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Sunday, 3 March 2013

The Tao of collecting. Not so much a philosphy as a way of life.

Why would I buy this? Apart for it's St Mirrenish magnificence
It is a function of the human condition to have self awareness and wonder who we are and why things are the way they are. For example I'm sure if dogs had self awareness and wondered why the bit their own arses they'd stop doing it. In this spirit of self awareness and introspection I have often wondered why do I collect these damned football shirts and what's wrong with the rest of the world who don't seem to be fascinated by them. 

I don't honestly know why I collect them and test the patience of her indoors as the spare room slowly fills up with obscure Chilean second division away shirts. I don't for instance have a clearly defined parameter for my collection unlike Canadian collector Eric Kay and his project to get a shirt from each national team in the world. You can see some of his shirts on his site here. You will be able to see even more of his disturbingly rare and obscure national shirts when he gets his finger out and gets them onto his site, I can't imagine there's anything else to do during the long Ontario winters. Another of my collecting friends, Anton Sorokin from Russia, seems to have specialised somewhat into more vintage shirts in recent years and is building up a very impressive collection. You can see his shirts here. In comparison my collection seems to be utterly random and scatter gun with everything from matchworn Indonesian league shirts to the mighty Ayr Boswell Boys Club. I've always just picked up shirts because I like the look of them or they are so bizarre as to be difficult to look at or have a historical significance. Some of the are just plain all time greats that any self respecting collector just has to have.

What possessed me? The most boring shirt in the world.
Over the years I've had specific shirts I've been after like Penarol, Santos and the 1998 Mexico shirt but these have always been individual bits and bobs and there's never been a larger subset I've been looking to fill. Until now that is. I recently noticed that I am only a few shirts away from having at least one from every league team in England and Scotland* and am now setting my sights on ticking the last few off the list. It's a new experience for the otherwise unfocused collector like myself. To complete the whole Scottish league (until league reconstruction or similar moves the goalposts) I only need an Annan Athletic shirt. I suspect I'll need to get one of those directly from the good folks at Galabank given Annan's rather small commercial footprint. At the time of writing this (assuming the couple I've just paid for on Ebay appear) to fill in the English leagues I need to find Crawley Town, Fleetwood Town and York City. Obviously that is until the end of the season but I have a fair chunk of the teams in the upper echelons of the non-league pyramid so as long as bloody Dartford or Braintree don't get promoted to League 2 (or the Fourth Division as it was known in Old Money) I should be OK.
Danger! Retinal Damage. Safety goggles must be worn.

Once I polish off the UK (with the exception of League of Wales and the Northern Irish league although I have a respectable cross section of those Celtic leagues) I think I'll look at the Brazilian Serie A and B although they're nearly complete already thanks in small part to my friend Bira in Sao Paulo who supplies the finest South American exports which are legal. Then maybe the MLS, who knows That's all in the future though, first I have to find an Annan Athletic shirt...

*There are a couple of Scottish clubs which I don't have in the collection and will not have. I won't mention them but they're focal points for very nasty politics and frankly medieval prejudices and they both do very well out of it thank you very much. They aren't the cause of the social issues they revel in but they do practically nothing to counter it and the perpetuation of it seems to work for them. A pox on both their houses.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

It's just a bit of fun... Part 2

I started something last week and now I just cant stop and so I present the "Stupid Tournaments based on Team names" Part II.

Lets start off with the Military Cup Final shall we? 
Rajnavy Rayong vs El Nacional

Rajnavy Rayong are the team of the Thai Royal Navy and El Nacional are a team of the Ecuadoran Military forces. The Ecuadorans would be strong favourites as they are one of that countries most successful clubs and the Ecuadoran League is stronger than the Thai one. 

There's always the Perth Cup
Perth Glory vs St Johnstone
Perth in Western Australia is the most remote city in the world and has a population of almost two million people including it's surrounding environs whereas Perth in Scotland is just touching forty five thousand. Despite this I'd fancy St Johnstone to beat the Glory based on current line ups. For the record St Johnstone was the historical name of the town of Perth thus the club name.
How about the "Not where you think they are" Cup quarter finals?
 Barcelona vs Juventus
Here we have two of European footballs big hitters, or actually we don't. This Barcelona hail from Ecuador and Juventus from Brazil. Like their European namesakes you'd fancy Barcelona to win this one.
 Arsenal vs Everton
White the Gunners versus the Toffees is a staple fixture in the English top flight but this game would be between sides from Argentina and Chile respectively. I imagine that most times arsenal would win this as you would expect with the same game in England. 
Boston vs San Francisco
At first glance you'd expect this to be a tie between the Eastern Seaboard and West Coast of the USA but surprise surprise you'd be wrong. Boston United are based in plain old Lincolnshire rather than Massachusetts and San Francisco are in fact not from California but Panama. Put your money on the Panamanians to win this one.   
Santiago Wanderers vs Bohemians
Ok so far all the teams have been from countries you wouldn't expect but in this one Santiago Wanderers are actually from Chile. For reasons best known to themselves they aren't based in that long skinny country's capital city of Santiago. As for Bohemians, where's Bohemia? I'll tell you where Bohemia is and it's basically the western half of the Czech Republic. It's a long, long way from Dublin where the football club are based. I'd imagine the Chileans would win this.

How about another historical one? Here's the final of the Age of Discovery Explorers Cup Final.
Columbus vs Vasco da Gama
For a man who never set foot on the mainland of the Americas and thought he had found eastern Asia Christopher Columbus doesn't half get a lot of credit. Columbus crew are not directly named after him but their home town of Columbus, Ohio is. Vasco Da Gama, from Rio de Janeiro, are named after the famous Portuguese explorer of the same name and another man who never so much as visited the New World. The Brazilians would be the winners of this one. 

Some more modern history now with the "Warsaw Pact countries that don't exist anymore" cup final. There's not a huge number of entrants for this one.
Yugoslavia vs USSR
The break up of these two countries spawned no less than 23 new footballing nations in Asia and Europe so there was obviously a bit of talent there. Even though the Yugoslavs were  excellent you would still imagine the sheer power of the Soviets would win this one.

Here's one with a more domestic flavour. It's the Fictitious Sides Cup Final
Harchester United vs Warbury Warriors
Harchester United were the team which the soap opera "Dream Team" revolved while Warbury Warriors are the team featured in the newspaper comic strip "Striker". I've never followed either to be honest as while I am clearly a sad individual as this blog suggests I do have a bit of a life. Who knows which side would win. That would be a stupid thing to ponder, not like the rest of the blog, right?

I'll stop there but I may well be back with this. I've got loads more of these...

Sunday, 13 January 2013

It's just a bit of fun. Well it's fun if you're geeky enough.

Hi again. 

Apologies as always for not blogging more often but I have been focusing on getting the site up to date and apart from anything else I hate the verb "to blog". The site is now as up to date as it can be for now and I've had a chance to draw breath. It's given me a chance to write up an idea I've been knocking about in my head for a while - stupid tournaments based on team names.

Firstly we have the Peloponnesian War Cup final:

Spartans vs Corinthians
Now I know that technically the city states of Sparta and Corinth were nominal allies during the Pelopennesian War but overlook that for the sake of a rather laboured little joke. Given that the conflict in question took place in Greece, admittedly 2500 years ago, it's unusual that neither side here hails from Greece but from Edinburgh and Sao Paulo respectively. Ah well they do say Edinburgh, home of "The Spartans" is the "Athens of the North". For the record Sparta won the Pelopennesian War although I suspect the Edinburgh based semi-professional outfit would be rather unlikely to beat the reigning Copa Libertadores and World Club Cup champions.

While we're in the classical world let's look at the semi-final draw of the Herculean Trophy shall we?

OFI vs Hercules
Hercules is the individual whom I believe has the most team named in his honour, even given that he's a mythical figure. OFI are based in the capital of Crete, Iraklion a small city which is named after Hercules while Hercules are from eastern Spain and have adopted the Latinised form of the demigod's name. I'd fancy the Spaniards to make the final where they'll play the winners of:

Herakles Almelo vs Iraklis
Herakles Almelo  from the Netherlands use a version of the her's namemore akin the original Greek while Iraklis, from Thessalonika use the actual Greek for obvious reasons. Iraklis even have picture of Hercules and his famous brass bound club on the badge. This semi final would be too close to call but the winner of it would do well to beat the Spanish side from the other semi. 

I'm not finished with the classical world, not by a long way. Here's the final of the "I'm Spartacus" Cup

Spartak Moscow vs Roma

Spartak Moscow are named after the Thracian gladiator Spartacus who led a rebellion against the Romans in the First Century BC. In this particular scenario the Roman legions are represented by Roma, obviously. I suspect that, just like the original Spartacus the Russians would lose to the Romans although with a lot fewer crucifictions afterwards.

OK, this is the last one form the ancient world I promise. How about the Trojan War Cup semi finals?

Paris (St Germain) vs Achilles '29

Paris, as I'm sure you know was the Trojan prince who kidnapped/ran off with Helen of Troy to trigger the Trojan war. Achilles was the preeminent Greek (or Achean to be more correct) warrior leading the attack on Troy. In the legend Paris killed Achilles with a poisoned arrow wound in the heel. I suspect PSG would heavily beat the amateur side from the Netherlands who would have more than an Achilles heel to worry about.

Ajax vs AEK Athens
Ajax was a Greek warrior who went mad with anger and hung himself after not being awarded Achilles armour after Achiulles funeral. Athena, the eponymous deity of the city of Athens meddled in the Trojan war all through the legend. all things being equal I suspect the Dutch giants would beat the Greeks in this one but PSG would win overall.

I could go on and on with these things related to the classical world like Sparta Rotterdam vs Sparta Prague but I promised I'd stop with them. Let's move onto the Historical Monarchs Cup Final shall we?

Willem II vs Dom Pedro II

There aren't many teams named after historical monarchs bet here's a couple of them. Willem II (1792-1849) was the king of the Netherlands and has the club from Tilburg named after him for some sort of tenuous reason. Dom Pedro II (1825 - 1891) was the Emperor of Brazil which is something of a surprise as most people outside South America probably don't even know Brazil had emperors. Put your money on the Dutch side to win this one as the Brazilian side are small fry.

Enough history for a while. Lets have a game between two big names of Scottish football shall we. I don't actually have shirts of the biggest teams in Scotland for my own reasons but we can still look at the semi-finals of the "Not The Old Firm" Cup:

Stafford Rangers vs Stalybridge Celtic

These two English non-league sides share names with the Glaswegian giants but as far as I know have no other affiliations to them. Stafford Rangers, hailing from Stafford surprisingly, would be the underdogs here against Stalybridge Celtic who are based in Greater Manchester.

Beijing Celtic vs Rangers De Talca
Beijing does not have any particular love for Celtic or indeed any other Scottish team but clearly has enough ex-pats to get some sort of team together. Rangers de Talca from central Chile were apparently named by a Scotsman so may well be named after the Glaswegian side. The Chileans would be very heavy favourites to win this one.

I'll stop there but I really could go on and on with these, in fact I might do some more some other time. Alternatively I might get myself a life but that's unlikely.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Olympic football. An eyewitness report...

Hello. I remember back in 2005 when the Olympics were awarded to London I was unashamedly underwhelmed having no interest in athletics or rowing or showjumping. I have to confess now that I do appreciate the games more and enjoy the chance to see some more esoteric sports such as handball, volleyball and water polo. Olympic football has largely passed me by in all honesty so I was pleasantly surprised when my significant other announced she had bought tickets for us to watch the double header of group games between the titans of New Zealand and Egypt followed by the mighty Belarus against some mob of minnows from Brazil. All of a sudden I was enthused by the prospect  of a visit to Old Trafford to see the matches. I hadn't been to Old Trafford for years (Last time I had been Fabrizio Ravanelli scored against them for Middlesbrough!) so it was shaping up to be a good day out. The day itself was good although a couple of games with an hour or so in between makes for a long afternoon, so long in fact the other half fell asleep during a football match with a mere 66000 people in attendance proving my assertion that she can and will sleep anywhere. It was a genuinely nice experience to go along to a football match where segregation wasn't necessary and a genuinely good atmosphere pervaded. I suspect it was a peculiarly twenty first century experience to go to a double header of matches between countries from South America, Europe, Africa and Oceania and end up sitting next to a guy from Kazakhstan and end up discussing flight durations to Central Asia but such was my lot on the day. The football was generally decent and both games benefited from the comparative underdogs scoring early goals. Egypt's Ahmed Hegazy caught the eye as did elements of the Belarussian midfield which looked neat and tidy but the main attraction was surely the Brazilian side.
The spirit of Olympic football. A periscopey thing made of highly toxic mercury

The stadium filled up markedly for the second game with what I can only assume was every Brazilian with a passport appearing to cheer on the selecao. In the end the Brazilians were just too damned strong for Belarus and ran out comfortable 3-1 winners. Neymar might just be the best (non-St Mirren) player I've seen with my own two eyes. "He got game" as they say in the states.

Pele's got my name on the back of one his jerseys too. Honestly
On the subject of St Mirren I noticed that Manchester United have named a stand after Alex Ferguson. I can only assume that this was for his sterling work at Love St in the late 1970 and early 80s. I imagine it's only a matter of time before they name their other stands after Ricky MacFarlane, Alex Smith and Tom Hendrie. Who knew that even the corporate shills at Man U thought so highly of St Mirren?

As you probably know the individual flair of the Brazilians got them a silver medal but wasn't enough to deal with the characteristically savvy and talented Mexicans. From a footy shirt perspective the tournament was a bit of a non event. Most countries sported a fairly plain shirt with their national flag in place of a badge but some such as USA, Morocco and Egypt didn't even bother with that! The best shirts were probably the victorious Mexico, Honduras or (whisper it) Team GB. Team GB was mercifully short lived experiment with a distinctly temporary air about it and it all felt a bit forced and understandably artificial. It was the first time in my lifetime such a thing had existed and I never really got a handle on how to relate to it. 

In other news the site is coming along slowly and I've made a lot of changes behind the scenes and been doing a LOT of shirt photography, 670 down only 437 shirts to go which as the more numerate amongst you will not takes the collection over 1100 shirts. If that's not time for a sanity check what is? Anyway the push is on over the next few weeks to get a shedload more photography done and then gradually get ALL the shirts on the site. If anyone out there knows anything about search engine optimisation let me know as the site traffic has just dropped of a cliff since I put the new one online.

Until next time take care, have fun and enjoy the new season. Yeaaaaay, proper footy is back.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Notes and Queries

New website graphics. So many black and white stripes it's practically a barcode!
Thanks you for attending ladies and gentlemen. This blog will cover a few thought which occur and a couple of bits of site news.

Firstly, the new site is up and running and has just over half of the collection on it (562 of 1073 at present). I'm hoping to get another BIG chink of the collection uploaded to it in the next few weeks. It's on the usual URL - so have a look round it and let me know what you think. I've added thumbnails of all the shirts on the menu pages which took ages to do but helps browsing through the site.

I'm currently having withdrawal symptoms from the excellent Euro 2012 tournament. That was the best international tournament I remember for quite some time. The vast majority of the teams played an attacking brand of football, even Italy! While I would have liked to see Germany in the final Spain were worthy winners and dispatched the Italians with elan and panache. the tournament was also very well refereed on the whole even of the Greece sending off in the opening game was very harsh. The referees didn't blow for a free kick every time someone fell over and waved play on when in tournaments passed they would have stopped the game. Long may it continue.

Is this sending your eyes funny yet?
Here in the UK the continuing farce of the Olympic football team has reached fever pitch when manager Stuart Pearce had the audacity to pick a squad based on trying to win games and not about giving past it media whores a last hurrah. The UK press seem to think that he should have included David Beckham in the squad as a thank you for all Beckham's work in getting the Olympics in the first place. Here's the thing. IT'S AN UNDER 23 TOURNAMENT. While you're allowed three over 23s in the squad it's a tight 18 man squad and that doesn't really leave much room for a guy pushing 40 whose legs have gone and is semi-retired (given he doesn't seen to take his job at LA Galaxy all that seriously). Pearce did pick Ryan Giggs who is even older than Beckham but still playing week in week out in the EPL and  Champions League AND wont disappear halfway through a tournament to do some media work. As for picking him as a "Thank You" that's utterly ridiculous. Sebastian Coe has worked on the Olympic project for years but nobody is suggesting that he should dust off his running spikes for the 1500m are they? So the press are criticising Pearce for trying to pick a squad based on merit and availability as opposed to who is friends with Tom Cruise.

Or have you gone colour blind?
In other news Glasgow Rangers no longer exist, having dodged paying their taxes and essentially cheated through financial doping. Due to the hugely unbalanced nature of Scottish football where two clubs have over 80% of the fanbase this has put the whole league into jeopardy with TV deals and sponsors looking to bail out as it turns out they are only interested in basking in the reflected sectarian bigotry of Old Firm games. A pox on all their houses. At least the rest of the SPL had the integrity to boot the newly reformed Rangers out and the SFL are in two minds about where to accommodate them. I just hope that this doesn't have too much of a financial impact on the league as a lot of people could lose a living wage. Just as an aside this is a chance for the newly formed Rangers to make a statement and put some clear blue water between the club and the darker side of the heritage of the old Rangers. I doubt they will as a bigot's money is a good as anyone else's isn't it?

Anyway, that's the blog ticked off for another four months...

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Form is temporary, a profound lack of class is permanent!

OK, so I'm a bad blogger, have no blogging discipline and wont be going to the Euro 2012 Blogging Championships in Bjarkalundur this summer. In my defence I'd say that I'm not the first person to go missing halfway through the season, in fact I recall the whole Charlton Athletic team doing it year in year out under Alan Curbishley.

Regular devotees of the website will also notice that I haven't updated it in months. There's a reason for this. I had an agreement with a web design company to redo my site. This meant that I realistically had to rephotograph ALL of the sodding shirts (1053 at last count and more on the way) which will take a while. Well things change and the deal with the web design company fell through but it made me look at my site which is a bit "Web 1.0" and I have already done new photos for about 25% of the shirts. All of these factors mean I've stopped updating the current site and have decided to throw all my limited mental capacity into developing a new look website myself. It wont look professional but it will look better than the current one.

The new look pictures will be a lot more standardised and with a little help from Photoshop will make sure that there's no background to draw attention away from the lovely shirts. There's a couple of examples of the new format pictures as a taster for the real shirt geeks out there to get marginally excited by. What do you reckon to the new format? Miles better than the old one I think.

I promise I'll get my head down, work hard and try and produce (a website) and achieve a level of consistency (i.e. blog a bit) and get back into the team!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

I'd rather be lucky than good...

Red shirts? They're not all lucky!
I played football last week. In the interests of complete disclosure I should point out that I'm such a bad player than FIFA have threatened to charge me with besmirching the game for simply turning up with my football kit. That being said I played last night and wore my Panama away shirt. I played so badly in it that I may well retire the shirt and never play in it again. I fully expect a strongly worded of letter of complaint from the Panamanian ambassador for bringing his country's good name into disrepute so poor was my performance. That led me to think about how some of the shirts in my collection are lucky, some are unlucky and some are Greenock Morton shirts. I'm not suggesting that my footballing nadir was down to anything else than a profound lack of ability, fitness and a physique based on a cheese and cider diet but does a lucky or unlucky shirt pay a psychological part?

I read a recent report suggesting that team playing in red shirts were more successful than other teams statistically speaking. This makes sense when you consider dominant teams which play in red such as Man U, Liverpool and of course Brechin City. Then again is it perhaps that quite a lot of teams play in red as opposed to say green or purple. For every Benfica that play in red there's an Accrington Stanley or Dom Pedro II.

Looking through the collection there's a fair few lucky and unlucky shirts from my own experience of pond life level football. Some like Ghana are lucky because of a volley taken at full tilt without breaking stride with my right foot on a ball coming over my left shoulder. Some like Liverpool away are lucky because of a (so rare as to be almost mythical) night when I could do no wrong. Some, like Partizan Belgrade just have an aura that gives the confidence that leads to a good performance. On the flip side there's some shirts that have bad feeling to them like Servette away which I wore one night when I stunk the place out and one of the guys I played with had a seizure or Heernveen which I had on when I sustained and embarrassingly self inflicted ankle injury.

I'm not suggesting that the shirts have any mystical powers but that there's a psychological effect which can lead to a greater confidence and self belief or on the other side of the coin, cause a lack of confidence.

Does this apply in the big bad world of real footballers? Look at Glasgow Rangers old violet third shirts which seemed to be cursed or Man U's famous grey away shirt that was scrapped at half time when they were getting a roasting from Southampton or even Diadora's last Scotland away shirt which saw Scotland score no goals and concede loads. Maybe there's something in the psychological aspect of a shirt, maybe not. What do you reckon? Leave a comment about what you think were lucky or unlucky shirts.

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Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Once more unto the pitch dear friends, once more...

So a new season has just begun in England and with it comes all the promise of ... well football.  So what will happen this season and more importantly, what are the new season's kits like? Lets take it team by team for the EPL.

The team - It's bad news for Arsenal as they face the future without Fabregas and Nasri both of whom it appears are to move imminently. On the upside they're also going to get rid of Eboue and Bendtner so it's not all bad.  I suspect the gunners will be scrapping with Liverpool for 4th place and probably wont make it. Defensively frail in the centre of defence and utterly devoid of leadership and real physical presence they'll have a lot of hard games especially away from home. Don't expect Wenger to go throwing any money about before the end of the transfer window either. His faith in this generation of players he's brought through could be his undoing and mar his long term record.

The kit - Nike have been selling Arsenal short for year by consistently churning out dull shirts. This season's away shirt is decent but the home is the same old same old. The trim round the badge might well the closest Arsenal will get to any laurels this year. 

 Aston Villa
the Team - It's an uncertain time for Villa as they have lost their two most creative players to Man U and Liverpool and Alex Mcleish's managerial career is patchy to say the least. Villa's notoriously picky and fickle fans wont need much in the way of bad results to turn on him. Darren Bent goals and Richard Dunne largely reliable defence along with a couple of the new signings (N'Zogbia and Given) should be good enough to keep the Villans mid table.

The Kit - Villa's traditionally dull colours allied to Nike's almost complete lack of imagination make for an almost  sleep inducingly dull range of kits. most befitting for a team with Emile Heskey in it.

 Blackburn Rovers
 The Team - Last year Sam Allardyce built a patented Sam Allardyce team. Big, strong, direct and effective they looked set for solid mid table safety. Then Rovers were bought by their inexperienced Indian owners who sacked him and appointed Steve Kean. Kean has thus far failed to convince and the club tailed off badly under his guidance. It could well be a hard season for Blackburn and if they're not careful the trapdoor could open for them. 

The Kit - it's a bog standard Blackburn shirt but it's nice to see a little bit of red trim to brighten it up. The away shirt is almost as mundane and unimaginative as Blackburn's midfield.
 Bolton Wanderers
The Team - Owen Coyle had Bolton playing some nice stuff last season although they too finished the season poorly. There's a lot of goals to replace as Sturridge has gone back to Chelsea and Elamnder has also left. South Korean winger CY Lee is out for the whole season so a lot will be required from the likes of Martin Petrov who didn't play that much last year. They'll be comfortably mid table if they can find a few goals from somewhere.

The Kit - Reebok have made some real horror show kits for Bolton but the last couple have been decent. This one is not too bad and at least uses some blocks of colour. The away kit is the same shirt in different colours as is normal for Bolton.

The Team - Where do you start? A manger who is 14 years old? An owner who sees the club as the worlds most expensive game of Football Manager? A lot of ageing senior pros with fragile egos? £50M worth of striker who cant score any more and doesn't fit tactically? The team should still be strong enough to be scrapping with the two Manchester clubs for the title but I fancy they'll be second or third. The byzantine politics of the interior of the club along with Vilas Boas' relative inexperience should make the soap opera worth watching even if the team doesn't catch fire.
The Kit - The home kit has shed the little bit of red trim from last season and has a shadowed hoop effect. I like the away kits a lot with Adidas managing to do something different without getting ridiculous (not that there's anything wrong with a really ridiculous shirt now and again)

The Team - By Everton's standards this should be a good season given how badly they started last year but I fear for them. As much as I'd like them to do well I think they'll lack firepower. Saha is excellent but fragile and ageing, Yakubu is streaky and I personally think he's overrated. If he was up to much they wouldn't have loaned him out last year. Other players like Beckford and Anichebe are questionable and as a result the side are over reliant on goals for the likes of Arteta, Cahill, Osman and Fellaini from midfield. Moyes keeps them honest but eventually this side will need goals from up front. solid mid table to top half is likely.
The kit - Criminally boring stuff from Le Coq Sportif. a lack of imagination on a par with Nike's dullest stuff.

The Team -Can Martin Jol reinvigorate this current group over overachieving ageing players? I don't know but another season might prove hard work for Murphy, Davies Johnson and Zamora. they should be ok at home and have enough to stay clear of the relegation dogfight but I'd be surprised to see them in the top half this year.
The kit - Kappa weren't up all night thinking it up were they? It's better than some of the featureless stuff Nike used to make for the cottagers but not by much.


The Team - An evolving squad under Dalglish should just about shake the last of the torpor of the Benitez era out of their system this year. Some big money signings over the last few months bring solid EPL experience to the side and the shape may be more reminiscent to the teams Dalglish himself use to play in. Suarez will undoubtedly be the creative touchstone and it'll be interesting to see how he interacts with the most traditional of British centre forwards in Andy Carroll, assuming Carroll can stay fit. the other point of interest will be Dalglish trying (or not as the case may be) to keep a legion of central midfielders happy and where Steven Gerrard fits in his plans. I wouldn't be surprised to see Liverpool finish fourth, ahead of Arsenal.
The kit - It's solid Adidas fayre with the home kit having a slight feel of the 1980s heyday about it. The third shirt is somewhat controversial among the fans as it's got a bit of blue on it. Maybe they could organise a protest or something...
 Manchester City
The Team - This City squad could genuinely be challengers this year. If a bedded in Dzeko can fire and fit in with the potentially devastating Aguero up front City could genuinely go and just beat teams, assuming Mancici lets the off the leash enough to do so. A midfield with Yaya Toure, David Silva and probably Samir Nasri could suply the bullets and Mario Balotelli could be a fine plan B, if someone can get his head sorted out and keep him focussed. City's defensive frailty means I think they'll be looking at a duel with Chelsea for second place but it could be a fun ride if only they're allowed to go and play the game. They'll do well to offload Tevez to anyone who's willing to match his wages but who would or could? Incidentally, if Tevez is miserable without his wife and family, quit City and go and play for Boca for nothing. He's already a very wealthy man. Or is it about another big pay day for him  and his agent?
The Kit - it's pretty standard stuff with City's traditional home and away deigns and a black utility third shirt. It's not dazzling but maybe it doesn't have to be with Aguero there to steal the limelight.

 Manchester United
Manchester United - St Mirren reject, Sir Alex Ferguson, has for many years accepted second best and tinkered with his small provincial club from Manchester. Never again for him the raw thrill of a 1-1 draw in the league cup with Dunfermline on a wet Wednesday night in Paisley. Man U have strengthened well and Wayne Rooney seems to have remembered he's a footballer. I expect Man U to win the league relatively comfortably. Integrating De Gea in goal will be key but the rest of the team should be good enough to get them out of trouble while he beds in. Hernandez will need to continue in the same vein of form as last season to give real cutting edge in the penalty box. The only area for improvement may be central midfield creativity but you Cleverly may get a run out in there rather than breaking the bank for an established star.
The Kit - Nike seem to have stuck with a slight 1980s feel for the home kit. The away shirt looks like a late 90s Middlesbrough kit

 Newcastle United

The Team - Newcastle tailed off last season after the sale of Andy Carroll. It's not unusual for a promoted team to run out of steam but now that the team that did well last year has been broken up. Carroll and Enrique, to Liverpool, Nolan to West Ham of all places and it looks like Joey Barton to anyone who'll take him. A huge infusion of French and Francophone players suggests a deliberate recruitment strategy which it remains to be seen how it will pan out. As a very general rule French players have done well in England, being more used to the style than many other nations. The Geordies should be ok and I think will be lower half but close to mid table.
The Kit - Newcastle have had variable width of stripes in the past and so the home kit is in keeping with that tradition. The away kits are standard stuff and decent if not groundbreaking.

Norwich City
The Team - Paul Lambert is another man who, having hit the heights with St Mirren, slowly and quietly wound his career down with the likes of Borussia Dortmund and Celtic. His Norwich team have climbed two divisions in two years and I fear for them. There's a lot of players in that team who were there in League One and I wonder if the likes of Grant Holt will be good enough for the EPL. It might be a long season in East Anglia.
The Kit - Errea are generally rubbish and Norwich kits always look like someone else's away shirt so I'm not that impressed by this one.

The Team - QPR won the Championship last season on the back of a solid spine and Adel Taarabt's mercurial brilliance. they've signed a couple of decent Champinship strikers and will have to dig deep to stay up. The club's pantomime boardroom and apparent lack of support for Neil Warnock will only make it more difficult to keep an even keel, especially if the opening day thrashing by Bolton is anything to go by. I can see them going down.
The Kit - Apart from looking a bit too much like Greenock Morton for my taste the Lotto kit is actually not too bad. The away ones are interesting enough designs even if the green and white hoops are ridiculously similar to the home shirt.

 Stoke City

The Team - Stoke should be ok this year so long as John Carew doesn't play too much and they don't sign Cameron Jerome. They're big and strong and play more football than they get credit for. That's not to say they won't exploit the black arts of hard tackling and making life uncomfortable for the opposition. They'll be solidly mid-table.
The Kit - Adidas have given Stoke their standard kit in the Potters colours which is decent but the away kits aren't exactly going set the heather on fire.
The Team - Like their close neighbours in Newcastle Sunderland had a poor second half to the season and undid an other wise decent start. To counter this Steve Bruce has bought up a bit of defensive know how from Man U and a fair few others to bring a bit of endurance and guile to an otherwise decent side. If Gyan can stay consistent and keep scoring goals then there's the kernels of a good team there. A top half finish is eminently possible.
The Kit - Umbro aren't going to reinvent the wheel with the home kit but the away shirt is a beauty. 

 Swansea City
The Team - Swansea played good football under Brendan Rogers and are arguably the best equipped of the promoted teams to make a fist of moving up the table. The big problem will be scoring goals. Over the last couple of seasons the club have played pretty football but not found the goals to win as many games as the football promised. Scott Sinclair especially will need to step up to win crucial games against teams round about them.
The Kit - Swansea's traditional all white kit and Adidas' standard template are decent enough for the home kit but the away shirt, still a standard Adidas design is a cracker. 

 Tottenham Hotspur
The Team - Spurs dalliance with the Champions League last year allied to Harry Redknapp's addiction to buying players seem to have put the team off balance. Despite being unable to move on as many players as they'd like to give Redknapp the funds and wage bill to buy yet more players. In Defoe, Pavlyuchenko, Van Der Vaart and to a lesser extent Crouch the team has some potent offensive weapons, some of whom didn't play well last year. If the side plays well and Bale and Modric can stay at the club, stay fit and in form then Spurs can dogfight with Liverpool and Arsenal for fourth place. If not they'll be drawn into a scrap with Everton , Sunderland etc for a decent mid table place.
The Kit - Puma have tried in the past to make Spurs kit more interesting, and in general failed. This isn't a vintage batch either. 

West Bromwich Albion

The Team - West Brom's strong finish last season has raised expectations for this one. The addition of Ben Foster, certainly a better keeper than those available last season and Shane Long should compliment the likes of Odemwinge and Brunt in carrying out Roy Hodgson's detailed tactical plans. mid table is achievable for the Baggies again this season.
The Kit - Again it's Adidas' standard kit for the home shirt. Is it just me or is the collar just a little bit feminine? The away shirt is very suggestive of an off the peg job for West Brom.

Wigan Athletic
The Team - How long can Wigan stay up for? Every year I think they've had it and they do just about enough to stay up. This season surely they're going down? N'zogbia's departure will hurt them and unless Rodallega can find some goals they're relying on the game but not particularly talented Conor Sammon to score the goals to keep them up. Cleverly's gone back to Man U although midfield is probably Wigan's strongest area along wih Al-Habsi in goal. I suspect they'll be in the mix to go down.
The Kit - Gone are Wigan's stripes and back to the solid blue which they've had at times in the past. It's made by what I suspect is one of Dave Whelan's in house deals and looks pretty average in both home and away variants.

Wolverhampton Wanderers
The Team - Wolves stayed up last year b the skin of their teeth which is perhaps a little unfair on them as they'd claimed a few big scalps during the season. They've strengthened with Roger Johnson to shore up central defence and that, along with keeping Kevin Doyle fit should keep them safe in the bottom half of the table.
The kit - Burrda have made reasonable kit for Wolves and this stuff looks decent with a hint of some Adidas' designs. 

Credit where credit's due all the pics came from pre season kit guide.