‘Looking for posh players for a posh new team’, Fletton United manager Pat Tirrell exclaimed in 1921 whilst on the hunt for new additions to his side, which was based in a quaint neighbourhood of Peterborough. While this club didn’t last for very long – going bust in 1932 – the eclectic monniker of ‘the Posh’ did prove to possess a degree of longevity as it became the nickname of Peterborough United, founded in 1934 to give the city a new representative team. While their name might inspire a feeling of luxury, we’re not quite sure whether the club’s shirts do exactly the same. To find out if we are wrong in that assumption, join us as we take a trip back in time to look at a shirt that is not only matchworn, but also match-winning;
Peterborough are a fiercely proud club from the eponymous cathedral city in Cambridgeshire known for their blue shirts, white shorts, and blue socks. At least, that’s what a lot of their fans seem to wish the club would wear – but sadly the board at London Road hasn’t quite gotten the memo as blue shorts were used for the majority of the past ten seasons.
That hasn’t quite kept the Posh from building up a relatively diverse kit history that in recent years has become, and we’re being brutally honest here, dull as dishwater. Where a varied mix of suppliers kitted out the team in the 90’s and 00s – with familiar and unfamiliar names like Admiral, Patrick, Soke (who?), Goal International (what?), and two in-house brands – chairman Darragh MacAnthony got so fed up with kit-related headaches following two troublesome manufacturers dropping the ball in the late 00’s that he has refused to let his club wear anything but off-the-peg teamwear by adidas and Nike since 2008.
Today, we’ll be looking at the second of those bumbling suppliers that led Peterborough down the dark path of big brand catalogues by ways of the 2007/2008 home shirt, which, for now, remains the most recent bespoke design worn by the Posh.
And what a design this is, considering it is a break from tradition both as a Posh shirt and as a football shirt in general. For one, where Peterborough United always wear blue and white, this shirt represents the single season in the club’s long history wherein light blue was worn as an accent colour. Additionally, where club shirts typically display a crest on the left chest and a manfacturer’s logo on the right, this shirt goes topsy turvy as the former is in the centre of the chest whilst the latter is….. on the right sleeve of all places!
Taking aside those idiosyncracies for a little while, we can say that the rest of the shirt is similarly interesting with flowing sidepanels that look incredibly dated in 2020 but were less egregious in the 00’s and a collar that plays fast and loose with one’s conception of what this part of the shirt should look like.
Responsible for this hot mess is a sportswear firm by the name of Tempest, whom most collectors will recognize as the long-term partner of their local side AFC Wimbledon (Tempest are based in the London neighbourhood of Merton) who wore the stylized ‘T’ logo from their first competitive match all the way through the long string of promotions that took the Dons (back) into the Football League. Sure, Tempest were replaced by Admiral – one of the Posh’ former suppliers – in 2014 (with both AFCW home shirts made by this classic brand reviewed on this site here and here) but remain best known for their tenure with the Wombles.
Less well-known is the fact that Peterborough is the only other team to have ever worn Tempest in the Football League, with the manner in which the partnership came about being quite bizarre and reminiscent of the love triangle between Forest Green Rovers, hummel, and PlayerLayer from a few years back. When the Posh’ contract with Admiral expired following the end of the 2005/2006 season, they contracted Italian firm Diadora to become the new fashion label of choice. Whilst this brand had built up a good reputation following deals with Leeds United, Luton Town, and Crystal Palace, they seemingly didn’t have the capacity to take on Peterborough; the deal was announced in June 2006, the shirts were shown without crest or sponsor in July, and online pre-orders opened in August.
Sounds reasonable, but actual stock didn’t arrive in the club store until the League Cup fixture versus Everton on the 19th of September whilst supporters who had reserved a shirt online didn’t receive their orders until midway through October. To give a frame of reference, United had played 12 fixtured in the Coca-Cola League Two at that point! Chairman MacAnthony was reportedly fuming and decided to take the drastic decision to tear up the contract with Diadora based on their failure to deliver sufficient stock within a reasonable timeframe.
Tempest, who had promised a quick turnaround and delivered prototype shirts that closely resembled but not exactly mirrored the Diadora kits (according to EFL rules, a change of supplier midway through the season is only allowed if the incoming kit is not substantially different in appearance from the outgoing), were then signed to a three year deal by MacAnthony who revealed the new supplier on the 5th of December 2006 with the promise that any fan who had purchased a Diadora top could swap it for a Tempest top free of charge.
This meant that the 2007/2008 was Tempest’s first opportunity to freely design a Peterborough shirt, and they did an okay job. Whilst we here at Club 25 love to champion small and independent brands where possible, we have to admit that this design has been victimized by its contrasting colours and flowing shapes being consigned to the sides where they simply don’t have the exposure needed to really shine.
The light blue is most prominent at the armpits, running the length of the sleeves but tapering off with a rake towards the centre of the shirt that becomes more pronounced the further down it goes. It is lined with a mesh sidepanel that runs from the bottom hem all the way up to the collar with a flash of white sitting opposite of the light blue.
White features more prominently on the sleeves with a shaping that is similar to the light blue on the torso in that it decreases in width the further down it runs. This is more pronounced on our long sleeved shirt than it is on the short sleeved version, where the white loses its width much more quickly to terminate at the cuffs.
Whilst we’re here anyway, notice how badly the Coca-Cola league patches have been weathered by the shirt’s on-pitch use. The sponsor’s name is all but gone on the left sleeve and has had a bite taken out of it on the right sleeve, whilst the white sides of both patches and the ‘Football League’ wordmark is curling as a result of its edges having lost their adhesion to the red base of the patch.
We’ve featured shirts with these specific patches quite a few times now, including on a Rotherham shirt where they were pristine (admittedly, that particular shirt was worn only twice) and on a Northampton top (ironically the Posh’ greatest rival together with Cambridge United) where they did pick up some damage across a fair few matches, but in neither case did these fine, nostalgic felt creations look this terrible. No doubt our Posh shirt has been used extensively.
Now, light blue and white provided some respite from the blue that dominates the shirt, but neither accent colour is quite as eye-catching as the yellow used for the literal centrepiece, main sponsor MRI.
MRI is short for MacAnthony Realty International, which as you can guess is (or rather, was) a business interest of chairman Darragh MacAnthony. Established in 2000 to sell overseas properties (could you tell from the strapline below their logo?) to British and Irish families looking for a holiday or retirement home, there are a lot of ugly claims about MRI floating around the internet. While Peterborough fans will most likely be familiar with the rumors and lawsuits, we encourage neutral fans interested in this story to do a little online digging of their own. We’ll simply say that having a sponsor associated with such troubl is not necessarily a good look, and leave it at that.
The yellow used here isn’t a good look either, even with a white sheen in the upper right corner to possibly mirror the sun over MRI’s Marbella HQ. The player who wore this shirt has signed it across the chest, with most of his signature actually sitting on top of the MRI block; there’s always a risk of fading when signing across a heat transferred sponsor like this, but thankfully the autograph of ‘D’ is in good nick. To top it all off, he was even kind enough to extend his best wishes!
Besides being the only Tempest shirt to have been worn for a full season by the Posh, the 2007/2008 top is notable for one more thing; it was the last to feature the city’s coat of arms first introduced to the shirts in 1965, replaced in 1968, and reintroduced in 1977 with it featuring without interruption (but with some slight tweaks) until 2007/2008.
Because we prefer showing over telling, we’ve pulled in the matchworn 2008/2009 home shirt we own (which will feature on the site in due course) to give you a look at the crest that replaced it. Crucially, on the Tempest shirt, the old crest is really let down by the standard of embroidery not doing justice to the finer details. A shame, because this is a fine piece of heraldry even if it has been lifted 1:1 from Peterborough’s coat of arms; this is also perhaps the most obvious reason why it was replaced, as the club could hardly trademark its city’s historic seal.
If you don’t like having a football shirt site explain in excruciating detail what each element in a heraldic crest means, do skip on ahead to the next picture in this article. If you love these finer details, however (and we know you do, because we keep writing about them and people keep reading our articles), you’ll be pleased to see a fair few significant elements knocking about this crest, remaining somewhat identifiable despite Tempest’s disappointing embroidery.
Most notable here are the winged lions, which we presume don’t actually roam the fields around Peterborough, holding up an escutcheon containing two keys that cross one another in the midst of a crown. The felines are borrowed from the Marquess of Exeter and embellished with wings taken from the arms of John Mordaunt, who was the 1st Earl of Peterborough; the combination of cat and bird is thus a ‘two birds, one stone’ way of paying hommage to two titles that are of historical significance to the area. They stand upon what the embroidery makes you think are fasces (the old Roman bundle of sticks with some unfortunate connotations in recent history) but you’ll be relieved to know they are actually tree stumps inspired by the arms of the Earl Fitzwilliam, which is another title with ties to the city. Below the stumps, a scroll reading ‘Upon this rock’; this motto is taken from the Bible, Matthew 16:18 to be precise, and is associated with St. Peter, the exact Saint in whose honour a monastry in present day Peterborough was built by Paeda, King of Mercia, some 1350 years ago. You won’t find much of this monastry any more as it got ransacked by Vikings a few hundred year later, but from its ruins sprang the Peterborough Cathedral to which the city owes much of its development and regional during the middle ages.
The Cathedral is actually a fine example of the English Gothic building style with an imposing façade, making its absence from the crest somewhat puzzling. Perhaps its inclusion was considered at one point, but potential trademark issues may have nipped that idea in the bud. At least we still have the keys, borrowed from the Bishop of Gloucester and symbolizing those used for the gates of Heaven, and the two mural crowns (one around the keys to differentiate them from the Gloucester symbol and one above the escutcheon with stylized towers to mimick town walls).
All well and good, loads of little details and hidden meanings, but it’s clear that this coat of arms is a complete pain to faithfully reproduce as Tempest have shown here by failing to reach a sufficient level of accuracy. The new crest that replaced it did away with much of the detailing including the upper castle and tree stumps, but has managed to remain recognizable. And, perhaps more importantly, the Posh could actually trademark it to ensure it could control its use on merchandise.
Now for the grand finale, we turn the shirt over to spot the chairman’s name in gold across the lower back, the white detailing on the sides, the mesh panels that run from bottom hem to near the collar, and, most importantly, the name Keates and squad number 11 in that pleasing white and gold lettering that was used across all EFL shirts during the Coca-Cola era.
We spotted the signature of Keates on the front earlier, with that legible ‘D’, so the fact that his given name is Dean shouldn’t be too surprising. While many will now know Keates as being the manager of National League side Wrexham, this shirt is a memento the important part Keates played in Peterborough’s history – that of scoring a game-winning goal that secured promotion!
A goal to win both a match and promotion? Not a lot of players who can say they’ve hit such a monumentally important strike, but Dean is one of them – and he wore this exact shirt while doing so; just look at the state of the patches on both sleeves.
It was the 19th of April 2008 and the Coca-Cola League Two was snaking its way towards the end of its 2007/2008 season, with Keates and his squadmates at Peterborough, including much-respected players Aaron McLean, Craig Mackail-Smith, Chris Whelpdale, George Boyd, and Craig Morgan, arriving at Edgar Street, home of the now-defunct Hereford United (reformed as Hereford FC since). Sitting pretty in second on the league with 86 points from 43 matches, the matchup against the Bulls was a tasty one for the Posh; seeing as Hereford were in hot pursuit with 79 from 43 while fellow promotion contenders Stockport County and Rochdale were even further behind, a win or draw would make promotion a mathematical certainty for Peterborough as they’d be guaranteed a top three finish. Winning the League title was already looking like a step too far with MK Dons holding a four point lead in first place, but putting the Bulls to the sword on the day would ensure Keates and colleagues wouldn’t have to bank on winning points against Grimsby and Darlington in the final rounds of the season.
It was a wet and windy day in Herefordshire but the importance of the fixture was recognized by the locals, with 5,279 people turning up to the ground to give Hereford United its highest attendance of the season so far. This was in no small part down to a large contingent of Posh fans who had made the 140 mile journey westwards, and they were served up a treat by their heroes in blue as, following a nervy start from both teams, Dean Keates leapt into the air in the 29th minute to connect with a cross from Chris Whelpdale right in front of goal. Bulls keeper Wayne Brown had no reply to the midfielder’s fifth league goal of the season, and with neither side managing to squeeze in another goal in the following sixty minutes, Dean Keates was the centre of celebrations following the final whistle – also finding himself in the midst of what we assume was a well-intentioned pitch invasion by the Peterborough fans.
Don’t feel too bad for Hereford having their pitch roughed up – they won their next fixture at Wrexham to secure their own promotion whilst simultaneously sending the Welsh side down (but then the Bulls went bust in 2014, so a tinge of sadness is appropriate).
Above we see Keates wearing his short sleeved home top in a friendly match versus Celtic on the 13th of July 2007.
Born in Walsall and naturally coming up through the youth ranks of his local team (making his debut in 1995, just a few years too late to have worn this classic Saddlers shirt), Keates was a bit of a specialist in promotions during his playing years; he went up three times whilst in the Walsall first team, twice with Peterborough (impressive back-to-back promotions with the 2007/2008 season being the first), and once with Hull City, who were one of three sides Keates played for besides Walsall prior to joining Peterborough (the other two being Kidderminster Harriers and Lincoln City).
Signed on the 14th of May 2007 by the Posh, Keates had some high expectations to live up to; he had been crowned as Walsall’s player of the season in 2006/2007 and had earned a place in the PFA’s League Two team of the year, and came to London Road on a free transfer, signing a three year deal alongside fellow ex-Saddler Chris Westwood. This move might have raised a few eyebrows as Walsall had just been promoted to League One as champions, but Keates was comfortable with staying in League Two to repeat the trick in blue this time around.
Where 2006/2007 had been succesful for Keates, it had been disappointing for Peterborough; a club that is typically expected to sit comfortably around the upper half of the League One midtable, they had been stuck in League Two for two seasons by the time Keates joined, recording a ninth place in 2005/2006 and a tenth place in 2006/2007. Former manager Barry Fry had vacated the chairman’s spot and Darragh MacAnthony was newly installed, while investment in the team saw players like goalie Joe Lewis (from Norwich City), Liam Hatch, and Scott Rendell (initially on loan) brought in on paid transfers. Other new names included Kieran Charnock, Claude Gnakpa, and Jeff Hughes.
Smiles aplenty in the squad that year as, following a middling start with just one win in the first three games under manager Darren Ferguson (son of Alex, but we’re sure he’s sick of hearing that), Peterborough started stringing results together, including victories over Accrington Stanley and Mansfield Town to take the Posh to nine points out of five matches.
The Posh being able to clinch promotion a few fixtures before the end of the season was largely down to an amazing three-month-long run of seventeen matches on the spin without suffering defeat – recording thirteen wins and just four draws – from January 12th through to April 12th (ending with a defeat to Stockport County at home). None of the three cups the club partook in yielded notable results (although the fourth round was reached in the FA Cup, where Championship side West Brom proved too strong), but then no one really cared with promotion back up to League One being the real prize which, ultimately, was won. Dean Keates ended up featuring in 40 of the 46 league games that season, divided between 33 starts and 7 appearances as a substitute alongside five outings in the various cup competitions. He recorded five goals, a neat tally for a midfielder, making him fifth on the goalscoring leaderboard for the Posh in 2007/2008, albeit far behind chart topping Aaron McLean who banged in 29 in the league alone.
Peterborough clearly didn’t enjoy their time in the fourth tier as the club has since conspired to avoid relegation back out of League One – and deftly succeeded for now with their lowest finish since being a still comfortable 13th place in 2015/2016. The club did, however, celebrate two promotions to the Championship between their stay in League Two and the present day, although both were followed up with (near-)immediate relegations back down to League One.
Keates was present for the first of those two promotions to the Championship, which came in 2008/2009 right off the back of the promotion from League Two. The Posh cruelly missed out on silverware by finishing second once more, although the deal was sweetened as they took revenge on MK Dons by forcing the 2007/2008 champions into the play-offs, which the Dons crashed out of in the semi-final.
Keates remained a key cog in the machine during the promotion-winning League One campaign, recording 38 league appearances, but the step up to the Championship spelled the end of his stay in Cambridgeshire; he was fielded in six of the first sixteen matches in the 2009/2010 season, with the final fixture of that string, a loss against Newcastle United on November 9th, resulting in ‘mutually agreed’ departure of manager Darren Ferguson a day later. Mark Cooper was named as the new gaffer on November 14th but had no faith in Keates, refusing to play him and eventually releasing the midfielder from his contract on December 31st, half a year ahead of its intended expiration.
Three weeks later Keates signed with Wycombe Wanderers, spending half a season with them in League One but failing to secure a longer deal. This left him free to join Wrexham in the fifth tier, a decision that neither player nor club would regret; across five seasons in the Conference, Keates totalled 160 league appearances for an average of 32 a year, with the high point coming at the end of the 2012/2013 campaign as Keates captained the teamthat beat Grimsby Town on penalties at Wembley to lift the FA Trophy.
Keates remained with Wrexham for another two seasons and started studying for coaching qualifications, but slowly fell out of the first team line up before ending his association with the Red Dragons shortly after his 37th birthday, moving to the Welsh Premier League to play for Rhyl. There he avoided relegation in a rather bizarre fashion as Rhyl finished 11th and was to go down, only to be reprieved at the last possible moment when tenth placed Port Talbot Town was refused a new license.
Feeling that he still had some miles in him, Keates left Rhyl to sign with Rushall Olympic, a non-league side from Walsall, whilst being on the lookout for an opportunity to go into management. It wouldn’t take long, as seven matches into his Rushall season Wrexham asked their former player to take over the manageial role on an ad interim basis following the sacking of Gary Mills. Keates impressed the board as caretaker, was offered and signed a permanent contract, and continued to draw praise at the Racecourse Ground straight up until March 2018 when Walsall got in contact. The Saddlers had fired manager Jon Whitney and, like Wrexham before them, saw in former fan favourite Keates the perfect replacement.
Wrexham relinquished Keates to give him his first experience in the Football League, although his managerial stay at Walsall proved to be fruitless. Fired just over a year after being appointed, it wouldn’t take long for Wrexham to come knocking at Keates door again; Bryan Hughes had been fired following eight games without a win, with the Welsh side stuck in the relegation spots at the bottom of the table. Keates accepted the job offer to right the ship, but failed to steer the S.S. Red Dragons clear of their lowest ever league finish as the COVID-19 pandemic cut the season short and a Points Per Game score of 1.16 left them in 19th place, just 0.08 clear of relegated Ebbsfleet United and 0.11 clear of AFC Fylde.
With the start of the 2020/2021 season up in the air, Keates faced the monumental task of rebuilding Wrexham from the ruinous state they fell into following his departure to Walsall in 2018. With the pandemic comprehensively altering the financial dynamics of football at every level of play, it remains to be seen when Wrexham, an ambitious club with a long history in the Football League, will once again make the step up back into League Two. Unfortunately, it won’t be with Keates as he left his post at the end of the 2020/2021 season
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.