Northstand Nostalgia: My Best gift when replica shirts were rare

In this modern day, while every young lad appears to cavort around town in his replica top, it seems difficult to imagine a time when football shirts were restricted to just the field of play.

Tuesday, 14th March 2017, 1:00 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:41 am
Peter Marinello in Pompey's famous white strip

In my formative years, this was very much the case.

At Kingston Rec circa early 1970s, as we jousted during our 15-a-side games, the wearing of football shirts was extremely rare.

Although this was the era of jumpers for goalposts, jumpers for jumpers would have been a more accurate portrayal.

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I can only ever recall seeing a Leeds, a Liverpool and an Ajax top being adorned by any of my fellow footballing protagonists from this bygone epoch.

I remember the day my mother returned home from her job at the Co-op department store in Fratton Road with an unexpected gift.

She had purchased a plain red football shirt, with no collar, badge or number. I was ecstatic.

Although I had no allegiance to Manchester United, my mum had practically supplied me with a formula that made me feel like I was George Best and it wasn’t even my birthday!

The following day I headed straight to Central Sports in Kingston Road and exhausted my pocket money on two iron-on number one digits, which my ‘supermum’ dutifully affixed to my shiny red jersey to increase its authenticity.

As I trotted up to the ‘Rec’ to debut my gleaming prize, for that moment I was George Best and George Best I remained, right up until it was time for my new kit to be laundered.

I could tell by my mum’s face there was some bad news to be imparted, as she prepared to present my fresh Persil-infused garment.

The high temperature wash had reduced George’s numeric from 11 to about 10-and-a-half, as the numbering had begun to erode during its wash.

Can you recall Leonard Rossiter’s cult 70s sit-com – Reggie Perrin?

Reggie would enter his ‘Sunshine Desserts’ premises each morning and as he did so, a large letter would fall from the company’s insignia.

As time passed it became increasingly more difficult to decipher the firm’s name.

This was also the case with my number 11, as with each ensuing wash, it seemed to more resemble a very tall, thin comma, adjacent to a little fat full stop.

I began to feel more George Roper than George Best.

Luckily for me, Pompey only went and signed the ‘new George Best’ in the summer of ’73 – aka Peter Marinello.

The following 1973-74 season Pompey launched an exciting new kit.

Its white shirt, inclusive of two vertical blue stripes, topped my Christmas list.

When this wish was granted and I donned my numero seven, it made me feel five-feet tall.

Shortly after Christmas, I was selected to play for my school team in a match against St Lukes.

Our sky-blue kit clashed with our opponents’ strip and our sports master decreed we all bring a white shirt to play in.

The only white shirt I possessed was my Marinello design.

Coming on as sub, in the latter stages of the game, my every touch, which were thankfully few, were greeted with ironic chants of Pete-ter-mar-in-ello from the onlooking St Lukes pupils.

• A regular contributor to the Football Mail’s letters page many moons ago, the Northstand Critic has got back in touch and writes a column in the Sports Mail every Sunday.