How it all started
In all honesty I didn’t intentionally plan on building a collection at all. It all materialised from a birthday present from my older brother. The story starts, and my collection started, on 6th September 2017 when my brother bought me the Derby County 1995-1997 Puma home shirt for my birthday. I opened it up and I loved the classic look and the memories it brought back of following Derby at the time. My brother and I were in the Rams Academy as kids where we sat in the Ossie Lower at the Baseball Ground with our parents. The memories of those days and watching the likes of Stimac, Van der Laan and co came flooding back with this shirt.
After that I got the bug as they say, and I went up in the loft where we have boxes of old photographs. I found all the ones where me and my brother were wearing Derby shirts and it inspired me to collect all the shirts from my childhood and youth that I used to own. As with many fans, over time I had worn them to shreds and some had been thrown away, so I wanted to get them all in top condition and in adult sizes for myself to start a small personal collection.
One thing led to another and I started diving deeper into shirts – which ones we had over the years, match worn shirts, replica shirts and sportwear items. I found myself viewing some incredible images of shirts I could only dream to own; some I had never seen and some I remember my idols wearing. From there my newly founded addiction was about to evolve into what it is today.
A few of my personal favourites
A personal favourite is my 1995-96 Igor Stimac match worn shirt from the promotion season. He is my favourite player to date at Derby and was part of a great period on the pitch under Jim Smith. The shirt, the player and the era are all perfect for me and I have fond memories of that time as a fan.
My favourite in terms of rarity is one I recently purchased, the blue 1975 away match worn shirt worn by Henry Newton in the last 16 of the European Cup v Real Madrid 11/4/1975. I’ve never even seen a photo of another one of these shirts nor do I know of anyone else owning one. It’s incredibly rare and therefore a hugely important shirt in my collection.
In terms of looks, and I know this is all down to personal opinion, I have a 1978 Derby County home shirt worn by Todd/Rioch. Long blue collars, Umbro diamonds on the trim down the arms, long deep blue cuffs. I love the simplicity in the plain cotton shirt with only the Umbro badge on the chest and the embroidered ram on the right. For me blue and white with a red number absolutely screams classic 70s designing.
About the collection
I endeavour to ensure that my shirts are preserved well and are kept in the best condition to avoid them deteriorating over time. I’ve seen some shirts destroyed by moths, UV light, damp and others having objects stored on top of them. The end goal is to place every last shirt in an official club museum.
My aim is to get one of every single shirt – match worn, replica, sportswear and other items of memorabilia. I do have some duplicate shirts that I may trade to fill my collection. If it means adding a shirt I haven’t got then I’m happy to sacrifice one I have multiple of. It seemed an impossible task to begin with but with all the time and effort I have put into sourcing and researching over the last few years, I currently have around 650+ shirts and sportswear items including almost every replica produced and closing in on 200 match worn player shirts.
I’d love a player shirt from the 1950s or 1960s, or even earlier if anyone has one reading this! But in terms of wants, there are still so many to collect. I regularly put out social media adverts for match worn shirts, replicas, sportswear items, scarves, one off memorabilia, full kilts and much more. I have also secured a few shirts recently through ex-professional footballers getting in touch with me. This makes me feel very honoured to be able to preserve their shirts and so pleased they like what I am doing enough to trust me with their treasured shirt.
My father’s entrance into the collection
It’s gone from a hobby to a passion with my father joining in on the collecting game too. I piqued his interest after purchasing some adult sized shirts from my childhood. The collection intensified no end when he got involved because he’s been following the Rams since the 1960s and has seen untold amounts of games both home and away. It is always great bringing a new shirt in because 9 times out of 10 he has a fantastic story to tell from the era, especially with those older shirts before my time. It’s brilliant listening to these stories, it gives a real insight into what it was like as a fan back then and hearing what him and his mates used to get up to! We both work in tandem each doing research, following leads on shirts and bringing them in to improve and expand the collection.
The past and the future
I have been part of the Rams Heritage Trust from the start. It’s great to sit around a table discussing magnificent ideas with Jamie Calladine and where we want to take the Trust in the future. I also work closely with Andy Ellis at the Derby County Collection. In the past some of my collection has been used at the Guildhall in Derby City centre to showcase Rams history and memorabilia. I am always more than happy for my shirts to be displayed at events they have organised so other Rams fans can see and enjoy them.
It’s crazy that Derby County don’t have a museum and that preserving these shirts for a future museum hasn’t been done before. What Andy and Jamie do with these events and displays is great for fans and enthusiasts and it’s an honour to be able to help them by providing these treasures to display. I love shirts and the history of the club and with my passion for this I want to preserve as many Derby County shirts, sportswear items and rare pieces of memorabilia as I can so that when the time comes to open a museum these items will be ready, and all Derby fans can enjoy viewing them.