Today, NIKE pay £25 million a year to kit out the same team.
The 1970s was the golden age of football and saw the birth of a multi-billion pound industry. Television was indisputably what brought about the meteoric rise in the fortunes of a small knitwear manufacturer in Leicestershire. The company’s identifiable Admiral logo on football clothing became the dream brand of youngsters everywhere.
But success for the Wigston firm was not without its problems. In Admiral: Kit Man, Bert tells the story of its struggles, successes and ultimate withdrawal from the sports clothing scene. From a small family knitwear company to a worldwide business, the book charts Admiral’s progress through lively personal reminiscences of Bert’s innovative deals and his encounters with leading football personalities, including Stanley Matthews, Don Revie, Bill Shankly, Sir Matt Busby, Ron Greenwood, The FA establishment and many more.
Whether in the boardrooms of major clubs such as Manchester United, Leeds United, Liverpool or Spurs and the forbidding atmosphere of the all-powerful FA Headquarters in Lancaster Gate, Admiral’s vision, the imaginative design team and its power of persuasion convinced even the most diehard managers that the kit their players wore, and the must-have replicas craved by supporters everywhere, was a golden opportunity for football finance.
Admiral: Kit Man paints a sometimes sad, often moving, occasionally hilarious historical picture of both business and soccer in the heyday of Admiral, which brought radical and lasting changes to the sportswear industry. It will appeal mainly to football supporters.
Two TV companies are currently pitching for a documentary on this legendary firm.
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I grew up with Admiral and have recently re-ignited my interest in the brand and its history.
As an eight year old, my club West Ham United appeared in a fantastical new kit, which I successfully pestered my parents for, first the home kit and then the tracksuit. I understand that you were nicknamed 'The Admiral'.
I purchased your much anticipated book, Kit Man and devoured it in a couple of days. I found it a really good read and produced some previously unknown (to me) stories, anecdotes and facts. I can claim a small part of the compilation of your book as I provided several design references and pointers to John Devlin for several of the kits that he subsequently illustrated your book.
I am much anticipating the Admiral documentary which I believe is being filmed or in production at the moment.
If you don't mind my saying, I would have loved to have discovered how the design team produced their incredible range of kits in your book. Who they design team were, are they still around and what gave them their inspiration? I have undertaken some detailed researched on Admiral kits, and their roster of English and Scottish league sides during that golden era, starting with Leeds United in 1973 and 1980. This primarily consisted of painstaking ordering and perusal of old newspapers at the British Library Newspaper reading rooms in Colindale, now sadly closed down in the past year or so.
I wondered if you would be prepared to agree to either an interview or alternatively for me to send you some questions, especially around the design and marketing of the kits?
I am sure you are aware that Admiral were the first football kit manufacturer to provide a club badge on shorts - now ubiquitous throughout the league. The first company to introduce their manufacturer logo as an integral part of the design of the shirt.
Sadly, I no longer have my West Ham Admiral items long since recycled at some jumble sale or other. However, I do have a lovely blue tracksuit top with red and white dynamic stripes, as well as the Wales away kit, both procured from ebay.
by Steve Browne