When Wales went away at home

Wales will soon return to The Racecourse for the first time since playing Norway in February 2008. The importance of the ground, and Wrexham and north Wales more generally, in the history of our national team has been covered on this blog previously – by Leon Barton and Ryan Jones. Although Wales will wear red against Trinidad and Tobago (unlike the last time the nations faced each other) there is another significance to that Norway clash: it was one of the few times that Wales have worn a change strip at home.

In this blog Russell Todd looks at the previous occasions when Wales wore their change strips at home.

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Wales 3–1 Iceland, 2014

The most recent occasion was against Iceland at the Cardiff City Stadium when new kit suppliers Adidas were given the opportunity to showcase their Wales’s new all-white away kit from the Condivo 14 range. The home kit debuted the previous November against Finland and would have been fine given Iceland wore an all-blue kit.

Gareth Bale was in his maiden season with Real Madrid but after an injury-disrupted beginning to the season was beginning to establish himself at the Bernabeu. He set-up James Collins and Sam Vokes for Wales’s opening goals before a remarkable sprint from halfway, wrestle and departure into the third row of the Ninian Stand saw him score a deserved goal to wrap up victory. He reprised the goal, even more impressively, in the Copa del Rey final against Barcelona the following month. Emyr Huws won his first Wales cap and Sam Ricketts his last. The shirt was worn again in a pre-World Cup friendly versus The Netherlands, but with red shorts, and was worn in the opening qualifier in Andorra. By the time Wales visited Belgium for the final match of 2014 Adidas had introduced a fetching all yellow away kit.

Wales 1-0 Estonia, 2009

Pic: Simon Shakeshaft

Wales’s youngest ever starting XI – seven were still eligible for the u21s – under first time captain Joe Ledley wore Champion’s all white kit in the first ever international match in Llanelli.

Champion had been brought in as kit partners the previous year and introduced a smart though unadventurous all-red home kit with a more interesting yellow and green kit that was initially designated the change strip (and was worn in Russia and Denmark in 2008). The following year, it was relegated to Wales’s third kit, and replaced by the all-white kit with red trim.

The Estonia friendly was its first airing, despite, again there not being a clash with Estonia in their traditional blue shirts and black shirts combination. In his International Football Kits book John Devlin describes the kit as “sumptuous” though for me it’s among our weakest designs of the 21st century. As was the case in 2002 when Kappa brought out a pale yellow kit because Wales’s traditional home and away kits would clash with Croatia’s red and white ‘checkerboard’ design, Champion’s yellow and green strip was retrieved from the back of the kitman’s wardrobe and worn for a final time in Osijek in 2010.

In Llanelli, Wales won 1-0 thanks to a penalty from Wales’s oldest player, a venerable 28 year old Robert Earnshaw. The following week the young side – minus Gareth Bale this time – impressively won three points in Azerbaijan.

Wales 3-0 Norway, 2008 The first home game I had missed in a long time waiting for my wife who was overdue giving birth with our eldest. I consoled myself by getting hold of a signed shirt from the squad (including physio Mel Pejic).

Pic: Russell Todd

Kappa’s final instalment in their iconic shirts of the 2000s were attractive all red and all yellow kits. Their shirts were always bold, crisp designs, with experimentation and innovation confined to trim, stripes, panelling and neck shape. However, the 2007-08 shirts reintroduced a watermark dragon for the first time since Lotto’s final efforts in the late 1990s. The yellow kit was worn only twice – this fixture and away to The Netherlands in June 2008 – after which Champion replaced Kappa.

Jason Koumas was imperious on a terrible Racecourse pitch, scoring a brace and being denied a hat-trick by the post, and Carl Fletcher managed, astonishingly, to find himself in the opposition box for his only Wales goal. Oddly, the two young match mascots wore the previous season’s 1958 commemorative Kappa home kit.

Wales 2-2 New Zealand, 2007

Kappa had supplied a beautiful pair of strips to the FAW to mark the 130th anniversary of Wales’s first international, staged at The Racecourse. It drew on the 1958 World Cup kit and although the huge v-neck was not to the taste of everyone in my peer group, they were wrong. The away kit restored green to the traditional canary yellow (notwithstanding the one-off Lotto kit worn in Denmark in 1998) and would have made an adequate choice for the New Zealand fixture. That said, the All Whites wore all blue so Wales’s traditional red would also have been fine. To the surprise of many a different kit was worn all together, but what a kit!

With input from kitman Dai Griffiths, Wales turned out in an attractive white kit that had alternate red and green shoulders, reversed on the shorts. It was only ever intended to be worn once by the first team, and it has rightly gained cult status.

Chris Gunter won the very first of his record-breaking tally of caps and Wayne Hennessey was a half-time substitute for Danny Coyne for his first cap.

Wales’s back four defended like they had been introduced to each other in the car park ten minutes before kick-off. Halifax Town’s Shane Smeltz bewitched Wales like his namesakes Williams or Warne did in their respective sports, with a Craig Bellamy brace sparing Welsh blushes.

Wales 0-0 Slovenia, 2005

Talking of iconic Kappa away kits, the supposed John Charles tribute kit is a belter. The truth behind its origins and connection with Il Gigante Buono is revealed in our podcast with Simon Shakeshaft.

Whatever the shirt’s derivation, it’s popularity, like that of so many football shirts, not least the Kappa shirt worn versus New Zealand, is in part due its rare usage. It was worn only twice with its first appearance being at home to Slovenia in a season-opening friendly at the Liberty Stadium, a game of many firsts: the first time Wales ahd played the former Yugoslavian state, the first international in Swansea in 17 years, the Liberty’s first ever international, and first caps for Craig Davies, Richard Duffy and Gavin Williams (Mark Jones remained on the bench and had to wait a further 15 months for his debut). Fittingly, in his hometown the game also marked John Hartson’s first time as Wales captain.

Wales held onto a creditable goalless draw against a useful Slovenia side.

Wales 2-0 Hungary, 2005

Kappa had opted for a minimalist approach with their 2004-06 editions that were accompanied with the strapline “Italian style – Welsh passion” but passion was in limited supply at a sparse Millennium Stadium for John Toshack’s first game of his second spell as national manager in a friendly against Hungary.

Robert Page captained Wales for the first time and awarded debuts to Sam Ricketts, David Partridge, Danny Collins and, from the bench in injury time, Stephen Roberts.

A year earlier in Budapest the teams had clashed – literally in the case of Robbie Savage and Magyars coach Lothar Matthäus post-match – where Hungary had worn their away colours at home allowing Wales to wear red. Wales returned the favour in Cardiff, but couldn’t wear the full white strip (like they had in Latvia earlier in the season) because the two teams’ shorts would have clashed. Wales instead wore red shorts with the plain white shirt. The same combination was also worn in Vienna a few games later.

Wales 0-0 Czech Republic, 2002

Another away kit at home and another first-time captain – in this case Andy Melville on the occasion of his 50th cap.

Wales football crest
Pic: Russell Todd

Kappa’s Kombat 2000 series was proving popular, though not necessarily with those fans of, ahem, a fuller figure – or players like John Hartson for that matter. But for the visit of the Czechs, the filling in a Millennium Stadium champagne friendly sandwich also involving Argentina and World Cup runners-up elect Germany, Wales wore a striking yellow and blue number. Wales’s traditional alternative colour of yellow had previously been paired with green, red and black (see below), but drawing on the miniscule use of the colour of the claws, tongue and wing-tips of the dragon on the late 20th Century version of the national crest, yellow now appeared with blue. Sadly, it was never worn again.

On his debut on the international stage Danny Gabbidon looked at ease at left back and Paul Evans made his debut from the bench, as Wales recorded a third straight game without defeat in a run that eventually stretched to ten games, including the victory over Italy, that tantalisingly promised a 2004 European Championship place; but alas…

Wales 0-0 Jamaica, 1998

Ahead of their inaugural world cup appearance, Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz, comprising a lot of familiar Football and Premier League faces, visited Ninian Park, in that old ground’s penultimate Wales match. It saw Wales wear Lotto’s ‘poncho’ kit for the final time, and the only time at home after previously been worn in defeats in Belgium, Brazil and that defeat to The Netherlands. The shirt is reputed to have had input from Bobby Gould which probably explains a few things.

Ninian Park had never smelled so…herbal, as Wales couldn’t make their superiority count in a goalless draw that saw Darren Barnard and Craig Bellamy make their international debuts.

Wales 1-0 Moldova, 1995

Bobby Gould’s first match in charge of Wales and the kits on show were a car crash, an omen for what his reign was to bring. There cannot have been many more garish kit mash-ups in international footballing history.

Having returned to supplying Wales in 1990 for the first time in over a decade, Umbro had supplied a smart striped home shirt, and the previous season had introduced a classic ‘candy cane’ away shirt – white with green stripes. A thrid shirt was introduced and its jarring pattern scheme was Dali-esque and the principal blue – or is it green or is it petrol? – colour was a departure from previous instances of the colour’s use in Wales its. It was worn a further three times, all away. It was Umbro’s final effort in their collaboration with Wales in the first half of the nineties, and as John Devlin says in his International Football Kits they “went out with a bang” in an era where kits were getting increasingly bizarre, outrageous and random (Neville Southall’s mid 90s goalkeeper jerseys anyone?).

Wales won the game – only Moldova’s 19th full international match but having already beaten Wales in the first clash in Chisnau – 1-0 thanks to a Gary Speed header that meant Gould was the first Wales manager since Mike England to mark a new reign with a win.

The kit was later worn in the defeat to Leyton Orient….

Wales 1-0 Costa Rica, 1990

Hummel – German for bumble bee – is the darling kit maker of many an 80s kid thanks to their iconic half and half Denmark kit, and late 80s kits for clubs such as Aston Villa, Tottenham Hotspur and Real Madrid. Originally established in the 1920s in Hamburg, by the time Hummel supplied the FAW for three years from 1987 it was a Danish-based company. They re-introduced white shorts to the home kit and faithfully kept a yellow away kit, but rather than the traditional green (or occasional red) accompaniment, the trim and famous Hummel chevrons were in black. Yellow and black: the colours of St David. Coincidence?

Worn for the first time away, fittingly, in Denmark, the yellow kit was worn semi-regularly away from home including in Czechoslovakia in 1987 and in the famous friendly win in Italy in 1988.

With Costa Rica due to play Scotland at Italia 90 they visited Ninian Park to taste ‘British opposition’. Eric Young and Paul Bodin won their first caps, as did Gary Speed from the bench late on as a substitute for Glyn Hodges, having played for the u21s at Merthyr less than 24 hours earlier. Peter Nicholas won his 65th cap; at that time only Brian Flynn (66), Ivor Allchurch (68) and Joey Jones (72) had won more. Dean Saunders scored a tenth minute winner in front of just over 5,000 people.

Ahead of a World Cup qualifier in The Netherlands Hummel brought out a white shirt/red shorts kit for Wales to wear. Given its extreme rarity among the matchworn shirt community, when Shakey finally got his hands on a shirt from the game his joy registered 6.8 on the Richter Scale and dislodged roof slates in Gilfach Goch.

Wales 7-0 Malta, 1978

The first time Wales ever diverted from wearing red at home saw the team record its third biggest ever win, and largest of the twentieth century. Wales wore the yellow away version of Admiral’s ‘tramlines’ design at The Racecourse in a European Championship qualifier against the minnows of Malta, who wore their traditional red.

It was only the second time the attractive kit was worn, the first being away to Czechoslovakia the year before; though the yellow socks got worn a few more times with the red home kit, which incidentally the Football Attic considers the 11th greatest football shirt of all time.

Robbie James made his international debut and on the occasion of only his second cap Chester’s Ian Edwards scored four of Wales’s 7 (seven) goals. A year later Edwards crossed the border to sign for Wrexham giving a young Ian Rush his chance in the Chester first team. Remarkably, in their next game Malta held West Germany to a goalless draw at home.

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