A photograph taken on a mobile phone of the new shirt, designed by local sportswear company O’Neill’s, was leaked online over the weekend and sparked a heated debate among the club’s fanbase with the jersey receiving a mixed response.
The official launch of the new home kit is scheduled for early next month, prior to the start of the new League of Ireland campaign but the big reveal was somewhat spoiled by the emergence of the photo circulating online.
The red and white striped v-neck shirt with black shorts is a throwback to the jersey worn the last time Derry City won the League of Ireland Premier Division, 25 years ago this season.
Higgins, who can’t wait to see his new-look City team don the new jersey, admits he was ‘disappointed’ by the leaked photograph but claims the picture released simply doesn’t do the shirt justice.
And the Limavady native stressed the importance of celebrating the history of Derry City Football Club by wearing a shirt which pays homage to the last City team to bring home the title.
“It’s disappointing that the picture was released,” he acknowledged. “However, that picture doesn’t do it justice in my opinion.
“I like it and I think the historical link to the 1997 team, and the fact it’s 25 years since that team won the league, can’t be overlooked. That was very much the idea behind the design of the new jersey,” he confirmed.
Despite the link to that famous title winning squad managed by Felix Healy and captained to glory by Peter Hutton, a section of Derry fans weren’t happy with the absence of the traditional red and white candy stripes on the finished product.
One Derry fan even conducted an online poll on a Candy Stripes fan page on Facebook posing the question: “The leaked home top - Do you want the club to tell O’Neills to go back to the drawing board and give us a Candystripe design?”
Almost 500 people responded with, incredibly, 446 declaring they WOULD want a total redesign of the jersey.
One fan wrote on Facebook: ‘Can’t see why the club would want to deviate from our basic colours since Billy Gillespie brought them from Sheffield United.’
Not everyone was turned off by the new design, however, with one excited fan commenting: ‘Absolutely love it. It’s a throwback to ‘97. Tis [sic] our year! Domestic double on the way.’
‘Love it or hate it, it’ll definitely grow in popularity if we’re lifting silver at the end of the season.’ claimed another.
Despite some negative comments online, Higgins understands just how subjective and divisive football shirts can be but backed the ‘thought-process’ and historical significance of the new-look rig.
“You’re never going to please everybody but I liked it when I first saw it,” continued the City supremo.
“I’ve seen it and I really like the thought process behind it as well. It’s important we don’t forget the history of this club and this jersey celebrates the last time the club won the league title 25 years ago this season.
“So hopefully the fans can get behind it.”