The pub quiz questions at Bull’s Head in Mobberley might look like this: what connects the small village of Mobberley to Pele, North Korea, the 1966 World Cup, the Lisbon Lions and the two most successful clubs in England at their best?
The answer – in a roundabout way – is the pub itself. Above the heads of beer-sipping quiz pubs sits a room where one of the world’s most iconic sports brands was born.
The pub was once owned by the parents of Harold Humphreys and his brother Wallace, who founded Humphreys Brothers Limited in 1924, initially working out of a small cupboard in the pub before moving to a workshop in Wilmslow.
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Ten years later, that company, Umbro, would supply kits to both teams in the FA Cup final, played in front of 93,000 spectators. Portsmouth, in a black and white kit, would lose 2-1 to Manchester City, who wore maroon.
In 1966, the vast majority of English teams played in their jerseys. When the World Cup arrived that year, 15 of the 16 teams competed in Umbro kits, including North Korea, with only the USSR snubbing the supplier.
The following year Celtic’s Billy McNeil would become the first British player to win the European Cup. The famous green hoops worn by the “Lisbon Lions” were provided by Umbro.
Ten years later, Liverpool lifted the trophy and would do so three more times over the next seven years, each time in their famous all-red Umbro strips. When rivals Manchester United completed the treble in 1999, they did so in two Umbro home kits, with a special kit reserved for European matches.
Brazil would lift the World Cup twice in Umbro kits, first in 1958 when Pelé and co lifted Jules Rimet in blue shirts; and again in 1994, beating Italy in the final in Los Angeles wearing their more familiar yellow.
A year after the 1994 World Cup, Ajax won the Champions League in Umbro shirts. The star-studded team included Edgar Davids, Clarence Seedorf and Patrick Kluivert wearing the white and red made famous by Cruyff a generation before.
When an equally star-studded Scottish side reached the World Cup final in 1978, Liverpool stars Kenny Dalglish and Graeme Souness wore Umbro kits, just as they did with their club. Scotland would be sent off from Argentina in the group stage, but a win over Holland and two goals from Archie Gemmill will long be remembered.
Away from football, Umbro provided kits for the British Olympic team for twenty years between 1952 and 1972.
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