It's a blow to his wife but good news for his credit-card company: Ian Plenderleith has been able to use the internet to further his collection of desperately obscure, occasionally sweat-stained, football jerseys
Borussia Mönchengladbach home, 1997. China, 2002. Sparta Prague home, 2003. Italy, 1994. Glasgow Rangers away, 1992. Various Scotland horror kits with purple lightning flashes or in blinding orangey-pink. Too many Lincoln Citys to mention. Galatasaray home (Istanbul market bootleg), with “Revivo” and No 10 on the back. I wouldn’t say I’m proud of them, but the above are just a part of my undeniable replica-shirt collection.
Friends and relatives buy them for me on trips abroad because they like to see my face light up as if it was my birthday 30 years ago. They know enough not to buy, say, a Chelsea or a Bayern Munich shirt, because I’m one of those replica-shirt collectors like the indie-pop fan who will only listen to early 1980s Rough Trade and Postcard releases. We would be as likely to wear a Beckham No 23 repro as we would to be seen dancing to the latest Kylie. If you’re really going to wear a piece of extortionately priced polyester, make sure the badge and the colour are right. And for “right”, read obscure.
Thanks to the internet, we no longer necessarily have to rely on our brother backpacking across central Asia to get hold of the latest Turan Dashowuz home shirt (Turkmenistan division one, but you knew that already). Besides the obvious “Kylie” outlets, there are a number of places now serving the avid cult jersey collector. Although it can be prohibitively dear if you have a fetish for the J-League, for example, there are also a fair share of bargains provided you are not fussy exactly which Icelandic club shirt you own, as long as it’s Icelandic. (Main thing – it has to be a 1998 shirt. 1997 was of course a disastrous year for Icelandic football fashion.)
One of the best organised online stores for the less mainstream top is Subside Sports, which boasts a club and international selection spanning every continent and covering some kits back five or six years (an eternity in replica-shirt years). The ranges from Europe and South America are strongest and although a labyrinthine search for an apparent bargain can lead to a frustrating “sold out” message at the final stage before purchase, you will still be tempted by previously unknown clubs and colours. An email query on my computer’s refusal to purchase a Czech national team shirt was promptly answered, the reason being that it was out of stock (not, as I had suspected, because my wife had installed anti-replica shirt purchasing software on my hard drive). In the end I had to drag myself away after falling for a cut-price Olimpija Ljubljana 1999 green-and-white-striped home shirt that looks like one of those old-fashioned mint sweets your grandad always had in his jacket pocket.
If you’re not fussy about who once might have sweated into the armpits, there are hundreds of mostly second-hand bargains to be had at Footballnotmuggybonehead (no, I don’t want to know what it means either). There are few pictures to show you what you’re buying and shirts are graded out of ten for condition and scarcity value, but prices start as low as a fiver. The selection is mainly from England and Scotland, but you can still find shirts from Rostock to Romania and sometimes beyond, while a picture gallery covering a select few sides may give you an idea of the standard of shirt you can expect for your obsession.
For an even more eclectic selection, try Premiershirts, which as well as those sported by tubby lads watching down the pub offers some jerseys worn in actual proper games. The range stretches down to non-League and sporadically abroad, with prices generally around the £25 mark (plus occasional sales knocking 25 per cent off everything). However, although all shirts are pictured, the site doesn’t tell you what year they are from, which may not seem that important to the layman, but if you’re sad enough to look you’ll be sad enough to care. Marvel, too, at the garish design horrors on display in The Hall of Shame.
Finally, at the time of writing the proprietors of the estimable Toffs were offering all their old cotton classics online at a reasonable £29.99. Not only will your shirt be free of intrusive sponsors’ names, it might even be comfortable too.
Internet Top 10 'Cult' Replica Shirt Bargains
1 New England Revolution away, 2000-01, Subside Sports, £24.99. Posture in this navy blue top sporting the pithy slogan REVOLUTION
2 Bedford Town, season unknown, “game worn”, Premiershirts, £30. Lie to strangers about your halcyon years in the Ryman League and cold, hard pitches on a Tuesday night in Maidenhead
3 Chievo third shirt, 2002-03, Subside Sports, £22.99. Annoy the Serie A purists with this sky-blue change kit for the perennial Italian underdogs
4 Sepp Maier goalie shirt, West Germany, Toffs, £29.99. Pay homage to the Teutonic all-black cat
5 Cerro Sporteno home, 2002, Subside Sports, £24.99. Narrow azure and white stripes. Paraguayan league chic
6 Albion Rovers, yellow with white sleeves, Toffs, £29.99. “Wiz that yooz I seen at Cliftonhill in 1964, son?” Maybe. Maybe not
7 Cork City home, 1996-97, footballnotmuggybonehead, £21. Cult collectors rarely object to beer advertising, for some reason – in this case, Guinness
8 Outlane FC, season unknown, “game worn”, Premiershirts, £12. Heaven – a no-name shirt from the Liverpool Amateur League
9 Persepolis away, 2001-02, Subside Sports, £16.99. From the arid plains of Iran’s Azadegan League. Revel in the contradiction of Japanese corporate sponsorship in an Islamic state
10 Aldershot, mauve with blue V-neck and cuffs, Toffs, £29.99. Amaze colleagues with John Dungworth impressions during quiet times at work
From WSC 207 May 2004. What was happening this month