I ALWAYS thought that the point of an away strip was to be a completely different colour to your home strip. And yet Sunderland’s away kit this season is white with dark shorts, which is not a million miles away from their red and white home colours.
As a result, Sunderland – who don’t appear to possess a third kit, which is a great oversight on the part of the marketing department – have worn their home strip even when there has been, to my eyes, a colour clash. They’ve worn it away to teams who play in white, such as Tottenham and Fulham, who they faced yesterday. And, really confusingly, they’ve worn it away to teams who play in stripes, including West Brom and Newcastle.
(I’m convinced the reason Newcastle battered them 5-1 in October was that Sunderland’s players spent most of the afternoon trying to figure out who was on their side and who was against them. It must have felt like being in a spy movie.)
At first, I reckoned this must have been Steve Bruce’s fault. After all, Bruce doesn’t have a very good record with football kits. He played in the Manchester United team that changed their strip at half-time in a league game at Southampton because the players couldn’t see each other in their grey away shirts.
And then, when Bruce was seeing out his playing career at Birmingham, they had to borrow kits from other teams three times because of a series of colour clashes. This was despite the fact that Brum DID have three kits – a blue home strip, an AC Milan style away strip and, bizarrely, an Inter Milan-style third strip. Birmingham’s shirt sponsors at the time were not happy. (And I’m not about to cheer them up, because I can’t remember who they were.)
But these colour clashes seem to be becoming increasingly common. I remember seeing West Brom take on Derby last season with both teams playing in blue and white stripes (that was a fun game to report on), while Manchester City and Tottenham have both worn sky blue on their visits to The Hawthorns this season, making them not all that distinguishable from Albion.
There was a time when these colour clashes would never have been allowed. Well into the 1970s, it wasn’t unusual to hear Brian Moore, David Coleman or Jimmy Hill grumbling about the fact that a team in all red was playing a team in all blue, leaving viewers in black and white bewildered as to which side was which. Into the early 1990s, it was rare for opposing teams to be allowed to wear even the same colour shorts.
And yet now, colour clashes don’t seem to be anywhere near as much of an issue. I’m beginning to wonder if it’s some kind of secret plot hatched by Sky to force us all to buy high-definition televisions. “Get Sky Sports in HD,” the slogan might go, “and you too could be able to tell opposing teams apart.”
This thought occurred to me while watching the end of Sky Soccer Saturday in the press room at Preston v Ipswich yesterday afternoon while waiting for the two managers to appear for interviews. If you try to watch Sky Sports News in standard definition now, it’s very difficult to make out some of the fonts, because they’re so small. I was squinting at the screen for several moments trying to figure out whether Stockport’s game against Crewe had finished 3-3, 1-1, been postponed or was a late kick off.
I’ve no doubt high-definition television is the future, which means I’ll probably get around to buying one in about 20 years. In the meantime, I think I’ll be safer sticking with Final Score on the BBC.
MOTD’s final match: Fulham 0 Sunderland 0
Commentator: Simon Brotherton
Final Score regular Gabby Logan was in the Match of the Day presenter’s chair this week, finally gaining some reward for sitting through endless Saturday afternoons trying to elicit some sense out of Garth Crooks.
I particularly enjoyed Logan’s exchange with Crooks last week on the Champions League, when she managed to render him silent for several moments with a killer three-part question.
First, she asked him whether Manchester City would finish in the Premier League’s top four. “Yes, they have to,” said Crooks confidently.
Then Logan, mind whirring like a chess player, asked if Crooks’ former club Tottenham would finish in the top four. “Yes,” said Crooks.
Logan completed the checkmate by asking which of Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal would therefore miss out. Crooks sat there, dumbfounded, his powers of verbiage drained away. “We haven’t got all evening,” Logan teased. Ooh, I bet there were some frosty words off camera.
Logan introduced the final game on MOTD by mentioning that a Fulham draw would be their 10th of the season – and no team has ever managed that many in their first 17 league matches.
I was a little disappointed she didn’t throw in the fact that Bruce and Mark Hughes are the only two Premier League managers to have had a No. 1 hit single – as Manchester United team-mates with ‘Come On You Reds’ in 1994. (Much as I’d love Roy Hodgson to lead a remix of ‘Anfield Rap’ with Craig Johnston and John Barnes, I don’t think it’s going to happen.) I guess you can’t have everything.
Fulham and Sunderland laboured in their not dissimilar kits, while erstwhile Chelsea coach Ray Wilkins watched from the stand, perhaps alleviating the boredom by reminiscing privately about his days doing amusing TV advertising voiceovers for Tango. The match could have done with a good Tangoing, actually.
But games between Fulham and Sunderland rarely produce goals, and given Hughes’ remarkable tendency towards draws (18 in his last 28 Premier League games as a manager), 0-0 should not have come as a surprise.
“Maybe we should have done our Christmas shopping today,” Bruce said afterwards. “If the BBC can make anything out of that game, good luck to Hansen and Shearer. It was pretty dismal.”
I’ve made around 1,000 words out of it, Steve. Do I win a prize?
1. Fulham: 5 (2L: 4, 3L: 0)
2. Wigan: 5 (2L: 3, 3L: 1)
3. Stoke: 4 (2L: 3, 3L: 2)
4. Birmingham: 3 (2L: 2, 3L: 2)
5. Wolves: 3 (2L: 1, 3L: 2)
6. Bolton: 3 (2L: 0, 3L: 3)
7. Everton: 2 (2L: 3, 3L: 3)
8. West Brom: 2 (2L: 3, 3L: 1)
9. Sunderland: 2 (2L: 2, 3L: 0)
10. Blackburn: 2 (2L: 1, 3L: 5)
11. Newcastle: 2 (2L: 0, 3L: 1)
12. West Ham: 1 (2L: 2, 3L: 3)
13. Blackpool: 0 (2L: 2, 3L: 3)
14. Aston Villa: 0 (2L: 2, 3L: 2)
15. Tottenham: 0 (2L: 3, 3L: 1)
16. Chelsea: 0 (2L: 2, 3L: 0)
17. Manchester City: 0 (2L: 1, 3L: 2)
18=. Arsenal: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 1)
18=. Liverpool: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 1)
18=. Manchester United: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 1)
2L=On second last (Everton 0 Wigan 0)
3L=On third last (Aston Villa 2 West Brom 1)
(Teams are awarded one point every time they appear last on Match of the Day. Teams level on points are separated by the number of times they are on second last, then by the number of times they are on third last. Teams still level at the end of the season will be separated by the drawing of lots at a glittering ceremony in Westminster, hosted by Sepp Blatter, Prince Charles, Camilla Parker Bowles and Tony Gubba, with music from the Sex Pistols.)