Now Liverpool Football Club is officially good again, it was inevitable that the Merseysiders would start to attract the biggest brands keen to jump onto the Jürgen Klopp bandwagon. Earlier this week it was announced that from next season, US sports giant Nike will become the clubs official kit manufacturer bringing the Reds into line with half of the clubs around the world.
What remains to be seen is whether Nike can possibly make a pig’s ear of designing a new shirt for a team whose primary colours are red. They’ve already tried their best to destroy Barcelona’s iconic jersey this season with their ridiculous chessboard livery so some Liverpool fans will inevitably fear the worst. Not that the Anfield faithful has been immune to watching their side playing in some garish looking outfits down the years.
V FOR VICTORY 1976-82
In the mid-70’s there was a seismic shift in the football landscape when Leicester based sports company Admiral brought kit design into the 20th century. Liverpool however, refused to follow clubs such as Manchester United, Leeds and even England, deciding instead to continue their association with Umbro, who’d been making their iconic red shirt since the dawn of time. Imagine the furore then, in the sweltering summer of 1976, when Umbro ditched their traditional round-neck design for a newer, sexier v-neck number that became the hottest fashion accessory in the city.
For the next six years, the famous all-red strip now with the white v-neck collar, terrorised defences both at home and abroad as Liverpool swept everyone aside to start a trophy-laden era. When hatchet-man Tommy Smith, affectionately known as the “Anfield Iron” starts adorning teenage girls’ bedroom walls alongside Messrs Keegan, Toshack and McDermott, you know your team must be the best in Europe.
SOME CANDY TALKING 1988-91:
By 1985 Liverpool had changed kit supplier to Adidas and signed a shirt sponsorship deal with Crown Paints. Three years later after having lost to Wimbledon in the 1988 FA Cup Final, electronic giants Candy was the new name emblazoned across the chest, as Liverpool produced some of the most breath-taking football this country had ever seen.
Just like their predecessors 10 years earlier, Anfield was pretty much impregnable; apart from the final day of the 1988-89 campaign that is, when Arsenal shocked the footballing world by nicking the league title with practically the last kick of the season.
Candy will forever be associated with sight of Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish looking absolutely stunned at the final whistle and most of his players slumped on the Anfield turf, rather than for making fairly shit fridge-freezers.
A SHOULDER TO CRY ON 1991-93:
As I mentioned at the top of this article, you have to be pretty rubbish to mess up the design of the Liverpool shirt but in 1991, Adidas tried their very best when they decided to put their iconic three stripes over the shoulder rather than down them to celebrate the club’s centenary. The fact they were about three-inches thick made this one of Anfield’s least fondly remembered kits – although the fact that it coincided with the arrival on the bench of former midfield dynamo Graeme Souness, who proceeded to put the club back 30 years by purchasing some of the worst players ever to wear the red jersey, may also have had something to do with it.
Step forward István Kozma, Torben Piechnik and Ronny Rosenthal, whose open goal miss at Villa Park playing in the green away version of this monstrosity, is still one of the first clips to go on any football funnies compilation.
WAIST-NOT, WANT-NOT 1993-95:
After two years the off the shoulder design was ditched, as Liverpool gave Adidas a chance to make amends for their horror show of two years previous and to be fair, they did move the stripes from off the shoulder….. to the armpit and all the way down to the waistline, giving the wearer the look of someone putting their hands around them.
Heaven forbid any ladies wanting to slip one over their coats for the big match because, well, you know where this is going.
It was about this time however that a young lad from Toxteth called Robbie Fowler started to make a name for himself in the first-team, but even his goal-scoring feats couldn’t disguise the fact that this was another fashion faux-pas from the brand with the three stripes.
BABB TO THE FUTURE 1998-00:
In 1996 the traumatic Adidas years were brought to an end as Reebok were tasked with designing an iconic strip as we headed towards the end of the century. By 1998, they’d cracked it by reverting back to a round neck collar in a nod towards the Bill Shankly sides of the late sixties and early seventies. Young England striker Michael Owen was the new poster boy of the Premier League and the Reds were setting another trend by making ex-Boot Room boy Roy Evans and the suave and sophisticated Frenchman Gerard Houllier its joint managers.
The marriage lasted about three months before Evans left Houllier to his own devices as once again the club came up short in its chase for end of season gongs. The season-defining moment for Liverpool took place on October 4th 1998 in a home league game against Chelsea, when Republic of Ireland defender Phil Babb succeeded in almost castrating himself attempting to stop Blues striker Pierluigi Casiraghi from scoring, a moment which still brings a tear to any man’s eye when the clip is replayed.