With special thanks to Ben Walker from The Stockport County Shirt Collection, we take a look back at one of the most audacious designs of the 1990s.
Few designs represent the “chuck it all in there” largesse of 1990s football shirts quite like Stockport County’s 1993-94 home kit by Super League.
Clearly influenced by Arsenal’s “bruised banana” and regularly featuring in polls of the worst kits known to man, we take a slightly different, nostalgia-tinted view and prefer to celebrate the cult status the Hatters’ hoops and zig-zags rightfully enjoy.
Whilst Stockport County have never really settled on a particular style of shirt, with plain tops, stripes and hoops all featuring in their history; the Edgeley Park club’s kits have generally followed their traditional blue and white colours.
In 1979, County adopted Argentina’s broad sky-blue and white stripes after the country’s 1978 World Cup triumph, only to abandon them in 1982 at the outbreak of the Falklands War.
Later, in 1996, faced with a kit clash ahead of a League Cup match-up with Blackburn Rovers, they quickly commandeered and adapted 12 Romania shirts, applying their own badge and sponsor to form a one-off kit with the help of Adidas.
Yet it is the extravagant look of the memorable 1993-94 season that springs to mind for us when we think of a Stockport County shirt.
This complex kit with shifting shades of red, white and blue was one of a number of early 90s designs to impersonate Adidas’ ground-breaking, zig-zag “bruised banana” pattern with Bournemouth, Portsmouth and Cambridge United among the clubs aping Arsenal’s shirts.
Manufacturers Super League were themselves a reasonably prolific manufacturer of kits for clubs including Brighton, Burnley, Huddersfield Town, Hull City and Torquay United but disappeared from the Football League in the early 2000s.
This was the first of two home kits made by Super League between 1993 & 1995, as Uruguayan manager Danny Bergara came close to steering the Cheshire club back to English football’s 2nd tier for the first time since the 1930s.
On the pitch, those gradient colours gave the impression of blue and white hoops and featured as Stockport claimed a Premier League scalp, coming from behind to knock a handy looking Queens Park Rangers side featuring Les Ferdinand and Ray Wilkins out of the FA Cup, with goals from Kevin Francis and Andy Preece in front of a frozen Edgeley Park.
Stockport ended the 1993-94 season just 3 points off promotion, finishing 4th in what was then known as Division Two.
Bergara’s boys then endured a heart-breaking 2-1 play-off final defeat to Burnley when, having taken an early lead, County became the first team at Wembley to have two players sent off in the same game. According to Stockport fans, much of the blame for that loss still lies with referee David Elleray and, shall we say, Burnley’s “gamesmanship!”
Many fans instinctively prefer football shirts to feature well-known local sponsor and at Sartorial.Soccer we add bonus points when those backers just so happen to be a brewery.
In County’s case that all came together with the support of the local, family-run Robinsons brewery, but the initial run of shirts saw their “Robinson’s Best Bitter” logo lost in the wild pattern and thus later versions of the design placed their slogan onto a fairly clumsy turquoise band.
This famous old Hatters shirt is much-loved by Stockport County fans and is associated with a very decent side including the original “great touch for a big man” 6′ 7″ striker Kevin Francis, as well as popular players Chris Beaumont, Lee Todd, Andy Preece and Mike Flynn.
Nowadays the Edgeley Park club are back on the up with solid support, generous local owners and will hope to end 10 years of non-league football with promotion back to League Two under legendary County player and manager, Jim Gannon.
Despite what others may tell you, this Stockport County fans’ favourite has all the 90s excess we love here at Sartorial.Soccer and richly deserves the cult status it enjoys far beyond the boundaries of Cheshire.
Massive thanks once again to Ben Walker of The Stockport County Shirt Collection for all his help with this article!
You can follow him on Twitter here and visit more of his 300+ mostly player-issue shirts at the www.stockportcountyshirts.co.uk!