How are we doing, Gooners? Enjoying the glorious weather? Kits all ironed and ready for The Emirates Cup this weekend? Are we all enjoying Puma’s new offerings – and is it bad that I quite like the third one?!
The departure, after two decades, of Nike, had me reminiscing – they were the kit suppliers for twenty of the twenty-four years that I have been an Arsenal FC fan; which has been my favourite shirt?
Well, after thinking on it, I decided, so today in my column I’d like to wax lyrical about my favourite Arsenal shirt, it is an Arsenal shirt that brings back fond memories; of famous victories and the promise of wonderful things to come.
It is the Nike Arsenal away shirt from 1997/1998.
Now, Arsenal traditionalists love yellow away shirts. I will admit that the shirt below was the first shirt I actually owned (my parents weren’t and aren’t football fans and the idea of spending what was then (and still is) a lot of money on a piece of ever-changing polyester seemed like madness to them both) when I bought it in early 1995 with my birthday money (imagine my face when they changed it for a ‘lightning bolt’ version a couple of months later…):
I love The Arsenal red and white, but I don’t like wearing red, so I have ever only bought one home shirt (the 2001/02 offering) and usually always prefer the away shirts.
But the 1997/98 ‘Weetabix’ shirt was just glorious. I can remember my new Arsenal supporting friend (and our Sheffield Wednesday supporting mate…someone had to…) meeting me for an early morning fishing session off of the south-coast town near to where we all lived, back in the summer of 1997 and he had the brand new, freshly pressed 1997/98 Arsenal Merchandise Catalogue.
We hadn’t seen the new kits before and after the 1996/1997 season; Wenger’s first, of course, we had a glow about us, as Arsenal fans, like we had seen something new, something born, something change, something evolve, with the club. Opening up this new catalogue, and seeing this sublime yellow shirt, with classic navy blue detailing and the smatterings of red just did it for me. 1997/98 represented a high point for Nike kits I think (the Brasil shirt in 1998 was superb and I did buy that, in Belgium, with Ronaldo #9 on the back…) and I loved the Arsenal offerings.
I think Marc Overmars was modelling it in this catalogue and he looked presidential; ready for the season ahead. Overmars was, before he’d played a game for the club, easily my favourite player, including the Dutch Master that had worn the colours before him; Dennis Bergkamp, as he’d so impressed me with the incredible Ajax team of the early 90s.
In hindsight, we know just how great the 1997/98 season went for Arsenal. Wenger won his first Double, Bergkamp, Overmars, Patrick Vieira, Nicolas Anelka and David Seaman were sensational and Arsenal won a vital game at Old Trafford wearing the stunning yellow away shirt.
Anelka gives Stam the run-around in the 1998 Charity Shield…
Arsenal finished the season as champions and went on to thoroughly spank Manchester United, wearing the very same shirt again, in the 1998 Charity Shield. I think this shirt was also the last Nike/JVC away shirt and I didn’t buy it as I knew that the kit sponsor would soon be changing to a Nike/SEGA/Dreamcast combination and thus the shirt would ‘age.’
I have very happy memories of that season, it was my last year at school and I was finding my place in the world. We didn’t, alas, catch anything whilst fishing, that day. And it hacked it down. But we all had a great time, chatting Arsenal and ripping the piss out of that poor Sheffield Wednesday supporter who was with us…sorry Ross!
Thanks for reading, enjoy your Friday;