Today marks the launch of Town’s latest home kit, an occasion that seems to come around much quicker these days. In the not-too-distant past, football teams would often keep the same home kit for two seasons, but as the game has become more money-oriented and sponsorship deals have become more lucrative, it is now a yearly change.
Town were relatively late to the party and it’s only since the 2007-08 season that home shirts have been swapped on an annual basis. It also wasn’t uncommon for teams to wear the subsequent season’s kit in the final game of the calendar, which is what Town did at the end of the 1994-95 season.
The famous Panasonic shirt is best remembered for being the one that Town wore when they lifted the Endsleigh League Second Division Play-Off trophy at Wembley in May 1995, after triumphing 2-1 over Bristol Rovers.
Perhaps less well known is the background behind the design of the shirt and the fact that the shirt’s designer was none other than Mick Jones, Town’s then assistant manager.
Jones had arrived at the club with Neil Warnock, Kevin Blackwell (youth development coach) and Dave Wilson (physio) in July 1993.
“When Neil Warnock took over, things weren’t easy at first—while I knew we weren’t right on the field, I had great faith that we would turn things around and of course we did”, says Jones.
Town were relegation fodder for much of the campaign, which was to be the last at their home of 76 years, Leeds Road. Warnock wasn’t a popular man and Town were languishing just above the drop zone well into March. But he soon made a positive impact, leading the club to the Autoglass Trophy final, and eventually, a 5th place finish in the league the following season.
Town had spent most of that season playing in the dark blue and white striped home shirt that had been introduced in 1993 and bore the Pulse Radio logo. But it was announced in April 1995 that Town had secured a bumper sponsorship deal with Panasonic worth £250,000, hailed as the biggest deal of its kind in the club’s history.
The news was announced at a press conference at the newly christened Alfred McAlpine Stadium, where Andy Booth and Paul Reid were paraded on the pitch in the new kit. It was also announced that Town would be wearing it on May 6th, their final home game of the season, against Birmingham City, and that it would go on sale on Monday, April 24th.
Chairman Terry Fisher said at the time: “This is by far the largest such sponsorship we’ve struck and emphasises the great strides we have taken over the last couple of years. If we go up, so does the sponsorship and it is a tremendous boost for the club.”
Mick Jones: Designer-at-Large
In a first for the club—perhaps a first for any club—Town’s assistant manager, the aforementioned Jones, was the brains behind the new design.
With Town guaranteed a play-off place, it was looking likely that they could be running out at the national stadium in just a couple of games’ time.
“Our strip suppliers wanted a brand-new strip for Wembley and then another one designed to use the following season”, recalls Jones. And yet, “Terry Fisher was determined not to rip the fans off by having a ‘Wembley shirt’ then another design for the next season, so the ‘Wembley shirt’ was also the following season’s.”
In 2021, it would be unusual, even alarming, for Phil Hodgkinson to consult Carlos Corberan or Chicho Pèlach on the design of the new home shirt, but, for whatever reason, Fisher did exactly that.
According to Jones: “Terry came to me for advice. Neil (Warnock) had too much on his plate to worry about a shirt design, so he told me to ‘get on with it’.”
Jones duly got to work, trawling the club’s archives for photographs of the early days, trying to find some trace of Town’s original blue and white striped home shirt.
“I searched the archives for Town’s original shirt, [and] with Terry’s permission we—myself and the designers—came up with a fabulous design. Very Argentina, but very modern.”
Once the shirt hit the shops, it became apparent that it was very popular.
“They sold at unbelievable rates and our shirt suppliers found it hard to keep up. Joyce Pickles, the part owner, admitted they found it very hard to keep up with the demand, but Super League shirt suppliers were so proud of the design and of course the sales!”
Town ended up wearing the shirt on four occasions that season, in the 2-1 home loss to Birmingham City, in both play-off semi-finals, when Town triumphed over Brentford in a penalty shootout, and in the final against Bristol Rovers.
Apart from the small job of helping to guide Town to promotion, the design of the shirt was one of the last things Jones did at the club before his departure just eight days after the Wembley win. Warnock left the club to take the manager’s job at Plymouth Argyle, bringing Jones and Blackwell with him.
“It was a great time at Huddersfield Town. I have great memories. We had a fantastic chairman in Terry Fisher…Play-off winners, a brand-new stadium, plus a brand-new Huddersfield Town strip organised and designed by myself!”
In the end, Town wore the shirts until the end of the 1996-97 season and in recent years have sold replicas in the club shop. The association with Panasonic lasted until 2001 and the Panasonic Stand remained so until 2008, when it became the Fantastic Media Stand.