Special; Norwich City Bird Poo Kits

There are two moments in every man’s life that shape his character; for one, the realization that international breaks are the worst thing in football since big business took over, and for two, the acknowledging of the fact that the early 90’s were a period of true enlightenment in regards to fashion design and that whoever tells you otherwise hasn’t seen that one old Norwich City kit yet. This week, Club 25 is proud to mix the very best of the Canaries’ fabled history with the very worst of the modern game (a full weekend without League football!) as we bring you…. both bird poo kits in their full glory!

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No matter the reach of their vocabulary, observers would be hard-pressed to accurately describe what they find before themselves when faced with not just the infamous bird poo / egg and cress kit of the early 90’s, but also its modern counterpart, which swapped the yellow and white of the original around to create a fitting third shirt for the Canaries in 2016/2017.

Club 25 is no stranger to NCFC, having covered the old Colman’s shirt and the play-off winning 14/15 shirt previously (they are our favourite English League club after all); additionally, as a site (we prefer to call it a multimedia project because it sounds better on LinkedIn) we have specialized in many of the most gruesome tops out there, such as the sextuple-purple Citizen AA away shirt, the prawniest of shirts from Spain, Wolves’ early 90’s skidmark accident, a map of Asia as a football shirt, a Slovenian boat hull in baby blue, whatever Walsall was trying to do here, and the unbruised banana of Cambridge United, along with many, many others. Nonetheless, Norwich’ 1992-1994 home shirt may just be a grade above these others as it frequently tops lists of the most notorious football tops ever; this habit of plomping the Ribero-manufactured shirt (with Mitre branding towards the end of the ’93/’94 season) into clickbait articles with no real further explanation needed reached it highest peak of activity when NCFC and long-term technical partner Erreà revealed a white shirt modelled after the yellow ‘n green in the summer of 2016.

To our knowledge, no real direct comparisons between both exist on the internet right now, in what can only be called one of the most heinous oversights in football shirt documentation history. Allow us here at Club 25, then, to take you on a voyage of discovery as we zoom in on these two shirts and unravel the mystique and intrigue behind these two samples of legendary cloth!

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Click that picture, in glorious HD; you know you want to….

A couple of notes have to preface our story here; firstly, both of these shirts are player-spec, and as such, are to the exact standards of what the players would have worn on the pitch in the seasons these shirts were worn. The yellow home shirt was only ever made in player-spec, unlike in modern times where Nike, adidas, and Puma are happy to nickle and dime you by selling a ‘replica’ at full price and a ‘authentic’ version at a decidedly high markup (running you as much as 80 to a 100 GBP if you’re unlucky).

That being said, the ’16/’17 white third shirt is matchworn, although we will get to the player later. What is relevant to note here is that, as a third shirt for a team that already has a yellow home shirt and a contrasting away shirt (black that season), it saw precious little league action. In fact, the white bird poo kit was only worn twice in away games, which were the 1-2 Canaries’ victory over Wolves at Molineux on the first of October 2016 and the 2-1 loss against Burton Albion at the Pirelli Stadium on the 18th of February 2017. The 90’s home shirt, however, was used in 38 home League matches across two seasons, a bunch of away games, as well as during a number of historic outings in Europe that year (Bayern Munich and Inter Milan, anyone?).

Finally, Norwich City were far from the only team to play in this pattern; Burnley and Coventry City were two prominent examples of other league clubs adopting it, albeit in their own claret/light blue and sky blue/white colour schemes, of course. For some reason, however, the Canaries’ top has attained the highest level of notoriety since, which may not be wholly coincidental given it being unmistakably tied to what was one of the finest periods in the club’s history.

Having elaborated upon the technical specifications and their on-pitch use, it is now time to tackle what is perhaps the most common misconception about these shirts; the assumption that the white shirt emulates the home shirt 1:1. Although this is a very understandable conclusion to arrive at when looking at the shirts from afar, our closeup here reveals that this is not the case. In fact, it can be argued that no two shirts of both groupings are exactly the same; we assume the home shirts were cut from large rolls of fabric as was custom with patterned kits in the early ’90s, and have never happened upon two shirts that were exactly the same. The same goes for two aforementioned shirts, namely those of Wolves and Walsall. Similarly, Erreà seemingly used a method not far from what Ribero used way back when, as we’ve failed to find convincing evidence of white shirts bearing the exact same placements of the white, green, yellow, and gray(!) markings.

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Let’s wrap around to our earlier finding, the fact that the ’16/’17 shirt is not a pure palette-swap as far as the pattern goes; coupled with the different sponsoring, material (the old home kit is a tad shiny as was the fad in the early 90’s, the third shirt isn’t), fit, and so, the shirt is not so much a reproduction as it is a hommage to and reimagining of what came before.

On this topic, we would like to draw your attention to the patterns themselves; looking at the yellow shirt, one can make out what seems to be a bit of a cross pattern (as in, the cross you’d find in a Church, sans Jesus). Although the crosses can be made out on the white shirt as well, they seem to be present in smaller numbers. Whether a conscientious omission on the part of the designers or a simple result of the differing pattern and colour set, this strongly sets the old apart from the new.

Additionally, we need to cover the notion of the differing pattern and the colour set. To start with the former, one may note that the diagonal slashes (bottom left – upper right) are much sharper on the original home shirt than on the reimagined third shirt. Although it’s a bit haphazard to liken a football shirt to serious crimes, consider the slashes on the old top to be able to cause stab and cut wounds, where those of the modern kit are more adept at causing blunt force trauma. Perhaps the pictures don’t do this allegory justice, but any punter lucky enough to own a copy of both shirts will be able to confirm the same when taking them out of the closet and into the light.

Having so far neglected the topic beyond two quick mentions of its hue and pattern, we were rather surprised to find copious amounts of grey/gray (whichever you prefer) all across the white shirt when it fell into our possession. The addition of the grey is the most marked departure from the pattern of yore, as it does not follow the varying shades of yellow on the old shirt in both placing and contrast. In fact, one could even consider the Erreà shirt to have grey rather than white as its main colour, although, again, this is not something readily apparent when viewing the top from a distance.

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We won’t spend too much time on the innards of the club’s crest, as we have covered this in-depth before (remember this and this?), but it is relevant to note that it remains one of football’s most iconic crests. The more interesting choice of subject matter right now is just how far the replication of crests on shirts have come in the 22 year gap in between the Ribero and Erreà shirts.

Ribero, who quickly faded from glory in the 90’s and remain mostly inactive anno 2018, utilized a strange method of applying raised vilt to the shirt, which has stood the test of time remarkably well. Where the brand’s work shines in durability, it drops the ball on overall quality, as there seems to be a bit of a misprint effect to the crest. Best observed in the upper lining of the canary’s tail and the left edge of the ball, Ribero tried to add texturing to the crest here. A most noble pursuit, were it not for the fact that it seems to have been bungled as the differences in height don’t line up well with the features of City’s proud emblem. Further credibility is lent to the notion that this was a misprint with the black outline of the crest being much wider on the left than it is on the right (where it gets close to being non-existant).

Conversely, Erreà have done a fine job on their rendering of the badge; a fully accurate representation in both shape (Ribero’s effort is decidedly pointy) and colour (Ribero’s canary and ball look rather golden), it is soft to the touch with accurate depth between the yellow features and the green base and stitched onto the shirt with a see-through thread.

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In regards to sponsors, we suppose Norwich City has been one of the most fortunate clubs in the Football League when it comes to locals; who could forget Poll Withey Windows as pioneer in the 80’s, Colman’s in the late 90’s, Lotus and Proton (who get a pass on account of their plant in Norfolk), and Aviva? Heck, depending on how lenient you want to be you could call Flybe semi-local due to their dealings at Norwich Airport (EDIT; FlyBe is now preparing to abandon their operations in Norfolk).

The only local name omitted is Norwich and Peterborough Building Society (henceforth NPBS) who, despite their Peterborough headquarters, attempted to evoke the Norwich Cathedral in their logo. Rendered as a square broken up only by the peak of the Cathedral, this logo has long since been replaced (by something abstract in purple) but made its debut on the Canaries’ kits in 1992; it would continue in this form across both years in which the bird poo kit was used, and then appear as black lettering on the decidedly dull Mitre shirts worn from 1994 through 1997 before being replaced by delicious Colman’s for ’97/’98. Stickered onto the home shirt here, the logo is in really good condition considering its age, although it is slowly losing its adhesivity; running your finger along it nowadays results in a couple of flecks of blue and yellow hugging your finger, and for this reason this shirt doesn’t get worn very often at Club 25’s writing centre.

There is a case to be made for NPBS’ logo not being too intrusive, which is just a little harder to do for the Aviva branding on the white shirt. Birthed out of a corporate merger of Norwich Union and CGU, Aviva adopted a blue, yellow, and green logo strongly inspired by that of Norwich Union. When the old Union corporate identity was being phased out in favour of Aviva in full, the firm struck a partnership with NCFC to appear on the first team’s kits from the ’08/’09 season onwards. This watershed deal would last for no fewer than 9 seasons and 8 home shirts (the first shirt Aviva appeared on was the final one to survive for more than two seasons as Norwich bought themselves out of their contract with Xara to move to Erreà and better exploit the kit market with all shirts being rotated on a yearly basis), and ended with the 2016/2017 shirts.

Norwich had been freshly relegated from the Premier League in 2016/2017, and Aviva decided not to renew their contract; as a final gift to club and the denizens of the city and area, the company chose to place the logo of their eponymous Community Fund on the shirts that season, making Norwich the only team in the Football League to have all their kits sponsored by a charity/non-profit organization. If there was a downside to this, it was that due to the nature of the logo, it had to be represented on a plain background to ensure a sufficient degree of legibility. As such, a big white square sticker was pressed into service (literally), which sadly enough wasn’t able to mirror the colouring of the shirt itself. A little egregious, but something that is easily overlooked when considering some of the abominable sponsors donned by many other clubs.

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A quick peek at the collars is another testament to the differences in fashion between the early 90’s and the late 10’s; where floppy collars were pretty standard back then, short and clean collars are now the dominant type in the world of football. Perhaps one day we shall have to bid a definite farewell to those old-fashioned, stretchy fabric collars with a button provided to adjust fit as desired, but given the market’s hunger for ‘retro’ (as evidenced by the white shirt being a massive commercial success), we may never see the true end of this phenomenon.

Erreà’s version of the collar, then, is taken from its Eiger template and was shared between all three NCFC shirts that season (although none of them were, in fact, Eiger); this same collar has since popped up at Blackpool, MK Dons, Rochdale, Carlisle, and Cowdenbeath. It utilizes overlapping green and white fabrics in creating a sharp, modern look with a deep V-cut. Finally, the inside of the collar reveals another trend that has manifested in football over recent years, namely that of having decorations on the inside of the back panel. In this case, Erreà has stickered the usual sizing information accompanied by an English and Italian flag with the creed ‘We stand together’. A real pride in the club’s and brand’s heritage there, and it adds a bit of individuality to the kit. A strip of Canaries Official (the club’s retail and merchandising division) branding joins the back of the collar to the shirt, and finishes a delightfully detailed section of the white shirt. The original home shirt, by comparison, is rather plain with just a singular tag noting Ribero made it (in England!).

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Finally, a look at the back; both shirts are delightful in their own way, with the home shirt showing off the full extent of its pattern without interruption from sponsor and detailling, whereas the white third kit reveals itself to have belonged to Alexander Tettey! This defensive midfielder, capped 34 times for Norway at the time of writing, has been a mainstay with Norwich City ever since joining the fold in 2012 from French Stade Rennes; he has gone on to make 171 League appearances and will be able to hit the 200 mark this season still.

As mentioned previously, the third shirt was worn just twice in League games (and given the EFL patches, that is the only relevant competition for this particular top), with Tettey wearing this exact copy just once, during the loss against Burton Albion. The shirt was then washed for use in further matches, but with the club deciding against giving it a third outing, it was sent on an odyssey throughout the collecting fraternity until it fell into our appreciative hands.

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For the sake of completion, one final look at the back of Tettey’s shirt, which also featured Bidstack as a sponsor. Although perhaps not entirely relevant, we have deduced that this third shirt is indeed bird poo-ier than the original home shirt, as the colour white has the unfortunate distinction of featuring rather prominently in actual bird faeces. This is due to most avian animals not actually urinating quite like us land dwellers, but rather, having their kidneys filter nitrogenous wastes from their dainty bodies, which is then expelled as uric acid, receiving its white colour from various biological and chemical reactions during the process of the bird’s feed being converted into literal crap that ruins the look of your car. Fun fact of the day, that.

We’re not sure if our readers appreciate this knowledge, but there you go; you now know which of the two shirts looks more like bird droppings. May you will, one day, find a practical use for this knowledge.

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The legacy of the bird poo kit continues to this day; first and foremost because of the special place it holds in the hearts of the Carrow Road-faithful, but also because the white shirt sold absolute gangbusters. This has prompted the club and Erreà to release another shirt to pay hommage to Ribero’s classic, this time in the form of the 2018/2019 home shirt (seen here being modelled by a youth player). Although nothing beats the original, this is another loving take on the old pattern, with a large grouping of triangles with all kinds of fades and stripes dotting the upper body and sleeves of players. From what we can tell this shirt too has been an absolute smash hit, and with the club using the original pattern in some of its recent social media branding, it may be quite possible that we will see further tributes down the line. A full-blown remake of the original with modern day sponsor and technical supplier? Perhaps, but as always, only time will tell.

For now though, we would like to thank you for taking the time to read our article, which is just the latest but far from the last we will add to the site. If you do feel so inclined, Like us on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter, maybe send us tips on how to do better via the Contact Us section, and be sure to check out the somewhat cluttered Shirt Archive, which we hope to update and streamline in the very near future. Club 25 strives to  publish one article every week, so be sure to check back soon for a new shirt to be added to the site!

 

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