Tuesday, 26 May 2009

1895-1900: Troubled Times

For the next six seasons, Newton Heath were often in contention in the Second Division, finishing in the top four on five occasions, but it was to be their local rivals, City, who would be the promoted to the top flight first.

During this time, the players turned out for home games in white jerseys - perhaps for economic reasons, as white shirts were much cheaper than coloured shirts, or because of an increasing superstition amongst football clubs and fans that green was an "unlucky" colour (hence the reason there are so few clubs playing in green kits today). It certainly hadn't brought the Heathens much luck over the years, but they probably retained the green and gold jerseys as part of a change kit until 1902.

The team pictured during the 1897/98 season:

Newton Heath 1897/98 team photograph

Newton Heath 1896-1902 Home kit

During the same season they are pictured in the striped shirts possibly of green and gold:

Newton Heath 1897/98 team photograph (2)

Off the pitch at this time, the club was struggling with it's finances, racking up large debts to it's creditors. By the turn of the century, it was in real trouble...

1893-1895: Moving On

The Heathens' first season in the Football League was not successful, and they were saved from relegation only by beating Small Heath - later to become Birmingham City - in the playoffs, or Test Matches, as they were then known (there was no automatic relegation and promotion between the two divisions at the time).

Also, the club had a further breakdown in their relationship with the railway company, who had increased the rent on their North Road ground (despite it being sub-let from Manchester Cathedral, who apparently were not in favour of charging spectators to attend matches there). It was obvious that Newton Heath would be forced to find themselves a new home.

A ground three miles away at Bank Street in Clayton was secured in time for the club to begin their league campaign the for the 1893-94 season and the kit was again changed - this time to green and gold striped shirt, navy kickers and socks:

Newton Heath 1893-94 Home kit

Unfortunately, the ground at Bank Street was no improvement on North Road. The pitch was just as bad, if not worse, but now there was the extra problem of toxic fumes from the adjacent chemical works that would leave the ground almost permanently shrouded in a thick, acrid haze. In fact, there was a power station to the other side and the site of the pitch itself had also previously been a chemical works!

That the club would, for a further nine years, keep the same name as when it played at Newton Heath caused much confusion for visiting teams and supporters, too.

A map of the Bank Street area C1909, overlayed onto a map of the area today:

Bank Street Stadium map 1909/2009

Below is an aerial photograph of the Clayton area taken in the 1920s, the site of the ground is highlighted, but was disused at the time:

Clayton 1920s

The luck that the Heathens had the previous season was to desert them at Bank Street, as they were again forced to fight for their First Division survival in the Test Match, but lost to Liverpool at Ewood Park.

The 1894-95 season would see them take their place in the Second Division alongside newly re-named neighbours Manchester City, then playing at Hyde Road in Ardwick. Once again, the Heathens switched their jerseys for the new season - to new green ones with gold collars, which they also wore the following season, along with white knickers and dark - possibly black - socks. The change kit is unknown, but may have simply been the same shorts and socks worn with any of the prevoius shirts.

Newton Heath 1894/95 team photograph

There are a few variations that the players are wearing - some with gold trim, some without - but this appears to be the most common one:

Newton Heath 1894-96 Home kit

1892-1893: League Football At Last!

After applying several times to enter the Football League, Newton Heath finally got their wish when the League was expanded to two divisions in 1892-93. They were elected to join the First Division, which was to be made up of 16 clubs rather than the 14 it had done previously.

In anticipation of joining the league, the club became a limited company and in reflection of this change, the "L&YR" of the club's name was dropped and official ties with the railway company were severed. 2000 shares of £1 were issued but they were not as popular as had been hoped. In response to this, the railway increased the rent charged for the North Road ground and ended their offer of cheap train travel to players and supporters. The club also hired a secretary for the first time, Alf Albut who had previously been with Aston Villa.

Alan Shury and Brian Landamore's The Definitive Newton Heath states:

“In friendly matches with Football League clubs at the start of the season, Newton Heath lost to Stoke and drew with Bolton Wanderers. The report of the latter game mentions 'Powell and his men in their familiar red and white costumes'. Though Newton Heath are generally known for playing in green and gold shirts, the colours registered with the Football League in 1892 were 'red and white quartered shirts, blue shorts'. By 'quarters' it was meant that the shirts were 'halved' on the front and the back, as can be seen from the group photographs.”

The only photos known to exist from that year are the ones below, and they are probably the most well known photos from the Newton Heath era. It is from these that several retro shirt companies have based their products on... albeit in the wrong colours, it would seem:

Newton Heath 1892/93 team photograph

Newton Heath 1892/93 team photograph

They had been thought to show the the players in their more famous green and gold, but in fact, these are the aforementioned red and white shirts. It is, of course, possible that they are pictured in change colours (of which there is no record) but the top photograph is thought to have been taken on January 7th, 1893. It was on that day that the Heathens played Stoke away and their goalkeeper, Jimmy Warner, had missed the train. This accounts for why there is no recognised keeper amongst the eleven players (thanks to historian and author Charbel Boujaoude for this information).

The rules at the time stated that all teams should keep a set of white change shirts in case of a colour clash. Also, up until as late as 1921, it was the home team that should wear change shirts in case of a clash. Stoke at the time wore navy and red stripes, so there may not have been a reason for either team to change anyway as the referees were much more lenient about such matters back then.

In colour, the kit most likely would have looked like this:

Newton Heath 1892-93 Home kit

One player in each photo (Farman top and Wood bottom) is wearing a variant shirt - presumably one of the other style had been destroyed!:

Newton Heath 1892-93 Home kit (variant)

Saturday, 23 May 2009

1878-1892: The Heathens

Newton Heath were formed at the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company's Carriage and Wagon Works, on North Road in the area known today as Monsall. Overseen by the works supervisor, Fred Attock (a Liverpudlian), the club would play their earliest matches in unknown colours. No records exist, but in the early days of the association game, teams were often identified by the caps or sashes they would wear on the pitch rather than any specific team uniform.

In 1879, a year after the club were founded, Attock presented the players with a set of quartered (a style which, confusuingly, would now be refered to as "halved") jerseys in gold and green, the corporate livery of the railway company. Players had to provide the other items of kit themselves, however.

One of the earliest known photographs is from the mid 1880s and is of an early club captain, Sam Black. He is wearing the jersey with long white "knickerbockers" and black "stockings". The jersey bears a badge on the left hand side, which Black received when he was one of four ‘Heathens’ called up to represent the Manchester & District FA in 1884. It was common for district and international players to wear the badge of their local association or home country on their club shirts during this era, and for these "quartered" shirts to be worn in variations by players on the same team - some having green on the left and gold on the right and others having the colours on the opposite sides. In the early days of football, there was ironically very little uniformity in the uniforms:

Sam Black C1880

Here is a colour representation of that kit - which was probably worn with several combinations of black, white and navy knickers and stockings - minus the badge:

Newton Heath 1879-88 Home kit

During the early years of association football, all teams were required to keep a set of "change" shirts (most commonly white) to be used in case of a colour clash. However, it was the home team who were required to change their kits in these circumstances, rather than the away team.

Possible change kit used by Newton Heath during this period (as with the home kit, they would have been worn with the same combinations shorts and socks):

Newton Heath 1879-88 Change kit

Newton Heath historian Brian Landamore informs me that in 1888, a handbook for the Manchester and District Football Association stated that Newton Heath were wearing red and white, although (according to Gary James' Manchester A Football History) as entrants for the 1887-88 Manchester Cup, they were still listed as playing in green and gold. It's probable that they switched colours in the summer of 1888, although no photographic evidence is known to exist. I have assumed that the jerseys were in a similar style to that worn by Black in the earlier photo and that the same rules applied to the shorts and socks:

Newton Heath 1888-90 Home kit

The reasons for the change in colours can only be guessed at, but one theory is that the club simply updated them in line with the railway company who had discontinued the use of green as livery for their stock in 1883 and had opted instead for black exteriors with red and white lining.

In early 1890, the Heathens won the Manchester Cup for the third consecutive year and they were photographed with the trophy the following September. This is the earliest known photo of the team:

Newton Heath 1890-91 team photograph

By this time the players were wearing what would more properly be described as "shirts" rather than "jerseys" and they seem to have settled on one colour for the knickers and socks, which we believe were navy:

Newton Heath 1890-91 Home kit

Another photograph survives from the following season. Taken around March 1892, the players appear in quartered jerseys once more, albeit again in a slightly different design, along with the now familiar navy shorts and socks:

Newton Heath 1891/92 team photograph

Newton Heath 1891-92 Home kit

League football was beckoning...

Background: The Early Years

Newton Heath L.Y.R. (Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway) Football Club were formed in 1878 by the workers of the Newton Heath Carriage Works and they played their games on a field opposite the works, on North Road (now known as Northampton Road).

The Newton Heath carriage and wagon works, with the football ground to upper left (aerial photo taken in the mid 1920s):
Newton Heath Carriage Works, C1926

Another photo with the football ground in the upper center, North Road running diagonally across the upper right, with the works to the left of that. Moston Fever Hospital is in the foreground (aerial photo taken in the mid 1920s):
North Road in the 1920s

A section of a map from the period when Newton Heath played at North Road:
North Road C1880

The ground had a very poor surface, suffered from drainage problems and was not ideally suited to football. The players had no facilities and they had to change in various pubs on Oldham Road, such as the Three Crowns and the Shears Hotel (both now demolished) which were around half a mile away.

The Three Crowns, Oldham Road (photo taken in the early 1970s):
Three Crowns, C1970

The Shears Hotel, Oldham Road and Shears Street (photo taken in the early 1960s):
Shears Hotel, C1960

United Kits Through the Ages

A complete record of the history of Manchester United's kits.

This is where I intend to post photos and graphic representations of every kit worn by Manchester United from their founding in 1878 (as Newton Heath LYR) up until the present day. I hope to add some historical detail and insight along the way, and I may even be tempted to write a little about other football matters every now and then, too.

Many thanks should be given to Dave Moor at historicalkits.co.uk and Paul Nagel, who has done vast amounts of research on this subject and has been kind enough to share some of it with me.