Words: Dan Sandison
Images: Offside Sports Photography (Main) / James Starkey /Classic Football Shirts (Body)
Before Pep and Puma, before Kevin and Kappa, before the swoosh swooped in, Manchester’s football clubs were Umbro through and through. The hometown brand outfitted both Manchester City and Manchester United at various stages of the clubs’ histories and left the double diamond indelibly inked into the history of both clubs.
Man City wore the brand as early as 1934, donning the Humphrey Brothers’ “jerseys, hose, knickers, slips and anklets” in a 2–1 victory over Portsmouth. The kit made such an impression on Wilf Wild, City’s manager at the time, that he wrote to Umbro to thank them personally. He explained “the team, to a man, were impressed and delighted with a kit”, going on to describe it as “perfection.”
While working on 95, our exhibition of Umbro’s most iconic and innovative shirts for their diamond anniversary, we were lucky enough to be allowed to have a dig in the hallowed archive. Here are five Manchester City shirts that got us excited…
LEAGUE CUP FINAL 1976 (HOME)
Wembley. It’s the ‘70s. Massive collars. Cuffs. A big embroidered badge. City have been here just two years previously and been dispatched by Wolverhampton Wanderers. Not this time though, as the Citizens strut out 2–1 winners over Newcastle United. Dennis Tueart snatches it with an astonishing overhead kick on 46 minutes; you’re going to have to watch it. Out of this world. League Cup champions with Big Joe Royle wearing number 9. It doesn’t get much better.
This is one of the Oasis ones, worn by Liam Gallagher in the iconic Kevin Cummins shoot of the band from around this time. You’ll have to google the image because Kevin properly kicks off on Twitter if people use his imagery without the correct permissions and we haven’t got the rights. Fair play to him, it’s a brilliant photoshoot and catapulted this shirt’s legacy beyond mere achievements on the pitch. It’s a cultural icon.
“It's finished at Sunderland, Manchester United have done all they can... Manchester City are still alive here. Balotelli. Agueroooooooooooooooooooooooooo. I swear you'll never see anything like this ever again. So watch it, drink it in. They've just heard the news at The Stadium of Light. Two goals in added time for Manchester City to snatch the title away from Manchester United.”
This is the other shirt from that Oasis photoshoot. Noel wore this one. This somehow looks more at home on the pitch though. Peter Reid has been given his marching orders, and Brian Horton has been shipped in from Oxford United, he’s got Uwe Rösler in and City have somehow finished 16th. Everyone seems to think that’s about alright. There was a centenary version of this shirt that the team wore to celebrate 100 years of the club adopting the name Manchester City. It featured the Manchester coat of arms in place of the City badge.
If you look back on the two teams for the 1981 FA Cup Final, it seems astonishing that City even managed to take it to a replay. Hoddle, Ardiles, Villa, Perryman and Archibald for Tottenham, against a City side with barely any Argentinians or Glenn Hoddles in it at all. They did though, Tommy Hutchinson bagging at both ends to ensure that both sides would be back down Wembley Way just five days later. If you don’t know what happened in the replay just Google “Ricky Villa.” Don’t City look handsome in that kit though?To see these shirts, and more from the incredible Umbro archive, head to 23a Princess Street in Manchester this week. If you’d like to cut out the middle man, and get your hands on one of the shirts, speak to our mates at Classic Football Shirts.