Mens Team

City DNA #65: How City came to play in red and black

City DNA #65: How City came to play in red and black
The red and black striped shirts have always been a popular change strip for City and well received by supporters.

But the kit – with black and red striped shirts, black shorts and black socks – has only been in existence for 50 years or so.

It was Malcolm Allison who suggested City should adopt the now iconic colours and his reasoning was simple.

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Allison believed that the kit would give City an edge and it was because of the success of AC Milan, who wore the kit when they won the Serie A title and European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1967/68.

That was the same season Joe Mercer and Allison guided City to the top flight title in England for the first time in 31 years, and the brash, innovative Allison boasted that his team would “terrify Europe” ahead of a first European Cup campaign.

The tournament, a forerunner of the Champions League, was City’s target after a stellar domestic season, but Turkish champions Fenerbahce ended those hopes at the first hurdle.

After holding City 0-0 at Maine Road in the first leg, Mercer’s side faced a difficult second leg in Istanbul.

Staying close to the Fenerbahce Stadium, the players were staying at a hotel close across the Bosphorus Strait and were surprised to see thousands of fans on their way to the ground many hours before kick-off.

The home fans – believed to be more than 55,000 in number -created a tinderbox atmosphere inside the stadium, yet, as this report from The Guardian reveals, it was City, playing in sky blue, who went in 1-0 up at the break with a vital away goal in the bag.

It reads: “Ercan, the big, burly strong man of the defence shaped to head it back. Then he made mistakes. He decided to fox Coleman and anticipated that the ball would carry to Yavuz. It did not. Coleman, quick to spot the chance, pounced on it and as Yavuz came out to him, trying to tackle waist-high, Coleman popped the ball into the net. From then until half time the game was City's to have if they could hold it. Oakes was playing superbly and Young did great work as City fell back on defence.

“But it lasted only until that shrewd move of Ignace Molnar, the Fenerbahce coach, who switched Abdullah for Fuat at half time. Summerbee ploughed a lone furrow after that. Even when the tension was relieved on City's goal, the forwards were caught time and again in an offside trap so skilfully set by the quick running forward of Sukru, Levent, Nunweiller and Ercan.

“It was not City's night for all the work they did. They just did not deserve to win in the face of the second-half blitz. And at the end, the crowds invaded the pitch. Who could blame them on this, their night of nights?”

City were out, losing 2-1 on aggregate.

Milan’s red and black striped shirts impressed the watching City coach the previous season as they landed the European Cup Winners’ Cup, He immediately started the process of having the red and black striped shirts of AC Milan become City’s second strip that same season and on 5 October 1968, just three days after the disappointing loss in Turkey, City played in the new AC Milan-style kit for the first time – and lost 2-0 to Everton.

City fans weren’t happy and let their feelings be known, but Allison believed things would change – and he was right. The results were astonishing.

City won the 1969 FA Cup wearing red and black – this time beating Everton 1-0 at Villa Park and then Leicester City in the final at Wembley - just a month before the side who had inspired the change lifted the European Cup with a 4-1 win over Ajax in the final at Bernabeu.

And when the European Cup Winners’ Cup and League Cup were won the season after, few were in any doubt that not only was it a lucky strip, but how seamlessly it had become part of the Club’s culture.

New away strips were introduced in the early 1970s, but the red and black striped kit has made a number of comebacks.

And the lucky element that has become part of City folklore has continued, with City winning promotion back to the Premier League in 2000 wearing the colours and, of course, for our first title in 44 years, the second strip was (of course), red and black stripes…

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