25 November 1964: The day that Liverpool first wore their now famous all-red kit. Bill Shankly got Ron Yeats to model initially red shorts to match the shirt, and then told him to throw on red socks as well, to complete the outfit. Upon seeing him, he exclaimed “Christ, Ronnie, you look awesome, terrifying. You look 7ft tall.”
According to Ian St John in his book, The Saint: My Autobiography, Shankly “thought the colour scheme would carry psychological impact – red for danger, red for power”. The new kit seemed to work, with Liverpool finally winning the FA Cup that had proven elusive to them six months later. They had previously reached the final twice, before falling to Burnley in 1914, and to Arsenal in 1950.
Manchester United also have a kit notable for its results, but the infamous grey kit is one not looked on too fondly by United fans, after a string of five winless games in their dull away kit. On the 13th of April in 1996, at halftime of a game at The Dell against Sunderland, in which United were 3-0 down, Sir Alex Ferguson took exception to the kit and when he stormed in to the changing rooms he ordered the players to “get that kit off, you’re getting changed”. They went out for the second half in a blue and white kit, and Ryan Giggs scored to end the game at 3-1. Players cited poor visibility as a reason for their bad results in the kit, and they never wore the kit again.
The results in United’s grey kit were four losses and a draw, exactly the same record that Liverpool have had thus far in their black kit this season. Liverpool have twice lost to Arsenal in this kit, 2-1 in the Carling Cup, and 1-0 at Emirates in the Premiership, and lost 2-1 to Manchester United this week, then were beaten by the same score by Benfica today, and drew 1-1 at Stoke, after a 90th minute Robert Huth strike.
When United retired the strip it was on the 13th of April, and they won all their remaining games in the run in to another Double win. It is now already the 2nd of April, and whilst Liverpool probably won’t be so hasty as to retire the shirt, 3 of their 6 remaining Premiership games are at Anfield, two are away against Hull City and Birmingham, sides that their traditional red kit won’t clash with, and the other away game is against Burnley, whose claret and blue strip should be dark enough to force Liverpool into wearing their 3rd white kit. In Europe, they have a home game against Benfica, and if they and Valencia progress, then their kits won’t clash. However, if Liverpool beat Benfica, but Valencia lose away to Atletico, or get a draw that isn’t enough to overturn Atletico’s two away goals in a 2-2 draw this morning, then the dreaded away kit faces a trip to the Vicente Calderon!
With the lack of use to come from the black kit, Liverpool fans will be hoping to follow Manchester United’s and Shankly’s FA Cup winning side of 65’s lead in having a kit change that works for them, and ensures that they can attempt to qualify for the Champions League next year.
Footnote: Liverpool showed Manchester United how well a grey kit can be utilised when they thrashed the Red Devils 4-1 at Old Trafford last year. Do you think that Fergie and his men are still internally grumbling about the lack of visibility that the grey kit has?