Football goalies are the ultimate quirky breed…that’s a fact known for as long as footie time immemorial itself. On fields of green they get up to tricks your average, common or garden left-back would never risk in their dreams. Those flamboyant foibles bring out all the ooohs and aaahs of the day, as well as a few squeaky bum moments from their devotees.
Who could forget Rene Higuita’s ‘El Loco’ scorpion kick, Bruce Grobbelaar’s bandy knees, Fabian Barthez’ risk-taking extraordinaire? And then there’s one man who makes this trio look like shrinking violets, even in black and white. Mexican stopper Jorge Campos became a household name outside of his homeland with his self-designed, multi-coloured, every-outfit-more-garish-than-the-last ensembles during the 1994 USA World Cup. Such was a trend for the gawdy in the 1990s, Campos didn’t stand alone. Here’s 10 unforgettable goalkeeper shirts from the decade that demure forgot…
1. Sunderland 1994-96: It’s all happening with this Black Cats goalie top from the mid-90s. Poor first-choice stopper Alec Chamberlain didn’t know if he was a harlequin, a clown or a chess board from one week to the next. It’s perhaps no coincidence that Sunderland finished 20th in the old First Division the season this shirt had its debut outing. What’s even more miraculous is the club managed a complete turnaround, topped the league and gained promotion 12 months later without changing it.
A year on, Roker Park saw out its final days before the Black Cats moved to the Stadium of Light. It’s a shame a sackful of these jerseys weren’t kept for draping down from the new roof…it might’ve saved them a few bob in floodlights.
2. Everton 1990-92: For two seasons of his 17 at Goodison, Toffee’s legend Neville Southall stood between the posts looking reminiscent of a jungle backdrop from Rambo: First Blood. Was it all a coincidence that this shirt accompanied the start of the decade when Everton’s star was seen to be fading fast? Or is that just stuff of Scouse conspiracy theorists?
Against Leeds United on the opening day of the 1990-91 season, Southall spent half-time on the Goodison pitch, sitting quietly against a goalpost as he contemplated a 2-0 deficit. “I thought I’d had a s*** first half, and just wanted to clear my head.” What he really meant was “Umbro are a bunch of t******, bring back Le Coq Sportif…bring back the good times, Boyo!”
3. Newcastle 1995-96: Many will recall the orange and yellow Liverpool rendition of this goalie shirt around the same period; with its tigerprint-esque styling that made you fear for any Red walking the streets of Birkenhead should a lion have escaped the city zoo.
Yet it’s the Magpies version that tweaks the memory to bring back flashes of Shaka Hislop’s diminutive 6’4″ frame bearing down on many a squeamish striker while wearing this garment of gaudy, ill-repute. Half fashionista, half apocalyptic, a sky-blue variant was worn the night Kevin “I’d will love it if we beat them” Keegan went off on one following that 4-3 defeat against Liverpool. Nine strikers, one goalie and the brilliantly sparkling Faustino Asprilla made for a thrilling season in which Newcastle threw away a 12-point lead at the top of the Premiership. And who knew big Shaka’s real first name was Neil!?
4. Aston Villa 1993-95: Sponsors Asics clearly took inspiration from 90s classic Channel 4 show The Crystal Maze – after a night on acid – in creating this mid-decade rainbow-shard wonder. There’s almost something quite pro-gay about this one that even the clashing Müller and visions of slopping yoghurt can’t detract from.
It was most memorably worn by Australian bad boy, Mark Bosnich; he of copious cocaine-snorting and the ‘Sieg Heil’ to Spurs fans at White Hart Lane, which prompted the back page headline, ‘Nazi Bit of Work.’ What beggars belief is, even if he’d goose-stepped down the touchline of the Doug Ellis Stand sporting a Hitler tash and holding a Charlie ashtray, how anyone could have taken him seriously in a jersey that really should’ve been given back to Coco the Clown at the design stage?
5. Tottenham Hotspur 1991-93: There was always a hint of danger about this Spurs’ keeper jersey as worn by Norwegian cult hero, Erik Thorstvedt. Everyone knew that its itchy polyester quilt material wouldn’t last five seconds near a flame of fire, which always put the Viking stopper in peril if rival fans fancied bringing the odd flare or a box of throw bangers through the turnstile at the Lane.
Opposing players were victims of squinty eye syndrome as they got caught mistaking the shirt for a piece of magic eye illusionary art on the move. Years down the line, historians really should think about requesting its special place at the Tate, alongside Joan Collin’s Dynasty shoulder pad collection.
6. West Ham United 1991-92: Reminiscent of a Hilda Ogden tabard, this Bukta-made effort should have earned its own postcode such was the distance it reached in shiny purple and fuchsia. Perhaps inevitably, bad luck fell the on the Hammers that season as the side suffered relegation to Division One, causing them to miss out on the inaugural season of the Premiership.
Poor Czech stopper, Luděk Mikloško did well by getting his head through that tiny neck whole for a whole season. Although, he clearly didn’t take offence at being co-erced into wearing one of the most unmanly football shirts of all time, as he went on to play over 300 matches for West Ham, with a whole array of dubious goalkeeper shirt designs on parade. Thankfully for big Ludo none were more garish than this.
7. Arsenal 1994-95: The pre-ponytailed David Seaman threw himself around the Gunner’s penalty box for a season in the mid-90s wearing this jersey, which from a distance didn’t reveal the usual 90’s chintz. However, on closer inspection it smacked of George Orwell’s 1984 meets untrendy Communism meets the star off a Newkie Brown Ale bottle. What it lacked in splashy it made up for in grey mechanism.
It was most famously worn the night Seaman lied prone on the turf after being beaten by that gloriously cheeky 40-yard lob by ex-Spurs midfielder Nayim for Real Zaragoza in the final minute of extra time in the UEFA Cup Winners’ Final. Seaman would later wear some puffed up colourful eyesores for England. He would also later be lobbed from 40-yards in yet another not so meaningless match. Poor Déjà vu Davie.
8. Manchester United 1993-95: Red Devils fans may be jogged by the memory of this wondrous marvel, not because it looks akin to granny curtains designed in the dark during a drunken stupor; nor even the fact that it joylessly clashed with Peter Schmeichel’s blond locks. No, this piece of Umbro’s unfinest conjures images of the big Dane’s understudy turned cult hero, Les Sealey, who sadly died of a heart attack in 2001 at the age of 43.
Sealey, nor any other top keeper before or after his two stints at Old Trafford, would be able to break the Schmeichel eminence during the 1990s; albeit he will go down in history as a player whose last four games for United were a Cup Winners Cup Final, two League Cup Finals and a FA Cup Quarter-final respectively.
Southampton 1997-98: The Saints had a so-so campaign as they finished 12th in the Premiership this season. Aside from the perpetual angst at Matt Le Tissier not being picked for England as the World Cup in France loomed, the only other scandal of note at the old Dell was this offering by American sports brand, Pony. To add insult to injury, someone deemed it necessary to add that delectable pattern to the goalie shorts as a trim.
First team keeper, Paul Jones must’ve thought someone had it in for him in his first season at the club, and no doubt felt very special parading the 12-yard box wearing an ensemble that, looking back was so wrong in so many ways, making it oh so perfect for this list.
Very ‘special’ indeed.
10. Sunderland 1997-99: It may seem unfair that the Black Cats are represented twice on this list. Though catching one glimpse of this perfect representation of everything that was wrong with the 1990’s colour spectrum, its impossible not to take the shirt to task. Where do we start? With the mauve-mustard eye assault of course.
Any attempt by Sunderland keeper, Thomas Sørensen, during this season to bear down on an advancing striker must have been met with a snigger every time. Despite the inevitable court jester quips, the shameless two-tone psychedelica didn’t prove fruitless as the then unknown Sørensen helped Sunderland to promotion to the Premiership as the team won the League Championship, and the Dane smashed the club’s shut-out record with 29 clean sheets in the process.