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The evolution of the kit launch



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At some stage, the humble launch of the new kit for the coming season morphed into a behemoth of an event with security staff, hosts and live coverage for which one can imagine paying in excess of the asking price for a ticket from a dodgy geezer off eBay.

In many ways, the evolution of this entity lends itself to Christian Metz’s ‘Genre Characteristics Theory’. Briefly put, he asserted that there are four development stages that can be applied to a genre: Classical, Experimental, Parody and Deconstruction.

Let’s go back to a simpler time when a kit was something that was worn simply to denote ‘otherness’ from the opposition. Back in the late 70s/early 80s, the kit launch established its ‘Classical’ credentials. According to Metz, this stage is characterised by ‘an original piece of work, which is developing the initial codes and conventions of the genre.’ Typically, the kit launch featured a bunch of kids wearing the itchy material of the new top, beaming from ear to ear since they were just pleased to be there and if they smile wide enough, they might even be allowed to take one of these things home. At some stage, the top would be available from the club shop, comprised of a portakabin and run by the guy who has hung around at the club the longest. Significantly though, such an approach was centered around the supporters – after all, it was they who would be shelling out for the damned thing. Of course, it could be argued that featuring smiley kids was just the oldest advertising ruse that exists and would have won the approval of Roger Sterling given its cynicism in presenting its target audience with themselves smiling right back at them. But if you think this is a cynical approach, you’d better take a seat.

Arguably Manchester United took the genre to the next level – the ‘Experimental’ phase, defined thus: ‘This is where the genre is established and experiments which different sceneries and scenarios.’ Smiley kids are no longer enough, not when there are big businesses paying big bucks for their brand to emblazon the shirt. It is easy to imagine a representative from Sharp cajoling Bryan Robson and Ray Wilkins to ‘hold that pose’ as they struggle to maintain their grip on the cumbersome and bulky object to which they must clutch as if they treasure it. These weird contraptions, otherwise known as VCR recorders, really were the future back in 1982 and Wilkins is such a nice fella that he’s even trying his best to disguise his grimace and discomfort – unlike Norman Whiteside.

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By clambering into bed with the brands, the kit launch format was blasted wide open and the ‘Experimental’ phase continues unabated. Arsenal have grabbed the genre by the lapels and given it the full-blown American treatment by enlisting Thierry Henry’s services to host the whole shebang while various players parade down the catwalk. All that is missing here is a commentary informing that Santi Cazorla is sporting this season’s defining look with a throwback to the glam chic of the early 80s with a delicate, gossamer-thin thread highlighting his upper pectorals, alleviating unnecessary friction since the fabric consists of the latest performance technologies…now work it, Santi!

Everton have also contributed successfully to this stage of development as they were pleased to announce that, ‘Club partners Crabbies also had a sampling stall inside the shop for supporters to sample their beverages, whilst Chang also provided free bottles for adults to take away with their purchases’ on their website.

Sharp have a lot to answer for.

Bafflingly, the kit launch was proudly declared to be, ‘A Success’. One wonders what constitutes such a bold claim – perhaps someone bought a shirt? No one turned their nose up at the new top and proceeded to wipe their nose with it? Thierry Henry called in to say he quite liked the trim? If the new kit reaches the club shop and is stuck on a hanger, surely this is all that is required to constitute a success.

A further recent ‘Experimental’ development is the boy band pose, reaching peak performance with Chelsea’s effort. Diego Costa perfected the Gary Barlow role here by being centre stage while the audience strains their necks to escape the gurning face pointing right at them. Behind lurks young Oscar, genuinely pretending that he is really in a boy band. Bless.

Like all genres though, the kit launch will eventually descend into ‘Parody’: ‘the introduction of ‘comedic effects watering down expectations of the film.’ It can easily be argued this stage was already achieved long before the likes of Arsenal and Everton came along. But for it to be genuine parody, the makers have to be the ones creating the joke, not incidentally making their product the butt of the joke, as is the case in the examples above.

Cologne and Norwich City deserve honourable mentions here: the German club for their 2013 kit launch, featuring three players sporting 70s inspired hair (look, for it to be parody, it doesn’t necessarily have to be funny, ok?) and the Canaries for their 2013 effort featuring some young lads running rings around the likes of Bradley Johnson and John Ruddy.

Sure, it’s a disastrous effort in terms of thespian abilities and has a curious effect on the toes, making them curl excruciatingly. But at least the focus is back on the kids, rather than the bloody brand.

But plaudits must go to Southampton for their deadpan Mockumentary, in which the fictional Dr Barry Gale plays the role of the club’s first ever ‘Player Integration Officer’ as part of their #ShowYourStripes campaign which will see the Saints revert back to red and white stripes from solid red.

Finally, according to Metz, the genre evolves into ‘a stage where hybrids are evident’ or the ‘Deconstruction’ stage. In genre theory, this means a blending of the generic conventions in order to push the genre even further into experimental territory, exhausting all avenues of creativity within the supposed generic boundaries before it collapses back into the ‘Classical’ stage.

Maybe this is exactly what West Bromwich Albion had in mind when they created this piece of bemusement:

So where next for the kit launch? Here’s to hoping for a simple picture placed on the club’s official website showing a new top hung on a coat hanger with the caption: ‘New Kit Out Now’. Such a move could be officially declared ‘A Success’.

Featured image: All rights reserved by Duncan Hull


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Jack Wilshere’s injury shows why Arsenal shouldn’t renew his contract

The 26-year-old has been struck down by yet another injury.

Jake Jackman



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Jack Wilshere will be pleased with the progress that he has made since returning to Arsenal from his loan spell at Bournemouth.

He was initially nothing more than a squad player that was out in the cold at international level too, but the midfielder worked hard to gain more game-time in North London.

Across all competitions, he has played more than 30 matches and his form earned him a call-up to the England squad.

It looked like he was getting a once-promising career back on track, but almost like clockwork, he has suffered an injury to set him back once again.

Gareth Southgate confirmed that he wouldn’t be travelling to the Netherlands for Friday’s match and the quotes were reported by Sky Sports.

“It is not a specific injury and over time they flare up and they need to settle down over a couple of days.

“We are hopeful it will settle down pretty quickly. It’s an ongoing problem and it’s not something new for him. He’s very disappointed not to be involved in the game.

“He’s trained well though but if you think about the journey he’s had in the last two years and his big injuries then he’s progressing really well.”

Although it is encouraging that it isn’t a serious injury, it is a reminder that Jack Wilshere remains a risk for both club and country.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

It is difficult to build a team around a player that is susceptible to miss matches and the quote from Southgate is a worry as he refers to an ongoing problem.

Arsenal have had a difficult campaign and they will be planning a rebuild over the next 48 months as they transition away from the Arsene Wenger era.

They will have to make tough decisions on many players at the club and Wilshere’s future will be brought into focus over the next few weeks as his contract expires at the end of the season.

There have been numerous reports regarding contract talks between the two parties and there is hesitancy on both sides.

This latest injury suffered by Wilshere and the comments from Southgate referring to an ongoing problem show why it is Arsenal who need to end this association.

Wilshere can’t be relied on to stay fit and to feature prominently in a busy schedule. Arsenal will have ambitions of challenging at the very top of the game and will likely be involved in European competition every season. They need to have a squad of players that are reliable and the 26-year-old isn’t that.

Aside from that, Wilshere represents what Arsenal have become over the last decade. He is a player that had a lot of potential, but he has failed to fulfil it and been very inconsistent at the highest level. Of course, he isn’t to blame for the club’s problems, but he is also unlikely to offer the solutions.

This season has been a nice farewell campaign for him. It would have been sad if his Gunners’ career had ended after being shipped out on loan to Bournemouth.

He has returned to earn some of his credibility back, but the club need to move on and progress if they are to get back to the top of the English game.

A lot of contentious decisions will need to be made and the first should be the release of Jack Wilshere this summer.

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Manchester United

Why Jose Mourinho’s treatment of Luke Shaw has crossed the line

The Portuguese manager has been highly critical of Luke Shaw this season.

Rob Meech



Luke Shaw
Photo: Getty Images

The fractious relationship between Jose Mourinho and Luke Shaw plumbed new depths when the left-back was substituted at half-time in Manchester United’s FA Cup victory over Brighton & Hove Albion. The 22-year-old had been handed a rare opportunity to impress at Old Trafford but lasted only 45 minutes.

Speaking about Shaw in his post-match interview, Mourinho said: “Luke, in the first half, every time they came in his corridor, the cross came in and a dangerous situation was coming. I was not happy with his performance.”

The differences between the pair now appear to be irreconcilable. Shaw, who was signed by Louis van Gaal in the summer of 2014, has been used sparingly by Mourinho. The former Southampton starlet has made just 18 Premier League appearances under the Portuguese in a career that has been blighted by injuries.

Being substituted at half-time is almost as embarrassing as it gets for a player and Shaw’s mood will not have improved after being publicly criticised by his manager. It’s certainly not the first time Mourinho has chosen to talk candidly to the media about his concerns with the 22-year-old.

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Some players require an arm around the shoulder to perform at their peak, while for others it takes a kick up the backside. Mourinho, opting for the latter, does nothing without reason and has clearly tried to spark a reaction from Shaw, without success.

From being one of English football’s brightest prospects after making his World Cup debut aged just 18, Shaw, who has seven England caps to his name, is in danger of not fulfilling the potential that convinced United to spend what was then a world-record fee for a teenager.

Mourinho’s tactic of singling out individuals who have not met his standards is in stark contrast to Sir Alex Ferguson, who never blamed his players in public. It has divided opinion among pundits, with Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier claiming the United manager is ‘destroying’ Shaw.

Mourinho is an expert at using smokescreens to distract from his side’s unconvincing performances. And this latest controversy has moved the narrative on from United’s shock Champions League exit at the hands of Sevilla.

(Photo by Lindsey Parnaby/Getty Images)

Tough love is one thing, but the sustained, public attack on Shaw is unacceptable. If Mourinho genuinely believes he is not good enough to represent United, then fair enough. But to continually vilify the youngster’s performances is a step too far and one that could irreparably damage Shaw’s confidence.

This is not to say that Shaw is a completely innocent bystander. Mourinho’s predecessor, Louis van Gaal, also questioned his desire and general conditioning when he joined United four years ago. Indeed, the Dutchman signed Shaw up to a tailored exercise regime in an effort to improve his fitness.

But while van Gaal’s treatment had the desired effect, Mourinho’s has done the opposite. Being publicly humiliated on a routine basis does neither party any favours.

In all likelihood, Shaw’s disappointing United career will come to an end this summer. A fresh start away from the toxicity under Mourinho is exactly what he needs.

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English Premier League

Keanan Bennetts has perfect opportunity to impress Mauricio Pochettino this week

The left-sided star has a chance to impress in first-team training during the international break.



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With the international week in full flow, plenty of teams in the Premier League have seen their squads diminished by call-ups to national teams.

Tottenham Hotspur are one such side. Nonetheless, with most of the first-team squad away with their respective nations, work continues at Hotspur Way.

In order for Spurs to have a full complement in training, plenty of young talent needs to be pulled in to the ranks.

Mauricio Pochettino will, therefore,e get a chance to see some of his young players training with regular first-team players such as Fernando Llorente, Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

One player who will be training with the first-team this week is talented wide-man Keanan Bennetts, according to London Live.

The 19-year-old left-winger has been catching the eye for the club’s youth team in recent weeks, making the news after scoring a fantastic goal for the under-19s against Monaco in the UEFA Youth League last month.

Bennetts has also been attracting interest for his positional dexterity. The wide-man has played at left-back in recent times and it could be that is his future best position.

This week he will be up against some excellent players such as Lamela and Moura, who did not receive selection to the Argentina and Brazil national teams, respectively.

If he can prove himself with this calibre of player, Pochettino will have to take notice.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

It is coming to a point in his Tottenham career when Bennetts has to make such an impact. The teenager is out of contract at Spurs in the summer and needs to ensure he is kept on for at least one more season.

Tottenham fans who follow the youth teams are certain he is deserving of such a chance. If he can show Pochettino what he is capable of this week, then a new deal will surely be in the pipeline for the talented wide-man.

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