To be honest, I actually though I had until this summer to work on this post, which I usually do as a wrap up to the previous season, but noooo~ we’re going to do a mid-season kit change. So here it is fuckers, the kit post twenty-twenty-one
For those new to the site: HI! I mostly post about sports and kits, sorrrrrrry! If it helps I do have something in the works combining kits and trans that will happen eventuallytm. At the wrap up of a Detroit City FC season kit’s lifespan, I do a little write up about the last set, things I guessed wrong or right, and then come up with three new kits (home, away, alt) to get everyone excited for the unveiling of the upcoming kits.
If you want to check out any previous Kit Post, here’s a handy guide:
So in last year’s post I went a little off the beaten path and came up with some designs that were a little different both for Detroit City and for myself. I went with heavily sublimated kits in the vein of Inaria or Icarus with details across the actual bodies of the kits that would require some level of customization on the part of the manufacturer.
I think I was closest with the away kits, in which I predicted a white with rouge hooped kit and off-colored socks, and while literally none of that happened, the actual away kit was white with rouge pinstripes and has very much grown on me over the last year. It is, in fact, the 2020 kit that I own, as I rarely buy more than one. It was in the white kits that Le Rouge dominated the Fall Championship, and in those kits we hoisted the cup, which given the climate of 2020, was an amazing and cathartic thing to see. I, for one, will always associate the image of Stephen Carroll pouring an entire can of Stroh’s into his mouth with the Fall trophy with 2020. Victory in the face of adversity, celebration in the face of uncertainty will always be 2020 to me.
The home kits, however, were frustrating to me, visually, the pin stripes so small as to be effectively invisible from far away, yet so painfully obvious when up close, ruining an otherwise crisp kit. They didn’t do it for me, I guess, and this is obviously a quite subjective take. I think it was particularly rough following the very popular 2019 design, which was very, very clean and of course also came with a lot of baggage and trophies. Somehow, though, I don’t feel like I’m missing out not seeing another trophy or three lifted in that particular design.
And there were no alternative kits last cycle, thanks in no small part to COVID. So Nothing to say here.
Anyway, my usual list of disclaimers, which I’m just copy-pasting from last year because why the fuck not?
I don’t work for the DCFC front office
The DCFC front office fucks with me
Kits shown here are not official direction
Logos, league, and sponsors are used without permission
Sponsors and league are not official or necessarily endorsed by our front office
The reality of 2021 might be very different than what I predict here, I love the challenge regardless
I am pleased that so far Detroit City has resisted the temptation of highly sublimated kits, and happy that they’ve stuck with Adidas. We shall see if that continues (I suspect it will given the respectability and reverence for the brand). Say what you will, getting good kits from Adidas just has a certain something to it, it elevates Detroit City, and that’s not worth nothing, especially when you’re talking about charging $80+ for a soccer kit.
Assuming we stick with Adidas, we can actually have some potential throwbacks to our 2013 kits, though maybe those should wait for 2023, then? I sketched them up in October of last year. It’d also be really cool for 2022 being our tenth anniversary or even this year being our tenth season to see the club release a poster with all the kits so far made by Dave at Historical Kits. That would be a legitimate instant grab for me.
Anyway, we’re about 700 words into this beast, so why don’t we move on and get to the goods? Here are my designs for the 2021 Detroit City FC kits!
The Home Kit
After a couple years of more complicated designs, I wanted to get back to something simpler this year, and that’s the theme of this trio – clean. Clean is a hard thing to describe. Clean to one person is plain to another, and plain is bad, it’s boring. So how does one design for clean while avoiding plain? Well, that’s really hard to say. For me, plain kits have no details, and they elicit little emotional investment. Small details, like the gold cuff stripes on the shirt and shirts, the fleurs de lis on the socks mirrored onto the shirt and shorts in small ways to me builds a cohesive whole.
For the home kit, I went with an old-school design that will be familiar to fans (and enemies) of teams like Arsenal and Ajax. The core of the kit is a darker, more purpley rouge, with the outside being brighter. The cuffs and the collar are the darkest, giving a boarder to it all, and of course small golden lines throughout make it cohesive. I always suspect my home kits will be the most divisive, and that’s no different here.
The Away Kit
I really liked the gold and black kits from my 2020 set, and I started with that here. You might notice the same Adidas stripes turning into a colored inset in the pits and on the sleeves. But I wanted to walk away from the black because this is the away kit, which needs to get tied more strongly in with the over-all colors of the club. So here I went with rouge as was the case for the 2017 kits. Detroit City’s first away kits were gold, and they’ve popped up here and there, but gold is a difficult color to work with in manufacturing. In the end you are effectively left with two choices: sand or yellow? In the past, Detroit City has gone the route of sand, avoiding the garish yellows of teams like the Green Bay Packers.
When designing these, it felt very subtractive, which is an unfortunate feeling. I was removing features rather than adding them and here I was having trouble finding a place to add anything of note. I did bring back the fleurs from the home kit, this time only on the shirt, as I have let the shorts remain more clean, letting the white dominate. It is easy to overpower white, especially in the shorts. And I wrapped it up with tow-tone rouge turn-overs on the socks.
The Clash/Alternative Kit
This one is by far and away my favorite of this year. I took a lot of inspiration from the popularity of the 2019 alternate kits, a keepers kit that appeared like exactly once as far as I am aware, and FC St. Pauli. When you have the word “Ally” written across the chest of every kit, it was hard not to want to lean into that in more ways than one. This kit probably took the longest, had a very strange evolution, and was workshopped a bit more than the away kit and far, far more than the home (I rarely workship home kits).
Pink and black are an amazing combo, it’s hard to do wrong, if I’m honest, and that’s good because there might be some fun stuff with Harper’s dropping soon that I’m very excited for. This kit was the hardest when it came to balancing clean and plain, or clean and over designed. Especially when you introduce the pride flag into things, you have a lot of colors competing for attention, which is why reducing them to thin stripes ended being just what the doctor ordered. Originally, for example, the whole cuff was a pride flag, which then makes the sleeves look busy, which then makes the shirt look paradoxically empty. I think the balance was struck here, and it is certainly my favorite design of the bunch.
Once again folks we have come to the end of another Kit Post. Like I said up top, I thought I had another two or three months to work on this, and with all the other work I’ve been doing lately, I was worried that I wouldn’t have the juice to get through this one on such short notice.
I’d love to hear any thoughts or other idea you might have on twitter, and if you like my work, as always – please check out my commission page for pricing and what to expect, as well as some of my recent designs.
As I’m starting to write this, it’s become known that Rush Limbaugh has passed away, and let me take a moment to say good riddance to bad trash, and if you have a problem with me saying that, you can stop reading and go on and do something else. Save us both a lot of time.
Content Warnings: Adult language, dysphoria, transphobia, transphobic portrayals of trans people in media, 4chan, homophobia, pornography, suicide , talk of sexuality and anatomy
Back in August I made quite a big announcement about a part of myself that had always been there, at least as far back as I can piece together from the fragmented shards of my memories. On facebook and twitter I came out as a trans woman, beginning a new era in my life that has brought with it drastic changes. Changes I am sure that some, if not most of you are interested in at least hearing a bit more about.
This is going to be a very frank discussion, so if that bothers you, you might want to move on. I will discuss, among other things, my anatomy, my sexuality and libido, and pornography. There’s a lot of LGBT terminology throughout, including “cis”, which I wanted to define for all you cis folk out there. Subtracted from nuance, if you’re not trans, you’re cis. Cis- and trans- come from Latin and are opposites meaning “this side of [X]” and “that side of [X]” respectively.
I plan to make this a growing series, with updates at six months (this one), one year, two years, four years, and eight years, if I can even remember that long. After that I’ll put it to bed. This post has to set the scene, and thus is very long. There’s more than thirty years to cover to get where I am now.
For those of you who might be catching up, or new, and I have picked up a large number of followers since coming out, becoming, unwittingly, the first generation of people who know me only as a woman, only as Niamh – Hi! I’m Niamh. I’m a trans woman who lives outside of Detroit, Michigan. I work in the automotive industry, and I am a huge soccer person. I watch soccer. Support soccer. I even run a small co-ed team, which shares this website with me.
Come with me, on a journey.
Setting a scene…
On August 28th of 2020, I publicly came out as a trans woman after it being a known secret to those closest to me for about two months before that. Four days before, though, was my rebirth – my first dosage of HRT, where I, personally, mark the beginning of of my transition. It is on that day that my personal calendar first uses “Niamh” and not “Nick”. And thus, the 24th of February marks six months.
But six months of what?
Being a woman? Being trans? Being out?
If nothing, the heart of the trans experience for me is existential, reflective, and deeply, deeply personal. This might not be very profound or new to print, but it is to me. A lot of things taken for granted, institutions and whole constructs once assumed monolithic and immutable, crumble away, revealing the sawdust and glue concoction that it was the whole time.
It is easy, and almost necessary, to then scour your life for the little breadcrumbs of trans-ness. As if that would be enough to make it okay under the immense pressure of cis-heteronormative expectations. We are almost expected by cis folks to say “I always knew,” when, at least in my case, is it’s more “it makes sense in retrospect” and that’s half true.
I think I really came to understand I was trans when I was nineteen. I remember one summer getting involved in what could’ve been a fling, if I wasn’t such a fuck head, and someone remarked that they thought the target of my crush was either bi and only interested in women at the time, or a lesbian. And I distinctly, even twelve years later, remember the pang of thinking “I’d transition for her.” After that it was a rough twelve years, internally. I thought about transitioning a lot.
And when you live in a cis-heteronormative society, getting information, real, honest information can be extremely difficult. Even just learning that trans people were a thing, was a long, arduous journey. Movies like Dressed to Kill or Silence of the Lambs painted a picture of the never-passing psychopathic trans woman, while Ace Ventura: Pet Detective only really gets transphobic in the end, but at least the psychopathic trans woman passed, so progress? A movie that I’ve not seen, only read about and heard jokes and comments about is The Crying Game, which at least from the synopsis seems to be more sympathetic to trans women. I mean she only gets smacked and the protagonist pukes, but they make up and become close? Woo?
The list for trans men is significantly shorter, and if I could venture a guess it’s because trans women are considered significantly more dangerous to society by the cis majority. If you are interested, a more complete list of such films can be found here, but those mentioned above where, for a long time, the “truth” about trans people to me.
A second wind of “truth” came with my access to the internet and through that, access to pornography. And thus, truly, I start to take an active role in my own journey. Where before I absorbed through osmosis, now I could seek out, explore, and consume on my own.
Pornography is a place fraught with the male gaze. A cis hetero male gaze to be exact, and in 2003 the portrayal of trans women rarely worth exploring. At best she is an oddity, a strange woman-shaped object with a penis who exists to fuck as a man would. At the worst, a projection of a failure of masculinity. A man reduced to a woman. To be fucked, taken, as a woman should.
The exception, of course, is Japanese futanari, which for those of you so uncultured to not consider hentai art, are anime(?) women with penises. And while I shall spare the normies the debate on whether she must have testicles, or must have a vagina, the critical understanding is futanari are almost universally attractive women who have a little bit more. And isn’t that weird? Attractive women with penises? Isn’t it, for lack of a better word, transgressive? Isn’t it disgusting that these women with penises feel attractive? Are taken as attractive? Are sexual and enjoy themselves?
Well, that was the opinion of sites like 4chan, and it was clear that there were two sorts of folks who enjoyed trans pornography – trans people (and eggs) and people who openly hated trans people and mocked the eggs relentlessly.
(Aside: A egg, for the unaware, is someone who is questioning their gender, or is otherwise a trans person who hasn’t come out to themselves.)
Once there was an active thread at the top of which was an image of two trans people: a trans woman and a trans man. Both were shining examples of their chosen expression – the woman curvy and beautiful, with long flowing hair and a large bosom; the man stout and strong, hairy with a thick beard and biker tattoos. The “catch” was that neither had undergone GRS, that is colloquially “bottom” surgery. The image urged users to pick which one you’d have sex with and then defend why it wasn’t gay.
Here, I’ll even pause so the trans folks can vent for a second and you cis-hets will probably take a moment to consider the question yourself.
Obviously for OP in a place like 4chan, there was no right answer. You were broken regardless. Whether you were a faggot defending having sex with a dude with tits and a dick, or a faggot defending having sex with a dude with a hairy chest and a beard – you were broken. And you should kill yourself.
The suggestion or the push to kill one’s self is one that pops up a lot, when you are trans. If you have ever seen 41% mentioned around trans folk, especially aggressively, that is the percentage of trans people who attempt suicide when not in the presence of a supporting family. Being tortured literally to death is a statistic that is thrown into our faces as a joke. A snide comment that perhaps we should just end it all. It’d be so much easier. And… it’s not like you’ll ever pass, right?
When I was nineteen, going on twenty, and staring up into the ceiling of my sister’s old room, repurposed to be a guest room while I had been away at Purdue, I really thought about it. The idea of transitioning was tempting, and with it brought great worry and doubt. But also excitement? But no. You’re not broken. You can’t be trans. And yet these thoughts persisted. I mean, something so innocent put it in there. The idea of being a woman and being thought of as attractive by other women was exhilarating. If only I could reach out and pluck it.
“If only” is a phrase trans people say to themselves a lot, I fear. If only I had known sooner. If only I had started sooner. If only I had supportive friends and family. If only I had more money. If only I had better insurance. If only I had known what it was. If only I had known it was even possible.
It took a long time to draw the line between knowing what trans people were, and what I was feeling. The first problem, of course, is that being trans is an deeply personal and subjective journey. While some thought patterns are shared or more common than others, there’s really no way to just say “yes, you’re trans” after a brief discussion or a night of reading. It takes a certain level of internalization. And I’m sure, even as I write this, that this is where a divide begins. A divide between those who grew up before the 2010s and those who grew up afterwards.
The difference is that younger folk have grown up not just with the internet, but a mature internet – that is “mature” as in a fully-realized and developed tool. Queer spaces have not just been carved out, but they flourish, and in them you can quickly find many others sharing the same strange feelings of incongruity as you. Even if they don’t match 100%, after reading ten, twenty, a hundred stories, the sum total of overlap begins to build a picture of a new you.
Of a happy you.
And so after over a decade of toying with it, of thinking and hemming and hawing I was really running out of room and increasingly I felt like I was running out of time.
My egg finally and utterly shattered one night while reading a comic on a subreddit for eggs, a place where people coming to terms with being trans would share silly memes, trying to bring a bit of light to a rather stressful and confusing part of our shared struggle. The comic said something along the lines of “If you’re putting off transitioning because you’re afraid of not being a pretty girl – you’ve already accepted that you’re a girl. You’re already dealing with internalized misogyny.”
It was almost instant. Reading the words and it just clicked.
And I realized there was no going back. The boulder was rolling down the hill. I had been pushing it up and over the hump for twelve years. I stood from atop that awful hill and watched as it got away from me, and then after a few seconds, realized that I was expected to follow it and so clumsily at first began running down the hill after it, struggling to catch up.
COVID and the resulting stay-at-home orders have brought discord and pain to so, so many but I sat there, watching the She-Ra on netflix with Brigid, and I could feel it welling up. This amazing chance had dropped onto my lap. I could have like four or five months to transition completely in private while maintaining my job and income. And it kept getting pushed back! Further and further! I might even have a whole year.
It took me multiple weeks to come out to Brigid.
I had told Brigid multiple times of my feelings of genderqueerness, my concerns with transitioning, but I told her that I had thought about it and did not want to do it. She’s always been supportive of my decisions and made nothing of it, though once she did ask if I was interested in dressing more femme and at the time I was screaming “yes!” in my head, but declined, citing what now I recognize as gender dysphoria as why I couldn’t.
But there were multiple times, as we were sitting in bed before going to sleep, that I could feel the urge and drive building to just tell her, and then… I couldn’t.
And it happened over and over.
Then, finally, one morning in late June we were making coffee before catching a few episodes of She-Ra and I barely managed to squeak out the words “I want to transition.”
I honestly don’t remember much from the rest of that conversation, other than Brigid saying “Okay.” After that it’s really all just a blur.
Not even just that day, rather the next few months went by very quickly as I prepared to come out, start HRT, and at least try speaking with a therapist. After so long of just thinking about it meant that when the time came, I was running, sprinting through whatever popped up. After meeting with a GP and some bloodwork, and some day-of mix-ups at the pharmacy, on August 24th at roughly five o’ clock on a Monday evening, I had my first dosage of HRT. 4mg of Estradiol and 100mg of Spironolactone. I took all three pills at once and regretted that by the end of the night, as it was a bit much for my stomach to process.
The next morning I took one of the estrogen pills and the spironolactone. Nausea came and went through the day and again at night, it spiked, but it was fading. Whether it was the pills or anxiety, I will never really know. It doesn’t even really matter at this point. I was on my journey. And four days later I came out to the world.
Six Months Later…
Niamh. That’s my name. Sometimes I need to remind myself. You refer to yourself as one thing for so long it’s not easy to get over. Same with pronouns. I’ve exclusively used she/her/hers since coming out, but still in my head, my ego, uses the wrong name, the wrong designations because it had for thirty-one years. I correct myself every time. I owe myself that much.
When I first came out to Brigid, one of her first questions was what did I want to do about my name and my initial reaction was to keep at least “Nick”, arguing at the time that it was unisexual for both Nicholas and Nichole.
But the more I thought about it the more that rang as false. I already desperately wanted to change my middle name, which I had grown over the years to loathe, despite using it in a professional sense for quite a while. This is, after all, N H Kendall dot com. There is another Nick Kendall, a professional violinist, who hogs all that precious, precious SEO.
It didn’t take long, but I quickly came to the conclusion I really did want to change my name. I wanted to keep my initials, I knew that much. I wanted to have feminine names. I wanted to celebrate my Irish and German heritages if I could. Niamh is a very traditional Irish name meaning “brilliant” or “radiant”, pronounced like NEE-uhv or NEEV; I prefer the first. Golden-haired Niamh was also one of the Queens of Tír na nÓg, the Land of the Young, a name for the Celtic otherworld. For my middle name I chose another older, more traditional name Henriette, and as of writing, have chosen to pronounce it in French. Is it a shout out to my home – Detroit? Is it a stab at the H I carry, marking bound to my father and his fathers and fathers back to the 1800s? To leave it unpronounced? You tell me. It’s a little and a lot of both. It’s also just pretty.
Briefly I considered ditching my last name, a name that I’ve actually used as a first name for quite a while as it is, a woman’s name. That, however, was a step too far in the end.
The sudden shift is a common feeling now, as my transition progresses. Nothing is sacred anymore. Any feeling or nudge, any deeply held conviction is up for reconsideration. And really, isn’t that how it’s supposed to be? Aren’t we supposed to be reflective on ourselves? Reimagine and rebuild ourselves from time to time?
For me, one thing I was immediately interested in confronting was my sexuality. For a lot of trans people there is a period of “Am I sexually attracted to this person? Or do I want to be them?” And once you start on the road to being the gender of your choosing, what really were you feeling? It’s complex and difficult, but I think in a way it’s both necessary and inevitable.
Coming to terms with being a woman also involved unloading a lot of toxic masculinity, which had been smothering me for so long. Simultaneously, coming to terms with being a trans woman who as of writing is still interested in keeping and maintaining the functionality of her penis forced myself to ask some pretty critical questions and confront my internalized transphobia. The process would go like:
If I consider myself a woman, why don’t I necessarily consider other trans women women?
I do! And there’s a lot of hot trans women out there! I’d totally hook up with one (marriage aside)!
Even if she had a penis?
Then what about men?
Well… I’m not sexually attracted to men.
What if they were non-binary?
I guess that depends?
Depends on what?
I began to appreciate that my sexuality was not a monolith. It wasn’t a single facet of who I found attractive or even who I was. And once I was able to understand that, I was better able to relate to the people around me and understand my own feelings much better. The way I came to think of it was what I had been assuming was “sexuality” was actually three scales that I could use independently of each other, sort of like a character stat diagram. The three arms were: aesthetic attraction, romantic attraction, and sexual attraction.
Aesthetics are how people look. Who do I find “pretty” to look at? Who do I aesthetically appreciate. Luckily we were watching Bridgerton at the time, and what I discovered was that I found men, women, and non-binary folks as potentially aesthetically pleasing. Thus, at least on this one axis, I was pan.
Romantic attraction, though, is a bit harder to define. For me, it’s who would I stay up with all night discussion life while nude and drinking wine. Who would I, in the absence of sexual intimacy, be willing to hang my arms around and get kisses and fervent glances from. And it’s as wishy-washy as it sounds. There’s a lot of “depends”, but in the end it’s more of a femme thing – women, and femme-presenting non-binary. I’d be willing to call this “pan with preferences” or “pan lesbian”.
Sexual attraction is who do I want to do the dirty with. I think this is the one that most folks will get immediately and it is here that I remain the most steadfast. I’m solely attracted to women and femme-presenting non-binary folks at a purely sexual level. Over-all, I think this puts me in the “pan lesbian” category, but generally I just use the label “lesbian” because if I’m honest, most of the gents falling into that first category are like celebrities at their peaks. I am almost certainly going to continue to reëvaluate this over the next six months.
Finally, I think I’m ready to reach the part that I’m sure brought you all here. The T&A. My six months on HRT. I hope if nothing else, what my cis readers take away is there is so much more to transness and transitioning than the medical side of things. It is a deeply emotional beast. And while it is easiest to measure the time I have been taking some pills and now the injections, my timeline is more about the firsts that come with wearing dresses, presenting feminine in public, being ma’amd, my ever growing, ever changing relationship to the LGBT community, the trans community in specific, and my growing confidence in myself.
HRT is prescribed as a cure to gender dysphoria. That’s what the paperwork says. So let’s start there.
Gender dysphoria is a vicious monster. For some trans people it’s extremely visceral, a sort of gender-based panic attack that can leave them unable to function. For me it was very different, almost more insidious, I felt nothing.
And the problem with feeling nothing is that it’s harder to realize that you’ve been carrying it around for years and then decades. When it did actually manifest, it was often in the small things. Like being uncomfortable when my wife ran her hands through my chest hair. It was hard to pin down, easy to ignore, and thus it was more successful in evading treatment.
Explaining gender dysphoria to cis people is difficult, to say the least. More than feeling ugly, or mismatched, more than the awkwardness and the emptiness. It is much worse than the sum of its parts. Draining you physically and spiritually. And at the emptiness, you flail powerless to beat it back. You try to grow buff. You wear a beard for seventeen years. You hope and you pray that you’ll get better, that one day you’ll feel right.
And pray I did. One of the only times I prayed to a higher power ever was in early puberty when I effectively grew very small, but clearly unmasculine breasts. I prayed for puberty to carry me to the other side, or at least take them away. But no dice. I was forced to undergo a very awkward puberty, left without words or definitions to express my horror to those charged with caring for me.
Since starting HRT and presenting female, though, I have felt a strange and intoxicating rush that I can only assume is self-esteem and body confidence. I have found it so much easier to be happy. And I love standing in front of the mirror.
I love the physical changes to my body. Losing the beard and lasering it off bit by bit. I love my little titties and I love that HRT has sucked all the fat from my neck and collar and stuffed it all into my ass and thighs. I’ve lost about 12# or so, mostly to muscle loss in my arms, which are slimming. My fingers too are slimming down, as my jewelry held in place with little plastic forms make me aware. I love makeup. I love getting dressed up and putting together outfits. I love presenting a more honest me. I would even risk saying that I love my voice.
The confidence that has come with embracing my femininity has been utterly infectious. I revel in every cry, every glance of my curves, knowing that all the hair on my back and chest is thinning away. And the hair on my head is so much longer, I can twirl it in my fingers and Brigid can comb it for me at night. The confidence is so powerful, in fact that even with spironolactone essentially completely suppressing my libido, I feel much more sexual in a way. I also feel so much more in control.
For decades I suffered from a libido that was completely out of control, to the point of negatively effecting my life and my ability to even just interact with people. I’ve described the problem as fueling your Ford Fusion with nitro-methane for thirty years before someone finally comes up to you and says, “You can just fill the tank with unleaded gas.”
And there’s the crux.
Testosterone was clearly, clearly not the fuel I was meant to be running on. Physically and mentally, it was killing me. Estrogen is right, though. Everything just works better.
For the first time in over thirty years I feel good.
And so, the end for now…
There is a chance this was not an easy read for you. And that’s how it should be, honestly. It was not necessarily easy to write, but it was, all things told, cathartic. Transitioning has also been very hard and also very easy, and very cathartic all the same. I don’t think there are words I could ever string together to completely convey how right all of this has felt.
I can only keep insisting that you listen. That you read. That you internalize in yourself the words that trans people put out for you. And that you, more than anything, believe us.
In six months I shall return to this and perhaps go deeper into the physical and mental changes I’ve been seeing as well as comment on my experiences as a trans person out and about, if being out and about is something we can do by August. But I felt it necessary to set the stage, to dig to the root of my own transness which even still might be enigmatic to you all.
Hopefully you continue with me on this journey. I look forward to sharing my HRT-versary with you all. If we are diligent, it could even be in person!
This is an editorial written by Sam “Taco” Shrum and edited by myself.
Early afternoon on a Sunday in 2020, I sat in a video call with a small group of friends. The season had passed already for us lower league soccer supporters- a time where the game on the pitch gave way to the metagame of Twitter. The preparations for supporting another year. The analysis of new team announcements, the scraping of social media for little clues about which players were coming and going. We clung to each scrap of info, stretching it out and savoring it while waiting for the sun to return with in-person football.
It was during this chat with my fellow supporters that Niamh became visibly distracted, looking away from the screen with the camera, typing something out. “Sorry- some new account for a new team showed up. Bloomington. I’m giving them business advice,” she said. My ears pricked up. Niamh had been steadily growing out her work doing design work for teams, and was relatively plugged into what worked and what didn’t. If she was talking to a brand new team, the stories could stretch out for quite awhile.
I pulled up my own tab and began digging through. “NISA 2 Bloomington”, it promised, despite having a pinned tweet promising that USL soccer would be coming from them. I scrolled down further, finding the tweet where they said they didn’t have the millions for USL, and were pivoting to NISA. Announcing an intention to join a league without doing the minimum due diligence wasn’t unheard of, sadly- to pivot within a day was something else entirely. I took it all in slowly.
The Twitter metagame is a strange thing. Not long before, a close friend and I had created fake supporters groups that fooled the team in question and others in the league. Before that, I had once convinced a team that I was their social media manager, and become the official account on the website. Anything new was suspect- and we immediately flagged this Bloomington account as being part of the metagame. A fake. An attempt to get the credulous types to spread it further so there could be one big laugh at the end by everyone who was got.
And yet that was hardly enough to stop interest. One couldn’t even be sure that they would be there in-person in 2021; the metagame was all we had while we waited. I kept checking in, mulling over the possibility of road trips to Bloomington if they did join NISA. A Twitter poll appeared asking what the name of the club should be, and soon “NISA 2 Bloomington” was known as “Bloomington Crossroads FC”. A sensible name; it invoked Indiana’s state slogan of “the crossroads of America”. I wasn’t a fan of using a poll to decide things like this, usually- I’d poked at this Bloomington account during it, annoyed at their other options and that they’d done one at all. In the end, at least a reasonable name had been settled on. And then came the logo.
The logo would be teased for a solid week. Constantly shown in shadow or in silhouette at least once a day, often multiple times a day. “Get on with it,” we’d mutter, waiting for that next tidbit. And then it finally did arrive. “BLOOMINGTON FC CROSSROADS” it proclaimed, despite the club name being “Bloomington Crossroads FC”. Nobody was having this. I immediately went in and accused it of being a troll account and was blocked for my troubles. “Hater since day one!” BCFC proclaimed, casting me out.
While my other friends went to bat for me and told them they should learn to take criticism, I was left to stew in the interaction. A troll account would surely have avoided blocking me. The whole point of a troll was to garner more reactions. And the logo wasn’t intentionally bad in any way but the wording- the design was clean, and just needed to have its words re-arranged, which happened shortly afterwards. While more people insisted that Bloomington Crossroads was fake, a growing feeling that it was sincere as could be entered into my head. My responses to them were being taken personally, and there was some actual effort being put in.
No, there was something genuine about this. It might not be suitable for NISA, but it didn’t fit the pattern of a troll. Rumors began to swirl that a 13 year old was behind this effort, as the account quietly pivoted to working towards the Midwest Premier League instead. That rumor turned over for about a week as I kept watching, switching to alternate accounts to keep tabs on what was going on. And then one day, a WeFunder campaign was suddenly announced for supporter ownership.
Red flags went up immediately. Every other team that had done a WeFunder had staff and had at least played games, and success was still not guaranteed. Detroit City FC and Chattanooga FC had met big targets with flying colors; PDX FC met a modest goal and was able to continue; the New Jersey Teamsters, despite winning trophies in their previous leagues, acquired no real traction at all in crowdfunding. Nobody was even sure Bloomington even existed, let alone confident in their track record. It still wasn’t out of character for lower league owners to try something like that, but it still gnawed at me. Could it really be a teenager?
Their biography had once listed a phone number. I took 15 minutes in consultation with Niamh to come up with a list of questions to ask. We’d get the truth one way or another. I called in and the second the voice on the other end answered, I knew the truth- this had indeed been one teenager’s project, a boy named Gracin. Now the question became: what was their actual goal? I began to dig in: why Bloomington? Why the choice of leagues? What on earth was the WeFunder’s budget going to be used on?
I approached the discussion seriously as I would with anyone I wanted to talk to before investing in their business, and to Gracin’s credit, he had answers to each of these questions. His answers didn’t reflect the kind of due diligence you might expect from a dedicated businessperson, but nobody expected that. They did reflect a deep well of passion and interest for what he was doing, a sincere desire to see a club of his own in his town. Once I hung up and had time to think about it, I found opinion changing rapidly, a wellspring of admiration growing up for the young man.
Of course, at the same time there was the concern that he might be accidentally about to commit securities fraud by going through with the WeFunder. We all began to mull that over. The last thing any of us wanted was to see that spark damaged by a public outcry in response to it. I’d used several alt accounts so far to keep track of what Gracin had been doing once he blocked my main account, and I switched to one now to ask him to take it down. This was denied, and then my alternate account was blocked shortly after.
Well, he could be resourceful and stubborn all he wanted- I was also stubborn and resourceful, but with twice the experience. I thought about my options. WeFunder could be contacted, but that might not be enough to deter him from just registering a separate account. I wasn’t interested in whack-a-mole. We didn’t have any contact options for his parents, and I wasn’t interested in attempting to dox a teenager to find out how. And then I remembered that Gracin had said publicly that he’d had discussions with Peter Wilt.
If you don’t know who Peter Wilt is, he’s basically a serial soccer club founder. His whole specialty is getting teams off the ground, connecting with people to build a fan culture, and then moving on for the next big thing. His name being on a project is noteworthy in and of itself, and for Gracin to know this and have reached out to talk to him was one more indication that he paid attention to more than just what was on the pitch. I reached out and explained the situation so far to Wilt, who talked to Gracin’s parents. The plug was pulled on the WeFunder, and Bloomington Crossroads FC shut down its Twitter presence. One more weird chapter in lower league came to a close.
But just because one chapter ended didn’t mean that Gracin’s story within lower league ended. He rejoined Twitter, but as himself (@Gracin_Footy). Niamh and I followed him and cleared the air from my previous interactions, and then Niamh suggested to me that we should interview him on the experience and where Gracin was going next. We worked on a list of questions together, then decided to write this post about the whole experience.
Gracin had an already-established hobby of working on Google docs of hypothetical teams he’d create if he had the ability to. Cities, coaches, players- he would play FIFA and Football Manager at home, and then build completely new systems from scratch on computers without access to those games. One day, these thoughts turned local: why not in Bloomington, which he lived so close to? He loved watching Indiana University games and being around those fans, but what about an actual club to support there?
With the support of his parents, Gracin turned those Google docs into the bones of Bloomington Crossroads. Emails went out, and the Twitter account was born. Local interest immediately came back, reinforcing Gracin’s energy further. The immediate pushback saying that he needed to target lower leagues were all taken in stride. If anything, the thought of his club climbing up the ranks like in FM only excited him more.
Soon, Gracin reached out to an Italian designer and worked with him to understand Bloomington’s culture leading to one of the best crests unveiled in low-tier soccer. It’s unclear to me how involved his parents were in these design decisions, such as funding, but what is clear is that he has a strong eye for professionalism and high standards for his dream. If it had been me at 13, I would have tossed together something much more basic using templates and basic clipart.
Gracin’s vision may have been larger than his resources for his age, but he kept working up new answers and learning more about the system every step of the way. He recognizes, now, the WeFunder was a step too far. His parents remain very supportive of his soccer dreams. In the meanwhile, he still plans to keep going to lower-league games, interacting with the community, and learning. Niamh and I are looking forward to seeing what he makes of all that in the years to come, maybe interning in the front office of a local club or collegiate team? You could certainly do a lot worse than to hire a knowledge sponge with boundless energy and creativity.
Sam “taco” Shrum is an avid Detroit City FC supporter. When he isn’t working on the next release of Guardbook or storing history in Archive Le Rouge, taco spends horrifying amounts of time on Twitter looking for the next piece of bait for the trolls.
Edit: The creators of the game have reached out and commented on some of my comments. I’ve done my best to edit out incorrect information and provide context where necessary.
I don’t do reviews often on this blog, that’s not really my schtick, but a particular board game came onto my radar because it combined two or three of my favorite things: soccer, nerdiness, and soccer kits. I thought I’d share some thoughts on it.
Spoiler alert for tl;dr: I enjoyed the game thoroughly, but can see some weaknesses in it. I look forward to playing it again, but I’m not sure I can say the same for Brigid. The rules are easy(ish) if you know D&D, but the tactics can be a steep learning curve as the sport is baked very deeply into the game.
What it is: Counter Attack is a UK-made card and dice tactics board game based on the actual sport, soccer. Two players move tokens around that represent players, pass, shoot, dribble, and tackle in order to maintain control of a ball with their feet. Foot. Ball. Why it’s called “soccer” should be obvious.
So Brigid and I sat down this morning after shopping and chores and gave the game a shot. Some background: Brigid has no experience with soccer and I have much more, being an avid watcher and player. This will come into play heavily by the end. We are both also big D&D players, which will also come into play heavily by the end.
We also had a bit of a time limit ticking behind us, the game rules suggest a live timer of 45 mintues for each half with each player getting about 1 minute (with a sand timer) to figure out their turn and lose any unused moves or actions when the minute runs out. Obviously we tossed out the 1 minute rule because we didn’t understand any of the other rules. In the two hours we spent we got one attack in each, maybe a total of five or six rounds.
So the game is already primed for a “professional” (with timer) and “amateur” (without) division in play, and that’s okay. As a former Warhammer player, I’m also used to board games that take hours, so the rules limiting how much movement one can do can certainly speed things along.
Henceforth: “attacker” refers to the human player who has control of the ball, “defender” refers to the human player who does not have control of the ball, and “player” refers to the in-game players represented by tokens and cards.
How it’s played: It’s pretty easy, after randomly selecting teams playground style and randomly choosing a ref, you flip a coin (or call evens/odds on your 1 thru 6 d12) you pick to kickoff or defend. Counters are numbers 1 thru 11 so that a player card, with their stats is always tied to a particular counter on the board. Brigid and I lumped players naturally along rough forward/midfield/defender divisions, with defenders being the lower numbers and forwards getting the higher ones, as it was in the old days.
One interesting note right away is that you get 15 outfielders, which means you have five on the bench. However, it might also limit your formation, with what you draw dictating what you play, so if you have a favorite FIFA formation, you might have to forego it to strengthen what you have in your hand.
For me, playing as my beloved Magpies, I used a sort of 4-2-1-2-1 that had faded into a 3-4-3 by the time we called the game a wash. Brigid, who is not a soccer person, lined up in a 5-2-3 that had faded into an odd 5-1-4 by the end.
And this is the first weakness: non-soccer people, and even soccer folks who are more just a fan of a team and not necessarily an arm-chair manager, are going to be at a serious disadvantage starting off. For example, the offside rule is described in the booklet as just being the offside rule from real soccer. Not useful as many soccer folks already don’t get how the offside works.
Movement is best divided into the movement phase and all the other movements.
The movement phase is pretty easy to wrap your head around. The rule book describes it as 4-5-2. The attacker gets to move four players based off their pace skills, the defender reacts with five of their owner players based on their pace skills, and then the attacker gets to move two additional pieces (the rule book says “new players” so Brigid and I took it to mean players who had not yet moved that phase) two additional hexes each.
During the movement phase no shots or passes can be attempted… well… mostly. If the attacker moves a player into the penalty box, they may attempt a quick shot with a slight decrease to accuracy. The defender can attempt tackles, one per player, by approaching the player with the ball.
So to be concise, during the movement phase you may:
Both attacker and defender can move their players
The attacker can attempt a quick shot either by stepping into the penalty area, or if they just received a pass
The defender can attempt to tackle to regain possession
Okay, so what about this “all the other movement” you mentioned?
Well, if you’re a fan of D&D, you probably know what an attack of opportunity is. If you don’t, it’s when a character gets a free action because their location is advantageous. They’re generally pretty common sense: if you bend over to tie your shoes in the middle of a battle, the guy trying to kill you is going to try to kill you while you’re distracted.
A lot of actions, and I mean a lot – it’s just about all of them – give players free movement of usually one to three hexes. Keeping track of these free movements can often be far more important than anything, and they’re not collected in a single place on the quick-glance card or the rule book. For example, a high-ball gives the attacker and the defender one three-hex movement to get to the ball. And if it’s into the penalty area, the keeper gets a single hex. Plus the keeper can already move three hexes in a dive. Shots give defenders a free movement to try to deflect the ball. There’s a lot, I’m sure I’m missing some here, but understanding these free moves is paramount to getting the tactics. If you don’t understand them, you might waste full movements during the movement phase to do what you would’ve been able to do for free anyway.
Edit: The additional movements are collected on the quick-reference guide which, in fact, has two sides.
One of the biggest free movements is once per movement phase, if the ball is in the final third and a player moves in the final third as part of their movement phase, every player in the opposite third starting with the attackers gets a free 6 hex movement. This is actually pretty good to know because you shouldn’t waste movement on getting defenders into shape while you’re attacking. But you need to know it’s possible.
After the movement phase, there’s this nebulous, quasi-phase which can be summed up as “the ball phase”. This is when you do things like shooting, passing, and the such. There’s a lot of choices to be made. A short pass on the ground can be followed up by a first-time pass (basically a player strings a pass without moving to make one big pass), it’s a great way to take advantage of a weakness in the middle.
In the tackling and dribbling is where things fell apart. Brigid rolled a string of 1s that I called as advantages to keep my momentum up, which highlights what Brigid and I figured is probably the number one weakness of the game rules: fouls.
At the beginning of the game, you pick a ref at random. Refs have only one stat: leniency (which is how likely they hand out a card after a foul). When a foul has been committed (defender rolls a 1 during the tackle) the attacker can decide if it’s a foul or if the ref called advantage. If they choose for a foul, which Brigid did when I managed to foul her, both the attack and defender have to roll a dice. The attacker is checking to see if their player is injured, the defender is seeing if their player is booked.
The problem is the attacker decides. Not the ref. So even though we have the most strict ref in the deck, he gave me a string of advantages because as I knew that the chance of injuring my glass-cannon number 9 was too high to risk. I’d rather not have him lose pace to injury and maintain my momentum.
Edit: The creator clarified to us that regardless if the attacker chooses advantage or not, resolve the foul and the injury as normal, which to me: a) doesn’t address the problem of injuries seeming a tad common and disastrous, and b) takes a fun little trade of decision of “do you take the advantage and lose the chance to give the opponent a card, or take the free kick with its chance to set up a powerful attack?”
Brigid’s recommendation, which I agree with, is make it like D&D: 1 is auto fail, 6 is auto success; but for them to be special you need to confirm them. So rolling a 1 in a tackle makes a foul, fine. Then have the humans roll. If the defender gets a 1, there’s a chance for a card. If the attacker rolls a 1, there’s a chance for an injury. And those can be tweaked. Maybe it’s a coin flip. Maybe it’s 1-2 for failure.
Anyway, over the course of two hours we went through maybe five or six full rounds. With Brigid’s rolls coming up poorly, and her lack of soccer tactics, I was picking up that she was running out of good will for the game. I was already pretty surprised that she offered to play.
After an attempted shot was blocked for a corner, we lined up, and an unmarked attacker headed it into the far end of the goal, which we used as the bow to tie up today’s attempt to learn the game.
The disparity in soccer tactical awareness (plus like five goddamned 1s) really killed the friendly spirit of the game, which fair enough. We aren’t surprised that understanding soccer is vital to playing a soccer board game, and we’re not counting that against the game. I enjoyed it quite a bit, but it must’ve been very frustrating for Brigid.
The rule book is pretty good, I must say, with a few glaring issues (goal kicks need a label and should be part of the goal keeper page), the little scenario pictures are really clever and often answer a lot of edge questions like the long kick picture has a defender in the line of the pass, outside of the zone of control against the attacker which automatically answered a question we had “can a defender intercept a long kick?”. No. It lands further down the pitch and they have to chase after it. Most of the scenarios have little edge-cases included in them visual for quick resolution.
In the end, this is a game that I think will have many fans pretty quickly. It’s subbuteo for the D&D crowd. Plus, since Counter Attack lacks any physical interaction with goal keeping, it has the possibility to be much more available to a wider range of physical abilities.
I also suspect it’ll be a game with a thousand variations soon enough. The rules are pretty much a sturdy skeleton I can see more meatier rules applied to over time. Every league might have their own home rules, and really that’s great, because then players own the game as much as the creators and are thus much more invested in its success. Hopefully I can get some fellow social distancers around to try it out soon enough and see what you all think!
Some quick tips Brigid and I game up with as we played on mostly how to track things:
Use the dice to count how many players you’ve moved
Turn player counters sideways on the board to mark them as having moved especially as the attacker (Edit: the creators recommend pushing your player cards up or pulling them down to show they’ve moved, but as you can see in our picture, we were pretty tight on space, so this is a preference thing, I thought we were being rather clever and it’s immediately visible while you’re scanning the field rather than your bench)
Use the cardboard balls and not the wooden token balls, you can put them on top of the token who has the ball
Use the other cardboard ball token to mark the card of the player with the ball
Might be a good idea, especially if you’re learning the rules, to limit the game to a number of turns, and schedule a few hours, especially if this is your first time playing
Some ideas I came up that might be used to expand the game further:
Adding out of bounds and throw-ins, for example dribble checks when playing on the line, tackle checks to poke it out, high balls and long passes rolling out of play. Throw-ins treated like standard passes or long throws like high passes
Goal kicks are defined in the rule book, it’s just not labeled a goal kick, so searching for it in the PDF yields nothing but other expansion rules
Player traits (like being able to do long throw-ins)
Ref should be a token, with a field of vision (this might make things much more complicated but also more interesting)
Ref traits to add more interest to fouls, like we’ve all had that ex-defender ref overlook a crunching tackle or two
As above, the fouls seem very heavy handed and are almost always representative of heavy, game-changing fouls instead of being a part of the game.
Injuries are really strong, maybe a chance of them resolving as the game continues is a good idea, especially at half time including rolling for severity? Like a 1 means needs immediate subbing, 6 is injury fades after a few turns, and 2 thru 5 is the injury lasts a half or more, but doesn’t need immediate attention
Since players can keep pace up for the whole game, substitutions are really only there to deal with injuries, which seems “off” from the spirit of a game about team management
Manager or “sideline team” cards, again with traits and stats that might impact things like fixing injuries
Captains, not sure what you can do with them, but captains are a thing and maybe something can be figured out like sharing stats, improving rolls, or maybe talking your way out of a card
Please center the hexes on the board, it’s really weird that there’s not hexes in the middle of the pitch for the center spot, penalty spots, and to keep the goals even
Skip to the next drop-cap paragraph if you don’t care about my background or opinions on the 2020 takeover.
To my usual readers – friends and family folks – it’d probably come as no surprise that I have a great deal of enthusiasm for Newcastle United, a football club based in the North East of England, on the River Tyne. In February and March of 2019, I took a trip to Newcastle (as well as Glasgow and Kendal) and managed to catch two Newcastle games (both two-nill games in our favor: Huddersfield and Burnley), my first in-person after starting to support the team since 2007.
I often get asked “why?”. Why Newcastle? It probably would’ve made more sense in the late 90s, when Newcastle was riding high, but in the late 00s the team was already having issues and the sale of the club from Sir John Hall to Mike Ashley (on the very year I started supporting the club) has proven over the last 13 years to be completely disastrous, marked by an utter lack of ambition and two relegations, as well as hemorrhaging any talent we did manage to attract.
In 2007 I was a freshmen at Purdue University and making a lot of new friends. Supporting football almost always meant English football. I was already a fan of the German national team and flirted with supporting FC Bayern-München (though my eventual German love became and remains FC St. Pauli), but Bundesliga was harder to find on TV back then. Plus if you weren’t supporting an EPL team, there wasn’t much room for actual talk and banter with other folks outside of European competitions.
So, I needed an EPL club. And being me it wasn’t going to be as easy as picking one from the top five or being pressured by my peers into supporting their team just for the camaraderie. I wanted a team to call my own, that spoke to me and the person I was.
For me, Newcastle reminded me of my then-home, Cleveland. It was post-industrial. On a body of water. Far from what was considered “important”. A far-cry from its heyday. And the sports? The sports were suffering, but the fans were die-hard, loyal, and had a certain sense of humor about them. It was this spirit that drew me to Newcastle United, a spirit that has persisted to this day, drawing me closer and closer to the team.
And now, in the last few days of May, 2020 – it seems to be over.
Mike Ashley is, almost certainly, done with Newcastle United. After 13 years of milking the club as nothing more than a billboard to hold Sports Direct signs, it appears that a consortium backed by the Public Investment Fund, the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia, is on the brink of making Newcastle United the one of, if not the, wealthiest club on the planet.
Which, of course, has brought its own confusions, thoughts, and opinions. I have many of them, I’ve shared them with folks as prompted, but mostly haven’t outside of a few twitter posts and a few posts on r/NUFC, the Newcastle United subreddit. I am very much anti-Mike Ashley. I am glad to be seeing the back of him and hope the door hits him where biology splits him. I hope he buys the Mackems and I hope he completely fucks that up too.
But it is just our luck that we’re trading the unmotivated and apparently skittish cockney bastard for PIF, which through various deals and purchases, has tried desperately and often wildly successfully to cover for the crimes of Saudi Arabia through “sportswashing” or, to put it as flatly as possible, projecting Saudi Arabia’s image to the West as one in the same while also going through the tried and true motions of bread and circus for its own people.
The situation is one I’d rather not be in, to be frank. I agree largely with both sides. I don’t support PIF. I don’t support Saudi Arabia. I hate Mike Ashley and I do support Newcastle United. I think it is wrong for outsiders to think the Geordies support Saudi Arabia because they refuse to be turned off from their club, a club that is very dear to them in many ways I think Americans especially do not understand. I think there is also a minority of folks, either in bad faith or for whatever reason, need to lay off and stop acting like PIF is bloodless. Especially when it comes to attack victims of Saudi Arabia.
In many ways, Newcastle is my non-strings attached sports team. I don’t really interest myself in the politicking around the team. This, of course, is in stark contrast to my love of Detroit City FC and FC. St. Pauli, both heavily politically left teams. That said, I plan to take the future one season at a time. I suspect those first few seasons will be something grand. The wins. The big names. The expectations. They will all build. And so too will Newcastle’s support here in the US. I guess, succinctly, I expect my love of Newcastle to evolve over the next few years as its popularity grows and other people actually form opinions about them. Opinions they will then share with me, whether I want to hear them or not.
Only time will tell.
So. That was a lot of words. It was written basically in one take over my lunch break. leading into Memorial Day Weekend, a time that would usually mean sports and celebration in the United States, but is currently rainy and probably going to get hot, and then thunderstormy.
Oh. And there’s a crazy pandemic going on and it’s been a load of fun. I swear.
Once a year I do a post where I theorize and conjure some kits for Detroit City FC. I call it my “kit nerd” post. One team I’ve actually never done a design for is Newcastle United. I couldn’t tell you why. I love Newcastle’s kits, and I have extremely strong opinions on them:
The tops should be primarily black
More, thinner stripes rather than fewer, thicker stripes
Stripes should be spaced evenly
The white space should be the same width as the stripes
Shorts and socks should always be black
Blue should be either used as an accent, or not used at all
If there’s no blue accent, the numbers on the back should be red
Stripes should be front and back, and on the sleeves
If you can make the socks hooped, you should
These are just off the top of my head. And with those opinions, I wanted to create three designs (as I usually do for Detroit City): a home kit, an away kit, and a clash or alternate kit.
Some other last thoughts before I just pull the trigger and do that damn thing: I kept Fun88 as sponsor because I don’t really care that a lot of folks have been throwing various Saudi Arabian logos and companies on there. Fun88 is the current sponsor, that’s who I used. I also don’t do real-life manufacturers. They all suck, and these are my designs anyway.
Lastly, my main source for historical kit designs remains Historical Football Kits over at http://www.historicalkits.co.uk/. They are an extremely valuable source, and I thank them for the work they do.
Let’s get to it.
I wanted a kit that would invoke one of my all-time favorite Newcastle kits, a recent one, the 2017-2018 kits. What a great kit. Clean, simple big-ass red numbers on the back. It’s really gorgeous. It’s been followed by two of my least favorite home kits. 2018-2019 had too much white and I hated every second of the white socks, and 2019-2020 with it’s one, dorky stripe in the middle with black sides.
But there was a little tweak I wanted to make, blue. Knowing where I was heading with the away and alternate kits, I wanted to bring that splash of sky blue to this kit in subtle piping on the sides, sorts, socks, and sleeves.
For me, this would be a quintessential Newcastle kit. Unmistakable for anyone else. If you’re a regular here and you’re wondering why I always have more to say about away and alt kits than my home designs, this is why. A home kit shouldn’t need explanation. If you’re explaining your home kit, you fucked up.
When coming up with an away and alternate kits, I like the idea of going back in history. Taking something from deep in the club’s DNA or history, and in this case elevate something that struck a chord with the fans. In 2014-2015 Newcastle United wore a “4th” kit for exactly one game, a replica of a kit Newcastle wore from 1914 to 1930 as their change (albeit with dark shorts). I wanted to go ahead and make that kit the change.
To counteract all the plainness in the white and black, I called upon gold in very limited use to unify the design with the sponsor, without going heavy on a color like blue, which I used on the home kit. For this reason, I actually switched the ribbon on the crest to silver, as it was with the 125th Anniversary kit, so there’s no blue anywhere but in the banner on top of the castle in the crest. To round off the design, I chose to use the socks that appeared on a number of Newcastle kits from 1958 to 1961 – white with striped turnovers.
This is another kit based in history. Early history. Pre-history, even. It’s also why I wanted to go heavy on the blue for the home kit. One of my favorite little tidbits about Newcastle United is that the striped kits, the kits that have literally defined the club visually for well over a century, is that they were originally change kits, loaned to us when we clashed with another side. I love that, and I love when the club makes little call backs or in the case of 1995-1996 and 2018-2019, we readopt an older kit as an away kit (in this case a red and black hooped kit from 1881 as a maroon and navy hooped kit with cream-colored shorts).
Here I’m taking the top from 1886-1889 home kits and the shorts/socks of the 1881 kit to create something completely different. Black, red, gold are three amazing colors and they always play so well with one another. And once again, I have dropped the blue entirely, even from the crest, to let these colors really shine.
The collar is half-and-half as well, with the colors opposite the main body, and trimmed in gold to further emphasize the split. Very minimal use of the gold elsewhere, it’s completely gone from the shorts and the socks. For me, this was to help the sponsor feel more incorporated with the rest of the shirt.
Anyway, that’s all I wrote for this one. I hope everyone enjoyed the designs, maybe it answered some questions you might’ve had for me regarding the Newcastle takeover and other stuff.
If you liked the designs, feel free to follow me here or on twitter where I’d love to hear your thoughts on these designs. Tell me what you liked, what you’d’ve done different. And if you’re looking for some designs to be made of your own, I am actually available as either a quick sketch-up designer or a consultant. You can read more about that on my kit design commission page with details such as pricing and what I expect from commissioners.
This is a bit delayed what with so much more Detroit City than we’ve ever had before. This is the sixth Kit Post and it’s the closest to it’s actual year, though I am unsure if Detroit get’s its new kits before the Spring session of NISA or before the premier of our women’s (!!!) team in the summer. Or, alternatively, after the women’s season and before the start of the 2020/21 season of NISA.
If I had to guess, it’d be option number three. Anyway, let’s cut the chaff and get to this, shall we?
For the uninitiated every year after the DCFC season ends, I write up a review of the previous kits (or current as it might very well be) and draw up some potential designs for the upcoming season (hence the title being a year in the future).
First, for the interested, you can actually see a wiki-fied list of Detroit City’s kits in as many combinations as I could remember. If you know of any other combinations, let me know! Especially if you have photographic evidence. I’d love to build a robust list. Some of the designs are not quite up to snuff, but I’d like to fix that in my free time over the next year.
So we didn’t go all out with our home kits, as I “predicted”, rather quite the opposite – DCFC returned to the dark purply maroon with a simple, clean kit with the dark red used in the piping elements on all three (the socks I’m not 100% about, tbh) pieces of the kit. Initially I think this caused a bit of a stir after a number of years of more complicated kits. The last time we wore plain kits were the much more off-the-shelf Nike kits of 2016.
The away kits were certainly a thing, though. White bodied and red sleeved, they used the red in the piping and after a humorous mistake by Toledo, appeared in the “Kit Man Moi combination” using the red shorts and socks in order to prevent a clash. These were certainly a thing to behold, beautiful even, in their simplicity without just being plain white. I loved the look personally, even though I didn’t get one from the store.
Lastly, this is the first time Detroit City has ever had a true “alternate” kit, and boy were they better than anyone could ever imagine. Pure black with gold piping. What a marvelous look for the club and I’m so happy they got to be used more than once. The boys in rouge looked absolutely stunning in black.
With three solid hits, it’s almost impossible for me to imagine what could be next. And that isn’t just a remark about kits, that’s also a remark about everything. The season was spectacular. Top of the table, Midwest finals, Members Cup champion. Our new Gaffa created a powerful side that played well and looked like a cohesive team, something I think was sorely missing the last few seasons.
But let’s give it a try anyway, shall we?
Anyway, the usual disclaimers before we continue:
I don’t work for the DCFC front office
The DCFC front office fucks with me
Kits shown here are not official direction
Logos, league, and sponsors are used without permission
Sponsors and league are not official or necessarily endorsed by our front office
The reality of 2020 might be very different than what I predict here, I love the challenge regardless
First things first.
Obviously for my kits it doesn’t matter, but for the unaware, NISA has signed a preferred supplier deal with Danish kit maker Hummel. This deal, as far as this writer is aware, basically gives teams access to cheaper, customizable kits from a supplier large enough to handle the quantities needed while allowing other teams to choose other suppliers if so desired.
Here’s the thing. I like Adidas, but I also understand that they are expensive and that their recent batch of templates leave a lot to be desired, especially in an era where even most small suppliers offer full sublimation of kits at a fraction of the cost of Adidas’ prices. A savings which can hopefully bring kit costs back to a more reasonable $50 or $60.
Hummel also was a leader in the sport hijab business as the main supplier for the Afghan Women’s NT. We’d be partnered with a company that holds many of our ideals and has partnered with some big names.
I guess what I’m saying is – if DCFC ditches Adidas for Hummel, I won’t lose much sleep over it. And hopefully I can afford more kits, which isn’t that just swell?
Okay, moving on to the part that I’m sure you’re all actually interested in, my 2020 designs for the Detroit City FC kits.
The Home Kit
Despite some earlier comments on thinking of going 90s, I ended up retreating from that pretty quickly. My focus on neotraditional design is pretty incompatible with the variety of design that embodied the 90s in football and despite doing some research, I don’t think it’s an æsthetic I could replicate in the time frame I had set aside for this project.
Here I went with a rather clean design, focusing only on trim and small flourishes. I touched up the collar and cuffs with a dark maroon, small touches of gold. On the left shoulder, a gradient of fleurs de lys come down roughly in line with the crest and are echoed in the socks with a very faint pattern there as well as the two gold stripes.
I like the over-all feel of this kit, though it is not my favorite from the three this year. It’s simple without being plain; the elements like the fleurs and the gold flashes on the neck and cuffs given extra weight from a design that isn’t fighting itself for your attention.
The Away Kit
This was the first kit I finished this year and it’s arguably my favorite. There’s a different sort of feeling when you work on a home kit than an away kit an especially a clash/alternative kit.
When asking for ideas for the home kit, I got some suggestions for sure, but there were definitely some ideas where I thought to myself, “I’d rather not start a riot.” Home kits are sacred territory and making big, uncalled-for changes can get a certain reaction from a fan base.
Away kits, though, have a bit of leeway and I wanted to play with that leeway this year. This idea struck me while doing research on historicalkits.co.uk, Specifically I was looking at Hearts kits and I noticed the black socks with maroon and white hoops on many of their kits back in the teens through 1940s. The idea of combining those with a white and maroon hooped kit was too much to resist, so here we are.
The Clash/Alternative Kit
This final kit was going to be an important piece of the puzzle. Alternate kits are used to fill any gaps between the home and away kits when it comes to color. It is easy to see a situation where the rouge home and the white/rouge away kits are both ruled to be ‘clashing’ with another team’s, for example that’s what happened with the game against Toledo at Keyworth.
I think these pretty much fill the gaps.
It’s sort of a take on the alternates from this year with a pretty obvious tweak. We’ve done gold and white a number of times and it’s not a bad look, but black and gold look so damn good together, and it’d be true even if I wasn’t a Boilermaker. I followed New Balance and went with half-and-half socks, this time with a bit of a chance to transition from one to the other without looking like the sock was accidentally only dipped halfway into the dye. The crest is in alternate colors, this time majority gold with the statue in black.
The sash, probably the most prominent feature here, was actually a late addition, spurred on by the suggestion that the gold felt empty. I do think lighter colors are more at a risk of feeling empty than dark. Instead of fading normally, it actually pixelates out of existence as it goes up to the shoulder, which is what gave me the idea of making the fleurs de lys on the home kit fade out quickly going the opposite way.
They, in a way, echo each other.
So that’s all she wrote, my friends! Another annual Kit Nerd Post come and gone.
As always, I hope everyone enjoyed the read and loves the designs, if you have any comments feel free to reach out via twitter. I’d love to hear your thoughts or any other ideas you might have. If you’re interested in perhaps having me work on some kits for you, you can check out my kit design commission page with details such as pricing and what to expect.
I wish everyone a happy holidays and hope to be post more soon!
A while ago, I posted a set of eleven kits for the eleven members of the still-to-be-renamed NPSLPro’s Founders Cup, which kicks off in August. The Founder’s Cup, for the uninitiated, is basically a trial run of the NPSLPro before the league actually kicks off and is divided into East and West divisions.
But before even the NPSL amateur season could kick off, there’s already been some changes with that original eleven line-up. Weeks after NISA gained (provisional?) tier 3 status, Cal United tucked and rolled from the group. While nothing official has been confirmed, there have been some rumblings of them and at least one other team some had tagged for NPSLPro-ship are realigning their interests with NISA rather than NPSLPro.
Suddenly, our eleven were down to ten… until a second eleventh appeared on the horizon: Napa Valley 1839 FC.
Napa 1839 is an interesting, if little head-cocking, addition to the line-up. When creating what is essentially a punk-rock soccer league, the wine-mum club seems to stand out a bit, but then again there are already a few clubs that might be wrecking the vibes for some people; Milwaukee and Phoenix especially.
I’ve actually designed kits for Napa in the past on my twitter account, which they kindly responded to. In my previous design, I went with a bottle green/primary, marlot/alternate set up. They actually seemed to take this into consideration and when their second kits were unveiled they were green/primary and a red/white combo for the alternate. So starting with that, I’ve come up with a set to join the other ten (plus one).
Napa Valley 1839 FC
For the home kits, I wanted to stick with the two-tone green combo that’s on Napa’s crest, which is one of my favorite in the NPSL. I know that it’s a little cheesy, but the Napa Valley front office seems to have a good sense of humor about it all, which I can respect. Hopefully they get that my “mummy’s chalkboard art” aesthetic above comes from a place of brotherly love and not malice. The other thing I wanted to do with both the primary and secondary kits was give it a watermark look using a sublimation process – here it’s some grapevine art picked up from Freepik. Accreditation done, the secondary goes to that red/white combo that Napa is already using, and reduces the water marking to just the shorts and the left shoulder, just off the crest.
So that gets us caught back up on the eleven teams in the Founders Cup. Welcome Napa Valley to the family. I look forward to the chance to beat you and then share a lovely Chardonnay.
So, as I type this, my trip to England is coming to a close, but it isn’t quite over yet. I still have a trip down to London tomorrow and Monday (the 4th) the flight back to Detroit. I think back on the last week and a half and I’m exhausted. I wouldn’t’ve done it any different, but it is amazing that I was able to pull it off. Newcastle, Glasgow, Kendal; all absolutely lovely places and I would go back in a heartbeat, especially to just explore or enjoy the countryside or history a little bit more.
It’s been a while since I’ve written, so I’ll back up a bit. On the 28th, I jumped in a train or three and headed from Newcastle, on the east side of the island to Kendal, in the west.
I say good bye to Newcastle central and then headed out on a journey that involved three trains, delays, someone trespassing on the tracks, nearly boarding the wrong train, nearly waiting for the wrong train, then finally getting to the right train. Waiting for 30 minutes in the cold for the last train… which I road for 5 minutes.
But I was in Kendal and I set about exploring the city and the surrounding countryside. I had trouble capturing the whole city from above, but I did what I could by climbing up a tall hill overlooking the city, where the castle is, and doing my best.
The second picture is actually of my hotel from the castle tower. The castle and hill were beautiful, but then I went about exploring the town proper the next day, and found it to be much larger than I expected and much more bustling. 30,000 plus live in the area, much more than I thought.
Most of the city is made of this grey stone, giving Kendal it’s nickname, the Auld Grey Town. But many buildings are rather colorful, like these ones here.
It’s also a town of alleyways and yards in the middle of blocks of buildings. Down one of these alleyways was a little distillery, which of course I popped my head into.
And the city had some old-fashioned public or free houses, including the highly recommended and eclectic Ring O’ Bells, where, if you’re lucky, you get to meet Kendal’s biggest character: Jeff from Swindon.
I met Jeff from Swindon/
The next day, today as of writing, was my final match of the trip: Kendal Town FC vs Market Drayton Town FC. Kendal Town is in a bit of a bind. Manager walked with the first team after issues getting paid by the club came to light. There’s a fissure between fans who want the chairman to step down and those that either don’t care or don’t blame him for the issues facing the club. As of writing the current manager might be the one paying the players, and from what I could gather, he wasn’t a manager so much as a wealthy gentleman who fancied himself one. Kendal Town is in the relegation fight, and a relegation at this level of football is basically into obscurity. Every game is vital. Every point is needed.
Luckily, I’m three for three when rooting for the homeside.
This pitch is a bit different from the previous two: tucked away in the hills behind the castle and a graveyard, it’d be easy to miss if you weren’t looking for it.
There’s a bar and a clubhouse overlooking the pitch, which as the game progressed got more and more tempting. The weather was chilly to start, but by the end was bitter and it was pouring rain. I ended up catching a ride home with a friend of a friend.
Supporters had a covered… terrace… of sorts. Covered was all that really mattered, by the end. I actually poked around on the other side where there was more covered seating, but the crowd there was either unengaged, or engaged… to one the other squad’s players.
My view of the pitch:
It was a hard-fought, scrappy game, made so much worse by the worsening conditions. Kendal opened up the scoring, but in the process knocked Market Drayton’s keeper out of the game. After a lengthy wait, one of their defenders donned the keeper kit and play resumed for the first half. By halftime the score was even: one-one.
Kick off for the second half and within 30 seconds it’s 1-2 for Market.
There was a real sense of defeat hanging around, even the fans who still supported the chairman seemed to know Kendal was not doing well. There were several conversations either overheard or participated in on the nature of support and supporting. Kendal was, for a moment, a microcosm of supporter culture throughout the world. Show up to support the lads? Or avoid giving money to a FO that doesn’t care? There’s no easy or right answer there.
Regardless, a defender handled a ball during a goal line scramble and Kendal got awarded the penalty. Fan-favorite Aaron Helliwell lined up, and equalized.
By now, Kendal was playing much better, much more aggressively and Market was started to back down from that challenge. And the rain kept falling.
Finally, on an early cross from just outside the box, Ryan Moore comes flying in and heads it straight past the keeper.
It was a long, long ten minutes plus stoppage in the cold and in the rain, but eventually three whistles came and Kendal Town had three points, three impossible points. And I leave England four for four, perhaps far better than I could’ve ever expected.
Tomorrow I start the journey home. I’m ready to go back home. A cold is setting in, I’m homesick, our cat is probably so pissed off, and I still don’t get to see my Brigid again until the end of the week. Yet, this’ll always have happened. And I will and do remember it fondly.
After the Glasgow trip, I actually took to relaxing for a day. When I originally scheduled the trip, the Burnley game was on Wednesday, but by the time I arrived it had been moved to Tuesday to better accommodate TV broadcasting, which meant folks back home could’ve (and did) watch the game. It also meant that I could write this after the fact instead of burning the midnight oil.
My day off was mostly spent writing. I recently restarted writing book 4 after months of staring at an incomplete manuscript thinking “this is garbage, I should’ve plotted it out better before putting word to page”. There were three goals that day: get a full English breakfast, go to the distillery, write. I don’t have any pictures of the full English because I was getting the feeling the place I was at was not happy to have me (fancy-smancy), but I did get to the distillery where I managed to complete chapter 1 in a single sitting, which is impressive for me. It was about 40% new stuff, 60% reused, and of the reused there was a decent amount of editing that went into it.
I also grabbed a bottle of gin and some socks for use at DCFC and Harper’s matches:
I also wandered around for a while and checked out the scenery again:
And finally I got dinner at a place where you can find this lovely mural:
I covered the whole “Anarchist Burrito” saga on my twitter. Needless to say, the folks running the place had noooooo idea who the Zapatistas were. But the food was decent, so I might go back, though I am being pressured to go to Greggs as I write this.
Tuesday started with a little bit of writing and a lot of refusing to wake up. I met up with a friend of mine from the States who is studying down in Durham just south of town, and we explored a bit more, stopping at the Strawberry and candy shop not far from the stadium. Then we headed back into town and parted ways so that I could get ready for the game.
After taking a nap and chatting with Brigid a little, I headed back to the Strawberry once more for one final Newcastle pint (I promised myself I’d take a day off drinking on Wednesday) and to soak in the atmosphere one last time.
While I was there I ran into a group from the Toronto-area and we hit it off, then all of us got cozy with some locals who were meeting up with their friend from Burnley, which was a lot of fun. And then, finally, the time came to pack back into St. James’ and enjoy life in the sun.
Or at least a massive array of day-bright lights that fucked with my camera.
I don’t know if I was just better awake this time, but the stadium was much more alive. Burnley is a bit of a boogey team for Newcastle, so there was a feeling that it’d be a bit of a fight. And the game was chippy. Burnley played a hard press most of the game to keep Miggy from fully utilizing his speed. When he could, it was always breaks down the wing, that’d eventually lead to traffic in the middle.
The crowd was much more into it. Chants were loud and often. It was a bit more like the Celtic match, with hits being celebrated as the game got pretty chippy toward the end.
Newcastle scored twice on the far side of the pitch from me before halftime, and the just about came down. During the second half, Burnley seemed to be inching closer and closer to a goal, but luck and Martin Dubravka saved us more times than many of us were comfortable with.
Miggy did have a few runs toward our end, as did Perez and Rondon. Some got tantalizingly close, but bad luck or good pressure kept me from seeing a goal up close.
It was a big win for us, as it pushed up over Burnley on the table and well out of the relegation zone, though the fight isn’t quite over yet. Fulham and Huddersfield are pretty much guaranteed to go down as of writing but only seven points separate Southampton at 18th and Newcastle at 13th. On the flip side, only five points separate Newcastle and Everton at 9th. So at least the bottom half of the EPL is competitive.
The game ended, some people hung around to watch the monitors in the concorse, but I went to the foot trucks to get another disgustingly amazing steak and onion sandwich, which left me soaked in gravy.
All in all, Newcastle has been a lovely, wonderful city full of some great people. I loved every second of it and will definitely use today (Wednesday) to do a bit more exploring before the next bit of this journey – heading into the Lake District to watch Kendal Town and hopefully give them that Kendall bump I seem to be bringing with me.
As I sit here in my hotel room groggy and hungry (and definitely, probably going to Greggs after this), it’s a good time to think about all of this and try to process it all. But I can’t. I start to and then fade into just how crazy and amazing it all has been. I was really here. I really did see those games. Meet those people. Walk to and from stadium more times then I can count. Hopefully it won’t be twelve years in the making for the next time I get here.
This is coming to you after the fact, because the trip to Glasgow was an all-day affair. So basically what happened was that between the Huddersfield game and the Burnley game I had a two day gap and didn’t just want to sit around for two whole days aimlessly wandering because that would lead me to “aimlessly” wander back to the Strawberry and then drink all day.
So instead I purposefully wandered to Glasgow (known locally, apparently, as “Glesga”) and purposefully wandered into a bar and drank all day until it was time to do something really fun – go to a Celtic FC match, something I had originally planned on doing, but thought might’ve been a bit hard to do.
The day started pretty bright and early with a trip to the train station.
And of course a journey through the beautiful English countryside.
Look at all that majesty, folks. But I’m only kidding. The fog eventually broke up and there were some absolutely beautiful sights. Some I got pictures of, some that were blurry messes. Here’s the town of Alnmouth.
But I found Berwick-upon-Tweed to be absolutely picturesque.
Along the way I had a cuppa and not much else as I watched the scenery go by. Once we crossed into what used to be the “Marches” of southern Scotland it really was like crossing into a new world. The little farms and the grazing sheep gave way almost immediately to rocky hills and towering trees. None of which you could photograph at 70mph, but they were amazing, and I really do wish I could share. Scotland and England are equally beautiful countries for very different reasons.
I made a train change in Edinburgh, a city which I saw, for all intents and purposes, none of. Then another ride to Glasgow on a train I was only 75% sure was going to Glasgow. Luckily it did go to Glasgow. One of the ticket-punchers was amused that I was planning on doing this whole thing as a “round trip”, I didn’t have the heart to tell him that five hours down and five hours back is normal for a soccer fan in the US, and that’s by car, which does make it bother harder in some ways and easier in others.
Eventually I arrived in Glasgow and smartly got off a station early (could’ve probably gotten off earlier than that) which put me closer to an area of the city called “The Barras” which is sort of like Detroit’s Eastern Market, only a bit rougher around the edges and also entirely full of people I can’t understand. It wasn’t a long walk, basically down High Street and then along Gallowgate, and I swear every city here has a street called “Gallowgate”, which I assume comes from the street where the gallows and gates were and fucking hell guys.
I found Glasgow to be a beautiful city in that way that old European cities are. Even when they’re rough and tumble, there’s a history and a story to them that sort of overwhelms the anxiety or apprehension of being far from home and instead forces you to think about how that bar is casually older than your country.
On my way to the barrows I ran into five lads from Kempten, Bavaria wearing the skull and bones of St. Pauli and with a shout of “Forza Sankt Pauli” I had five new friends and they had someone who had a better chance of understanding the local gist, though really what some of the Glaswegians were saying was a total mystery to all of us.
They (and I, actually) had been told to go to a place called “Bar ’67”, which was a great place to start any Celtic match, as it turned out to be as Celtic as a place could be without just being the stadium.
Edit: The Kempten lads were Michael, Helmi, Dino, K, and Schlossi. It was Dino’s 20th or 50th birthday, none of us could figure it out.
The walk to Celtic park from the Barras is about 30mins. I heard conflicting information. Some folks told me that the walk took us through Rangers territory, but some local folks told me that wasn’t true. What we did piece together was that might’ve been the case even five years ago, but things have quickly been changing, with more Celtic bars popping up around Celtic Park and more Rangers bars around Ibrox.
Regardless, it was a long walk that involved buying fries from a Pizza Hut so two of us could use the bathrooms. But as you make your way eventually the word “Paradise” comes to mind, as the massive stadium rises over a green hill and between the apartments and malls.
And we saw that it was good.
The game was massive, made more so by just how loud and just how into it the entire crowd was. Every hit on Motherwell was celebrated. Every hit on us was booed. When Motherwell manged to claw one back off a scrappy happening in the box, the Celtic fans booed and hissed so loud and so long I honestly thought the ref was going to relent and scratch it from the books.
And when we scored… oh when Celtic scored…
It brings me to tears thinking about it now. It was hugs and high-fives and arms around shoulders as we all cheered and chanted. And to think Celtic weren’t even playing their ‘A’ squad, but to these guys it didn’t matter. Celtic were playing and Celtic is Celtic, whether first, second, or third line.
I was planning on meeting back up with the Kempten crew, but I realized too late that if I didn’t take the next train to Edinburgh, I wouldn’t be catching a train to Newcastle. So I popped back into that closer station, skipping the one I was supposed to use, and headed back. Only to find that the usual train to Newcastle had been changed out for a different one. Luckily I figured out which was which and spread the word to some other Celtic fans who were headed back along the same way as me. The platform manager kept trying to explain and finally I had to say “I don’t care where it’s going, so long as I end up in Newcastle.” The Celtic fans headed to Berwick had a laugh too, we were all tired and drunk and just wanted to know we’d be home.
Actually, when they got off, one recognized me through the window and gave a wave. Because so far, football has done nothing but make me friends wherever I go here.
And I think that’s pretty amazing.
Home of writer, kit designer, and football-addict Niamh Kendall