When I first started following Bath City I really struggled to figure out which player was which. This was not because I have some sort of problem recognising faces, but because I was confused by the numbering system on the players' shirts. To me there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to it. One player would wear number 10 in one match and be in a 11 the next. Also, the numbers players were listed under in the match program was wrong as often as it was right. In my first few matches watching City I could tell from listening to other supporters there was a really good player named 'Dutch,' but for the life of me I couldn't figure out who he was.
Eventually I figured it out. Bath City use the traditional squad numbering system that all English football clubs used up until the early 90s. All starting players are given a number from 1-11, and players on the bench go from 12 upwards. The numbering starts with 1 for the keeper (no matter which keeper is playing) and increases as you move up the pitch. Defenders tend to be numbered 2-5, midfielders 6-8, and forwards 9-11. Modern playing systems mean that the numbers don't always work out exactly, and 11 is often worn by a midfielder who plays a specialised role called a 'winger.' Richard Evans, the only true winger in the Bath City squad, always wears 11 when he plays. Recently he has not been making the starting lineup, so the number 11 has been moving around (and because no one can be sure who Adie Britton will choose to start in which position, the poor program editors can only take an educated guess who will be wearing what shirt when the game begins).
Now that I know who the players are I find this very useful. When Lewis Hogg comes out in a number 7 I know Adie Britton has decided he will play in mid-field. Against Totten, when he was acted as a striker, he wore 10. When Forest Green Rovers played City in the FA Cup I found their use of numbers in the 20s and 30s really annoying. How I am supposed to know what that player is meant to be doing?
Rovers' use of higher numbers appeared pretentious to me. That is something 'league' football clubs do. In 1993 the Football League moved to a system where each player has his own personal number that he wears in every match. The trend has become for players to have higher and higher numbers. It is has now even become routine to see Premiership players wearing numbers higher the number of high-performance sportscars they own.
While the change may have made it easier for the casual fan to know who's who, any change, regardless of how sensible, will be lamented in sports by nostalgics after a few years. I frequently read articles by journalists extolling the football of a simpler age, when no one got a yellow card unless he drew blood, and shirt numbers never went above 18. 'WHAT ABOUT NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALL!' I want to shout. Well, at least as far as the numbers go.
Football traditionalists may have a tough road ahead if a trend started by Football Federation Australia takes root. They recently experimented with each of their players, across all the various national teams, having a single registered number. This has caused the sort of inflation levels that would sink a small nation-state. Predictably, socceroo Dario Vidosic recently wore a shirt number '101' in an Asia Cup qualifying match. I don't really consider myself a traditionalist, but if I ever turned up at Twerton Park and saw Lewis Hogg in a 101 shirt I might turn around and go home.
American sports have their own traditions when it comes to numbers. In the 1920s the New YorkYankees began wearing shirt numbers to show their order in the batting lineup (and since then Babe Ruth's number 3 has been synonymous with homerun hitting). Because of this baseball uniforms traditionally have fairly low numbers. Boston Braves pitcher Bill Voiselle needed official permission from the National League to wear the number 96. It was granted, though, because the name of his home town was actually Ninety-Six, South Carolina. American Football numbers show the position of the player (roughly) in the same way Bath City shirts do: kickers and quarterbacks wear 1-19, backs wear 20-49, etc. Basketball players can have any number they like as long as each digit is 0-5. This is because when a referee signals who committed a foul he holds up his two hands to show the shirt number (a closed fist represents zero). Whenever Boston Celtics legend Robert Parish fouled the ref would hold up two fists.
Although the numbering tradition in the higher leagues in England has largely disappeared, it is not gone altogether. Liverpool's Steven Gerrard had to wear number 17 originally because his favourite number (8 - an appropriate number for an attacking midfielder) was then worn by Emile Hesky. When Hesky left in 2004, 8 became free. Gerrard has worn nothing else since.
Editor's Note so British People understand the title to this article: The number '101' is the traditional course number for an entry level course at American universities. 'English 101' would be a course for a first year English student. 'Philosophy 101' would be for a first year Philosophy student before he got so confused he had trouble functioning and switched to being an English student.
Monday, 4 January 2010
|I'm reading: Shirt Numbering 101 ~|
Posted by Nedved at 21:55