The standards and practices of the world’s most successful football clubs are often emulated by aspiring sides looking to gain advantage and inspiration. Whether it’s the training methods of a particularly innovative and fastidious coach, or the quality of facilities, equipment and technology at a team’s disposal, any way of getting even a minor leg-up could make the difference over the course of a season.
Beyond the technical, tangible and measurable ways of aiding performance, however, and long before the notion of sports science became commonplace, a simple change of shirt color would often be seen as a way of inspiring better results for a side.
Just as Don Revie’s Leeds United sought to emulate Real Madrid in the 1960s, and Herbert Chapman made his Arsenal players more discernible to one another with their white sleeves, Tottenham Hotspur chose their customary white jersey and blue shorts combination as an homage to Preston North End in the late-19th Century.
The Lillywhites were far and away the most successful club in England at the time, the dominant force in the fledgling Football League. Spurs, who were formed in 1882, had begun life wearing long-sleeved navy blue jerseys with white shorts, but didn’t stick with that idea for long. They would flit between red – a thought which would now be anathema to Tottenham fans as their bitter North London rivals Arsenal wear the same color – blue and white halves reminiscent of the Blackburn Rovers shirt, and brown and gold stripes.
In 1898, though, the change to white, following in the footsteps of recent League and FA Cup Double winners Preston, was made and they have not varied from that general layout since.
The change brought about some pretty immediate progress for Spurs with their first major trophy secured in the 1900/01 season when they overcame Sheffield United in the FA Cup final. The showpiece event at Crystal Palace in London, played in front of an estimated 110,000 people, ended in a 2-2 draw, meaning, with no extra-time or penalty-kicks used to determine a winner, the two sides met again a week later in a replay. Only 20,000 fans were on hand for the second fixture at Bolton Wanderers’ Burden Park, but that will have been of little concern to Spurs, who took the famous cup back to the capital thanks to an emphatic 3-1 victory over the Blades.
A second FA Cup triumph followed exactly 20 years later, but it would be more than half a century between Tottenham’s switch to white and their first ever top-flight league title, when they topped the First Division, four points clear of second-placed Manchester United, just a year after being promoted from the second tier.
The cockerel crest that is synonymous with Spurs first appeared on the home jersey in the early-1920s and, in one form or another, has remained over the players’ hearts ever since, although the design of the emblem has undergone several updates over the decades.
In the era of kit manufacturers and corporate sponsorship, the Spurs shirt has known some of the most iconic branding in English football, with the tight-fitting Hummel design of the ‘80s a favourite among retro jersey aficionados and sported by club legends Glenn Hoddle and Clive Allen, and the Holsten sponsored Umbro shirt of the mid-‘90s instantly conjuring images of German striker Jürgen Klinsmann and his famous diving goal celebration for Premier League fans old enough to remember that era.
With a cast of exciting young players such as Dele Alli and Harry Kane producing thrilling attacking football under a progressive and intelligent coach in the form of Mauricio Pochettino, the current Spurs shirt is well known and loved by fans in London and around the world.
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