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White-knuckle ride for white-shirted Bolton, Fulham and Derby
One of the greatest things about Subbuteo, besides giving generations of kids endless table-topping fun, was the chance of studying the team colours chart.
Where else could you learn at a glance that your claret and blue squad could be either West Ham, Burnley or Aston Villa, or that Plymouth Argyle were the only team in the Football League to play in green shirts (as did amateur giants Hendon) and that Blackpool were unique for being the only team to play in tangerine.
I thought of that old chart for the first time in years this week as Bolton, Fulham and Derby County edged closer to relegation from the Premier League.
Forget about logos and sponsors names, as far as my generation is concerned all three teams play in identical kits — white shirts and black shorts — and they are on the brink of becoming the subject of a future pub quiz trivia question.
Q: What was unique about the relegation of Bolton, Fulham and Derby in 2008?
A: It was the first time three teams wearing identical colours were relegated together.
Derby are already doomed but if Bolton and Fulham join them — and that is far from certain as yet — it will be because they haven’t played well enough, not because of the colour of their shirts.
But is there anything in a club’s colours that determines its success rate? Bill Shankly certainly thought so, changing Liverpool’s kit from red shirts and white shorts to all-red in the early Sixties. He believed that it made Liverpool look more intimidating and perhaps he had a point, perhaps not.
Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal, the three most successful clubs in English soccer all wear red, but Real Madrid, nine times European champions, play in all-white.
You can argue it until you are blue in the face, of course. Or in the case of Bolton, Fulham and Derby, white with fear as the prospect of Championship football edges closer.
PHOTO: New Derby owners pose with manager Paul Jewell in January 2008. REUTERS/Darren Staples