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One Lion, Three Stripes.

By Anthony Vickers on Mar 31, 09 09:43 AM

LABEL-loving loyalists will be delighted that Boro are to switch to shirts made by one of the game's biggest players, adidas.

For years the football fashionistas at the Riverside have agonised over the shocking faux pas of turning out in kits that the concourse cognescenti would look down on. Errea were tacky, they said. The piping was all wrong, The designs clumsy and childlike. The red too red. Or not red enough. The overlaid stitching ran left to right. How will we sign any of the metropolitan elite. I mean, who would be seen dead in THAT?

You would think we were kitted out in the pound shop and the rest were swanking around in Pysche to listen to some of the harsher critics.

Now the fashion police can rejoice that the classic replica shirt is back in vogue, that like minded men about town are flocking to the casual matchday appeal of climacool fabric technology that has revived drab old polyester. Those three stripes are so you, darling.

Expect Boro to now sweep to world domination with a cavalier sexy swagger than matches their eye-catching stylish attire and with the impact of a market leading brand behind us get set for the trophies to flow and household names to sign. And it can only be a matter of time before Posh Spice is spotted in House in Yarm High Street and WAGS are dancing on the tables in Hide.

Maybe not. I'm not sure adidas tops will really help Boro rival Milan in any sphere.
At least it will stop the sneering from those who look down on our Errea, the George of the replica fashion spectrum.

But hold on a minute you bunch of bloody posers - lest we forget Errea dressed Boro through 14 years of unprecedented glory. When you fashion sheep look back at the pictures you may cringe at Errea shirts in the way you do with high waisters, bubble perms and your Joey wedge - but just think of the memories.

Errea may have offended the sensibilities of more sophisticated consumers but the brand and the designs will still resonate through our history when we look back on the DVDS of Ravanelli scoring at Wembley, of the glory at Cardiff and the crazy rollercoaster ride to Eindhoven. Vision by Gibson. Shirt by Errea.

sugababes.jpg Think of the star names who wore that shirt: Juninho, Merson, Festa, Ince, Viduka, Southgate, Boksic, Yakubu, the Sugababes, Mrs Karembeu">. Think of the dramatic games: finals, semi-finals, the Twin Towers, the Millenium Stadium, Rome, Lisbon, Bucharest. Brilliant memories. A golden age no matter how you dress it up.

Boro were the jewel in Errea's crown in Britain, the upstart Italian outfit's first big club back at the birth of Bryan Robson optimism in 1994-95. It was a match made in heaven: Errea were out to gatecrash Europe's biggest sportswear market and wanted a rising club with big dreams - "an English Parma" - while vibrant Boro wanted a firm who would give them control over distribution and exclusive selling rights to maximise revenue in shops planned for the new stadium and the town (and the tiny franchise outfit in the Portrack nerve centre of then sponsors Dickens).

And let's be honest here, after the DIY East European no frills functionalism of Skills Leisurewear and with a distribution network limited to the club shop at Warwick Street we were in no position to be precious about their limitations.

Back then replica shirts were a minority interest. Look at pictures of the Holgate End in Robbo's promotion year - Errea's first - and among the sweater shop jumpers and donkey jackets there is the odd top dotted about worn by kids and the ra-ra anorak element but it is not the retina scorching sea of replica red you see now.

Shirt sales didn't really explode until after Euro 96, after Juninho and after the cultural muscle of Sky Sports made football a marketing juggernaut that forced even the XXXLs among us to squeeze into the mandatory matchday uniform. Now everyone wears replica shirts and it is not unusual to see entire families - including nana - kitted out like an equal opportunities five-a-side team.

Both the club and Errea have struggled to fully exploit that spectacular growth and the once mutually beneficial economic model has been creaking in recent years.

However they try to spin it, the club have been constrained by the only outlets being at two club shops, losing untold sales in our hinterlands because mams in Redcar, Billingham and beyond were not willing or able to make a special trip to buy that special birthday gift for Boro barmy kids, instead opting for the convenience of the chain store choice of England, Brazil, Barcelona or - heresy! - Chelsea and Manchester United.
Not everyone can buy online. Not everyone happens to be passing the stadium shop.

Errea have struggled too. Their UK stable has grown to include the likes of Burnley and Grimsby and a host of pyramid part-timers - on Billingham Synthonia's march to the FA Vase semi-final two years ago all bar one of their opponents in the competition proper were kitted out by Errea, most in two designs in different colours and noteably semi-final rivals Totten's offensive pink away kit.

But as they have expanded their capacity seems to have stagnated leading to annual complaints about new Boro shirts being released late and missing out on the all important foreign holiday selling season, away designs not reflecting the traditions of the club, quality poor, a full range of sizes not being available when they are launched and only arriving in frustrating dribs and drabs and, initially at least, a lot of defects.

Some of the early efforts were cheap and nasty and looked like they had been knocked up by the designers children armed with a box of crayons. That Mikkel Beck red one with the vertical tram lines running down before breaking up and fading towards the bottom. What was that about? The Liverpool-lite ones. The Norway ones. There was little subtley or feel for the club's history in those early years.

They also threw a series of hidious away shirt designs at us including the use of purple, two contrasting greens, an insipid Argentina effort, a hidious white body criss-crossed with a blue moster truck tyre tread that echoed our crushed Wembley dreams and a bizarre cut-and-shut shirt that hinted at both the red and white and black and white stripes of the local rivals. The annual away shirt selection often brought much merriment to the sports desk as we bitched away with a seering, sneering delicious vitriol. How we laughed.

Ironically, now, just as they are being axed, they have got it just about perfect with the traditional white band sympathetically restored and the black and blue stripes rendered neatly on the away kit. The choices we were presented with in the annual exercise in participatory democracy like 'Top Idol' were getting better by the year. This years selection was fantastic for instance.

3tops.jpg

The Errea gripes were so persistent and widespread and the problems seemingly unresolved every year that rumours grew that the only reason Boro stuck with them were because Steve Gibson had shares in Errea... so, another myth exploded.

Boro's logic was that the Errea deal allowed them to take all the profit normally split between club, retailer and distributor and the model worked well financially for them. The news today suggests that adidas have been willing to work within that structure, although it would create an anomoly within their global machine and it would surprise no one if that fit jars and is eventually reshaped.

The advantages of the switch are obvious. Fans will be getting a quality product from a company that will have no problem hitting the deadline or supplying the full range of sizes. And if adidas stick to their formula it could also mean a welcome return to a two year lifecycle of the home shirt.The club will get the benefits of a massive marketing machine and the cachet of the world's second biggest sportswear juggernaut, a brand that is down with the kids and adidas will capture another strategic outpost in their global battle against Nike and they will rack up units as the link-up filters down the retail chain and the kids queue up to accessorise their Boro tops with adidas trainers.

Initially the existing geographically and financially contained Boro marketing model will be maintained and the MFC Retail monopoly will continue but as they symbiosis takes hold and the advantages become apparant the hope will grow that the Tees diaspora will be able to purchase kits nationwide. Or at least in Thirsk, Whitby and York.

adidas has it's problems of course. Across the globe the bulk of their templated shirts make few concessions to individuality or tradition - compare their Chelsea and Liverpool numbers or their cloned World Cup selection, identical but for colour - but then, with Errea we picked a style and colour out of a catalogue.

Adidas boro shirt.jpg


And Adidas do have some leeway with design. They had done a white chest band for Turkey, Stuttgart and Spartak in the past and here's one I did earlier, with a mock-up based on the stylish number they produced for MLS team Chicago Fire.

18 Comments

Ron said:

Doesn't matter who makes the strip, just get rid of the horrible white band that feels like it's associated with relegation. I can't help being superstitious and believe it's nothing to do with the players, the manager or anything else but that band. Can you check the records to see how many times we have been relegated in the white band, or some variation like white shoulders


**AV writes: The band is synonmous with promotion surely - Charlton's champions and Robbo's second year with Merson and Branca had a band, twice up under Rioch with a bid, once with Lennie Lawrence wearing shoulder patches.


The only relegation I can remember with a band is in 1984-85 but the club was disintegrating by then and liquidation loomed and I don't think th ekit could have saved us if it had crossed fingers woven into the pattern.

Grove Hill wallah said:

Perhaps the boffins at Adidas can come up with a shirt that has a backbone in it.

lg said:

Thank goodness we've ditched errea.
Now do the same with the chest band and the embarrassing new badge!
In fact, it's time we were back in white shorts. We wore red/white long before ManU.

peterboroAngel said:

Alves couldn't head a ball to save his life. He already has the best crosser of the ball (bar Beckham) supplying the 'simple' nod ins!

Paul Reaney said:

It's not the team kit that's a massive problem with Errea, it's the god awful training gear, bags etc. In my view, and it is clearly a personal view alone, Errea desgins are terrible, reminding me of some former soviet bloc team's attempt at looking like a Premiership outfit.


However, what I really don't understand is the fact that supporters are distrustful of fellow supporters who want to improve this facet of the club calling them posers or suggesting it doesn't really matter.


Everything connected with Middlesbrough should pursue excellence.


The badge should be better, access to the ground should be improved, ticket prices should be made more realistic and the team kit/training wear should be contemporised.


What is wrong with excellence running throughout the club?


I am delighted I will FINALLY be able to appear in my Thursday night five a side in a kit I'm not sort of embarrassed by.

Stubbsy said:

Adidas will do just fine. Now whilst we're on the subject, how about reverting back to the old Boro badge? I've always hated the new shield-shaped badge from day one and it's no coincidence that our fortunes have nosedived since we've had it. It's been a curse!


Secondly, we should kick the GARMIN name into touch because as every one must surely know, the irony of having a sat nav company sponsoring our shirt has turned us into a laughing stock!!! Come on, any suggestions as to what we should have to replace it??

PeterboroAngel said:

Stubbsy

If we're a laughing stock, maybe we should be sponsored by Oxo?

Chris Marton said:

"James Emmerson said: So the end of an era...".

And not the last, I hope.

Phil from Brisbane said:

WHO CARES? It is here and now that is important. Honestly right now I don't care if we wear pink with blue polka dots as long as we win.


The next three games we need nine points. They are all winnable against teams around us. SO it's points for us and not for them. Then two games off against MAn U and Arsenal, then three points against the toon and we can all look forward to Prem League in adidas,in 2010.


And finally - this years kit is by far the best errea have made in fact it's the only year I have bought both home and away - but that was more inspired by the 10 quid price than anything else!!


Now it's time for the tough to get going - COME ON GS ATTACK LIKE WE DID IN AUGUST AND IF WE'RE GOING DOWN LET'S GO DOWN WITH A BANG - and yes, AV it needs to be shouted!


Phil, Brisbane

John Gibson said:

On the subject of what they wear, why do our big, strong, trained-to-the-hilt heroes need to have vests and worst of all gloves. If they can't hack UK weather I suggest Portugal or the Middle East. Don't remember Nobby Styles or Ron Harris looking like Boy George.


John, Aus

robin mitton said:

Dear AV and BOROLAND fans!!


Was up last week to try and find a goalkeeper for our youth academy in Brazil. At Rockliffe I met young Sam but he was just 3 months too old. We need someone who was born in 1991 or 1992 (preferably male - although an attractive blonde would be mightily off putting for the opposition!!).


The player would spend a season playing for FUTEBOL ARTE who have just beaten CRUZERIO (away 2-0) and ARNAPOLIS at home. We are looking for someone at 185-190 height. It is Brazilian Premiership level youth football and the player would stay in our players house for that part of the squad who are not from the GOIA area.


The lad would learn Portugeuse and would be treated like a young Prince...they really do love us over there. The player would play his competitive games in GOIAS stadium which is rich in football history. Brazil are using it for some of its qualifying games and so the player I'm sure would feel truly inspired by such an experience.


This is a fantastic opportunity and we would also offer the player a 3 years personal management contract which would help to assure him of full time professional football after that. ANY player looking to break into football can get in touch with us.


Our Chief Coach is Professor Paulo Gonclaves and after a successful career playing against the likes of Pele etc he managed GOIAS to its highest ever league position (4th) and studied to become a sports scientist and concentrate on his book 'Periperal Vision In Football' and the academy FUTEBOL DEL ARTE which is very highly respected over there.


In short we can take a player and improve him up to 20% which is a sports scientific fact and not hollow boast, so WE really can make a difference with any player. And it's not just the Professor's best Brazilian coaching methodologies we will adopt but also our patented sports equipment which trains you to develop peripheral vision. I can really vouch for this as I recently spent a week over there and was wonderfully mesmerised by the technical skills on show. Indeed we will soon be contracted with Premiership players to do what I have just been talking about.


On the BORO front I hope we might one day be invited to demonstrate all of the above because BORO is lodged deep in my heart and always will be.


If any BORO player is reading this then please do your best until the end of the season. When I was in Rockliffe I felt very uncomfortable gazing at the glossy brochures of yachts etc. Maybe a few photos of UNICEF families and children might be more appropriate? Think about how lucky you are and how poor and desperate so many other people are.


Could there be a wider comparison. SO WHEN YOU GO OUT ON TO THE PITCH PLEASE GIVE YOUR HEART AND SOUL FOR THEM AS WELL AS FOR MY PRECIOUS COMMUNITY IN BOROLAND.


Best,


Robin Mitton CEO SUPERTEAMSPORTS (EU)


**AV writes: Robin, we were just wondering only last week where your coachtastic schemes for football wordl domination had taken you. Brazil, clearly. Welcome back. I've cut out some of your advertising spiel but any budding keepers who are interested can e-mail me and I'll pass on the address.

robin mitton said:

AV, thanks for that.


Having joined the Teesside (well UK wide) diaspora after Thatcher, Tebbit et al and having felt lost for so long, I can only thank my Brazilian colleagues for rescuing me from many years of trauma - yes for sensitive northern souls 20 years in the arrogant south east can be like that - I look forward to staying in touch lots now - although now I've got this amazing job in footy I'll have to be careful with my mouthy!!


One point I would like to make here AV is this. Football and rich footballers should pay respect to the mass working class sports movement which is football.


If only some of our players can look deep into their minds, hearts and souls then surely they can recognise what a joy it is to lace up and go and play your club and your people.


SO CMON BORO PLAY, AND PLAY FOR THE PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF BOROLAND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!...as well as for those other poor souls I mentioned earlier.


Thank you,


Robin Mitton CEO SUPERTEAMSPORTS (EU)
www.superteamsports.com.br


PS I'll be back SOON!!

Werdermouth said:

Excellent news from Sid James Park - Shearer will make Southgate look like a wiser Wenger in a glamorous wig.


Still, perhaps Boro are missing a trick in not getting an ex-player pundit to manage the team for the last 8 games - maybe it's time for Andy Townsend to bring his presentation skills to the Riverside to explain to Alves that he should avoid hitting the ball at that man between the sticks with the gloves on.

Brent Hepworth said:

Newcastle were definitely going down with Hughton , Kinnear and co running their team. I fear that NUFC appointing shearer as manager could be bad news for the Boro (and the mackems) as I think that Newcastle have nothing to lose by doing this.


Werdermouth is missing the point about Shearer as he is not just a TV pundit and an ex player but he is their living legend who can do no wrong in their eyes.
If Newcastle do go down, he will not get the blame so what has he got to lose.


If only Cloughie was still alive and in his prime. (sighs)

Werdermouth said:

Brent, putting a complete novice in charge of a top-flight football team who in the eyes of the fans is regarded as a living legend who can do no wrong has a medical name - it's called the delusion complex!


By the time Shearer realises what's going on Newcastle will be all but relegated - will he coach the defence into being stronger or make Owen and Viduka less injury prone? It's just one more desperate measure by Ashley to save his ever-dwindling investment.


Boro are learning the hard way that putting a rookie manager in charge doesn't get more out of your players - it actually gives you less.

Brent Hepworth said:

I take your point about putting a novice in charge but the point is that they have nothing to lose. They were as good as relegated with Kinnear and co running the team.


Shearer will be fully aware of the mess that they are in and he may or may not save them. A similar past example of a local legend taking over as manager of a club and saving it from the drop was Trevor brooking at West Ham. I fear Owld Baldilocks might just do the same for the Mags.

east stand st james said:

Don't believe what they are saying about only being able to buy your new Addidas strip within 20 miles of the Riverside! Mike Ashley has a great relationship with Addidas (and shares in the company).... it will be in Soccer World at half price before you can blink!! ... just think, everytime you buy a Boro shirt you are helping fund Newcastle!

Redcar Red said:

A bit of irony with all the "fashionable" fans constant carping about Errea over the years because it didn't fit with their view on fashion. Surely only an exclusive Italian Fashion design house with limited distribution and true exclusivity can be considered as truly fashionable. doh!


Personally I think we have far more pressing concerns, I'd much rather 3 points than 3 stripes!

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