We caught up with Nick Szczepanik, football writer for the Independent to talk; footballers that smoke, finding amazing football kits in charity shops and Marcel Desailly curling one in for AC Milan against Barcelona.
What was your first football shirt?
I’m pretty sure my first football shirt was one we had to buy for games at Hove Grammar School. It was cotton, navy blue with white collar and cuffs, like a Scotland shirt. But my mum came from Leeds, so the first club shirt I was given was a Revie-era white one. It was the days before official replicas, so I assume my aunt sewed the badge (the one with the owl in a blue circle) onto a plain white football shirt.
What is your favourite football shirt?
It’s a terrible thing for a Brighton fan to say, but my favourite shirt ever is the one Crystal Palace wore when they first went into the old first division in 1969 (and anyway Brighton and Palace weren’t rivals at that stage).
Three colours on one shirt was unusual when so many teams seemed to wear boring all white or all red kits, but the combination worked. The player seems to be smoking a cigarette while having his pic taken, if you look at his right hand – and he needs to hold off the hair dye!
But my favourite shirt of the few I own is one I found in a charity shop for three quid (below). It is a long-sleeved player-worn Brighton shirt from the 1990-91 season – you couldn’t buy the long-sleeved versions in the club shop – and still had some mud on one of the sleeves.
Steve Gatting played left back in quite a few games that season and never wore short sleeves, so I assume it’s the one he was wearing in the 2-2 FA Cup draw at Anfield and/or the 4-1 play-off semi-final victory over Millwall! The charity was one that the club’s chief executive at the time had once worked for, so I wonder if he was having a clear-out and sent a load of surplus gear to his old mates.
What is your favourite goal?
Marcel Desailly for AC Milan in the 1994 European Cup final against Barcelona. As a rubbish centre back myself, it was thrilling to see the big man, one of my all-time favourites, playing in midfield, pulling off a smart interception, running for a return pass and then curling the ball round Andoni Zubizaretta and in. In my dreams …