Robinson Heath's
Technosoccer Clinic

Hello to all soccer lovers in the U of K from Robinson Heath on this side of the big pond. As the new season is already upon us, the sun is shining on my back and I am thinking of all you readers surrounded by thick London fog. In fact, I am perusing a document sent to me by a contact at Priestfield. Opening my post I discovered some terrific historical soccerabilia to aid my research here in downtown Illinois, at the University of Soccer.

While reading through a team listing magazine (That's a programme to you and I - Ed) from 1948, when as expected, I noted what the teams were wearing. There were no surprises above the knees, just the regulation shirts and shorts, but it came as somewhat of a shock to me to find that all twenty two players were wearing stockings! For a moment, I thought I had inadvertently started to thumb through a TV guide !!

This discovery set my pulses racing and my synapses crackling faster as to how soccerists o~ their day managed to get through ninety minutes of tou gh,soccer-based action and maintain straight seams. Whether the FA allowed the use of suspenders was not recorded, but a clue to this was to be unearthed in the annals of Lancaster Gate history as this tied in with the Introductian of a disciplinary proce dure and the inauguration of suspensions.

After the war, it is well known that the triumphant GI Joes lured many a young English Rose to the States, but it is little known that many of the top English soccer stars were enticed abroad by the promise of silk stockings.

During this period, many English clubs experimented widely in the hosiery area. The prime movers were Grimsby Town who's innovative fishnet stockings took the League by storm on a wet and windy night at Southend. They really caught a lot of people out. Chelsea's approach attracted much attention from educated women of the era as they favoured the Blue stocking. As you would expect, Man. Un. were not slow to capitalise on the trend and had five different types of stocking available for f ans to adorn their legs. The Villains of Aston employed a novel mode of use by refraining from wearing them on their legs and putting them over their heads instead. This spawned the highy successful "smash and grab" Villa side af the late Forties and early Fifties, which swept all before them, often coming from behind to overpower their opponents, before stealing both points from their hapless victims. (This side should not be confused with the lesser Derby side of the time nicknamed "The Ram Raiders", who played a similar style of soccer, but despite the name, were never well received in Swansea, Cardiff or Wrexham).

The other side of Brumland saw the Throstles hosting a team who's Baggies stockings were to become famous many years later for a non-footba lling character known as Nora Batty in the hilarious cult cable TV show 'The Last of the Summer Winos". Meanwhile, those crazy hatters of Luton took to wearing their legwear on their arms. Oh Boy!! Better lock that Mercury away !! Further confusion reined in the East of the capital, where tortologically, the team of Clapton plumped for 'the O's Hose" and way out west Fulham's stockings were worn in the way that only they could fill 'em. (I think you know what I mean). The highest quality and most refined s tockings af the age, the Posh stockings,were borne by Peterborough United, so you can see how far things have slid since then.

This piece of soccer apparel has become very important in the introduction of many sayings in the modern game. A superstitious side after a particularly good run in the same stockings, found themselves climbing the ladder and going up the League. Indeed, the hosiery attracted many famous manufacturers and an early entrant onto the scene was the famous Pretty Polly brand. Working c losely with a number of clubs who called them in, they soon made inroads into the soccer stocking market. However, the roster of clubs they designed for were stunningly unsuccessful. Many fans put this down to their association with their fancy footwear a nd thus the phrase 'As sick as a parrot" came into common usage.

Even the much derided, but commonly accepted shoot-outs evolved from the use in the early years. As players approached to take their go in the sudden death finale, many were undone by their stockings falling dawn, Thus the process was performed in a high pressure situation, while keeping them in suspenders, to ease their facilitation af the decisive enactment.

In the current technosoccer climate, where the merchandising operations manager is king, the potential for marketing a massive range of stockings has opened up to provide a huge club megastore window of opportunity. I understand that Coventry have spurned the use of suspenders and will be producing their own "Sky Blues Stay-Up" rang e which will be launched on the last day of the season. Arsenal have cashed in on the trend for retro-soccerwear and found that pantyhose suits many of their defensive foreign stars much more (especially an cold winter nights, remember the John Barnes winter warmers ?). Indeed, Arsene Wenger, never slow to realise an advertising opportunity when it presents itself, can often be heard to shout 'Keep it tights at the back" whenever in range of a microphone (when he's not laying into Man. Un. that is). In fact , our very own favourites, Gillingham, have been prevented from selling their own line of hosiery at the ground , as'Gills stockings" provoked a storm of protest from Mrs. Matheson of Rochester. She stormed into the club shop demad ing that the items be returned after they had gone missing from her washing 1ine. Individual players are also keen to move into this monney-making sphere. The granddaddy of the persanol stocking was ex-Sunderland and West Ham 1970's forward, Bryan Robson . His own brand of short stocking started the craze and little did he know that 'Pop Socks" would lead to. Trying to ensure that they have the highest quality of stocking, Newcastle Unit ed will be launching their 'Shearer" range in the New Year. Gianfranca Zola has a 100% silk stocking named after him to reflect his skills, but unfortunately, these will only be available in children's sizes. Even lan Ormondroyd has toyed with changing his nickname from 'Freak" to 'Pippi" and develop a longstocking brand, but these will only be available in giraffe sizes.

The fan-base of many clubs has not been forgotten. A new line for fans whose passion or interest may be flagging by March (or January if you follow Spurs) comes in the shape of 'Support Stockings" to lift the spirits (and other parts) of the dedicated follower of fashion and soccer. With Mike Oldfield's brother, Bruce, moving into the kit design field, it's only a matter of time before Vivien Westwood gets her crazed visions on the legs of soccerfans everywhere.

Where times are hard at some clubs, I'm informed that there aren't enough stockings to go round, so they engage in stocks and shares. Beats me !!

Until next time, keep it soccer,keep it techno !!

Robinson Heath

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