Monday 30 March ~
As you may know John Terry's mother and mother-in-law were arrested for shoplifting at an out of town mall in Surrey last Wednesday. In what is claimed to have been a "misunderstanding" they took £800 worth of items including pet food, leggings and men's and women's watches. Newspaper reports of the incident mention that it will have been an embarrassment both to Terry "in his role as a figurehead for the national team" and the two stores involved, Tesco and M&S, both of which have connections to the England team. Tesco is the "official England supermarket" while M&S supply suits to the squad – although we can confidently assume that the players don't buy any of their leisurewear there.
Both companies' websites trumpet their football connections but they seem like paragons of understatement when compared to kit manufacturers Umbro, whose launch of the new design, worn for the first time for England's match with Slovakia on Saturday, was accompanied by a barrage of abject corporate bullshit. In case you thought otherwise, let Umbro put you straight: "The new England shirt is not an evolution of an old one. It is a complete new beginning."
Its appearance at Wembley was choreographed in a comically crass manner, with the England players wearing their tracksuit tops during the playing of the Slovakian national anthem then removing them to reveal the new shirts before the first bars of God Save The Queen. Umbro representatives will have been listening out for murmurs of approval and excitement as spectators reflected out loud that the new gear looks a snip at the recommended retail price of £50.
However the general response in the days since seems to have been puzzlement that England players should have had some bog-standard leisurewear foisted on them. Fabio Capello, who allegedly played a role in the design, is quoted in an essay-length Umbro press release as suggesting that the kit "will create an intimidating visual for the opposition" but only in the sense that they may find it hard to concentrate while trying to suppress laughter. Umbro think they have created "a stunning statement of confidence in pure unadulterated white on white" but what they have produced is a collared shirt that might have been deemed fashionable briefly in 1973, and voluminous holidaymakers' shorts as often sported by another English legend, Eric Morecambe.
The head of the design team, David Blanch, revealed that the initial inspiration was an earlier Umbro strip, as worn by "Bobby Moore lining up in all-white before the 1966 semi-final against Argentina. We wanted a kit that would refer to that moment in history." Which was actually the quarter-final; England were back to navy blue shorts for the next round against Portugal. You’d think that someone at the FA might have spotted that before it went into print but maybe the press release was top secret too.