My First Football Shirt: Jack Collins (Ranks FC)

In the latest edition of My First Football Shirt, we have presenter, podcaster and football shirt aficionado, Jack Collins. Jack currently presents the Ranks FC and Fulhamish podcasts, and recently began hosting the Europa League Breakfast Show – you’ll soon find out why that particular role is so well suited to Jack. 

Ever the fan of a cult favourite, when it comes to football shirts Jack Collins’ collection is full of some of football’s greatest underdogs and obscurities, and we know this because he began lockdown last year by wearing a different shirt each day. So it was great to hear from him about some of the football shirts and moments that are dearest to him, as he took us on a journey from his beloved Fulham, all the way to Florence’s La Viola.

What was your first football shirt? Was there a story behind it? 

My first shirt is a Fulham 1998-99 away, from when I was just a couple of years old. It’s stayed with me too – been all over the place following me about, with Demon Internet on the front. I’ve no idea why my Dad put the number 7 on the back of it, but it kickstarted a fascination with the No. 7 that is still with me today, something reinforced by childhood obsessions with Henrik Larsson, Raúl and Andriy Shevchenko.

What is your favourite shirt and why is it your favourite?

My shirt collection has grown from there, and during the first lockdown, I did 100 days of wearing a different shirt every day, although I didn’t fit into the Boys XS yellow one any more! My favourite is probably a 1992-93 Fiorentina away, a shirt that’s older than me, made by Lotto, with a 7up sponsor and a retro pattern down both purple sleeves, on a white middle. It’s beautiful!

I have the 98/99 Nintendo-sponsored home as well, the famed shirt of Batistuta and Rui Costa, but there’s something about this away that is a hark to the glory days of long-maned, Sunday Calcio, two-legged UEFA Cup ties, and languid No.10s who would have a cigarette at half-time. Fiorentina captivated me on my first visit to Florence, the otherworldly nature of the Artemio Franchi, the vivid Violet that is such a rarity in the game, the history and the feeling that a return to former glories might just be around the corner. There’s something magical about Calcio.

Closer to home, I’ve been given a 1997/98 Fulham away by my uncle that he had growing up, that now just about fits. It’s a big white collar, baggy Adidas number, and it’s my shirt of choice when I’m down at the Cottage these days.

What is your favourite football moment?

In my teenage years, Fulham reached the final of the first ever Europa League in its new guise. It kickstarted a love affair with the competition that is yet to end, and in a moment that I’ll treasure forever, last month I was named as the new host of the Europa League’s Breakfast Show for UEFA. On that run there were so many magical moments – the battle with Totti & De Rossi’s Roma in the group stages; the game against Shakhtar Donetsk – who had been the winners of the last ever UEFA Cup the year before – where Bobby Zamora scored a thunderbolt; Damien Duff seeing off the Wolfsburg of Dzeko and Grafite; the semi-final where Zoltan Gera sunk Hamburg.

But the one that stands out is the game against Juventus. 3-1 down from the first leg in Turin, and then David Trezeguet scored the away goal in the 2nd minute. But Fulham rallied, Zamora pocketed Ballon d’Or & World Cup winner Fabio Cannavaro and got him sent off, scored three in response and then Clint Dempsey, on as a substitute, picked up the ball on the edge of the box and floated in the most delightful of all chips to put the Old Lady on her back and send the Hammersmith End into rapture. It remains the only time I have ever felt it reasonable to take my shirt off at football and swing it round my head – absolutely magic. A moment in time.

We want to thank Jack Collins for taking the time to speak with us. Keep track of his latest work on Twitter, and check out Ranks FC, Fulhamish and the Europa League Breakfast show for some more of his brilliantly woven football narratives. 

Matt Leslie

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