AFC Wimbledon 2014-2016 Home Shirt

Football is rife with stories of heroicism, despair, and standing up to be counted in the face of adversity – all of these things have been perfectly encapsulated in one rather resilient set of supporters that had to (re)invent their club in the wake of its original guise being stolen from underneath them. Founded in 2002, fan-run AFC Wimbledon had amazing kits for the first 16 years of their existence, and today we will be covering the shirt that saw the Dons reach League 1;

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Perhaps not the most elegant fit in how broad this L-sized shirts seems to be, but let us not be deterred in having a closer look at this Admiral-made design and the story behind it – a story that spanned two seasons rather than the archtypical one that most shirts are worn for; as a club that was founded by fans, AFC Wimbledon have pledged to retain their shirts, where possible, for two seasons at a time (with this applying to both home and alternative kits). As such, when Admiral won the club’s fancy following a 12 year stint in Tempest Sportswear clothing, fans knew that this pinstriped effort would be kept for both the 2014/2015 and 2015/2016 seasons. The kit that replaced it has since also been added to the site.

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2014/2015 was the club’s fourth season in League 2, having enjoyed a meteoric rise through the non-league pyramid following its founding in 2002 – the story of the ‘ old’ Wimbledon being bought and subsequently torn out of its home to be paraded around as Milton Keynes Dons some fifty miles up the road has been the subject of intense controversy ever since, resulting in a massive amount of goodwill for AFC Wimbledon as spiritual successor to the old club.

Managed by Neal Ardley (not to be confused with Neal Eardley) and playing out of Kingsmeadow, the Wombles finished in a reassuring 15th position in the table in 2014/2015; their highest finish ever following two 20th places and a 16th place in the three previous seasons. A result the club could be happy with for sure, but one that was quickly forgotten the next season, which saw players like Barry Fuller, Paul Robinson, and Lyle Taylor carry the youngest member of the Football League to a creditable 7th place.

With the top three teams in League 2 receiving automatic promotion, Wimbledon’s 7th place was enough to sneak into the play-offs alongside Accrington Stanley, Plymouth Argyle, and Portsmouth. Ardley and his men knew they’d have to best two of these sides to earn promotion, and, following a nail-biting semi-final versus Stanley (needing overtime in the second leg to go through), duly clinched a spot in League 1 by beating Argyle at Wembley.

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Fans will have many fond memories of this shirt then, considering it set the club up for their first competitive meetings with the loathed Milton Keynes – who had seen their relegation from the Championship to League One confirmed prior to AFC Wimbledon winning promotion.

Of course, more so than memories, one also requires a shirt to have a decent design and we think this top doesn’t fully deliver. It is most certainly the correct shade of blue (a much lighter shade than used by the old Wimbledon in its final years, with AFC’s blue harkening back to that worn in the 80’s and early 90’s), but neither AFC nor its predecessor had ever played in pinstripes

Now, pinstripes are lovely things and can work very well on football shirts, but the best examples of their use come from tops that utilize them in a way that avoids them clashing too strongly with the base colour of the shirt; FC Den Bosch provided one example of well-thought out pinstripes, with dark blue being put on a lighter blue base. A perhaps less effective usage was seen on the oldest shirt on this site, our ultra rare matchworn Yokohama Marinos top, but this Admiral design in blue and yellow certainly takes the cake in terms of looking a bit too eye-catching for its own good.

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The pinstripes, which have dark borders as a result of the sublimation used (at least on our top), are much ‘louder’ than if yellow accents were placed at the collar and cuffs, or even in a yoke as was done on the preceding Tempest shirts. Your mileage may vary in terms of whether you think the pinstripes on the ’14-’16 shirt work, but in Club 25’s opinion the verdict should be a resounding ‘meh’.

Football Manager, the premier product of sponsors Sports Interactive (who have been supporting the club since 2002), takes pride of place on the centre of the chest with a very dodgy sticker; in the above picture, one can note how the edges of the ‘boomerang’ have started to peal – an issue that also plagued the 2016-2018 tops made by Admiral.

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The yellow inset on the bottom of the collar is very nice, though, and much less egregious than the ubiquitous pinstripes – which coincidentally also wrap around the collar (a nice touch, admittedly).

Simple silver/grey Admiral stickering is the only element of note on the inside of the shirt, showcasing the brand’s logo and the sizing information. It may come as a bit of a surprise considering there are now well over a hundred articles (and a few more shirts still) on this site, but today is genuinely the first time an Admiral-made shirt has found the spotlight focused upon it. Then again, given the rise, fall, resurgence, a second fall, and a final modest resurgence of this classic English brand (which enjoyed its finest hour supplying the English national team in the 80’s), Admiral shirts have been few and far between in recent years; prior to AFC Wimbledon signing with them, not a single club in the Football League had worn Admiral for a few years – in fact, upon the contract between club and supplier ending, Admiral had to scramble to sign the now sadly defunct Bury for the 2018/2019 season, and Shrewsbury Town for 2019/2020 (a fantastic decision considering the direction things were headed at Gigg lane – according to the latest financial papers, Admiral’s licensee was left 22 thousand Pounds out of pocket by Bury).

AFC Wimbledon, meanwhile, is signed with Puma and plays in the Germans’  soulless designs – the news of this deal having been agreed was what prompted to quickly buy this Admiral shirt off eBay in the first place, as we correctly (so far) predicted Puma doing the club dirty with incredibly plain shirts since coming aboard.

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Anyhow, one thing neither Admiral nor Puma messed up was the club’s crest, which is nicely embroidered on this shirt (although the lettering of the name leaves something to be desired in how wonky the letters look).

The old Wimbledon (and we ought to stop saying that – AFC Wimbledon are essentially a direct continuation of the club that was bought and carved out of its home to be shackled to a soulless concrete bunker in Milton Keynes) had first used a variation of this crest in 1923, taking the double-headed eagle from the district’s coat of arms. This crest persisted largely unaltered until the Milton Keynes debacle, so it was only logical for AFC to continue bearing the eagle.

On its right wing (left wing for the viewer), the gold rose of king Edward I is emblazoned, whereas on the left wing (right for the viewer) a fret (interlacing bendlet) is displayed. The fret itself was taken by the coat of arms of Wimbledon from the arms of Merton Priory, founded in 1114 and located in what we now know as Colliers Wood. Its original guise still graces the coat of arms of the modern Merton council. The more you know, right?

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There is little to say about the back of the shirt, apart from noting that it really does seem rather broad-shouldered for what is ‘merely’ a Large-sized shirt. That being said, it does fit well so don’t be afraid to buy this size if you ever happen across one and are of a slightly bigger-than-medium build.

The pinstripes look a little more loud still on the back, thanks to the dearth of other details (crest, sponsor, et al). A problem that has no real elegant solution is the application of the pinstripes on the sleeves, which disappear into the seams that tie them to the shirt’s body – leaving the sleeves wholly plain would have been a worse look, so this is perhaps the best Admiral could do.

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It did look good on the pitch though, as seen above in the FA Cup tie versus Liverpool (which AFC Wimbledon lost 1 to 2 at home) – coupled with blue shorts with yellow piping and blue socks with minimal trim on the turnover.

While this design might not have been perfect – even with the fond memories of success at Wembley fresh in the back of the mind – it is still a far cry from the terrifically uninspired tripe that Puma has been putting out for the Dons in the past two seasons, with a simple blue top starved of effort at home and catalogue designs in yelllow, black, and lime green of all things while on the road. It really is a shame to note that a set of fans that were irrevocably fucked over by big money (a certain Milton Keynes-based businessman), only to claw back through their own blood, sweat, and tears, are now subjected to one of the three biggest sportswear brands in the world and the soulless trash it sells. Tempest and Admiral never failed to supply the Wombles with bespoke designs, whereas Puma has yet to do anything other than factory standard for the club.

With no word on how long the deal with Puma runs for (if you know otherwise, do contact us), it may well be a few more years until AFC Wimbledon will receive the attention they deserve from a supplier; mishaps or less than ideal shirts like the ’14-’16 home top be damned, better to wear something unique than something bog standard! The ’16-’18 shirt sure delivered on that front.

That’s just about all you need from us for now, but as always, we would like to remind you that Club 25 is a weekly publication – expect a brand new article from us next week, so keep checking back for when we have a new shirt going live. Additionally, keep up to date with us on our Twitter page and flick through the site’s Shirt Archive to see what shirts we’ve covered in the past.

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