More Than A Shirt

I received a football shirt in the post today that I have waited 27 years to finally call my own. It is the home shirt that Arsenal wore from 1994 to 1996. It cost me quite a lot more than it would have done back in 1994 when I saw it for the first time, but it is worth every penny!

As soon as I saw it going on eBay, I just knew that I had to buy it. I saw that six bids had been put on the shirt within minutes of the seller putting it online and knew that it was highly sought after. It is in near-perfect condition, almost as good as the day it was made in a factory in the summer of 1994.

That summer was an exciting time for me as a football fan. Arsenal had already announced that American sportswear brand Nike would be taking over as the kit manufacturer.
Nike were taking the place of Adidas, who had manufactured Arsenal’s shirts since 1986, the year I was born. It was going to be something completely different, new and modern.

When the home and away kit were unveiled, the away kit caused a fair bit of controversy. It was an all blue kit, something traditionalists were very upset about as Arsenal’s traditional away colours were yellow.

If Nike had their way with their design of the home shirt, all Arsenal fans would have been furious with their proposal. They had come up with a design that would do away with the white sleeves, a unique design that had been brought in by our manager Herbert Chapman in March 1933.
Between 1965 and 1967, Arsenal had worn an all-red home shirt but the idea was quickly ditched and we went back to our traditional red and white.

Arsenal were doing well on the pitch in 1994, having just won the European Cup Winners Cup. Despite the European success though, our style of play was quite boring and one-dimensional. Manager George Graham had brought in a dour approach to playing the game, with our infamous back four perfecting the art of the offside trap.

Even our attacking style was boring and unimaginative. More often than not, goalkeeper David Seaman or a defender would hoof the ball forward to Kevin Campbell or Alan Smith and they would nod the ball on to Ian Wright to try and score. “Boring, boring Arsenal!” became an all-too-easy chant from opposing fans, something that cut deep as it was sadly very true at times.

Luckily, the 1994 World Cup in America came along to give me some more exciting football to watch. England hadn’t qualified and so I had no real interest in who would win it, I just wanted to see some entertaining football for once!
Despite the time difference, I was still able to see some of the matches, and I was able to see some decent football.

Exciting foreign players were something of a novelty to me. Anders Limpar had been shuffled off to Everton by George Graham midway through the previous season, so the only foreign player that I saw in Arsenal colours was John Jensen. More about him shortly.

After the World Cup, George Graham decided to bring out his chequebook and sign someone who had impressed over in America. In typical Graham style, he went for a no-nonsense central midfielder, Sweden’s Stefan Schwarz!

The 1994/95 season was a shambles. Our league form was atrocious, but we escaped a relegation scrap after our form picked up in March. We were dumped out of the FA Cup by Millwall from the division below and lost in the Coca Cola Cup by Liverpool.
Then we had to deal with the embarrassment of George Graham being sacked for an alleged bung from an agent. My hero Paul Merson then came out and admitted to drug use and gambling addiction. It wasn’t a good time to be an Arsenal fan.

One memory that will always stick with Arsenal fans when they see the shirt is that it was the one that John Jensen wore when he scored his one and only goal for the club. Over a hundred appearances for the club and one solitary goal against QPR to show for it!

I’m not even going to mention the European Cup Winners Cup Final against Real Zaragoza at the end of the 1994/95 season when we tried to retain the trophy, it’s all too painful!

The shirt was worn the following season and was proudly displayed to the press by Dennis Bergkamp when he signed for the club in the summer of 1995. The Dutchman was one of the greatest players to ever play for Arsenal and I take great pride in saying that I was at Highbury when he scored his first goals for the club, on a hot sunny day in September 1995.

This shirt will get maximum use and will not just be hung up looking nice in my wardrobe. I will wear it when I finally get back out onto the five-a-side pitch (whenever that will be!) and to any matches that I will go to in the future.

I believe that if something gives you joy, you should buy it. If you want to go back to your past and see something that reminds you of better times, treat yourself. Happy memories will come flooding back!

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