Upwardly Mobile Volume 1)
As Watford engaged on a short lived relationship with German electrical giant Blaupunkt, Ian Grant examines one of the promotional shots from the time.
A reminder that football wasn't always the smoothly-operated, elegantly Photoshopped, suavely media-savvy enterprise that it is today, this promotional image for shirt sponsors Blaupunkt takes us back to the 1993/94 season. The Premier League was a year old and Sky's millions were beginning to transform the top flight. A new age of commercialisation was dawning. But not here, not yet.
I invite you to spend a little while contemplating this image, appreciating its finer details.
Observe, for example, the various outfits on display, several of which suggest that they might've emerged from a good rummage in the bargain bin at Peter Spivey. For a start, there's the tracksuit worn by Bruce Dyer, who would be sold to Crystal Palace for a record-breaking fee before the end of the season and, you would hope, was therefore able to afford better. If we're being kind, we'll say that it adds a dash of the tropical to proceedings; mango is a colour we see too little of in the game, after all. Paul Furlong would also depart, to Chelsea for an even larger seven figure sum in the summer; it's a shame that we're unable to see the full glory of his blue-and-pink ensemble here but it no doubt would've gone down well in fashionable West London.
And why are they all in their own clothes anyway? The kit for this season and the next was manufactured by Hummel, who supplied a forgettable home strip and the entirely unforgettable "television interference" away shirt that's still favoured by a small handful of deeply contrary people to this day. One wonders what the good folk of Hummel made of a promotional photograph featuring the logos of rival manufacturers Mizuno (sported by a beaming James Meara, presumably delighted to have been given something to do beyond trotting around for the reserves) and, front and centre on the chest of Andy Hessenthaler, Umbro.
UMBRO. It dwarfs all other branding. It's almost as big as the mobile phone box held proudly by the company's representative. (Insert your own Bob Carolgees joke here. I'm above that kind of thing.) The club colours and crest are notable by their absence, although someone's helpfully lobbed a couple of programmes onto the table. The same person presumably opened one of the blinds but couldn't be faffed with the other. In a sense, the whole enterprise is ahead of its time, for it'd be more than ten years before The Apprentice would celebrate this kind of brazen cackhandedness on prime time television.
And in the middle of it all, there's Gary Porter, the one player able to remember better times. He stares helplessly into the lens like a small child in a ransom demand video. His eyes follow you around the room; they'll haunt you in your dreams; they'll never let you go. Help me, they say. Please help me. I need to get hold of my agent and this bloody phone doesn't work.
This article is from Volume 1 of The Watford Treasury, to purchase this publication in all its visual glory, please follow the link below: