Broadcasting, bridges, and borrowed tunes: Ranking the PR bullsh*t from PL clubs’ kit launches

Ian Watson
The inspiration behind Nottingham Forest, Manchester United, and Chelsea's new kits.
The inspiration behind Nottingham Forest, Manchester United, and Chelsea's new kits.

It’s that time of year when clubs attempt to sell their latest piece of overpriced polyester. Here’s how we’ve ranked the home kit launches for bullsh*t and bluster…

 

20) West Ham
Like Aston Villa, West Ham’s new clobber has a musical theme but at least the Hammers’ song is theirs, even if they don’t know where it came from.

Bubbles and West Ham United go hand-in-hand and there are several theories as to how the Broadway song came to be synonymous the Claret and Blue Army, who sing it loud and proud everywhere from east London to all corners of the globe. Some say it started with Billy ‘Bubbles’ Murray, a Hammers player in the 1920s, who was said to have resembled the curly-haired child seen in the Pears Soap adverts of the time. Others will tell you it was the Beckton Gas Works Band who brought it to us through playing it pitchside at the Boleyn Ground. It was also sung during the Blitz in the Tube stations, and heard on the terraces when we won the War Cup.

But whatever story you believe – it’s our song. Our anthem. Our history. The fabric of our club. We sing it in east London, and it’s recognised worldwide. It’s our song of hope. Our song of pride. And we’ll sing it forever. Forever. Everywhere.

We learned something, which is as much as you can possibly hope for from a kit launch, isn’t it?

 

19) Newcastle

The new kit features a 1980s retro inspired collar and remains traditional, featuring the club’s iconic black and white stripes – celebrating past triumphs as the Magpies enter a new era under head coach Eddie Howe.

Meh. Nothing to get too pissy about there. Newcastle were smart not to smear on the bullsh*t too thick since they knew they had an away one in a Saudi shade of green launching shortly after.

 

18) Wolves

The old gold strip features a pin stripe pattern which nods to the historical days of the 1980s and Wolves legends such as Andy Gray, Mel Eves and Kenny Hibbitt.

Indeed it does. It’s very close to the template Castore used for Newcastle, but it is close enough to the shirt it is supposed to resemble to make the PR guff easier to stomach.

 

17) Bournemouth

Following the completion of the club’s 100th season in the Football League, the 23/24 home jersey moves back to a more traditional style combing classic stripes with a pin stripe.

We haven’t fathomed yet how the two things are linked, and the associated video has strong The Apprentice vibes…

 

16) Brentford 
It’s hard to be too snide about Brentford since they are the only club to retain a two-year kit cycle. Which they never miss an opportunity to tell us. Oh, look. It wasn’t that hard at all…

‘We’re all home,’ is the headline message in the accompanying campaign which speaks to the inclusive nature of Brentford. It celebrates the fact that regardless of your age, background, or where you’re from, Brentford is a place that welcomes everyone. Whether you grew up in a devoted Brentford family or simply fell in love with the team, this kit represents the home we all share.

That’s chief exec Jon Varney, presumably asked to discuss the new kit because everyone else had f***ed off on holiday.

 

15) Luton

The shirt is the shirt is the shirt. Orange with one vertical white stripe. Navy blue collar. The look complete with navy shorts and orange socks. Iconic, 70s Luton. Premier League Luton.

The Hatters pay homage to two different eras with this season’s kit: the Admiral-clad 1970s before they went from orange to white; and 2011-2013 when they wore a version of this design in the National League. And they’ve managed to do so without drowning in Premier League-levels of bullsh*t. Aside from that first sentence… what? What are we missing?

 

14) Fulham

The launch film celebrates the new shirt and its role in the Club’s enduring connection with our neighbourhood… Whilst resolutely forward-looking as a Club since 1879, heritage is still proudly recognised within the shirt’s design, with the Club’s famous ‘London’s Original Football Club’ mark displayed at the neck on the reverse of the jersey.

Automatic points deduction for capping-up the C in club, otherwise there’s little point in wasting much time and energy on this since Fulham evidently haven’t. “That’s the history box ticked, lads. Pub?”

 

13) Burnley
Burnley insist this season’s shirt is a homage to the ‘iconic’ 1994 kit worn when they won promotion from the League One play-offs. Fair do’s. Since every kit these days must be a tribute to something else, it was inevitable some clubs were going to run out of ideas.

This season’s kit shoot saw the home kit brought to life with colour as players from the men’s and women’s team filmed the kit covered in powder of the Club’s traditional claret and blue. Showcasing their personalities in a variety of poses to compliment the shirt’s design, players from both squads featured to enforce Burnley FC’s One Club for All ethos.

The ‘showcasing their personalities’ line made us snort tea over the keyboard. As did ‘compliment’.

 

12) Crystal Palace

The shirt’s design is made of red and blue halves to celebrate 10 years and that first incredible season we had in 2013/14. Indeed, the 2023/24 season will mark a club record of 11 consecutive seasons in the top-flight of English football (and 16th in total since the Premier League began in 1992). The shirt features a subtle background detail: a silhouette of the original Crystal Palace, where the club was founded in 1861 and played from 1862.

We’d have better stomached the nod to 2013/14 if the shirt featured yellow instead of white piping. The silhouette is original, at least, which is the only detail that doesn’t scream Ted Lasso.

 

11) Everton

For the first time in a decade, an Everton home shirt will feature a collar – one that pays homage to Goodison’s famous Archibald Leitch pattern on its trim. The same iconic design – a feature of Everton’s stadium since 1909 – is repeated on the shirt’s sleeves. The collar is also a nod to the classic hummel Denmark national team home shirt from their 1992 European Championship triumph, as part of a range of design inspirations marking the brand’s centenary year.

Everton and Hummel were doing just fine until they brought Denmark into it. Why?

 

10) Liverpool 

Liverpool FC has unveiled its brand-new home kit for the 2023-24 season, which pays homage to the legendary Bill Shankly’s last season in charge of the Reds 50 years ago. An iconic kit reimagined, it’s a classic design in bright Liverpool red with white contrast collar and cuffs inspired by Shankly’s 1973-74 squad of FA Cup winners.

The shirt also looks an awful lot like the jersey worn by the worst Manchester United team in recent history in 2020-21. They definitely should have made much more of that rather than the Shankly guff.

 

c9) Arsenal

Our new kit draws on the spirit of The Invincibles team of 2003/04, marking the beginning of the 20th anniversary of our unbeaten Premier League season… our record of 26 wins and 12 draws over 38 games in that historic season is stitched into the side of the authentic version of the kit.

Except it isn’t. The authentic shirt had to be withdrawn from sale after it was noticed that it featured only 32 of the 38 results. Which is still 32 more than the replica ‘fan’ version. Half-decent idea, terribly executed. A big L among too few Ds and Ws.

 

8) Brighton 
‘New dawn, new adventures’ is the slogan. Same old sh*te is the kit.

The design marks our new adventures into the UEFA European League, detailing classic Albion blue and white stripes and featuring blue sleeves and a V-shaped collar.

It’s a marketing open goal, scuffed horribly wide by the unveiling of a duller-than-dull, same-as-last-season, template jersey.

 

7) Manchester City
The champions’ new chemise celebrates 20 years since they moved from Maine Road to the council house…

The kit pays homage to the iconic features of the Etihad Stadium and is inspired by the shirt worn during the first season at the new ground… This marked the start of a new era for the club, defined by new records, new legends, and moments of greatness. The 2023/24 Home kit is a testament to this legacy, celebrating the Etihad Stadium and all those who call it home.

New era, yes. But hardly one ‘defined by new records, new legends, and moments of greatness’. That era started at least five years later. While City were wearing the shirt this new one celebrates, they finished 16th and the banter era lived on.

 

6) Tottenham
The shirt earned Tickers’ seal of approval, the highest honour for any kit – nay, fashion – designer, even if the shorts did not.

The subtle pattern of overlapping circles and lines seen throughout draws inspiration from the sounds of London N17 and the area’s broadcasting history. This was marked at an exclusive launch event at Alexandra Palace – the iconic North London venue from where the world’s first public television broadcasts were made in 1936. The event included a panel session involving Club legends Ledley King and Michael Dawson, alongside Tottenham-born rapper President T, discussing their thoughts on the new kit, their passion for the Club and pride in the local area.

We can only hope Messrs King, Dawson and T pulled Spurs up on the broadcast bollocks.

Read more: Man Utd top ranking of Premier League 23/24 home kits as Chelsea absolutely f*** it

 

5) Nottingham Forest

Re-establishing our historic relationship with adidas, the classic Garibaldi strip is instantly recognisable with our memorable European Cup wins in 1979 and 1980, as we enter our 125th season at The City Ground.

No, it’s not. It’s a crushingly-plain red shirt, which makes it all the more bizarre that they’ve used a crew-neck collar when Forest’s European Cup winners played in a V-neck. Glorious, plunging V-necks. Opportunity missed. Idiots.

 

4) Chelsea
Tickers has already explained why their new shirt is the worst thing that Chelsea have ever done. They’ve tried to pass it off as a nod to the 1997/98 season…

The new design for ’23/’24 remembers that special past while additional gold detail, including an iridescent crest, highlights the prestige and glamour of the famous King’s Road in the ’90s. Shimmering in gold, the lion roars on the shirt – symbolic of Chelsea’s prestige and history.

You can’t market a retro shirt and then spatter it with iridescence. Had they kept the badge and the swoosh simple, they might – might – have got away with it. It’s a design fault more than a marketing one but it makes for a very confused kit launch.

 

3) Manchester United

The deep connection between Manchester and its rich industrial heritage is beautifully represented in our new home kit. It pays homage to the city’s iconic red rose in a stunning geometric design and draws inspiration from the bridge over the River Irwell, which connects Manchester and Salford and stands as a symbol of the city’s strength and its profound impact on the world during the industrial revolution.

The best shirt in the league accompanied by some weapon’s grade bullsh*t. Paying tribute to a flower and a road bridge in the same pattern, aye? Last season, Forest paid tribute to the Trent Bridge in their jersey. Is this going to be a thing?

 

2) Sheffield United

The iconic red shirt, adorned with two thick white stripes, captures the essence of Sheffield’s rich industrial history, paying homage to the city’s steel heritage and the 96/98 home shirt. However, the design also reflects Sheffield’s dynamic present and promising future as a vibrant hub of innovation and culture. Embodying the spirit of resilience and progress, the ‘Steel City, Rising’ campaign perfectly aligns Sheffield United’s journey to the Premier League with the city’s transformation.

The Blades call ‘house’ on bullsh*t bingo.

 

1) Aston Villa 

Inspired by the passion of the pride in the stands at Villa Park, the new 2023/24 home shirt design depicts a subtle print of soundwaves taken from fans singing our ‘Allez, Allez, Allez’ chant on a matchday, putting supporters at the heart of this incarnation of the famous claret and blue.

Our ‘Allez, Allez, Allez’ chant’? Really? The soundwaves idea isn’t a new one, but at least pick a song that’s unmistakably yours. Bad Villa.