NEW ENGLAND KIT GETS FIERY BAPTISM

The new England away kit was unveiled this week to boos all around:

In an unexpected change from the norm, the new shirt was not brought to the public’s attention via some sterile and predictable press conference. Instead, the responsibility was given to Tom Meighan, lead singer of England’s finest current export Kasabian, to unleash a classically-inspired  strip on the World at a midweek gig at the Paris Olympia.

For some reason I find myself not wanting to like this idea. If you take the concept – “a sterotypically-English band leave the stage, but return attired in the new strip for a rousing encore in front of thousands of screaming Parisians” – it all seems abit naff. In the boardroom, I think I would have turned my nose up at it and insisted “we’re better than that“. But if you have watched the video of the event, you’ve got to admit, it’s really quite good.

It is all the things you want the FA to be. Confident and unafraid to take risks.

The video conjures up associations in my head of Magaluf, of Benidorm: Caught on Camera, of walking into a boulangerie in La Rochelle and only knowing three words “Ooon cwassont seevu-play” and of drinking sambuca in Rome then walking five miles back to a hostel and persuading your friend not to take a slash on the Coliseum en route. I don’t know why and please don’t judge me, or this blog, but when Meighan outstetches both his arms to the side and leans back, I want to be him.

I want to be on the centre of the stage in the Paris Olympia (a stage that has been graced by acts as heavy as Led Zeppelin and as delicately graceful as Jeff Buckley) whilst wearing the new England kit, being booed for the shirt on my back but then cheered seconds later for the tunes that I am laying on in each and every one of the audience.

Umbro’s release of the new strip will be over-intellectualised by the middle of next week. Critics will say the shirt is nothing but a copy of the 1966 shirt and they will say that unveiling a new kit infront of an unsuspecting, thus innocent, foreign audience was an aggressive and cocky way to make the shirt public. But like it or not, from birth English men and women – whether they are football fans or not – are submerged in 1966 iconography so why not produce a simple, red, tailored shirt for the 2010 World Cup to stoke up the fires of fans’ support.

We know wearing a retro shirt is not going to make the England team play any better. But so what? If it makes England fans feel even just an iota more patriotic, more optimistic and more confident as they make their way to the pub on 12th June to watch their boys play the USA, then surely, the shirt will be deemed a success.

I for one am thankful the FA decided to think slightly outside of the box. It was an assertive idea and if nothing else, it shifted the attention away from John Terry for at least one night.

By Ross A. Fox

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