Not many of us would have been surprised if Castore had gone the same way as Fun 88 and S****s D****t signage at St James’ Park following the takeover. But while the quite loud whisper is that Adidas might be waiting in the wings to offer United considerably more wedge than we’re getting currently, here we are going into our third season with Castore and the second with the new ownership. The word is Castore want to maintain their relationship with the biggest club in their stable and the only Champions League club on the books but at a discount price courtesy of Ashley/Charnley’s negotiating prowess.
Although my preference would have been for Castore to move on – simply for the reason we need more money going into the Black & White coffers than they’re providing compared to other PL clubs (that and my lingering and completely unproven suspicion they have some kind of connection to Ashley, not to mention some lamentable customer service and quality control) – let’s face it, we’ve gone into raptures about one of the best Newcastle United kits we’ve had in years.
To be fair, the previous kit design from Castore was decent as well, but with the far more sympathetic SELA logo as the new front of shirt sponsor, we’ve taken a big step up from the last lot.
There is something of a fake nostalgia about Adidas and Newcastle United, probably brought about by the 1995/96 kit with the Grandad collar which, for me, took its own nod in the direction of the pre-WW2 kit worn by the FAC winning sides of the 1950s. Whilst that remains an unquestionably great design, Adidas were patchy with the shirt that followed ruined by the massive shield on the back for the number (an inspired way to extract more money from B&W punters as it looked odd without a number printed within it) and well, a poor quality finish.
Other Adidas kits were variously spoiled by over-elaboration with blue trim and gaudy sponsor logos (remember NTL?). Its true they returned to some form when Northern Rock became front of shirt sponsor, but for me they’re not a patch on the Umbro kits of the 80s period as worn by KK and featuring S&N’s iconic Blue Star, now resplendent upon the shirt worn by the West End’s Northern League representatives, Newcastle Blue Star (obvious really).
The ones Puma knocked out were largely a template for their less valued cubs and ASICS seemed like it was capable of giving you an electric shock if you stood too close to a filing cabinet. More clicks than a Newcastle United transfer rumour as well – poor quality from them despite a half decent design.
And it’s that 80s Umbro classic where Castore comes in with the new kit. You would think it would be hard to screw up a traditional Newcastle United shirt but it has been done on many an occasion. Bukta were the first to do it in the late 70s which committed the mortal sin of having far too much white in the shirt – extending to no stripes on the sleeves and, even worse, white socks, which as anyone knows brings buckets of bad luck and misery (check out our Cup Final defeats alone for proof). Others have adopted stripes that are far too broad and de-facto turned the United colours into a West Brom shirt – good for them, not for us.
But this lot is perfect. As I’ve referenced above, the current kit nods to the 80s – in collar design and sleeve finish. That’s a good start, but the width of the stripes is perfect and the designers have avoided messing around with the sleeves or over-elaborating with any additional colours. The SELA logo is probably the least obtrusive we’ve ever had and I heartily approve.
On the back, Castore have kept faith with tradition and gone for red numbering and lettering. This is another great move, even though I was fond of the gold numbering we had some years ago and which paid unwitting tribute to Juventus – who have usually knocked out some superb kits in the famous Bianconeri but who have completely lost the plot with the latest tyre track number (Adidas the guilty party). Now they bend the knee to the Black & Whites of Barrack Road. These are heady days.
So, here we are, me waiting for the friendly with Rangers to confirm we will be wearing black socks with white trim to complete the perfect ensemble. Hopefully that will put to bed that kit scare I had when clocking Bruno modelling the new full kit in the advertising. Then again… don’t Rangers play at home in black socks with the red trim (up to their knees in Fenian blood or the council colours of the old Govan Corporation – you decide). This is how Newcastle United stresses me out in 2023.
This is guaranteed to fly out the door and could well be the biggest selling Newcastle United shirt of all time – it is to be hoped Castore can handle the demand and maintain the quality is what it should be (given the price). And, of course, up their game with their customer service.
But the new kit all adds to the feel-good aura around United at present and even someone like me who’s never bought a replica shirt could be tempted. Add to that some quality signings in the next month or so and we are all at serious risk of extreme giddiness.
Keep On, Keepin’ On …
Michael Martin, @TFMick1892