61. Umbro 'Beam' (1993-99) *
The most iconic version of Kitbliss’ 61st Greatest Football Shirt Template is undoubtedly the example worn by England in their Liverpool FC-fuelled 5-1 demolition of Germany in Munich in 2001. That red stripe, running behind the famous Three Lions crest, on the white base, with navy-blue piping creating a pseudo-raglan-sleeve effect, and non-contrast v-neck and cuffs merely trimmed in that same navy.
Steven Gerrard, Michael Owen, Emile Heskey et al seldom looked better.
From left: Azerbaijan (2002-04 home); Celta Vigo (2001-03 home and 2002-03 away/2001-02 third); England 2001-02.
All that said, there are plenty of other great releases using what Chris has dubbed, at point of publishing, the Umbro 'Beam.' And, perhaps, one great non-release.
Firstly, the United Arab Emirates sported a version of the British brand’s design not hugely dissimilar to England’s. Black and red replaced white and navy on the neck and cuffs - with the piping in black too - but the most interesting element was the contrast colouring, in red, of the side / underarm panel.
The change was something of a reversal, in red with white, again with the contrast panel in the secondary colour.
It’s a look also seen on a Celta de Vigo away shirt. Here, the red panels match the 'Citroën' sponsorship wordmark and complement the navy, while the stripe (along with the piping) is in white.
From left: Galatasaray (2002-03 away, 2003 third, 2002 fourth, 2003 fifth).
Turkish giants Galatasaray also proudly wore the template, in a whopping four colours, with only the red version not featuring a red stripe. The others, in white, silver and gold - how I’d love to get hold of a pair of the shorts of that kit - have a matching focal point in addition to the piping, collar and cuffs that stay consistent across the quartet (in a similar way to the 1985-87 adidas Liverpool kits).
Kazakhstan and Linfield had versions in blue - with the stripe in white and red respectively - while the NIFL side also had one in red, but things get particularly interesting when it comes to the white and red shirts worn by France’s Olympique Lyonnais during a period of dominance.
Lyon’s stripe, on both shirts, as well as having a break for sponsorship, is actually dual-coloured. A look certainly not alien to l’OL, so the template was, metaphorically at least, made for them.
From left: Kazakhstan (2003 home); Linfield (2005 home, 2004 away).
Permutations abounding, LDU Quito of Ecuador wore a twist on the template with slight structural differences, but what of that non-release I mentioned?
One of the great football kit mysteries concerns whether or not England had a third kit ready for a particular matchup issue at the 2002 World Cup. (I’m now duty-bound to type the words “Croatia” and “Paraguay.”) A navy version of the 'Beam,' complete with FA crest, is often spotted on auction and retail sites alike.
From left: Olympique Lyonnais (2002-04 home, 2002-03 away); United Arab Emirates (2002 home and away).
Is it real? Any more so than another famous blue source of debate, the Netherlands 'Ipswich' change shirt that was purportedly taken to Euro 88?
Who knows. But the template is one that demonstrated versatility on release and its application resulted in plenty of shirts that, through the restraint of the design, hold their own two decades later.
With thanks to Jay from DesignFootball.com for providing the words, and Adam's Shirt Quest for helping with the research.
* Unofficial template name