nations of comparable size and geographically local. At first glance, the table was damning, with Scotland only having half as many youth players as the other three. It was implied that this paucity of young players was the reason Scotland were struggling in international competition.

Over the last few years, despite being keen on the use of statistics to aid informed decision, I’ve come to realise there’s a lot of misinformation and bias about, deliberate or otherwise. Whenever any source publishes a big stat such as the one above, regardless of whether it’s in the sphere of politics or football, my snidey senses start to tingle. Where’s the bullshit? I reflexively ask.

There are a few ways that statistics can be presented in a way that looks a bit iffy. One is cherry-picking: why have Denmark and Norway been selected as comparisons, and not England, Wales or Northern Ireland, with whom Scotland is more akin. What’s the source of the original data? Have variables and outliers been accounted for? What’s the baseline data? What’s a standard deviation? Are like items being compared?

The source of the data was shared later in a reply, and I had a quick look at it on Friday – on a first glance, it didn’t fill me with confidence. Firstly, the methodology for the data gathering was described as follows;

“The data for Big Count 2006 was collated in the first half of 2006 via the standard practice of a questionnaire as well as an online tool. The response rate was over 75%. FIFA used Big Count 2000, a UEFA survey from 2005 and other internal analyses to supplement missing data from associations and for plausibility purposes.”

A survey was sent out to the member associations to be completed, and if the information wasn’t returned, they would fill in the gaps from other sources.

The information for England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales was also interesting. Always a bit of an anomaly in World football due to being 4 sporting nations within 1 sovereign country, the FIFA report has applied the UK’s population to each of its constituent countries, which dramatically skews the players per population percentage for the smaller three countries. Finally, the data was from 11 years ago, which is useful in telling us how events 11 years ago are shaping today, but the fact no follow-ups seem to have been carried out means that we only have a snapshot in time, with no progress or decline to benchmark the figures against.

I started my own analysis by copying the data into a spreadsheet. This would allow me to calculate the figure for Youth players as a percentage of the each county’s respective population, allowing for a more like-for-like comparison.

Number 

Association 

Region 

Pop 

Youth 

% of Pop

1 

Faroe Islands 

Nordic

47246 

4040 

8.55% 

2 

Norway 

Nordic

4610820 

272958 

5.92% 

3 

Iceland 

Nordic

299388 

16000 

5.34% 

4 

Republic of Ireland 

UK & Ireland 

4062235 

174498 

4.30% 

5 

Liechtenstein 

Central 

33987 

1400 

4.12% 

6 

Sweden 

Nordic

9016596 

319599 

3.54% 

7 

Denmark 

Nordic

5450661 

188724 

3.46% 

8 

Slovakia 

Central 

5439448 

169561 

3.12% 

9 

Netherlands 

Western 

16491461 

510091 

3.09% 

10 

San Marino 

Southern 

29251 

823 

2.81% 

11 

Austria 

Central 

8192880 

221547 

2.70% 

12 

Germany 

Central 

82422299 

2081912 

2.53% 

13 

Luxembourg

Western 

474413 

11874 

2.50% 

14 

Czech Rep 

Central 

10235455 

208451 

2.04% 

15 

Belgium 

Western 

10379067 

208551 

2.01% 

16 

Finland 

Nordic

5231372 

101334 

1.94% 

17 

Andorra 

Southwestern 

71201 

1366 

1.92% 

18 

France 

Central 

60876136 

1034046 

1.70% 

19 

Switzerland

Central 

7523934 

127700 

1.70% 

20 

Croatia 

Southeastern 

4494749 

64495 

1.43% 

21 

Ukraine 

Eastern 

46710816 

658540 

1.41% 

22 

England 

UK & Ireland 

60609153 

820000 

1.35% 

23 

Scotland 

UK & Ireland 

5116900 

67123 

1.31% 

24 

Wales 

UK & Ireland 

2966000 

31200 

1.05%

25 

Spain 

Southwestern 

40397842 

419485 

1.04% 

26 

Slovenia 

Southeastern 

2010347 

20831 

1.04% 

27 

Italy 

Southern 

58133509 

557453 

0.96% 

28 

N Ireland 

UK & Ireland 

1742000 

16000 

0.92% 

29 

Serbia 

Southeastern 

9396411 

85412 

0.91% 

30 

Cyprus 

Eastern 

784301 

6644 

0.85%

31 

Greece 

Southeastern 

10688058 

86779 

0.81% 

32 

Malta 

Southern 

400214 

2773 

0.69% 

33 

Hungary 

Central 

9981334 

63744 

0.64% 

34 

Portugal 

Southwestern 

10605870 

64922 

0.61% 

35 

Bosnia-Herzogovina 

Southeastern 

4498976 

26570 

0.59% 

36 

Israel 

Eastern 

6352117

33883 

0.53% 

37 

Georgia 

Eastern 

4661473 

23990 

0.51% 

38 

Poland 

Central 

38536869 

185808 

0.48% 

39 

Albania 

Southeastern 

3581655 

14000 

0.39% 

40 

Estonia 

Northern 

1324333 

5042 

0.38% 

41 

Macedonia 

Southeastern 

2050554 

7760 

0.38% 

42 

Latvia 

Northern 

2274735 

6550

0.29% 

43 

Lithuania 

Northern 

3585906 

9764 

0.27% 

44 

Bulgaria 

Southeastern 

7385367 

17389 

0.24% 

45 

Romania 

Southeastern 

22303552 

48010 

0.22% 

46 

Turkey 

Eastern 

70413958 

131916 

0.19% 

47 

Belarus 

Eastern 

10293011 

18760 

0.18% 

48 

Azerbaijan 

Eastern 

7961619 

14120

0.18% 

49 

Russia 

Eastern 

142893540 

196170 

0.14% 

50 

Kazakhstan 

Eastern 

15233244 

20500 

0.13% 

51

Armenia 

Eastern 

2976372 

2915 

0.10% 

52 

Moldova 

Eastern 

4466706 

2603 

0.06% 

 

In 2006, Gibraltar and Andorra were not members of FIFA, and there was apparently no data available for Montenegro, so they’re not included in the above table.

Compared with the average of all nations across Europe, Scotland’s number of youth players is slightly under par (1.31% to an average of 1.61%,) but was healthier than that of Spain, Italy, and Portugal. Intriguingly, the top 7 nations for youth players in the above table consist of 5 of the 6 Nordic countries. Whether this is down to the Nordic countries having a more Sportacus approach to getting kids active, or a different definition of what ‘registered youth player’ is, I couldn’t say. Broadly the same countries all top the table for ‘Teams’ per head of population, but as there doesn’t seem to be any hard and fast definition of what a ‘Team’ actually is, we might do well to take the FIFA stats with a pinch of salt. The Faroe Islands apparently have a football team for every 155 people, which seems implausible to me.

The Republic of Ireland having nearly 3.5 times as many youth footballers as Scotland was another interesting data point, given that football on the Emerald Isle has to compete with rugby and Gaelic Athletic Association sports. Football does appear to be the most popular team sport in Ireland with a 2008 Sport Ireland report suggesting 9% of people play soccer. The four countries with the highest number of clubs per population are Ireland, Scotland, England, and Wales in that order with the first two having twice as many as the latter two. Ireland however apparently has three times as many teams as Scotland, as well as more youth players.

I looked for breakdowns of population by date, and using the CIA World Factbook for 2016 (yes, I know,) and the 2011 UK Census, I was able to generate numbers of how many people aged between 0 and 14 each country had. While not exactly aligning with the 0-18 age bracket of the dataset, I felt this would give a better grasp of what percentage of young people were registered as footballers in each country.

Interestingly, this suggested that the percentage of young people aged 0-14 in Ireland was 10% higher than in Scotland.

Association 

Population aged 0-14

Youth % of total Population

Republic of Ireland 

1065440 

26.23% 

N Ireland 

354703 

20.36% 

Wales 

519128 

17.50% 

Scotland 

855000 

16.71% 

England 

9372010 

15.46% 

 

So Ireland have a larger pool of younger players to get involved in football. But what about the remaining deficit?

Number 

Association 

Pop 

Other 

% of Pop 

1 

Germany 

82422299 

10000000 

12.13% 

2 

Scotland 

5116900 

302500 

5.91% 

3 

Italy 

58133509 

3207700 

5.52% 

4 

Croatia 

4494749 

232715

5.18% 

5 

Spain 

40397842 

1915000 

4.74% 

6 

Faroe Islands 

47246 

2000 

4.23% 

7 

Sweden 

9016596 

375000 

4.16% 

8 

England 

60609153 

2415200 

3.98% 

9 

Switzerland 

7523934 

240000 

3.19% 

10 

Austria 

8192880 

260000 

3.17% 

11 

Slovenia 

2010347 

55200 

2.75% 

12 

Georgia 

4661473

122400 

2.63% 

13 

Cyprus 

784301 

20200 

2.58% 

14 

Romania 

22303552 

556700 

2.50% 

15 

Republic of Ireland 

4062235 

98800 

2.43% 

16 

Norway 

4610820 

110000 

2.39% 

17 

Finland 

5231372 

120000 

2.29% 

18 

San Marino 

29251 

650 

2.22% 

19 

Hungary 

9981334 

203100 

2.03% 

20

France 

60876136 

1233100 

2.03% 

21 

Portugal 

10605870 

210000 

1.98% 

22 

Denmark 

5450661 

100000 

1.83% 

23 

Iceland 

299388 

5100 

1.70% 

24 

Netherlands 

16491461 

250000 

1.52% 

25 

Moldova 

4466706 

66150 

1.48% 

26 

Serbia 

9396411 

134500 

1.43% 

27 

Wales 

2966000 

41000 

1.38% 

28 

Greece 

10688058 

145400 

1.36% 

29 

Armenia 

2976372 

37900 

1.27% 

30 

Slovakia 

5439448 

68700 

1.26% 

31 

Belgium 

10379067 

128200 

1.24% 

32 

Bulgaria 

7385367 

90400 

1.22% 

33 

Israel 

6352117 

77000 

1.21% 

34 

Turkey 

70413958 

847000 

1.20% 

35 

Estonia 

1324333 

15700

1.19% 

36 

Poland 

38536869 

424300 

1.10% 

37 

Belarus 

10293011 

113000 

1.10% 

38 

Lithuania 

3585906 

38100 

1.06% 

39 

Azerbaijan 

7961619 

82700 

1.04% 

40 

Russia 

142893540 

1443800 

1.01% 

41 

Czech Rep 

10235455 

103100 

1.01% 

42 

Andorra 

71201 

700 

0.98% 

43 

Albania

3581655 

34000 

0.95% 

44 

Macedonia 

2050554 

19000 

0.93% 

45 

Liechtenstein 

33987 

310 

0.91% 

46 

Luxembourg 

474413 

4100 

0.86% 

47 

Bosnia-Herzogovina 

4498976 

36200 

0.80% 

48 

Latvia 

2274735 

17900 

0.79% 

49 

Malta 

400214 

3100 

0.77% 

50 

Ukraine 

46710816 

314700 

0.67%

51 

N Ireland 

1742000 

10500 

0.60% 

52 

Kazakhstan 

15233244 

79600 

0.52% 

 

There’s a column further along to the right in the FIFA dataset marked ‘Company or Army Teams, Schools and Universities, Street Football’. Scotland has the second highest % of population for this metric, behind Germany’s curiously round number. It might not be well known, but many club teams in Scotland don’t allow their young players to also play for their school team – could it be there is a high number of youth Scottish players included within this figure of 302,500? Without any clear guidance on methodology from FIFA, it would be down to the individual associations to interpret what data fell under which category. And colour me cynical, but I’m sceptical that roughly 16% of Irish children between 0-14 are registered footballers.

There’s one more oddity with this collection of data. When I added up the numbers of Professionals, Amateurs, Youth, Futsal, Beach Soccer, and ‘Other’, the totals didn’t match the total number of players in the third column. What’s more, they didn’t match in a very specific way, as you can see in the table below.

Association

Pop

Players

Check

Difference

Russia

142893540

5802536

2290536

3512000

Germany

82422299

16308946

16308946

0

Turkey

70413958

2748657

1044657

1704000

France

60876136

4190040

3028040

1162000

England

60609153

4164110

3901110

263000

Italy

58133509

4980296

4721296

259000

Ukraine

46710816

2273017

1007017

1266000

Spain

40397842

2834190

2568190

266000

Poland

38536869

2000264

1081264

919000

Romania

22303552

1034320

665320

369000

Netherlands

16491461

1745860

1388860

357000

Kazakhstan

15233244

510420

107420

403000

Greece

10688058

760621

504621

256000

Portugal

10605870

547734

342734

205000

Belgium

10379067

816583

571583

245000

Belarus

10293011

373810

138810

235000

Czech Rep

10235455

1040357

789357

251000

Hungary

9981334

527326

330326

197000

Serbia

9396411

441682

266682

175000

Sweden

9016596

1006939

927939

79000

Austria

8192880

967281

856281

111000

Azerbaijan

7961619

306370

102370

204000

Switzerland

7523934

571700

472700

99000

Bulgaria

7385367

327033

141033

186000

Israel

6352117

283866

120866

163000

Denmark

5450661

511333

401333

110000

Slovakia

5439448

622668

497668

125000

Finland

5231372

362649

250649

112000

Scotland

5116900

420589

413589

7000

Georgia

4661473

222186

149186

73000

Norway

4610820

543165

462165

81000

Bosnia-Herzogovina

4498976

200240

105240

95000

Croatia

4494749

362514

342514

20000

Moldova

4466706

168570

76570

92000

Republic of Ireland

4062235

421644

351644

70000

Lithuania

3585906

135874

53874

82000

Albania

3581655

164730

87730

77000

Armenia

2976372

151353

79353

72000

Wales

2966000

173550

108550

65000

Latvia

2274735

85285

26285

59000

Macedonia

2050554

93896

41896

52000

Slovenia

2010347

116925

85925

31000

N Ireland

1742000

92320

49320

43000

Estonia

1324333

57024

25024

32000

Cyprus

784301

52403

39403

13000

Luxembourg

474413

47580

36580

11000

Malta

400214

24853

13853

11000

Iceland

299388

32408

26608

5800

Andorra

71201

5037

3737

1300

Faroe Islands

47246

8094

7694

400

Liechtenstein

33987

3315

2515

800

San Marino

29251

2836

2236

600

 

Apart from Germany’s data, the number for every other nation are out by a considerable, and suspiciously round number. Why? Some of the individual data is rounded up, but what could be missing that inflate the total players by this amount? Margin of error? The percentages aren’t the same. Perhaps some formula was used that is unknown to me as an amateur statistician, but I find it all a bit odd.

I’m loathe to read too much into these statistics. Or, I’m loathe to take them on face value. That’s often the case with statistics, and carrying out regression analyses helps us better understand the data we have, and as a result, the subject we’re trying to research. Perhaps I’m naïve, but I would like the football statisticians out there to examine things in a little more depth than they currently do.

Sources:

http://resources.fifa.com/mm/document/fifafacts/bcoffsurv/statsumrepassoc_10342.pdf

http://www.fifa.com/mm/document/fifafacts/bcoffsurv/bigcount.statspackage_7024.pdf

http://www.sportireland.ie/Research/Ballpark_Figures_2008_/Ballpark_Figures.pdf

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/

http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/census/2011-census/population-and-household-estimates-for-the-united-kingdom/rft-table-3-census-2011.xls