Monday, 2 January 2012

Shirtspotting: #theSpots 2011

Well the red-carpet was rolled out on New Years Eve as familiar faces and dignitaries from the worlds of professional sport, show business and politics made their way to Dukinfield Town Hall for the first annual, The Spots. The event, held to celebrate achievements in the world of football shirtspotting, was the brainchild of shirtspotter founder @shirtspotter when he thought it might be a bit of a laugh after a few days on the ale over Christmas. Despite being hastily arranged, it was an immaculately delivered evening and a celebration of all that’s great about having an interest, bordering on obsession, with obscure and retro football merchandise.

The event was hosted by the actor Joe Thomas, who many of you will know as Simon in the Inbetweeners and from Fresh Meat, where he played the character, that one out of the Inbetweeners. Wearing the unconventional, but fitting, event attire of the Holland Euro 88 shirt, Thomas threw us straight into the first award of the evening, the best shirt to be spotted.

As would be the case throughout the evening we got to see a short montage of clips highlighting events that had taken part in this field in the previous 12 months before the shortlist of three was presented. These would be:

FC Barcelona from the “El Tel era,” spotted at the Great Yorkshire Run by @tinfoilcup
UC Sampdoria away (1992-1994), spotted at the Newcastle Free Trade Hall by @DolphinHotel
Aston Villa (1987-1989), picture spot, on Slovan Bratislava fans away in Prague in 1991 by @RalphDavies1

Winner: @DolphinHotel with this tweet on 31st January:

@shirtspotter There was a barman in Newcastle's Free Trade Inn wearing a Sampdoria 92-94 away top on Saturday night.

Naturally the room rose as one to applaud the winner. Unfortunately @DolphinHotel wasn’t able to make it to the evening to collect his award but, fittingly, a regular wearer of the fantastic garment, Atilio Lombardo, did so on his behalf. Predictably the awards organisers played the Lambada which lead to Lombardo, to his credit, performing the iconic dance with master of ceremonies Thomas (Simon out of the Inbetweeners.)

The next award was for the best fake shirt spotted for which the nominees were:

Werder Bremen (inc sponsor WeWin rather than Bwin), spotted in Asda, Hulme, by @shirtspotter
Schalke 04 with SAND on the back, spotted in Droylsden, by @WillU87
Manchester City including the crest, which used the name TEAM, in Covent Garden, London, by @house78

Winner: @shirtspotter with this tweet on May 10th:

Last night in Asda, Hulme, Mcr. A fake Bremen shirt that had the sponsor "WeWin" rather than "BWin." Caused a wry smile, so it did

To generous applause and good-natured shouts of ‘fix’ from the gallery, @shirtspotter went up to collect his award and struggling to keep his emotions in check, spoke passionately about the strides that had been made in shirtspotting in 2011 and how he hoped for more of the same in 2011.

Next up was best photo taken of spot. The nominees were:
Cardiff City with Fortune-West on the back (location not given) by @LauraMcAllister RT by @Chrissy_Pike
Independiente in Negombo, Sri Lanka by @therealstoffers
Aston Villa (1987-1989), on Slovan Bratislava fans away in Prague in 1991 by @RalphDavies1

Winner: @LauraMcAllister RT by @Chrissy_Pike with this tweet on April 25th:

@shirtspotter: Spotted-this Leo Fortune West Cardiff shirt -fair play ...

Unfortunately, neither @LauraMcAllister RT by @Chrissy_Pike was available to pick up the award, but stepping up on their behalf was, a slightly bemused looking, Leo Fortune-West. Fortune-West thanked all involved and when asked by Thomas, revealed that yes, the custom of accumulating bookings in order that you could be suspended and therefore drink your way through the Christmas period was still rife amongst lower league footballers.

After the half-time break, Thomas returned to the stage and announced that the next award would be for most unlikely location of spot. Nominated were:

Newcastle Jets in Gorton, Manchester by @WillU87  
Anorthosis Famagusta (merchandise) at Salford Crescent Train Station by @shirtspotter
Sporting Gijón (fake) at Macys, New York City by @jrjohnno

Winner: @jrjohnno with this tweet on 18th July:

@shirtspotter (fake) Sporting Gijón home 10-11 in Macy's, NYC.

Due to transport problems @jrjohnno was unfortunately unable to be at the event and pick up the award. Another competitor shortlisted in the category, @shirtspotter , had already agreed to collect the award on the behalf of the absent winner. After congratulating @jrjohnno on the triumph, the mood turned a little sour as @shirtspotter proceeded to go into a tirade of how much better his spot of two Anorthosis Famagusta tracksuit tops was and went on to offer out the members of the awarding committee ‘one at a time or all at once.’

Fortunately the host’s professionalism rescued this ugly situation and as the disgruntled, unsucessful, nominee was ushered off stage, Thomas quickly announced that the next and penultimate category would be best German shirt spotted. Nominees were:

West Germany home (1990) in Natwest, Spring Gardens, Manchester by @robmcfc
Alemania Aachen home at Manchester Airport by @AllisterWhite
Dynamo Dresden 08/09 in Stalybridge by @robmcfc

Winner: @robmcfc with this tweet on September 23rd:

@shirtspotter West Germany home shirt from 1990 on show in Natwest Spring Gardens, Manchester this afternoon.

Disappointingly @robmcfc couldn’t make the short journey to the awards ceremony but on-hand to pick up the award was, taking her responsibilties with the appropriate seriousness, German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.

Chancellor Merkel spoke of her delight that such a committed shirtspotter as @robmcfc had picked up the award. She then went on to give her memories of this specific, fantastic, Die Nationalelf shirt but said that the late equaliser conceded in the dying moments of the final group game against Columbia still rankles with her despite the team’s ultimately successful World Cup campaign. She couldn’t let the moment pass without praising Guido Buchwald’s masterful performance at the heart of the defence in the final against Argentina but, when asked, declined to comment on the Eurozone crisis as it is “beginning to do my head in.”

The anticipation in the room was reaching fever pitch as the showpiece award lingered on the horizon. Up for best spot of 2011 were the following:

Wellington phoenix at Sheffield Food Festival by @coops1889
Maldives national shirt, including shorts on Oundle Road, Peterborough by @208fifashirts
Cardiff City with Fortune-West on the back (location not given) by @LauraMcAllister RT by @Chrissy_Pike

Winner: @208fifashirts with this tweet on 23rd August:

@shirtspotter Maldives national shirt, including shorts! Jogging down Oundle Road in Peterborough last night.

Despite the healthy competition, it was an obvious and thoroughly deserved winner and has set the bar at which all other shirtspots should be judged. Regrettably, @208fifashirts , was unable to make the awards ceremony to pick up the award but with confusion growing as to who would collect it on his behalf, up stepped man of the moment and BBC Sports Personality of the Year, the bike-rider, Mark Cavendish.

Cavendish told the audience that this really was the ’icing on the cake’ as far as 2011 was concerned for him. Then, with the look of the determined and focused competitor we all know Cav to be, he said that for all the challenges 2012 poses: another Green Jersey at the Tour de France, World Cycling Championship and an Olympic Gold, taking @208fifashirts best spot title was the biggest and most sort after for any sportsmen, and that he'd be doing his utmost to do so.

With many of the audience tired and emotional, Thomas (that’s Simon from the Inbetweeners remember) brought the evening to a close. He thanked all the guests for attending, the organisers for putting it all together but most of all, the shirtspotters across the globe without whom, none of this could have gone ahead.

It had been a magnificent and illustrious, if sometimes controversial evening, but if ever there was a reason to get your spotting glasses on in 2012, it’s surely the prospect of a bigger and better #theSpots in 12 months’ time.