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Do Shirt Numbers Matter As Much As They Used To?

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Over the last couple of years the Premier League has seen numbers rise in goals, world-class players, attendances and player salaries. Something else has been going up as well and that’s shirt numbers.

Well to be more precise they haven’t been going up, but it’s just that seemingly today more and more first-team regulars thesedays have unfashionable numbers on the back of their shirts, that growing up they wouldn’t have dreamt about walking onto a hallowed pitch with.

Look around at almost every Premier League club and there’s at least one/two players at each club who have a silly-looking number, here’s a few that sprung to my mind:

30: Yossi Benayoun (Chelsea & Arsenal), Moussa Dembele (Fulham)

31: Simon Cox (West Brom)

32: Benoit Assou-Ekotto (Spurs), Marc-Antoine Fortune (West Brom), Carlos Tevez (Manchester City), Shaun Wright-Phillips (Queens Park Rangers),

33: Cameron Jerome (Stoke), Paul Scharner (West Brom)

35: Anton Ferdinand (Queens Park Rangers)

37: Martin Skrtel (Liverpool)

39: Craig Bellamy (Liverpool), Nicolas Anelka (Chelsea), Jonathan Woodgate (Spurs)

40: Wilson Palacios (Stoke), Steven Pienaar (Spurs)

42: Yaya Toure (Manchester City), Jason Puncheon (Queens Park Rangers)

45: Mario Balotelli (Manchester City)

52: Nicklas Bendtner (Sunderland)

Now I understand that some of those players have that number for a number (pardon the pun) of reasons including the fact that some like a particular number (Bendtner), that some only had a handful to choose from (Ferdinand) and that some have chosen a number because it’s connected in some form of way to a number that they want to wear given on their playing position (Palacios).

However, I can’t help but feel odd seeing first-team regulars – remember these are not kids from the reserves who have been given a squad number which numbers in the mid30s and above are given out – wearing untraditional football numbers especially in today’s’ modern football. It just doesn’t look right and feel at ease with me. There I said it!

I understand that on the continent especially in Italy and Portugal numbers can get out of control with players’ numbers at times going into the 70s and 80s. So perhaps we should be thankful at the moment that the numbers are what they are at the moment. However I do find it strange that players are taking higher numbers when there are lower numbers avaliable for them to take at times.

When I tweeted ‘Do shirt numbers matter as much as they used to, to modern day players?’ it got an interesting response from a few followers.

@chorleyhunter99, our own contributor @KevinAshford7 and @andykeating all actually answered the question in a slightly different way that I had expected saying that shirt-numbers are more of a ‘money making product’ now than ever.

@andykeating made though a point that is defiantly worth thinking about, Imagine if players could change their numbers from one week to the next, like they did in the top-flight up until 1992. Imagine a scenario where Wayne Rooney was wearing 10 one week for Manchester United and Javier Hernandez wore it the next week?

It would be somewhat unfair on parents if they flogged out on a ‘Rooney 10’ shirt the week beforehand wouldn’t it. Then again football has always been a business and that won’t continue to change and if that scenario just mentioned, was reality then parents would be wary of spending the £20-30 quid for a shirt for their kid with a player’s name on the back and would probably (as some people still do today) just get a shirt with no number on the back.

Getting back to the original topic of this article, shirt numbers of course are not that relevant any more. However they can affect a player’s performance and strikers can defiantly feel the pressure when wearing the 7, 9 or 10 shirts, if they haven’t scored in a while.

Perhaps it’s just a sign of the time that the traditional 1-11 numbers are not seen as important these days to players or that they have realised that it’s not what number you wear on your shirt that matters, it’s what you do on the pitch whilst wearing the shirt. 

By Adam Dennehey  @ADennehey87

1 thought on “Do Shirt Numbers Matter As Much As They Used To?”

  1. I suspect that with many things in today's game, the decline of the traditional numbering system is a result of increasing globalization and different sporting cultures. As a Canadian, (although I've been following the Premier league for a few years), I find the numbering system and the changing of numbers very strange. In North America, the number is entirely personal preference and players usually wear the same number throughout their career. Whether they switch teams, or move from a reserve to a starter the number remains the same. Part of it is for superstition, part of it is marketing. For many players over here, their number is just as well known as their name (i.e. Wayne Gretzky – 99, Michael Jordan – 23) and often becomes part of their “brand”. I think the same thing may be happening in football. Look at Cristiano Ronaldo and his CR7 and CR9 stuff. As players move from club to club, we may see more of them wearing weird numbers so they don't have to change it, and dilute their brand.

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