A Return To The Feel-Good - the memories of the late Eighties
Coventry City F.C. X hummel
Text by Harry Collins.
By 1987, the design of Coventry City F.C. kits was familiar; the iconic contrasting panels that infamously decorated the Danish Dynamite in ’86 were part of an image that, for many, defined an era. Aston Villa, Southampton and Coventry City would adorn that very same template between the years of 1987 and 1989, with universal popularity.
The news that Coventry City will once again partner popular Danish brand hummel will conjure up fond memories for the midlands club and its supporters; a partnership synonymous with arguably the most exciting time in the club’s proud history.
It was a sunshine period full of refreshing optimism. There was a relaxation from relegation and a unity that gripped the city in a euphoric daze stemming from the FA Cup triumph in front of Wembley’s Twin Towers.
The brand may not have been associated with the Sky Blues when they defied the odds against Spurs on English football’s grandest stage but it was an integral part of the feel good factor that followed. hummel became the shirt sponsor for the cup holders, with the iconic chevrons symbolic of the surge forwards that seemed certain to engulf the club for the years ahead.
The city was captivated, galvanized by the team on the pitch. The Monday after the Cup Final saw Peugeot announce record production for one day. The game and subsequent achievement drove people to work, discussing the match with friends and colleagues. After years of economic decline the club and city were on the up.
Timing is key and hummel’s association with Coventry City could not have been better timed. A reported 50,000 City fans descended upon Wembley in a celebration for the (then) Charity Shield fixture against league winners Everton, the traditional curtain raiser for the upcoming season. The solitary Wayne Clarke goal that gave the Merseyside club victory was redundant amid the festive mood of the Sky Blue fans, still naturally emotive in the aftermath of last season’s historic feat.
The tens of thousands watching in the stands and the many more watching on at home saw the hummel kits thrust into the limelight. With Everton in their traditional blue, it was the away strip that took centre stage. The design itself is probably most recognisable from the Wimbledon side of ’88 -’90, a shirt (and team) that have stood the test of time. The Danish brand were once again sponsoring the FA Cup holders a year later after the Crazy Gang were triumphant against the Culture Club of Liverpool, another Wembley surprise. Opportunity knocked and once again, so did hummel.
The template is built on a base of tessellating chevrons that form a shadowing across the shirt. The City version was yellow with striking blue features, including the chevrons and logo. The V-neck was a bold, unmissable mixture of the two colours that served to heighten the detail.
The summer that no Sky Blue fan wanted to end was drawing to a natural conclusion. The fitting closure came, a league opener…against Spurs. Two early goals would give City a home win that continued the buoyant mood.
The home kit made its league bow, alongside record signing David Speedie, in the game at Highfield Road. The striker, who signed from Chelsea, made his debut in that Charity Shield defeat to The Toffees. Speedie was nicknamed ‘God’ by the fans and scored in the opener against Spurs. Finding the back of the net would become a habit for the live wire forward in Sky Blue. Speedie and his teammate Cyrille Regis stand shoulder to shoulder as icons of this glorious period.
The home kit was famously elaborate. The classic bumblebee logo gave a strong yet calming antidote to the ensuing chaos of the pinstripes that formed the backdrop. The sleeves, draped with chevrons matching the opposing halves of the top and the long sleeve version, saw the bold V-neck coordinated with the cuffs at the other end. The shorts complimented the jersey, a traditional all sky blue pair, allowing the detail of the top to steal the show.
More was to come from City. Far from the pressures and restraints of a perennial relegation battle, a tenth place finish was fine reward for a better brand of football. The only way was forward.
The club was thriving and attendances swelled during the hummel years with the average numbers up approximately 5,000 on the 85/86 season. The disappointing FA Cup defeat to Watford provided a hefty blemish on the campaign, an unnerving prelude for the season to come.
The 87-88 season was certainly a strong indicator of where the club was heading. There would be many similarities in the next; Regis would once again top score and the club would once again suffer FA Cup disappointment. This time, it was humiliation. The 2-1 defeat to Sutton United remains one of the biggest upsets in the cup’s illustrious history. The nightmare resurfaces far too regularly when the famous trophy, especially the 3rd round, rolls back around. The Third Round would be the source of further angst just twelve months later. The competition that sparked such goodwill and togetherness also providing strain and tension on a euphoric bubble that would eventually burst, as all do.
The good times did inevitably end. The club would quickly be back to the grind of relegation dogfights, although under new sponsors, starting with Asics in 1989. The management would change and the players would naturally move on.
Coincidence would see hummel associated with the very best of times as sponsors of Coventry City, leaving the brand engrained in the positive memories of the supporters. The period between 1987 and 1989 is much more than sugar coated memory. For those Sky Blues fans that were lucky enough to get caught up in the wave of emotion, pride and confidence, it’s an unforgettable time, passed on through the memories, the individuals and the iconic kits.