Hand It Over
Sad news reached me this morning about a Tommy Leeffe from Newcastle. Within the last month he has lost the only two father figures he’d ever had – two father figures he never actually met – and now he is barred from his favourite place indefinitely.
You might remember Tommy. He was on TV show ‘You Bet’ in the late eighties, correctly identifying twenty close-ups of different teams’ football badges in two minutes. He lived for football kits.
Unfortunately, his illness meant he could never follow in the footsteps of his first hero, John Kitt. The pair spoke regularly, they shared a love of the shirt and would write to each other every summer to compare views on the new designs that slowly became available. John’s death affected Tommy terribly, partly because he was saddened to lose what felt like more than a friend, like I said, more like a mentor, in the true sense of the word. John taught him everything he knew.
He was also gutted because he felt this summer was a golden age in kit design, with classic and comedy about to be worn in equal proportion.
This time last year I wrote to you extolling the virtues of the then new Everton away shirt and the memories that Lisa buying me it in Blackpool, brought back. It was indeed a lovely shirt, but we only wore it three or four times during the season. That was the end of Umbro then, and since then we have had the ‘re-imagining’ of the classic Le Coq Sportif strip from 1984 plus a strange re-working of the famous Black Watch kit, this time around, complete with pink badge. these kits have divided fans. Personally, I’m not totally a fan, though have shelled out on a classy ‘warm-up’ top instead.
Umbro have though in my opinion come up with the goods this year, with a similar return to eighties-style designs for the likes of Blackburn, Hull, and Sunderland; with nice collars and pinstripes. City’s shirt is akin to the controversial England design, and brings back memories of flannel shorts I wore at playschool for some reason.
One of Tommy’s favourites, and I have to admit mine, is the Liverpool 3rd kit, the all white effort for Europe I believe, partly because it reminds me of the final against Arsenal in 1987. Both John and Tommy are still undecided about the Man United strips, there’s something not quite right about it, they agreed.
Then we have the rather surreal examples of bright colour alternatives, Nike seem particular culprits for this, with Barcelona and Celtic sharing horrendously flourescent shirts for their away trips this year. Then, there is the frankly preposterous Newcastle away kit.
Which brings us back to Tommy, and the second untimely loss in his life, Sir Bobby Robson.
Tommy also wrote to him a couple of times, and got polite replies. He went to St James Park the other day and held back the tears as he placed one of his favourite old shirts on a seat in honour of the great man.
If I’m honest I was never a huge fan of Robson, but I think that was partly because I ‘grew up’ in football terms between the world cups of 1986 and 1990 and therefore distinctly recall Euro ’88 and the headlines such as in the name of Allah, go! However, I respected Robson as I got older and only now, having read various obituaries over the weekend, fully understand the role he played for some of the biggest clubs in Europe, plus his achievements as a player and as a manager before England.
Of course, Tommy will always see Sir Bobby in black and white and sees the club preparing for Saturday’s televised game against West Brom wishing that they had tried harder to get Robson in earlier, or keep him longer. Tommy is angry at what is happening now, not even a manager to pick the team, and lays a lot of the blame – rightly or wrongly – at the hands of Mike Ashley.
That’s why he did it.
Well, that’s why he tried it anyway.
You see, Tommy, angered by his dossier to John remaining unsent, devastated that Robson died so bravely, has nobody else to share this grief with. His house is full of shirts already, but he needed more. They were all he cared about now, they’d make him feel better. But, however much he loves the designs this year, he can only afford a couple as usual, so yesterday he decided to get some. To steal some.
Sir Bobby Robson: Always be remembered
Tommy planned it meticulously. He went on shoplifting websites to gather tips. But, like everything he seems to have tried in his life, he failed. He might have got his revenge on Ashley, and made it through the doors of Sports Direct with the bag full of stolen shirts if he didn’t spot the new Juventus away on the way out, it was ready-printed with CHIELLINI 3 on the back and he just had to have it. It was grey, and black and white, just how he felt.
The suspicious guard grabbed him before he’d even got down the stairs.
Thankfully, they chose not to press charges, once they saw the state of his house when they took him home. Just barred him from every Sports Direct store in Britain.