England have a new kit. For the fifth time in three years the Three Lions are mounted on a brand, spanking new outfield design.
And this time they're red.
The totally unauthorised leak/bizarre left-field Umbro-managed launch of the home and "goalkeeper" kit (more of which later) by supposed twitter legend Joey Barton (and subsequent drip-feeding on the manufacturer's facebook page) shows the crest, as intricate as the last two incarnations, now dispenses with the spectrum of tradition and instead goes with a single coloured tonal approach. We've seen the limited edition tonal range of previous releases but this is a first - in the modern era at least - for the playing wear.
Aside from red badges and detailing to extremities the Home shirt is another plain white, classic design. I won't bore you with a review - you've seen it and I don't have a review example as yet. I'm far more interested in the shorts, socks and goalkeeper shirt anyway. Let's just sum up by saying the new Home shirt has a neat collar that the pretty people can button to the top and the thugs can pop to reveal a red-striped underside (a la the Joules polos beloved by public schoolboys
and their dapper drug dealers), and the crest that Umbro had perfected in '09 should not have been messed with. Additionally, the last shirt (with multi-coloured crosses on the back) is available for under a tenner, even in long-sleeved. Seems decent value.
The real fun starts with everything else that has been released alongside the focal point. The stuff that, generally speaking, doesn't register on a tenth of as many radars. That is, unless it's red.
I've spoken in depth about the significance of a red away shirt for England
and it surprised many when the last - perhaps due to being tainted in the South African World Cup of 2010 - was dispensed with after a year and replaced with a navy version based on the famous England cap. This was, in fact, the first time England had worn a non-red change shirt in 14 years.
"It's definitely Umbro and it's red!"
Now my misguided ranting about Nike pulling rank should tell you that my imagination is prone to running wild and I love a conspiracy theory, but I have to admit that I smelt a rat when the England goalkeeper shirt was unveiled and it was, well, you've guessed it wasn't green or yellow, right?
Several things just haven't added up. Perhaps the dust will settle and all will make sense but looking through the likes of Kitbag over the last few days, the silhouetted items available to pre-order included the home shirt (l/s and s/s), home shorts, change home shorts, home socks, change home socks, goalkeeper shirt (l/s and s/s), goalkeeper shorts, change goalkeeper shorts, goalkeeper socks and change goalkeeper socks.
Suddenly the goalkeeper shorts and socks (red) appear to be the home kit change shorts and socks and other items are disappearing. In fact the Umbro website has the red shorts as "Goalkeeper Match Shorts
" whereas their facebook page has them as "official Umbro change shorts
". Did someone not get a memo?
To nail my own colours to the mast, here's how I think it went down:
The original plan was for the home kit and a
goalkeeper kit to be unveiled against Holland (so far so good), but when they were announced the media backlash was even more severe than the negative reaction Umbro and the FA had undoubtably legislated for - even Newsround had a pop
about the previous shirt being worn for only eight games - and papers seized on the new one having an RRP of ￡55 (more for l/s).
Phase two would have seen the unveiling of the red away shirt against, erm, well there's no obvious fixture but just humour me; this was designed to have no accompanying shorts and socks and instead would have been worn with the home and home change versions, whichever was most appropriate. Now with this, Umbro, you really would have been spoiling us as there's a whole kit afficionado community which clamours for interchangeability of shorts and socks
between Home and change strips. Finally, the navy/blue previous Away kit would have become a Third strip - the first in 19 years - in a similar fashion to the season-on-season cycle at Manchester United.
Sadly, phase two was abandoned. After the riots of last summer the FA had visions of a public already angered by the Home kit release being tipped over the edge by the notion of a SECOND kit that each and every child would also demand be purchased for them. Wembley would have been burned to the ground and British society would have descended into a horrific Mad Max style dystopia.
So no new Away kit. But revenue calculations had been made. Nike, Umbro and the FA had sat down and the figures were agreed. The red shirt made up a massive percentage of those projections and it couldn't be entirely abandoned.
But a yellow kit could. Some bright spark remarked that modern goalkeeper shirts are rarely even padded so carry no performance technology variations to an outfield equivalent. The likes of Olympique de Marseille's Steve Mandanda
simply wear an alternative outfield strip to the rest of the team.
So the red away shirt became the red goalkeeper shirt - likely to become the best selling replica goalkeeper shirt of all time - the navy shirt was kept on as the Away and, sadly and infuriatingly, there's a goalkeeper kit in a cupboard at Umbro HQ which will probably never see the light of day, certainly not this year.
It's only a theory, and I've been very, very wrong before, (not to mention having a penchant for all-red goalkeeper kits
) but ask yourself this: When has the style of a goalkeeper kit ever informed the secondary colouring of a brand new Home kit, and does England's new red top even look like a goalkeeper shirt?
Or does it look like a classic red England away shirt?