My First Kit – Dickie Felton, National Football Museum

In the football sense I was the result of a mixed marriage on the Mersey. Mum was red, dad was blue.

To confuse things further, the first football shirt I owned was a shiny polyester Tottenham Hotspur jersey.  In the early 1980s Spurs were dominating the FA Cup Final with back-to-back wins. And kit supplier Le Coq Sportif was dominating shelves in my local sports shop.  

The French producer of athletic shoes, activewear, and sporting accessories must’ve had a marketing team years ahead of its time. With several top flight clubs wearing its logo, Le Coq Sportif flooded northern towns with Spurs shirts along with the claret of another kit client – newly crowned European champions Aston Villa.

I’m eight and the anthem Ossie’s Dream (Spurs Are On Their Way to Wembley) spins round my head in-between episodes of The Amazing Adventures of Morph. And for a split second it seemed like my club affiliation might be more influenced by Chas and Dave than Rush and Dalglish.

So there I was on Crosby beach in my Spurs 1981 FA Cup Final shirt pretending to be Ossie Ardiles jumping over jellyfish and scoring on the sunbaked sands.

A year later we sit around our Radio Rentals hired TV as Bryan Robson scores against France within 30 seconds of England’s World Cup match at Spain 82. That seals shirt number two for me. And I get the England Admiral red away top for Christmas.  

Six months later I’m at my first big match. Dad takes me to Everton for a massive FA Cup 5th round tie. Funnily enough – against Spurs. Bearded and brilliant Argentine Ricky Villa is among the leading cast of Garth Crooks, Gary Mabbutt and Glenn Hoddle. Howard Kendall’s blues subject the north Londoners to their first FA Cup defeat in almost three years thanks to scruffily scrambled goals from Andy King and Graeme Sharp.

But it wasn’t the blue of Everton or the brilliant white of Tottenham that endured.

Nobody Told Me by John Lennon was riding high in the charts in January 1984 and these were strange days indeed. As Britain is battered by a hurricane I have a sleepover at my mate’s and Match of the Day Live is Aston Villa V Liverpool.  

We sit glued to the set as Ian Rush scores a sublime hat-trick at a foggy, freezing Villa Park. He’s dressed in a magnificent all yellow Liverpool away kit. His second goal is a sensational left foot volley, his third is a work of wonder, controlling the ball on his thigh before chipping the ball over the advancing Nigel Spink.  

That pinstriped Umbro creation goes straight to the top of my wish list. I mither mum for the yellow Umbro shorts and socks to complete the entire kit. And I’m soon recreating Rushie’s treble in the back garden until nightfall each day for the remainder of the season. Of course 1984 is special as the Reds claim the league title, Milk Cup and European Cup for the fourth time.

Dickie aged 10 in his yellow Umbro LFC away shirt.

I’m hopelessly hooked on the men in red. I rock up at Fifth Sefton West Cubs Group dressed head to toe in the yellow of Liverpool away and get promptly sent home for flouting Scout dress code rules.  

Dad will say I only started supporting Liverpool ‘ because they were winning everything’. And he’s probably got a point. He takes me to my first Anfield match and by 1987 I’m a season ticket holder.

Liverpool’s 1983-85 Home shirt, signed by the title-winning squad.

The Kop obsession doesn’t go down well in school. I finish bottom of the year in 1985 and Spanish teacher etches advice on my homework: “It’s about time you grow up to your responsibilities and stop considering football to be your entire life.”

If anything, it’s football that becomes my education. I get a good handle of geography by travelling to games across the country. Maths comes on leaps and bounds working out budgets for Wembley trips each May.

For the next 25 years Liverpool FC is my entire life. Only interrupted in the late teenage years with the discovery of girls, Merrydown cider and The Smiths. I watch Liverpool win everything under the sun and attend every major final for a quarter of a century.

And then there was a whole new element to my match-going exploits – Europe. My first continental away day was AS Roma in 2001. Michael Owen grabs two as we celebrate long into the night in the Eternal City.

My fixation with shirts is put on the back-burner for the next 15 years as funds are channelled into match travel expenses. The UEFA cup offers exploits to places not normally on the tourist trail: Bucharest, Sofia, Cologne, with silver lined nights in Dortmund and Istanbul.  

With parenthood and a lingering dislike of how expensive football had become, I gave up my Liverpool season ticket in 2012. Me and my lad began to get our kicks watching football at all levels from non-league’s Evo-Stik Northern Premier division to trips up to Glasgow to watch Celtic.

“Space invaders” Celtic away 1989.

We left Liverpool in 2016 and live in Cumbria on the West Coast mainline. So these days you’re more likely to find us on a Pendolino train heading north to Celtic Park or south to the DW Stadium Wigan. Having season tickets at both Celtic and Wigan means that in normal circumstances we get to watch a live game most weekends.

I still support Liverpool of course, and get on the Kop three or four times a season. When I go back I’m like a tourist and just lap up the whole experience.  

I never viewed myself as a football shirt collector. The tops I own have just been acquired over the years. Many were stuffed in boxes in our loft till I realised this wasn’t the best environment for works of art which now go for big bucks.

Last year I bought some clothes racks, hangers and protective covers for my shirts. I’ll generally look out for sales and only get shirts which are heavily discounted.  

Any shirt of any club or country which is criticised on launch is usually the one I like to buy – such as the 2014/15 Scotland away shirt. This rhubarb and custard number was described as being the football equivalent of a packet of Refreshers. Instantly I loved it.  

“Rhubarb and custard” Scotland away 2014/2015.

What might be viewed as being an awful shirt one year can evolve over decades like a fine wine. I remember buying the Adidas Liverpool 1990 home shirt which at the time was not universally loved in Liverpool.  But 30 years on this shirt has iconic status and takes a prominent position in Strip! How Football Got Shirty.  

I even wore this shirt for my job interview at the National Football Museum. What could’ve been a spectacular own goal helped me secure the role. 

Sometimes it is good to consider football to be your entire life…

Dickie with his Liverpool shirt today.

Dickie Felton is PR and media co-ordinator at the National Football Museum.

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