End of an era as England prepare to wave goodbye to Umbro kits in favour of Nike
13:45 GMT, 11 October 2012
It is the brand more intimately associated with the
immortal moments of football than any other.
When Blackpool and Bolton Wanderers contested the
Matthews Final in 1953, they did so wearing Umbro. When a 17-year-old Pele
entered the world stage at the World Cup in 1958, he did so in Umbro tailoring.
When Bobby Moore lifted the Jules Rimet trophy for
England in 1966, he wore a red Umbro shirt, and when Celtic and Manchester
United pioneered European club success for Britain in the sixties, they were
head to toe in Umbro.
Thing of the past: There will be no more Umbro kit launches for England as Nike take over kit supply from next year
When Banks made that improbable save in 1970, when Gazza
wept, when Butcher bled, when Southgate failed and when Beckham kicked out – it
was all in Umbro attire.
But for the brand once described as the ‘Dior of the football
world’ a slow and sad end is nigh.
The company that in 1966 kitted out 15 of the 16 World
Cup competitors and at their peak catered for 85 per cent of the English league
has been consumed in the global sportswear arms race between Nike and Adidas.
From next year, this once proud institution will sew and
stitch for only Nottingham Forest, Huddersfield Town and Blackburn Rovers.
Last few contracts: Nottingham Forest and Blackburn Rovers are two of the few remaining clubs supplied by Umbro
Since Nike acquired Umbro for 377m in 2008, it has been
a matter of time before the famous diamond logo is replaced by the swoosh on
the strips of their greatest asset – the England national team.
And sure enough, from next year, that’s what we will see.
Friday night’s World Cup qualifier at San Marino will be one of the last times
Wembley sees England play in Umbro kit.
Not only does the change mean the thousands of England
fans who have forked out upwards of 40 for their replica shirts will have to
dig deep again, but it means the severing of a proud 58-year association
between Umbro and the Three Lions.
Aside from a decade of Admiral kits between 1974 and
1984, England have worn Umbro since 1954.
Revolutionary: Billy Wright models a v-necked England jersey in 1954
It also means the last stitch for a company founded in
the back room of a pub in Wilmslow, Cheshire by a young tailor called Harold
Humphreys inspired by the White Horse Cup Final of 1923.
Shortly after the Nike buy-out, Umbro signed a fresh
nine-year deal to supply the national side but a combination of the Recession,
England’s abject form and the ruthless price war between retailers like Sports
Direct and JJB Sports has meant the 20m-a-year tie-up just hasn’t worked.
So Nike, to save face and money, is to pinch Umbro’s one
remaining crown jewel. Come the World
Cup in Brazil, England will just look the same as everyone else.
MOMENTS IN UMBRO
1966 – These
were halcyon days for the Umbro brand, with 85 per cent of English clubs
supplied by them. Before the World Cup finals in England, John Humphreys, son
of founder Harold, travelled to each of the participating countries and agreed
a kit deal with all but one. So there was an excellent chance that the winners
of the tournament would be wearing the brand. As we know, the winners were
England, and the image of Bobby Moore lifting the Jules Rimet trophy in an
elegant and simple red jersey has become one of the most iconic of all-time.
England were in their change colours because West Germany were the designated
‘home’ team in the format of the competition.
Top of the world: England won the Jules Rimet Trophy in their change colours of red in 1966
1970 – With
the 1970 finals to be held in Mexico, Sir Alf Ramsey had concerns that the
traditional shirt materials would be unsuitable in the sticky heat and so he
ordered Umbro to manufacture a new set of kits from Aertex, a lightweight
material designed for hot climates. Accordingly, England wore all-white
throughout the tournament, with goalkeeper Gordon Banks in a blue top when he
made that iconic save from Pele. The legendary striker got Moore’s shirt after
the game as this famous photo shows.
Iconic image: A touching moment of mutual appreciation between Pele and Bobby Moore… and a swap of Umbro shirts
1986 – After a
brief change to Admiral kits, Umbro was back as the England kit supplier by the
time of the next World Cup in Mexico in 1986. Again they faced a challenge to
make a shirt that would not hinder the players in the extreme heat. So Umbro
used a lightweight, ventilated fabric, removed the cuffs and opted for a shadow
stripe design. The kit perhaps saved England from sweating, but it couldn’t
save them from the Hand of God.
Classic kit: Gary Lineker and Peter Beardsley after England's 3-0 win over Paraguay at the 1986 World Cup
1989 and 1990 – /10/11/article-0-0032C7AC00000258-191_634x763.jpg” width=”634″ height=”763″ alt=”That'll need washing: A blood-stained Terry Butcher after England qualified for the World Cup in 1990 by drawing against Sweden” class=”blkBorder” />
That'll need washing: A blood-stained Terry Butcher after England qualified for the World Cup in 1990 by drawing against Sweden
1996 – The year
football came home and another tournament of heartbreak for England. Umbro
released a kit with a faint stripe and collar in two shades of blue. For the
first time, patches were worn on the sleeves and numbers on the front as well
as the shorts. But Umbro weren’t fooling anyone with the grey dishwater away
kit, which they branded as ‘Indigo’ with flashes of red. It was memorably worn
when England bowed out to Germany on penalties at the semi-final stage.
Feeling the blues: Dejection as England lose to Germany on penalties again in 1996
1998 – The home
strip for the World Cup in 1998 continued the established palette of white and
navy, with a splash of red on the buttoned collar and bold side panels. There
were little design features like a mini flag of St George on the collar and the
Umbro logo spelt out as a word was well established by now. The Three Lions
crest was re-done in a lighter blue. In the fateful quarter-final with
Argentina, memorable for Owen’s wonder goal and Beckham’s dismissal, England
wore all white.
Familiar feeling: Changes to the Umbro kit didn't mean a change in England's fortunes at the 1998 World Cup
2001 – England
played through the Sven Goran Eriksson era in a smart looking white and navy
kit, but with the addition of a red stripe on the front. When England beat
Germany 5-1 in Munich, they won the right to play in home colours while the
Germans played in green.
All stripe on the night: Steven Gerrard puts England in front in their 5-1 win over Germany in Munich