CLASSIC FOOTBALL SHIRTS boast the largest collection of football shirts in the world.
With over 500,000 items from the beautiful game stored in their Manchester warehouse, they are the go-to website to find that rare jersey you’ve always wanted.
SunSport took a trip to the North to see for ourselves how the entrepreneurial pair operate from their base, just a stones throwaway from Man City’s Etihad Stadium.
Sitting down with Doug, we learned what the most valuable international shirts were, how much they’re worth and why, as well as how they got their hands on David Beckham’s pants.
And during a World Cup or Euros, thinks get very hectic.
Man United fan Doug, 36, explained: “The World Cup sends everything crazy because football shirts evoke memories.
“You remember where you were when you watched your first World Cup match. You clips and reruns of old tournaments on the TV in the build-up to the tournament.
“Then, you see the shirts the players are wearing and you think, ‘I wouldn’t mind being like the Brazilian Ronaldo, scoring loads of goals and having that shirt he wore.’
“On a normal day, we’ll sell about a 1,000 items. But during a World Cup, that can go up to 2,000 items a day quite easily.
“There’s 32 teams at the World Cup, so there’s plenty of shirts to choose from.
“But even the teams that aren’t in it this year, like Holland and Italy, they have their own magic World Cup moments and their shirts will still sell well.
“Like (Roberto) Baggio with his distinctive ponytail and penalty miss or (Dennis) Bergkamp scoring against Argentina, the World Cup is really about everything.”
It was 15-years ago that Doug and Matthew discovered there was a market for classic football jerseys.
The pair pooled their own shirts together, took out credit cards and bought some more retro tops.
“Classic Football Shirts was started in the summer of 2006 by myself and Matthew Dale.
“We were students at Manchester University, trying to avoid getting a real job.
“We spotted a gap in the market for a company to sell original and authentic football shirts from the past. Not reproductions or fakes, the real deal.
“I really wanted a Germany shirt from Italia ’90 to walk around Manchester in and be a bit different.
“But I soon realised there was no such place in the world you could buy one from.
“We pulled together about 50 shirts between us, got a few credit cards and bought a load of football shirts with them.
“Classic Football Shirts has grown since then. So, what was two lads in a student house in Manchester is now a warehouse with a staff of over 40.”
Over the years, the company has built up a list of contacts who they buy their shirts from.
They work with a number of players and sell match-worn shirts that have been donated by pros or football clubs, including Gareth Southgate’s worn jersey.
A one stop shop, Classic Football Shirts also offer a printing service where you can add your favourite players’ name on a new or old jersey.
“I can’t tell you all the trade secrets, but sometimes sourcing shirts comes with great difficulty,” Doug revealed.
“We’ve been going for 15-years now, so we’ve got a lot of contacts in place to be able to find the items.
“We look in the clearance section, where you can get shirts from £9.99 that you can’t get on the high street, or we get them from clubs and manufacturers around the world.
“We also work with players to get very rare match-worn shirts and people get in touch with us and offer us their old shirts, which we do trades and valuations for.”
Football tops have become big business, with classic shirts often changing hands for five or six times their original price.
But what’s the most sought after?
“The most iconic and most desirable World Cup shirt is the Germany jersey from 1990,” Doug told us.
“The flag pattern across the chest was so different for the time. It really revolutionised football shirts from that moment on.
“Graphics and bold designs became much more prominent, which makes it a very important piece.
“Germany won the World Cup that year too, which helps because if shirts are tied to great moments that tends to increase the value of them.
“If you are serious about football collections, you need to own that one and the USA stars and stripes design from ’94.
“The German shirt is worth between £150-£200, depending on the condition. I’d say the USA shirt could go for around £250.”
There are some football shirts that are harder to get your hands on, Doug revealed. And there’s always a fascinating story why.
Step-forward England’s rivals Argentina, who wore a blue strip in the 1986 encounter in Mexico – famous for the ‘Hand of God’ goal – because of a bizarre circumstance.
“One of the rarest to find is the Argentina blue shirt from 1986,” Doug revealed.
“They originally had a cotton away shirt, but the players complained it was too hot to be wearing it during games in the heat in Mexico.
“He sent the kit man into Mexico City to find something more lightweight.
“They found some Le Coq Sportif teamwear items that would probably of been worn by a college team.
“They brought them back to the kit room, stitched an old Argentina badge on them and printed some actual NFL numbers on the back.
“No replicas of that shirt actually exist. I think there’s only 18 of those shirts in the world.
“We’re lucky to own one of them.
“But the National Football Museum in Manchester has Maradona’s shirt, which actually belongs to Steve Hodge, who swapped shirts with him.
“That’s probably worth hundred of thousands of pounds.”
Doug is full of stories where international teams have had to wear jerseys that are rare and worth serious money.
A man who takes football history seriously he continued: “Back in 1930 in Uruguay, each player playing for Bolivia wore an individual shirt with a letter on it.
“It all spelled out ‘Viva Uruguay’ which was to say thanks to the hosts.
“Then, you’ve got unique things happening like in 1958.
“Argentina played against Germany and they had to wear a shirt that belonged to IFK Malmo because they didn’t have a changed strip.
“France played in 1978 wearing an Argentinian club’s shirt called Kimberley – a green and white shirt – because they didn’t have an away kit with them too.
“There’s so many unique shirts from the history of the game that are very important museum pieces if you could unearth them.
“But in terms of shirts you could actually buy in the shops, that’s when you go into the 80s and 90s because football shirts only really became a commercial thing from 1978 onwards.”
Last year, England’s 1966 World Cup hero Sir Geoff Hurst attempted to auction off his shirt from that famous day.
With a starting price at £500,000, there were no takers.
“You could buy a house or the England ’66 shirt,” Doug said. “But I think I’d rather have the ’66 shirt and live in a cardboard box,” he beamed.
Football is clearly Doug’s first love. He reminisced about his favourite World Cup.
“I was obsessed with the 1990 World Cup,” he told us.
“I was five, and I don’t really remember watching the games that much.
“But I had the highlights on VHS and me and my brother watched it so many times, we burnt the video out in the end.
“Moments like England taking on Cameroon and Lineker scoring the penalties, (Sergio) Goycochea becoming a hero against Italy with a gold chain hanging out his shirt.
“(Frank) Rijkaard spitting at (Rudi) Voller, Paul Gascoigne tears… it was the time before football was really commercialised.”
Doug’s favourite England shirt is the Umbro Italia ’90 number, worn by the likes of David Platt, Lineker, Terry Butcher and Gazza.
However, one design stands out most for the business owner.
“The one that’s voted for as the most popular is normally the 1982 shirt, with the design across the shoulders as worn by Kevin Keegan.
“If you think back to 1966 and before and beyond, it was just a plain white shirt for England.
“But Admiral were the ones who did something a bit more bold, which makes it cool.”
Back in 2010, Classic Football Shirts were the lucky recipients of AC Milan’s entire kit room.
That even included pants that the Italian giants supplied the players for game day.
After routing around in a box, Doug managed to find a pair numbered ’32’ as worn by “Golden Balls” himself.
“We work with clubs and manufacturers to take last season and beyond’s stock,” Doug divulged.
“Often we get items from clubs’ own kit rooms and in 2010 we managed to get AC Milan’s entire kit room.
“As part of that, we got shorts, jackets, shorts and even underpants!
“We have boxes full of first team pants, all numbered from players to the doctors.
“We’ve got David Beckham’s pants from when he played for them, they’re numbered ’32′”.
As we walked through Classic Football Shirt’s extensive warehouse full of football goodies, we felt like kids in a sweatshirt, grabbing at every item that lit up our eyes.
And that’s exactly how Man United star Juan Mata reacted when he popped in to see the collection for himself.
“We had Juan Mata come and it completely blew his mind,” Doug revealed.
“He relived all his childhood memories of Oviedo, Valencia and the Spanish national team.
“Juan was the same as any other football fan that walks in here.
“I’ve reminisced with many players and people in this place – it just brings it all back.”