A second season in the Premier League for Hull City, who’d have thunk it?
The Tigers’ first top flight campaign had been somewhat Icarus like, we flew close to the sun (third in the league table if you’ll indulge the metaphor) early on and our wings made of wax melted, leaving us plummeting towards the ground (the relegation spots). However, we would narrowly avoid impact with the floor and defy all expectations by retaining top flight status at Newcastle’s expense, meaning the Geordies and not us would trade triangular Premier League sleeve patches for rectangular Football League appliqués for their 2009-2010 kits.
The club’s deal with Umbro was entering its third and final year, but their new offerings would not bear the brand marks of the KCOM group as the last two years Umbro City shirts had. The Karoo / Kingston Communications shirt deal had expired and in the midst of an economic slump they elected not to renew, though their stadium naming rights deal would continue.
Sports360, an agency specialising in brokering pitchside advertising deals for professional sports clubs, were tasked with finding a suitably high profile company to sponsor the still Premier League Tigers.
Our new main sponsor would be ToteSport, the high street and internet trading arm of the Horseracing Totalisator Board, the state controlled bookmakers. The two year deal was announced on June 30th 2009, the same day the new playing kits (the home kit is seen on Kamil Zayatte, above) were unveiled.
In the run up to the unveiling, the club’s official website featured a teaser graphic (shown below) which showed Geovanni and Jimmy Bullard, wearing the home and away kits respectively, but with all but a tiny part of each kit hidden in shadow, as if photographed on the dark side of the moon. It was evident however that our new home shirt was largely amber and the away kit was a light shade of blue.
Messageboard chatter suggested remaining with stripes was preferable to many Tiger Nationals, the rationale being that the world had seen us cutting a swath through the Premier League in the early months in stripes, and if we were to create a globally recognisable identity, keeping stripes would help achieve that. It would also differentiate us from Wolverhampton Wanderers, who’d just been promoted to the Premier League.
Indeed when the home shirt was revealed, the initial response appeared to be ‘it looks nice, but we’ll look a bit like Wolves’. The largely amber shirt featured black pinstripe detail and a simple V-neck collar that was black split by a single amber stripe. This shirt definitely had a retro look to it, with some noting similarities to Umbro’s Wolves shirt from 1982-1983. It was undoubtedly similar (and throughout the years City and Wolves have had several not-dissimilar uniforms, particularly in the mid-Sixties and early-Seventies), however it is clear that the new design was loosely based on some of our own kits from the Eighties.
This shirt was undoubtedly a tip of the hat to the Admiral pinstriped shirts worn during 1982-1983/1983-1984 (the main colour of which was a single, matte tone of amber) and 1984-1985/1985-1996 (which were modified to include two tones of amber, with matte and shiny ambers alternating between the pinstripes).
The big difference of course, is that those Eighties City jerseys had red pinstripes rather than black. Such was Don Robinson’s fondness for the sanguine hue that it became part of our colour palette from 1982 until 1990, when we reverted back to just black and amber. With red (thankfully) no longer a City colour, the pinstripes for 2009-2010 would be black, regardless of what Wolves once wore.
The separate collar panel at the back of the shirt features some neat club specific detailing on both sides. On the inside the club crest sits inside an ornate floral pattern, flanked by text detailing the garments’ lifespan (Kick off 2009, Full time 2010). On the outside is a simple ‘THE TIGERS’ transfer in a Times New Roman-esque font with exaggerated serifs.
The sponsors’ branding (Totesport advertised their website on our home shirt but omitted the .com suffix on the away shirt) appeared in the company’s colours of green and red. The colours that should ‘never be seen’ together would, you’d expect, look quite jarring on an amber background, but it didn’t look so bad, perhaps because the shade of green used is quite muted. A garish, bright green is part of Totesport’s palette but it serves as a background to the darker tone of green used on the wordmark.
Though the shirt had a distinctly retro look, it was nonetheless packed with sneaky technical features, such as the black mesh panels for ventilation situated under the arms and at the base of the back. The body of the shirt was constructed of Umbro’s ‘Trilogy’ fabric, a three layered, chemically treated polyester designed to wick away sweat, a fact announced by the inclusion of Umbro’s ‘Climate Control’ logo on the hem of the back panel.
Completing the ensemble were black shorts that had amber mesh side panels starting halfway down the thigh, contrasting the black vents of the shirts, and amber socks with what must logically be described as black ‘pinhoops’.
The new kits were first worn in action at Church Road, North Ferriby, in the yearly Billy Bly Memorial Trophy match, with City wearing the home kit for the first half, and the blue away strip in the second half. North Ferriby joined in the fashion show too, wearing their impressive new green and white adidas home kit in the first 45, before donning their yellow and black change clobber in the second half. Later in July City wore the home kit for pre season games at Winterton and Sheffield Wednesday before unveiling a unique version for two games played a little further afield.
City’s exploits in the early part of the 2008/2009 season earned them an invite to play in the Barclays Asia Trophy, a friendly four-team tournament held bi-annually to promote the Premier League in the Far East. Previously held in Malaysia (2003), Thailand (2005) and Hong Kong (2007), the 2009 edition took place in China, with all games being played at the Worker’s Stadium in Beijing (an Olympic football venue in 2008). Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United joined City on the trip east, with Chinese Super League topping side Beijing Guoan (who play at the Worker’s Stadium) providing local interest.
The Tigers played two games in China, drawing 1-1 after 90 minutes with Beijing Guoan before advancing on penalties to the ‘final’, which was lost 3-0 to Spurs. Since betting is frowned upon by the Chinese state and related advertising not permitted, all three English sides had to modify their shirts for use in the Asia Trophy. West Ham covered the logo of SBOBET with a patch carrying the mark of the Bobby Moore Fund, a club affiliated cancer charity, whereas both Spurs and City, sponsored by Mansion online casinos and Totesport respectively, sported shirts free of a main sponsor’s logo.
The sans-branding City shirts (as seen on George Boateng, above) looked great and more like the early-Eighties jerseys they were based on than those with the Totesport wordmark, which blighted all adult shirts available from Tiger Leisure. Not the kids shirts though, the club decided that young ‘uns shouldn’t be seen advertising gambling.
A Tiger Leisure staff member noted that kids often ask if they can have the sponsor put on their shirt, so they look like the players do, whereas many adults had requested a shirt without the sponsor. For contractual reasons the club were unable to stock sponsor free adult shirts, but some savvy supporters were able to pick one up on Ebay after a reputable kit shop in Hong Kong got hold of some of the unused (and still tagged) shirts taken to China by City. Those shirts were not the only rare garb available only on Ebay in 2009/2010 however.
On November 8th, Remembrance Sunday, City hosted Stoke and for the first time had poppies affixed to each player’s shirt. Underneath the Umbro double diamond logo was the legend ‘Hull City v. Stoke City, Barclays Premier League, 8th November 2009′ (seen on Jozy Altidore, left).
Only two Premier League sides decided against having poppies on their shirts, Manchester United and Liverpool reasoned that a red poppy wouldn’t be visible on a red jersey.
A logical argument, but the sanctimony filled Daily Mail claimed this was somehow disrespectful to former servicemen, dubbing the non-incident ‘Poppygate’, wilfully ignoring both clubs marking Armistice Day in other ways, such as Liverpool’s donating the shirts for auction.
City too auctioned their shirts, each was listed on Ebay with the monies raised going to the Royal British Legion, the charity that provides financial and social support to former servicemen of the Armed Forces.
The week long auction raised a total of £8784.08, with Jimmy Bullard’s shirt fetching a staggering £1041.
The least popular shirt? £310 was paid for Matt Duke’s keeper jersey, a tenner less than Tony Warner’s, even though Duke played the game while Warner warmed the bench! Below is each starting players final shirt value…
The Premier League’s typeface, a slimmed down version of the Myriad Condensed font, was once again applied to the back of player’s shirts, this year black letters and numbers were used on the mostly amber shirts , whereas white had been used on the striped 2008/2009 jerseys.
With the signing of the indigestibly named Dutchman Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, the club ordered the reduced size letters for his shirt (as seen used against Stoke, above right), however full size letters were used for the games against Birmingham, Wigan and Portsmouth (above left). Players names are radially arched above numbers on City’s shirts but a tighter arch was initially needed for the man abbreviated to ‘JVoH’ on messageboards.
Late in 2009, the staff bloggers on the official Umbro website began an attempt to catalogue every football jersey designed by the Manchester based firm. A page was created on Flickr, the online image hosting site, to display pictures of what Umbro termed their ‘Football Archive’, including the three shirts produced for City. The image used to represent the 2009/2010 Tigers design was of a prototype that not only had no sponsor’s mark, but also featured a design element that sadly didn’t make it to the final club approved version.
Embossed onto the left breast (as worn) is the City tiger’s head on its own, removed from the shield context that constitutes the club crest, which itself was applied at the centre of the large tiger head. Sunderland’s 2009/2010 Umbro shirt did contain such embossing, with their full crest ‘echoed’ behind the stitched on version. That implies that the decision to not run with such a feature was a club decision, rather than an Umbro call. Pity, it looks, as seen below, quite ace.
A largely monotone affair, the primary colour of the new change kit was described by Umbro as ‘Fusion blue’, which was also used on the training sweatshirts and jackets. The overlapping V-neck collar and underarm/shoulder ventilation panels are in constrasting navy blue.
Embossed double stripes run throughout the shirt, following an Umbro template evident on the shirts of Birmingham City (home), Sunderland (away), Southampton (away) and the Premier League officials. Sponsor Totesport’s all lower case wordmark appears without the .com suffix in dark green and red.
Like the home shirt, the blue change jersey features a separate collar panel, which has the lifespan text and crest with heraldic floral background on the inside and ‘THE TIGERS’ transfer on the reverse. The shorts are the same design as those worn at home, with a mesh panel stripe starting halfway down the thigh, navy blue against the light blue main body . The turnover band of the socks had one white and one fusion blue hoop sandwiched between two navy hoops.
Following the June 30th launch, The Tiger Leisure site advertised the away strip with a graphic of Jimmy Bullard wearing it while standing under a spotlight, which rather amusingly made him look like he should be stood alongside Freddie Mercury, John Deacon, Roger Taylor and Brian May on the Queen II album cover.
The fusion blue get-up was debuted at North Ferriby in the second half of the Billy Bly Memorial Trophy game, making its competitive debut in a sartorially confusing game against Wolves at Molineux in late August. It was later used at Sunderland, Fulham, Bolton and Tottenham in the Premier League, and in a mid November, international break filling match against Atalanta in Bergamo, Italy for the Trofeo Achille e Cesare Bortolotti, a game that ended 2-2 after 90 minutes but was lost on penalties.
The ‘keepers had two kits to choose from, the first favoured by Bo Myhill and Matt Duke was dark green with lighter green accents. The body of the shirt had a gradiating design of equiangular polygons that looked like a fast paced but existentially dull game of Tetris where all the blocks are green hued lines. The strip seemingly favoured by Tony Warner was a two-tone grey affair that vaguely looked like a rejected uniform concept for the film Galaxy Quest .