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11 football shirts that were actually improved by a sponsor

Leeds United Top Man

Huddersfield’s marketing stunt caused a social media stir last week – but history suggests that a whacking great logo doesn’t always ruin a kit

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Newcastle, 1983-86

Newcastle Brown Ale

Newcy Brown is brewed in the Netherlands these days, but it remains a Tyneside icon - and it's featured in a number of iconic Newcastle kits. The instantly recognisable blue star - incorporating the city skyline - shone on its own in the mid-80s. Don't get us wrong: the '90s strips were exceptional too, but when it comes to footballing attire, less is usually more.

Arsenal away, 2001/02

Arsenal SEGA

While not yet Invincibles, the Gunners didn’t lose a league game in this kit; their three defeats all came at Highbury as they won a second Premier League title under Arsene Wenger. Their home shirt that season bore the decidedly less eye-catching wordmark of SEGA’s short-lived Dreamcast console.

Liverpool, 1989-91

Liverpool Candy

Nowadays, the Reds are sponsored by banking giant Standard Chartered. Rewind back to the twilight, simpler years of the old First Division, though, and Italian domestic appliances were all the rage (maybe). At the time, this fine Adidas creation was arguably Liverpool's boldest ever – and that stylish font would have enhanced your washing machine itself, never mind what you put in it.

Fiorentina, 1998/99

Fiorentina Nintendo

From great Italian sponsorship to a great Italian club with great sponsorship. Ordinarily, red, white and purple probably shouldn’t go together, but the colours of Florence's official emblem complement the latter to give La Viola one of the game's most striking aesthetics. Nintendo can look back on this partnership as a job well done - in the homeland of their very own moustachioed, turtle-trampling mascot, no less.

Chelsea away, 1996/97

Chelsea Coors

Away kits went a bit mad in the '90s - with mixed results - and Coors, whether by luck or by design, helped save this one from blending into the crowd. It appeared again the following season, only with a new name – Autoglass – slapped across the middle. It just wasn’t the same, proving what a positive impact the American brewery’s embellishment had (on what was, frankly, a horrific kit).

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Manchester City home, 1997-99

Manchester City Brother

If Kappa manufacture your club’s gear, they’re going to make damn sure you know about it. The first in a six-year stint of unfamiliarly deep blue numbers was the last in Brother’s 12-year association with City. The preceding Umbro-made kits may hold more retro value, but the Japanese printer company’s minimalistic lower-case lettering was a transformative presence here - and drew attention away from that mess running down the sleeves. 

Leeds home, 1990/91

Gordon Strachan Leeds Top Man

Somehow, high-street retailer Topman managed to use an early emblem to put the finishing touches on an already-elegant Umbro design. Leeds finished fourth in their first season back in the top flight, but the only story worth discussing was this absolute beauty which must surely rank as the Whites' all-time greatest. 

Nottingham Forest home, 1982-84

Nottingham Forest Wranglier

The big news at the City Ground in 1982 was the retirement of Brian Clough's legendary assistant Peter Taylor. The adoption of a new sponsor was relatively insignificant, but nevertheless improved a shirt not dissimilar from those concurrently worn by Liverpool and Manchester United. Pinstripes for the win. 

Plymouth home, 2018/19

Plymouth Ginsters

Argyle were relegated to League Two last season, but they did it in style. PUMA kits don't get the best rep, but this one bucked the trend - thanks in no small part to a change of branding on Ginsters’ part. Who knew petrol station pasties could be so fashionable?

West Ham away, 1999-2001

West Ham away 1999-2001

It’s hard to imagine the skinheads’ footwear brand of choice re-entering football these days, but their deal with the Irons was one of two they struck up around the turn of the century (other being with Rushden & Diamonds). The claret sleeve undersides went a small way to preventing this from looking like a Spurs shirt at first glance, but the iconic logo made sure and gave it a certain edge.

Swindon Town home, 2008-11

Swindon FourFourTwo

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