Next up in our profile of U’s shirt collectors is club photographer and matchday media man Ben Phillips.
We’ll let Ben take it from here…
If you spoke to my wife about my collection of United Memorabilia she would roll her eyes and tell you I am a hoarder and that she’s fed up with having limited room in the wardrobe thanks to my overflowing collection of United Shirts home & away. As well as nearly every home shirt since 1986, (I am only missing one) there’s boxes of programmes and memories U’s related that I wouldn’t part with over my dead body.. As well as having stuff stored away I also have some of my favourite United bits proudly displayed on the walls in my house, I explain to the wife that framed shirts are works of art that wouldn’t look out of place in the Tate Gallery!
It’s hard to pinpoint a few favourite shirts or bits of United artefacts for this article as for me they’re all brilliant and priceless in their own right.
91/93 Away by Influence
The early 90’s was a great time for superb football kits as designers went a bit crazy with their designs. For me both the home & away Fujitsu shirts are the Holy Grail of shirts over the years for Cambridge fans. When you look at these shirts it resembles those great times of the 90’s when people like Steve Claridge & Shaggy wrote their names into the Amber army folklore. Both these shirts can be worn with next to anything and still look cool. I regret now getting my original home fujitsu signed by Dion Dublin, but only because I couldn’t wear it then anymore. Thankfully the club answered my prayers and created a superb remake last season. My original blue away one still fits and I remember wearing it sat on the side of the pitch taking match photos in the sun at FGR last year, when one of their fans shouts “Cool retro shirt mate, but couldn’t you afford the new season one’’. When he asked what year it was from I replied that this shirt has more history than your whole club & it was long before your football club even existed. Needless to say the local supporters were a little upset and I was promptly moved by stewards!
God With A Perm: 02/03 GK Home by TFG worn by Lionel Perez
I am not a massive fan of collecting match worn shirts, but I had to make an exception when the flamboyant Frenchman Lionel Perez’s last U’s match shirt became available. Lionel quickly won the hearts of U’s fans during his time here and his crazy style & attitude quickly made him into an affectionate Amber Army favorites. In his last home game for the U’s v Tranmere a penalty was awarded to Cambridge & the Abbey roared for Lionel to take it. Cue Lionel running the length of the pitch rocketing the penalty straight at the Tranmere keeper almost killing him in the process, as the keeper went off injured it was another priceless Lionel moment that lives on long into history. Earlier this year when I flew to France to meet up with Lionel & interview him for 100 Years of Coconuts, I showed him the penalty footage (on YouTube) and he just turned and smiled and said ‘’Cambridge will always be in my heart”.
98/99 Home by Patrick
The Cambridge United era under Roy Macfarland was an exciting time & that promotion season in 98 was the real first promotion I experienced supporting the U’s as a youngster growing up. I remember wearing the shirt with immense pride that season and even at School in PE when surrounded by the glory hunter Kids sporting their Manure & Arsenal Shirts. I used to imagine I could play like my heroes Wanny, Shaggy & Big Trev in the playground. The sponsor of C&R Windows wasn’t massively popular with United fans I recall as it resembled looking like a giant tomato had splattered on the shirt. This signed squad shirt sits proudly framed on my hall wall.
1969/70 Retro Remake by Toffs
Toffs have always being great at remaking old classics for football fans to enjoy the world over. This 69/70 example is a favourite of mine for a number of reasons. I particularly love a long sleeve shirt and I also quite like the old style crest. I started getting this shirt signed by U’s legends when interviewing them for 100 years of coconuts mainly and have acquired a wide range of signatures from most recent players like Will Norris, Josh Coulson & Liam Hughes, to the King & God of the Abbey Paul Wanless & John ‘Shaggy’ Taylor. Not forgetting Lionel Perez & Roy McFarland. I even managed to get Ron Atkinson and Brendon Batson to sign it when sat drinking coffee with them doing an interview at the Hawthorns. It’s a bit of a standard joke now with other Coconuts committee members that I bring the shirt out for a signatures every time an ex U’s legend is around. A special mention has to go to the 50th Anniversary Ltd edition shirt the club produced this season. This could be easily the best shirt we’ve produced for quite a while in my opinion as its simple and has that old badge and was sponsor less. Credit to Mick George for agreeing to do that as well as Hummel and Gaz Daniels for making it as close to the original one as they could. I did feel sorry for Gordon the kit man though after we wore it v Newport when Biblical Rain showers descended on the abbey!. Hopefully the club can continue reproducing retro shirts for fans as there are plenty I would love to see back!
1986/87 Home by Nike
Another favourite U’s shirt for me is the Nike Lynfox one. Someone was selling an immaculate one in the depths of Bedfordshire a couple of years ago, I trekked out there and ended up paying twice the asking price as I later found out he found it sat neglected in a charity shop!
2014 Promotion & FA Trophy Winners Medals
My next item is the treasure and my favourite pieces of all my united memorabilia. In the last couple of years I had an opportunity to acquire & own a Conference playoff final medal & FA Trophy final medal. That season in 2014 was something special and I couldn’t pass up a chance to own two pieces of unique united bits from that exciting season which saw us win twice at wembley.
Although I have these medals in my collection alongside a 1990 one I am not quite sure what to do with them if I am honest as they’re always a bit difficult to display unlike shirts and they’re currently just sat in a rental safety deposit box collecting dust, but will be something cool to show my grandkids and the future generation of Cambridge United fans in years to come!.