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.