Away shirts: The pick of the best

Another day of the summer break goes by without the most pertinent of questions being answered. I’m not bothered who plays up front, who is going to sign and who is going to leave. The real big question is this: what colour will we play away in?

As a distraction to the usual stuff about players were about to sign that Danny has never heard of, digs at Mansfield and season tickets, here is a look back at five of my personal favourite away kits of the last thirty odd years. I’m counting down from five to one, and as a bonus I’ve also included my favourite ‘other’ kit, and what I believe to be one of the worst Lincoln City kits of all time.

Bonus Kit – 2008/09 third kit

This wasn’t an away kit, and therefore I can’t count it as one of the top five, but had it been I’m pretty sure it would have been my number one. It is (of course) the 2008/09 third kit, a rather fetching royal blue and gold halved shirt, often wrongly paired with white shorts.

It was famous for not really being worn much at all, given that we had a red and white home kit and a white away kit at the time. It isn’t really synonymous with any great players either, one of my main memories of us wearing the kit was the day we drew 1-1 with Kettering in the FA Cup. Perhaps it was seen as a bad omen, we wore it away at Brentford for another 1-1- draw in September 2008, but by the time we travelled to Exeter and another side in red and white stripes we had switched to our white away shorts.

I do know we lost matches against Luton, Darlington and Bury whilst wearing it, so perhaps the bad omen thing was correct. My own personal reason for liking it is that I was presented with one on my tenth anniversary as Poacher, with (predictably) Poacher 10 on the back. Maybe that’s why I’m so fond of it, it certainly isn’t because of the awful memory of Kettering away.

Fifth 2003-2005

Coming in fifth on my list of the best away shirts is the dark blue number we wore for the two of the first three years of Keith Alexander’s second reign as boss.

The ‘classic’ one comes sponsored by Siemens in the 2003/04, a notable sponsor at the time as we shared it with Real Madrid. It isn’t just our famous sponsor that made the shirt though, Ray Trew’s Sports TV had their name on it the following season and I liked it just as much. Why? Because we were bloody good.

I’ve often been quoted as saying the 2003-2005 campaigns saw the very best Lincoln City sides of a generation, and up until this season that was absolutely true. The fact they weren’t wearing some hideously styled green shirt, or a ‘standard issue’ yellow helped to define that era for me. It was in the days prior to the away shirt being worn at all away games as well, it only came out in the event of a kit clash. Nice shirt, but even nicer memories.

Fourth 2005/06

We really knew how to do an away shirt a decade or so ago, and this one isn’t here because of what it represents, it’s just a wonderful looking shirt. For many years black away shirts had been something of a taboo because of the clash they might cause with a referee, but an early 1990’s Manchester United effort caught my eye as being the ‘right’ way to do a black shirt. We followed that up ten years or so later with this, again sponsored by Ray Trew’s Sports TV.

Remember, this is a personal choice and therefore the inclusion of a black kit is purely down to my own tastes. I was that struck by this shirt that I purchased it ahead of the home kit on the day of its release. I think it was a home friendly with Watford, and I always remember this shirts as one being worn by Steve ‘turbo’ Robinson, a player who promised so much and brought so little. Perhaps there is a metaphor there for the 2005/06 season.

Third 1996/97

In third place I’ve gone for a fairly standard blue effort, but with the yellow flashing I think it made for an attractive shirt. Maybe I’ve gone for it because of that night in Southampton, maybe because it represents (for me) the best summer of my life. I’ve picked it anyway, controversial or not. It is the away kit from John Beck’s only full season in charge.

I just think it is a magnificent shirt, the badge and sponsor was this big padded addition to an already substantial shirt, and to make things better the sponsor was the Sports Echo. I started writing around that time for that very publication, and so perhaps I’ve picked the shirt for emotional reasons rather than tasteful ones. I passionately dislike yellow away tops, they’re generic and bland. A really good away shirt could be used as a home shirt for teams that play in those colours, and this shirt could quite easily have been the Wimbledon home shirt of 1996/97.

Second 1998/99

Another season where, in my eyes, the away kit was better than the home kit. It wasn’t a classic time to be an Imp, our first foray into the third tier since the mid eighties was met with instant relegation. The home kit that season wasn’t as much ‘red and white stripes’ as ‘red’, for me veering too much away from tradition. The away kit though was something else.

It is very similar to the 2011/12 away kit worn in the BSP, but this one edges it for two reasons. Firstly, I much prefer the black ‘Alstom’ to the white ‘Cathedral Services’ of 2011, and secondly I couldn’t place something that represented such an all-time low in this list, especially not when I can use this represents an all-time high in my tenure as a fan.

I don’t think we can pull off a Celtic away kit every season, not even every ten seasons, but once every so often we dare to be bold and brave, to steer away from the standard yellow that almost every other team adopts. Every so often, we get it right.

First 1991 – 1993

The early 1990’s was a period of horrible shirts, multi-coloured designs were the order of the day and many shirts from that era simply haven’t stood the test of time. This effort did though, a beautifully rich blue shirt that contrasted with its red flashing really well. I can’t find the one I had with the Echo logo on it, but with even more red it looked even better.

Look at that collar too. I’m such a big fan of a proper collar on a Lincoln shirt, it gives you something to chew nervously as younger child, something to turn up petulantly as an older teenager and frustratingly something extra to iron as an older man. The art of collars on football shirts has been lost in recent years, but this got it absolutely perfect.

The badge was even simpler, and the pattern of Matchwinner swirls in the shirt made it a really nice garment to own. We came out of the early 1990’s without any really, truly horrific designs, but with this little number I think we set a precedent. Back then I had to choose between home and away shirt each year, and this was the only year the home shirt won over. I wore it so much it is the only Lincoln City shirt that I no longer have, an indication of the sort of wear it got.

Booby Prize

If you think purple and green go together, you belong in the early 1970’s. If I have to tell you why this is a bad shirt, I suspect you are colour blind.

6 Comments

  1. The purple and green is actually reminiscent of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club to give it its full title and wouldn’t look out of place in SW19, whatever your views on its appearance in LN5!

  2. That purple and green “item” … along with the home shirt in the same design, looked like a pair of braces. The only year since I was 8 I refused to have a replica shirt for my birthday in early season, either home or away!

  3. I’ll stick my head above the parapet and tell you that I designed the green and purple kit winning a competition ran by the club in doing so! The purple wasn’t my idea though. Mr Davey suggested it so as not to be too similar to a goalkeepers shirt. Wasn’t that bad……..

    • The home kit was superb. I loved the Imp around the arms and the collar. The purple and green clash absolutely killed it though.

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