A Blue and White Shirt – How Hard Can It Be?

So the now annual anti-climax that is the unveiling of the new shirt for the forthcoming season has been completed and as per usual it’s had as many critics as fans as we all unleash our inner Gok Wan. Love it or hate it Reading will be playing in a brand new shirt next year and you’ll be seeing a lot of it as we’re plastered all over the TV.

It was a curious time on the club’s part that this announcement has come. In a summer that has thus far been dominated by Euro 2012 and idle gossip, the club have managed to time an announcement that effectively marks the start of the new season and punctuates the pre-season tedium with that of two major new signings. I’m sure the date is dictated somewhat by the kit manufacturers and clearly the club aren’t going to delay an announcement such as signing Danny Guthrie over the small matter of a shirt but nor do I think they are so cynical as to time a kit launch (which can be controversial and divisive, just see Newcastle's a few years ago) with a ‘good news’ story to create a more positive vibe about the club. The fact that the signings of Guthrie and Pogrebnyak have come at the same time has at least allowed fans to have something else to discuss over July as opposed to just moaning about the new shirt.

For all the change and modernisation surrounding football these days it shouldn’t be forgotten that your average fan is a very conservative soul. A pair of rose tinted glasses is a prerequisite to any decent fan’s armoury and optimism is very much the preserve of youngsters who don’t know any different. I try my very best to stop myself from falling into that mindset and with the team doing so well it becomes increasingly difficult to find a vent for my built up negativity. There are always obvious targets; Simon Church is a soft one, as are quiet fans but during the summer the default position is always the same: “I hate the new kit”. I was very much of that view when the club released a few teaser images of the new shirt on Friday afternoon. What we were presented with was a badge in the middle (an unfortunate reminder of Cardiff, 2001 and Tony Rougier) and red (RED!) on the shoulder. My hopes were not high.

In my defence I think I had every reason to be sceptical. I had been fooled last year with a shirt that was cunningly disguised as a good one from the front only for it to be revealed as a Leeds United knock off from behind. The year before that was even worse as an absolute travesty was presented with what I can only surmise was something one of the directors’ kids had tried and failed to colour between the lines on. Did I trust the club to deliver this year? Did I hell.

As a rule if I hate a shirt at the start of the season I will hate it at the end but will have softened towards it a little. On the other hand, if I like it at the start, it will have really grown on me by the end and chances are I will have bought it. With this year’s I’m somewhere in the middle and I see that as a success for the club. Yes I’d have preferred there to be no red on the shoulder and the hoops to be narrower but ask me in a year and I think I’ll find it perfectly fine. One thing has massively swung in its favour though and that is the return of the hoops.

I HATE back panels on Reading’s shirts. I know it’s irrational and a weird thing to feel passionate about but I really, really hate them. I’ve heard the arguments about making numbers clearer etc but I don’t care. Reading Football Club play in blue and white HOOPS. Not horizontal lines but hoops. That means going all the way around the shirt. You don’t hear Russians and Germans referring to their hooped flags, they are striped. Celtic and QPR manage fine, so why couldn’t we? Two years ago we looked like Birmingham and last year it was Leeds but whatever you can say about this shirt, we will at least look like Reading.

Yellow - an underrated shirt colour

I won’t go so far as congratulating the club on a lovely shirt because that’s probably saying too much but it’s certainly an improvement. What I will happily congratulate the club on though is an excellent choice of away shirt. I find it odd that with so much choice available when it comes to the second kit that we so regularly get it right when we’ve struggled so much with the basic principles of what a hoop is. Last year’s cherry red kit was simple but classy and all previous black ones have been equally good (although I know there are a lot of haters for the black and grey hoops). I welcome the return of yellow (an underrated colour for football shirts) in what looks a simple and effective design. I used to own the old yellow shirt and it was my standard matchday attire until I foolishly gave it to an African kid on my travels. A decision I regretted almost instantly as I had to face the prospect of change to my match day routine.

There’s probably more than a few people wondering what the point in even bothering yourself over something as trivial as a kit is. My honest answer is that I know that in the grand scheme of things it is irrelevant but I also know that I’m not alone in having bizarrely strong opinions on these pointless things. It does however remain a mystery to me that for a product that is ostensibly for the fans and has no real effect on the club apart from through shirt sales that there isn’t some kind of consultation over it. There can’t be many other businesses where companies routinely put out products on an annual basis that they haven’t even asked their customers about. Maybe it’s symptomatic of how insignificant fans are to a modern football club or perhaps I’m just reading far too much into, what is at the end of the day, a t-shirt.

The reaction to the new shirts seem to have been generally positive if twitter and facebook are anything to go by. What to the readership of The Tilehurst End think? Are there some back panel fans out there or does anyone else share my bizarre passion for hoops? I'm also curious to discover if anyone else has shared in my folly of giving away a treasured a shirt in a misguided act of altruism!

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