In our countdown to the start of the new season Rob Hogg takes a look at another Premiership classic. This time around it is Chelsea’s timeless grey and orange away, Umbro shirt.
Chelsea home kits have rarely ventured far beyond ‘blue’. The Stamford Bridge faithful are clearly a humble lot. But take them away from West London and they start to show their true colours.
From the early 80s until well into the 90s, a bout of insanity took over the Umbro factory, and they churned out psychedelic kits for an era synonymous with the names Nevin, Hazard, Durie. The crowning achievement came with the 1994-96 away kit, a eye blenderingly bad combination of orange and slate grey.
Chelsea, Umbro, 1994-6
For some time, the lads in the kitroom were offering the only fireworks at Chelsea, a series of mid table finishes dampening the effects of the Commodore / Umbro combination. The tide looked like it might turn though when Ian Porterfield had the distinction of being the first manager to be sacked in the Premier League and was replaced by Glenn Hoddle. Hoddle led the team to the FA Cup Final and it looked like they might push on to greater things.
This shirt captures a time of frustrated potential. In 1994-95, Chelsea failed to capitalise on their previous season, and went out to Real Zaragoza in the Cup Winners’ Cup. Changes were made, Hoddle’s ambition being to match performance to shirt. Mishit Robert Fleck was released, replaced by Mark Hughes. And at the other end, in came Ruud Gullit, saying he wanted to play sweeper.
Things didn’t work out in that position, Gullit discovering that his new teammates were not quite up to the levels of AC Milan:
“I would take a difficult ball, control it, make space and play a good ball in front of the right back, except that he didn’t want that pass. Eventually Glenn said to me, ‘Ruud, it would be better if you do these things in midfield’”
Was Gullit talking about Erland Johnsen? Or Frank Sinclair? Or Terry Phelan? Or Michael Duberry? Or Jakob Kjeldbjerg? It is hard to say. As it was, the season finished less than spectacularly in 11th, and Chelsea went out of the FA Cup at the semi finals stage. Nevertheless, the signings of such big name players at Chelsea was a watershed moment in English football.
The orange/grey kit was discontinued after this season, and enough was enough for Glenn Hoddle, whose consistent ability to draw mid table positions from the team saw him given the England manager’s job, a tradition admirably continued by the FA with the likes of Steve McClaren and Roy Hodgson.
In this clip, enjoy the kit and watch Ruud successfully completing a pass to an eager right back.
Was this Chelsea’s greatest ever football shirt? Let us know through twitter @thefootballsc or on facebook.