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Second-season syndrome

A year ago, to mark the 25th anniversary of the introduction of squad numbering to the Premier League, we examined how sides allocated their numbers and how they lined up on the opening day of the 1993-94 season – you can revisit that article here.

This time, we have decided to check the extent to which clubs made changes for the following season. In many ways, it was a pivotal moment – if there had been a large move to make the 1-11 match the first-choice teams, then that might have become the accepted procedure for subsequent seasons. However, while some clubs did look to ‘tidy up’ their numbering, the die had been cast for the proliferation of higher digits among starting line-ups.


Paul Dickov 27-24
Mark Flatts 24-25

Only the smallest of changes for what would be George Graham’s last season in charge, setting a tone for minimal switches by Mark Flatts.

New signing Stefan Schwarz took 15, which Anders Limpar had vacated the previous season, while it would be another year before Steve Bould and Andy Linighan swapped 12 and 5 to reflect their status.

Aston Villa

Andy Townsend 14-11
Garry Parker 8-14

Tony Daley’s departure freed up a 1-11 shirt for Andy Townsend, but it was 11 and he would have to wait until Kevin Richardson’s departure before moving to a more suitable 6.

Richardson filled in at right-back here, meaning that Garry Parker, recently deposed from 8, started in his new 14. New signing John Fashanu wore 8.

Blackburn Rovers

Tim Flowers 26-1
Bobby Mimms 1-13
Frank Talia 13-26

The previous season’s runners-up and this year’s champions’ only switches were musical chairs to reflect goalkeeping order – Flowers had joined from Southampton during 1993-94.


Steve Clarke 12-2
Jakob Kjeldberg 35-4
Mark Stein 21-9
Darren Barnard 2-14
Andy Myers 3-15
David Hopkin 27-16
Anthony Barness 29-22
Nick Colgan 30-23
Robert Fleck 16-24
David Lee 4-25
Gareth Hall 14-27

A lot of housekeeping by Chelsea player-manager Glenn Hoddle though he kept himself in 20 and didn’t feature much. The first of three changes for Steve Clarke over the space of six years – he would go 12-2-6-4, while Andy Myers’ journey was 3-15-8-18 and goalkeeper Nick Colgan wore 30-23-30-23-31 over five consecutive seasons.

The changes were somewhat justified in that they had eight 1-11 numbers on the opening day, with new signing David Rocastle’s 21 the highest. Kjeldberg would only keep 4 for a season, moving to 19 to accommodate the newly signed Ruud Gullit in 1995-96.

Coventry City

David Rennie 6-5
Phil Babb 20-6
Sean Flynn 18-7
Peter Ndlovu 12-9
Willie Boland 16-11
John Williams 7-12
Jonathan Gould 23-13
Leigh Jenkinson 22-14
Paul Williams 15-16
Ally Pickering 24-17
Sandy Robertson 26-18
David Busst 14-20
Tony Sheridan 19-21
Martin Davies 13-23

Even more upheaval than Chelsea, but the Sky Blues did run out with nine 1-11 numbers at the beginning of the season. Although, they weren’t all placed well:

If we’re being pick, we’d say that 6 was better for David Rennie than 5 if he was rotating between defence and midfield, while we’ve no idea why David Busst moved from 14 to 20 if he was still a first-choice. Phil Babb would wear 6 all season, but from October he would do so for Liverpool.



The emergence of number 26 David Unsworth – 38 appearances in the league this season – undermined the Toffees’ decision to keep things as they were, though he woud switch to 4 for 1995-96.

Ipswich Town


Another club to stick with what they had and, while Chris Kiwomya’s departure to Arsenal meant they no longer had a 10-11 strikeforce for the 9-0 defeat at Old Trafford, it was a delayed punishment.

Leeds United

Gary Kelly 22-2
David Wetherall 18-6
David White 4-14
Mark Tinkler 23-17
Jamie Forrester 26-18
Noel Whelan 25-19
Mark Ford 27-22
Andy Couzens 24-23
Rob Bowman 28-24

A lot of lower-order changes as younger players came through, while Gary Kelly’s move was quite pleasing as he had had a great breakthrough season in 1993-94.

David White’s switch to a teen number while remaining a starter is understandable as he shouldn’t have had 4 – now given to Carlton Palmer – in the first place.


David James 13-1

Liverpool had actually sought to make a lot of changes from 1993-94, but this didn’t materialise and the only move was goalkeeper David James in the wake of Bruce Grobbelaar’s departure.

On the left is their actual lineup for the first game, on the right is how they would have looked if the proposed changes were permitted.

Manchester City

Paul Walsh 30-8
Peter Beagrie 32-11
Carl Griffiths 11-14
Mike Sheron 8-26
Paul Lake 14-31

Carl Griffiths was a mid-season signing who was never likely to become a first-teamer while Paul Walsh and Peter Beagrie were also purchased during 1993-94 and had better prospects. Paul Lake continued to be dogged by the injury problems that would force him to retire but we’re not sure what Mike Sheron did to offend Brian Horton.

The outlier here is Uwe Rösler, another signed during 1993-94 but seemingly immune from the switches.

Manchester United


No need to change what wasn’t broken, with new signing David May taking the 12 vacated by new Middlesbrough player-manager Brian Robson. He played instead of number 2 Paul Parker, while the only other 1-11 number missing was that of Eric Cantona, suspended after being sent off in a friendly against Rangers (when United wore 1-11 and he came on as a sub wearing 14).

Newcastle United


All six midfielders and forwards had 1-11 numbers but it was a mess. We can accept Barry Venison’s 2 as he switched from right-back but Ruel Fox’s wearing of 5 (he was signed during 1993-94) should have been dealt with, especially as new defensive signing Philippe Albert had to make do with 27. Two years later, the Belgian would have to wear 12 in Europe as Uefa enforced 1-25 squad numbering.

Norwich City

Mark Robins 12-9
Spencer Prior 27-14

A strange one in that Robins took the number 9 from midfielder Gary Megson but joined Leicester City during the season and, when Megson made his only appearance in April, he had 9 on his back. Three on-loan goalkeepers – Simon Tracey, Andy Rhodes and Jon Hallworth – all wore 34 for the Canaries.

Aside from Robins, there was no attempt to normalise the esoteric number of the previous season.

Queens Park Rangers

Steve Yates 24-4
Karl Ready 18-5
Alan McCarthy 25-18
Maurice Doyle 20-27

Ray Wilkins’ move to Crystal Palace left 4 free for defender Steve Yates to take – when Wilkins returned as player-manager during the season, he was left to wear 26.

Sheffield Wednesday


It would have made if Peter Atherton – signed from Coventry City during 1993-94 – had moved to 5 so that new signing Dan Petrescu could take 2.


Francis Benali 11-3
Dave Beasant 1-13
David Hughes 29-18

We still don’t know why left-back Francis Benali wore 11 in 1993-94, but it was thankfully rectified.

Tottenham Hotspur

Stuart Nethercott 26-14
Kevin Scott 8-19
Jason Cundy 18-26

Defender Scott took 8 joined from Newcastle in 1993-94 – his departure allowed Ruel Fox to wear the empty 5 –  and he and Cundy moved upwards as a result of Tottenham signing Ilie Dumitrescu and Jurgen Klinsmann.

Darren Anderton continued to wear an unsuitable 9 while new right-back David Kerslake took 22 and Sol Campbell would make 23 a fixture at the back for Spurs until 1999, when he and Anderton were part of a series of changes.

West Ham United

Alvin Martin 18-5
Ian Bishop 14-7
Matty Holmes 16-11
Keith Rowland 23-12
Lee Chapman 25-16
Simon Webster 5-18
Mike Marsh 34-19
Jeroen Boere 35-25
Matt Holland 21-28

All rather satisfying from the Hammers, though why Webster was given 5 ahead of club legend Martin in 1993-94 was strange.

West Ham’s ten 1-11 numbers was the highest on the opening weekend.


Gary Blissett 36-11
Gary Elkins 33-12
Alan Kimble 35-16

Broad-strokes stuff from the Dons, with first-team squad players in the 30s trading down, but nothing beyond that.

Despite taking 11, centre-forward Blissett only played nine times, five as a sub, and moved to 25 the following season.

In addition, there were of course three clubs promoted from Division 1. None of them had taken up the option to use squad numbers in 1993-94, but that didn’t necessarily mean that they assigned the low digits to the best players.

Crystal Palace

Paul Stewart wore 10 during his loan move in 1993-94 but he was back at Liverpool. Palace signed attackers Bruce Dyer and Andy Preece and gave them 10 and 18 respectively but it was Preece who got the nod.

Leicester City

Eight 1-11 numbers but, like Newcastle, a bit messy. That said, we can forgive Steve Walsh wearing 5 up front – he had 9 in the play-off final win over Derby County but was more often a defender. When number 6 Steve Agnew left during the season, it meant that Mark Robins inherited it when he joined from Norwich.

Nottingham Forest

Forest often played 4-5-1 in their promotion-winning season and transposed most of the first choice team into their squad numbers, meaning midfielder Lars Bohinen wore 9 with Stan Collymore 10, though neither played the first game.

New signing Bryan Roy was given 22, while the other oddity was the allocation of 6 to defender Carl Tiler, who had worn 2 and 4 in the few games he played the previous season. Right midfielder Steve Stone, who wore 6 for most of 1993-94, was given 11, meaning that left winger Ian Woan had 14.

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Second-season syndrome