@TUFCshirts looks back at some of the best United kits of the 90’s.
As Torquay United release yet another round of superb Nike kits, I wanted to remind readers of better/worse/different times (you decide) of our club apparel. We are going to take a step back into what many kit collectors and eBay sellers refer to as the retro days of the 90’s. Before that, we’ll do a quick look at the current shirts. What we have seen in the last few years show what a great partnership the club has formed with Pro Direct to deliver, smart, clean, well-designed shirts and this latest release having the added local twist of the Torquay Palm running down the centre is a great addition. It is not just a dull, standard Nike template that so many teams seem to have. Whatever your views are on Mr Osborne, since his arrival you cannot argue that the club has ‘grown up’ from a brand marketing perspective and the new kits are a sign of that.
A football shirt is more than just what the team wear on match day; it is a key part of the clubs DNA and identity. Its one real way that fans can connect and feel a part of their club, be that the kid playing on the park pretending to be their hero to the old boys wanting to show their support in club colours. Put aside if you think a certain Torquay kit is good or bad, what I think we can all agree on is that fact that ours colours are special, or am I looking through yellow tinted spectacles? I don’t think I am, yellow is bright, vivid and positive. Wherever I see a Yellow football shirt around the world for a second at least there is a chance it is a Torquay one, we are unique.
Anyway preamble over and back to the 90s! I don’t see that decade as the retro days, just a time when I started on the rollercoaster journey as a Torquay Fan. To share some shirts for those not around or help reminisce for those that have forgotten, here are my Top 5 from the 90’s. If I have some of info incorrect, I am sorry – it was a long time ago and excess alcohol at the time means I could have things mixed up! Each of these shirts brings back memories to me, might be a Wembley win or a defeat up at Carlisle. It’s all part of being a Gulls supporter, let’s face it football wise we’re not all that but do I care, hell no!, For those that have only seen the last four years of Nike shirts a reminder of the manufacturers we had in the 90’s, Coastline, Ribero, Matchwinner, Le Coq Sportif and Super League. If you weren’t around then you’d be forgiven to shouting ‘WHO’???
1 – 1991 – 1993 Home by Matchwinner
My first ever shirt, purchased (I think) from the Torre Sports shop on Fleet Street. Quite possibly my favourite in a collection of over 30, maybe due to nostalgic reasons and that bloody heroic performance at Wembley. We had worn Ribero shirts during the season 90/91 including the play off semi vs Burnley but when John Impey guided us to final, the club released this. What a first performance in the yellow and white stripes from Matchwinner, an extra time penalty win thanks to our keeper Gareth Howells who saved one then scored the winner in sudden death. I’m a big fan of the swirl effect in the fabric probably not as much as Bateson loved seeing the Mod-Dec logo emblazoned the front at the twin towers. Similar shirts were released in 1999 and 2013 but they will never come close to the Wembley stripes! My shirt sadly is a little too small to fit now so it’s framed at home with a larger replacement since purchased.
Score – 10 /10
2 – 1991-1992 Away by Matchwinner
The ‘Purple Peril’ – dictionary definition of peril is – serious and immediate danger, “you could well place us both in peril”. Well that is bang on the money, 99.9% sure we never won a game in this shirt. We lost to non-league Farnborough in the FA cup wearing this. It was live on Sky Sports, Justin Fashanu had just signed for us so off course we lost. Such a Torquay thing to do.
Shocking record aside, I really like the shirt. Strong bold colour. Very unique.
Score 8 / 10
3 – 1992-93 Away by Matchwinner
How do you replace the purple one? Easy phone up Matchwinner ask their chief designer to come up with something completely different. In my opinion, this shirt is an absolute banger, maybe as it is so unique. I am sure the designer was high on drugs when this was created but I am glad he or she was. Matchwinner logo moved from the front of the shirt onto the arm, some weird off diamond shape over a weave style fabric, very bizarre. Oh and something I have not covered yet. Compared to the modern Nike fabric, the shiny polyester nature of the 90’s kits made you sweat in. Boy oh boy, five minutes on and it was not pleasant for anyone. During this time there were some really daring designs around as loads of lower league teams had shockers at this time. If you Google Brighton, Carlisle, Hull, Scunthorpe bad kits you’ll find them. I am pleased we had our fair share, so bad they are good.
Score 9 / 10
4 – 1995-97 Home by Le Coq Sportif
Au Revior to Scottish Matchwinner, you can carry on drinking your buckfast wine while creating crazy designs but we are moving on. Following Don O’Riordan’s preseason tour of Ireland, Torquay went full European and got into bed with the French in the form of Le Coq Sportif. Oh la la, what a nice kit this was. We finally moved to a kit manufactured that someone outside of Division 4 football fans may have heard off. A shirt I really like, nice faint white pinstripe against the wider canary yellow and smart navy blue. One downside was the collar; if you have this shirt, you will know it was a shocker, all over the gaff, uncontrollable. I’d compare it to Aidan Newhouse’s miss in front of us away fans at Sid James Park, google that one too if you’ve not seen it. How did he miss?
We built up a nice team wearing this kit, strong memoires of the youth coming though in the form of Wayne Thomas, Tony Beds, Matty Greg and Stevie Winter Wonderland alongside some experienced campaigners, Alex Watson, Paul Baker and Kevin Hodges.
The real deal for me in this shirt was the arrival of Rodney Jack, more of him later…
Score 8 / 10
5 – 1997-99 Home by Super League
As the decade came towards an end, we moved to another manufacturer that I doubt anybody had heard off. That said, by now they had converted a large number of lower league team to wear their kit. A mix of yellow and blue panels of different widths with a diamond shape that was more visible on the white away version. The shirt is, in truth, average. I can’t get too excited about it. However, the period it was used and the players wearing it made up for any shortfalls. It was worn by former UEFA cup winner Steve McCall, world cup semi-finalist Chris Waddle, the world’s greatest goalkeeper Neville Southall and comedic Frenchman Jean-Pierre Simb, in their own way I loved them all. Just a shame Waddle’s legs had gone.
The 97/98 season should have been our year. Despite an amazing run of wins when Jason Roberts came down and banged in a load of goals, we missed automatic promotion after just needing a point on the last day at Leyton Orient. Playoff’s called again, a really solid away performance at Scarborough, which I was very glad to be at set up a balmy evening for the second leg at Plainmoor. Adding to his goal in the first leg Rodney absolutely terrorised the Scarborough back line. He was unstoppable, still many peoples favourites in the last 30 years and rightly so. That free flowing 7-2 aggregate win should have given us the boast to beat Col U at Wembley but on a flat Friday night, it just didn’t happen. A 1-0 defeat, a nothing game, Rodney leaves for Crewe, gutted – enough said.
Score 7 / 10
Final picture is my 90’s ensemble; it is missing the 1990 Ribero white away shirt. If anyone happens to want to sell me, one please let me know.