It’s thanks to my aunt and uncle that my brother and I support Aston Villa. They took us to the games when we were young. We sat in the North Stand gawking over The Holte End.
When I think about my favourite Aston Villa shirt of all time, those memories flood back, and like Ally Samatta did against Manchester City at Wembley last month, this shirt springs out.
Aston Villa’s 1995–97 home shirt is a thing of beauty. Not only is it the shirt that my uncle wore religiously while I was growing up, but it’s also the first full Aston Villa strip I owned.
My love for football shirts with collars came from my love for Eric Cantona. (Manchester United are another team who produced shirts with great collars.) Through the ‘90s, collared football shirts went through a weird and wonderful phase, and, along with a small few, Villa hit the sweet spot.
One advantage Aston Villa had over United in the 90s was that they knew how to style a badge. For me, it’s all about the size. If you’re going to frame the badge with a different shape, keep it small and simple — like the one on Villa’s 95–97 shirt.
Another thing I remember about this particular shirt is the purity of the claret and blue, and how well the yellow detailing complemented the blue-collar and matching sleeves with claret tips. And you really can’t go wrong with a shirt that has your club’s crest printed all over it in a way this one does.
As we’re all aware, sponsors can ruin any shirt. In my time, we’ve had some woeful sponsors, and each year I worry about who’s ‘earned’ themselves a place on the shirt. Villa’s spell with AST Computer, though, was decent. On this shirt, AST Computer did the right thing: took a back seat and let the shirt do all the talking. Unfortunately, NTL failed at this a few years later.
But this particular kit was glorious. And to cap it all, the 95–97 shirt looked even nicer on Dwight Yorke’s back.