Recently Y Ddraig was very fortunate to conduct an interview with Simon Shakeshaft of @ShakeyMatchWorn fame on Twitter. He took us through his collection and his passion for all things to do with Welsh football which was a fascinating insight into his love for Welsh football.
Shakey as he likes to be known, has been involved in writing about his passion for football shirts in a number of publications and became a published author with the 2014 release The Arsenal Shirt, a history of the famous Gunners jersey, which was nominated in Best Illustrated category at British Sports Book awards in 2015 and also contributed to the They Wore the Shirt, the story of the Wolves shirt last year. Current projects include authoring the forthcoming The Spurs Shirt, a Tottenham Hotspur shirt history book due later this year and then late 2018, Shakey and St Davids Press will be publishing a book looking at the history of football shirt of the Wales national football team, which will be a must buy for all Welsh football fans.
We hope you enjoy the following interview.
Question 1 — How did your interest in football shirts start?
Answer — I’m Welsh but was brought up in Hereford, my family heritage all hailing from South Wales, Bridgend and Swansea in the main. In 1974, I remember seeing my dad reading The Western Mail and the match report on Wales losing 2–1 to Austria, in the European Championship qualifier and it was immediately the game that peak my interest in the team. But in 1975 Wales beat Hungary 2–1 in Budapest and watching the goals on Football Focus on the Saturday, John Mahoney’s winning goal and Wales in beautiful yellow away shirts had me hooked completely.
Then in 1976 Wales started wearing that famous tramlines Admiral shirt, that was just a fantastic football kit, I just had to have it. My parents bought me the full kit and the tracksuit, and was never out of them. I used to sit there just rubbing the shiny Wales badge on the shorts, my parents thought there was something wrong with me!
Question 2 — When did your interest in football shirts become more of a collection?
Answer — I had one of those life changing moments in 1990, when I was a passenger in a serious car accident and out of that tragedy, my life changed direction and I went off and trained as a physiotherapist. After I qualified I was fortunate enough to end up working in professional football, firstly with the club I supported, Hereford United and then later Exeter City and Shrewsbury Town. Whilst working in the game you develop friendships and word gets around that I was a collect of players shirts. I was never ever going to be good enough to be a pro-footballer so obtaining a shirt from a player after a game was the closest I was ever going to come to the battle on the pitch. Others Physio’s, players and officials helped me out and early on I’d got shirts from players like John Barnes, Jan Molby, Paul McGrath and even a Clayton Blackmore Man United shirt. But it was in 2001 that I was fortunate enough to obtain my first Wales match worn shirt, a John Hartson, and my passion for the Welsh collection quickly gathered pace.
Question 3 — Is it difficult to purchase match worn shirts that are genuine, is there scammers out there?
Answer — There are plenty of people who try their luck, and sadly there are a number of shirt fakers out there. But I am fortunate that over time I’ve got to know and develop friendships with a number of genuine collectors who are more than happy to help each other out. In around 2003 my Wales collection really expanded mostly due to meeting a well known Welsh football memorabilia collector called Wayne John or ‘Cowboy’ as many Welsh fans, especially the away travel crowd, will know him by. Cowboy was looking to sell off his collection, and I was able to purchase a number of the Wales players shirts he had. I especially remember purchasing my first Welsh Admiral tramlines players shirt off Wayne, the cotton material with cloth badges, so different to the nylon replica jersey of my youth, such a joyous moment!! Having worked in football you develop relationships with a number of good people, some of whom are playing, coaching or still working in the game in some capacity and these guys will help me out with a shirt here and there. But it’s mostly through auction houses, former players and other collectors that the opportunity arises to grow the collection. I also curate The Neville Evans (of Aberystwyth Town fame) National Football Shirt Collection, so my regular chats with Neville, who also has a unbelievably impressive Wales shirt collection, keeps me up to date and know whats going on in the hobby.
Question 4 — Who is your favourite Welsh footballer?
Answer — My favourite player of my youth was definitely Brian Flynn. My Admiral shirt had to have a number 8 stitched onto the back of it -not the easiest number for my mum to do! I have met Flynnie on a number of occasions and I am lucky to have three of his Welsh shirts in the collection including his no.16 debut against Luxembourg in 1974. But the so-nearly teams of the 80’s and early 90’s had some great players, the likes of Neville Southall, Mark Hughes, Ian Rush and my former manager at Shrewsbury Town, Kevin Ratcliffe, imagine the pleasure of working with one of my Welsh heroes.
Question 5 — How many shirts do you have in your collection currently?
Answer — I’m not sure of the exact number right now, I’ve been on a lucky streak with purchases recently but I’d estimate it being currently just over 400. I also have every Welsh home football programme since 1965, helps with the shirt research, as well as other Welsh paper ephemeral memorabilia, a few match balls & players boots.
Question 6 — Do you have any match worn shirts from last summers Euros?
Answer — I now have a Welsh players shirt from each of the six games Wales played, including shirts of Ben Davies, a couple of David Vaughan’s, a Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey, James Chester and Joe Allen. But it was my old friend from our Shrewsbury Town days, David Edwards, who completed my set when he heard I was missing a Northern Ireland game shirt, he sent one of his from from that match, to my wife Tracey to give to me for my birthday! Fantastic gesture, cheers Edo
Question 7 — Do you have a favourite shirt in your collection?
Answer — Most collectors will tell you their favourites will often change. Sometimes you like a shirt because of who wore it or game it was worn in and other times you love the rarity or style of the shirt. However a selection of those I particular cherish include shirts of Ivor Allchurch from 1965, John Toshack (red Admiral home) Rod Thomas (yellow Admiral away) Kevin Ratcliffe adidas, Dean Sanders (white Hummel away) Ian Rush Umbro, a couple of Gary Speed’s and my most recent addition, an extremely rare yellow away from Scotland game in 1974 worn by Tony Villars.
Question 8 — Is there a particular shirt you do not have that you would love to have, and secondly, do you see you ever stopping collecting match worn shirts?
Answer — I would love to have a home red jersey from the 1958 World Cup Finals, they are extremely rare and my player holy grail would be to own a John Charles shirt! Recently a yellow away shirt worn by Ivor Allchurch came up at auction, purchased by FIFA for their museum, at a price of over £4,000. In terms of stopping collecting? well with the shirts changing regularly, Wales have new shirts coming out in November, I’m going to have to try and get them, so the search will start all over again. I have a passion for collecting shirts of my country and as long as that remains, I don’t see me stopping anytime soon.
Thanks to Shakey to agreeing to the interview. Really enjoyed talking to someone so passionate about Welsh football in general which shone throughout the interview. Thanks for his time, and please have a look at his website, walesmatchshirts.com which shows some of the collection in all it’s glory. Check out Twitter @WalesMatchWorn and Instagram Wales_Matchworn. Cannot wait for the book about the history of Welsh football kits due for the end of next year, we will definitely be purchasing it.