Rich Nelson’s first Arsenal shirt will make you want to go down to Marathon Sports

We caught up with Rich Nelson from Escape to Suomi to talk about that feeling you get when you pick up your first football shirt, Euro 88 nostaliga and that Bergkamp goal for Holland against Argentina.

What was your first football shirt?

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My first football shirt was the 1986/87 Arsenal home kit, bought for my 7th birthday. Most of my family were Liverpool fans, so growing up with that pressure was difficult, even though I grew up within walking distance of Highbury. I didn’t realise at the time that it coincided with the re-emerging of a sleeping giant under George Graham, with a core of young local lads as symbolic as the Class of 92 at Man United.

I remember being so happy at getting the kit from Marathon Sports on the Essex Road, only £22 for the lot. It’s probably still in my mum’s loft, despite the blatant fire risk that were the pinstriped shiny shorts.

What is your favourite football shirt?

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Most of my favourite football tops came from the era when my whole world was football, from around 1988 to 1995, although looking back it was hardly a defining era in great design. The shirt that remains ingrained into my mind was the 1988 Holland Adidas shirt, worn so elegantly by Gullit and van Basten.

Euro 88 was the first international tournament I have a good memory of, when the brilliant orange was so stunning and powerful. The nostalgia websites I follow these days feed my love of the top, the template design in its various guises and the reproductions to varying accuracy. A couple of kids in my year at school got into collecting shirts early, having that and the Germany top of 1990. If I had a time machine and the ability to buy one shirt, it’d be the Dutch one.

What is your favourite goal?

My favourite goal ticks the boxes of both previous answers – Dennis Bergkamp for the Netherlands against Argentina at the 1998 World Cup. The Oranje have always been my secret crush, ever since the 1988 Euros. Dennis was without doubt the greatest footballer I ever saw, and had the privilege of seeing play regularly between 1995 and 2006.

The Holland goal was very similar to one he scored for Arsenal at Leicester at the start of the 1997/98 double season, but I think this one pips it due to the situation (injury time of a World Cup quarter-final) and the setting (a sunny Saturday afternoon on the French Riviera). The iconic Dutch commentary from the goal, where Dennis’s name was screamed over and over again, didn’t make it into my brain until later, but it is one of my text message alerts, usually to the bemused looks of my work colleagues.

The touch to bring the ball down and confuse the opposition was like something from another world, but seemed to come so easily, in the way Bergkamp’s goal against Newcastle a couple of years later made Dabizas look so oafish. I still have a Holland 98 shirt to be dusted down every tournament.

Vintage Arsenal football shirts

mjmaxwell

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