Joining me for this edition of Champ Man & Me is Tom Allen from Classic11.com – specialising in old and original football shirts from the past 35 years. I spoke to Tom about what part Championship Manager had played in his passion for the football and all things retro
Thanks for joining us, Tom. Tell us about classic11.com – what prompted you to set it up?
Classic11.com started out of a simple pastime collecting football shirts, around 11 years ago. I’ve always found that old football shirts trigger memories from the seasons gone by, and the changing designs over the years represent the taste and fashion from different eras.
Are certain classic shirts in demand even now?
Definitely. I think 1990s football shirts have made a real emergence in terms of demand over the past few years. I think that age range have moved into a ‘higher spending demographic’, and they want a piece of football nostalgia from their childhood. Of course, the really old shirts (70s & 80s) will always bee highly popular due to low numbers, and player name and number shirt from the legends of the game are always highly popular.
If I pushed you for a favourite kit of all time, what would it be?
I have always said that the 2000/2001 Italy home shirt was an absolute classic. Simple, elegant, and one of the first to incorporate a new type of figure hugging material. I think Nike picked up the baton when the designed England 2003/04 World Cup winning Rugby Shirt. The ‘Pro-Fit’ shirts are so commonplace now, but I think that Kappa Italy shirt was one of the first.
Which team do you support? Are you happy with how the season has panned out?
I’m sort of a neutral when it comes to football – is that really boring? I just love football. I live in Leicester so I’ve definitely been jumping on that bandwagon this season! What an achievement by the Leicester boys, everyone involved with the club deserves so much credit, including the fans. I used to support Liverpool when I was younger – Steve Mcmanaman was one of my childhood heros – his dribbling skills were just so much better than 95% of than Premier League. I don’t think you saw as much of it back then.
Like so many football fans, I guess you have dabbled with FM/CM at some point!?
Oh yes! I’d like to think i played CM with as much dedication as the next boy/girl back then. Weeks on end, especially over the summer holidays with my friend down the road. We’d have sleep overs and play it all night. I remember once being the manager of Blackpool and took them to EPL champions (as you do). Ronaldo (the original one) was available on a free, I got all the wages and contract term sorted out (how could he refuse moving to the seaside town from Milan?), but on the transfer confirmation page I accidently clicked ‘No’. On that version of CM there was no ‘Are you sure’ button, and Ronaldo remained in Italy.
We’re obviously big fans of CM9798, do you have any memories of this version in particular? (if you don’t, which version have you enjoyed most, if any?)
I really enjoyed 97/98 as this was the first version I had of my own. Previous years I had called round to friends to play. CM 01/02 was very good – I played that to death. I ‘ve got hundreds of memories, but one that really stick out did not actually happen to me, but I remember it because it just summed up the relationship with this game. A friend of mine told me about a lad he knew who actually got dressed up in a suit to play the FA Cup final his team got to. I just cried with laughter when I heard that. I could just imagine him doing it – that’s how involved you can get with CM. So silly.
Back to classic11.com, how do you source your stock? Do you have to travel far and wide to collect and grow your stock?
We have a ‘sell’ button on the website where people can get in touch with us to sell their old football shirts. We also watch some of the auction sites from time to time. Some sellers come from Eastern Europe. I think they take advantage of the exchange rate when we pay in Pounds Sterling. I have made a few journeys across county with a boot full of vintage football shirts a few times.
What’s the strangest name/number combination you’ve had on a shirt? I noticed you had a Jesper Blomqvist Manchester United shirt on there…
One of the best we’ve had which I kind of wish I had kept, was a German player from the 1996 Euro’s his name was Kuntz and he wore the #11. It’s so rude but it just makes me laugh how he was running around in England with that on his back. And to think the Queen watched the final at Wembley that year when they beat Czech Republic in the final. I left the shirt on the site when it was sold, just so people could see: http://classic11.com/collections/germany-football-shirts
The European Championships are around the corner, do you have any promotions planned?
Yes, we’ll do some promotions leading up to it. Maybe a little sale too. We would would love to give CM97/98 followers a discount for the European Championships. It would be nice to work with you more as our focuses are so closely related. Watch this space…