My Favourite Shirt - Part Twenty Five

Part Twenty Five of My Favourite Shirt has Lee Bowman and his 1999/00 Dover Athletic Home Shirt and his shirt collection.

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Lee and his 1999/00 Dover Athletic Home Shirt and also a match worn away shirt from the same season

Why is this your favourite shirt? Vandanel were always one of my favourite shirt manufacturers in Non-League back in the mid-late 90’s and made a lot of good quality shirts. These were the first shirts they produced for us. They were striking designs!


I own a the Home shirt and a player issued and match worn Away shirt (as per the images below). There was also an identical 3rd shirt which was yellow and blue that is very elusive to find as I believe it wasn’t produced as a replica. 


Does this shirt bring back any good or bad memories for you? Only good memories as, up until our 5th placed finish in 2015-2016 with 80 points, this shirt was worn during our most successful season during our initial spell in the Conference. We finished 6th in the Nationwide Conference in 1999/2000 on 66 points. 


The worst memory this shirt brought was when we were knocked out of the FA Cup in the 4th Qualifying Round Replay at Home to Worthing after extra time. They were 3 leagues below us!


Who was the best player to wear this shirt? We only wore this shirt for one season but we had some very good players that year, particularly in Midfield. The likes of Dave Clarke, Simon Wormull and Joe Dunne, each of whom would be in with a shout of making many supporters’ all-time XI’s. I very much associate this shirt with Striker Joff Vansittart more than anyone, however. 


And the worst? There wasn’t a worst, not who wore this shirt anyway!


How do you rate the shirts of today compared to years gone by? There were more adventurous, arguably outrageous and striking designs back then. The other noticeable differences were that the shirts were made of a lot thicker and heavier material than they are today and the sizes were a lot bigger!


Tell the readers about collection of shirts? I’ve grown up as a Dover Athletic supporter and spent 15 years as a Crystal Palace Season Ticket Holder between 2004-2019 too so I have an extensive collection of shirts built up from those two clubs. Aside from them, I tend to collect Non-League shirts of Clubs who competed in the Conference roughly between the 1994-2004 period.


Is there anything out there that you’re after? I’m always on the lookout for old Conference shirts to add to my collection. I would rather find a Bromsgrove shirt than a Barcelona one or an Altrincham one over an Arsenal shirt! There are several on my wants list.


Other than Dover which other club is close to your heart? As mentioned, Crystal Palace are a club I spent 15 years supporting, and continue to do so, but have followed them since my first ever game at Selhurst Park back in 1998. 


Due to family connections, I also have a soft spot for Mansfield Town. I always look out for their results and have done so for over 25 years now and have been to Field Mill 8 or 9 times over the years. 


Describe your years when you were a Palace season ticket holder? It was certainly a rollercoaster ride as they say and never a dull moment! We were relegated from the Premier League, with just 8 minutes to go, away at rivals Charlton Athletic on the final day of my first season, in 2004/05. We then spent 9 years in the Championship which included being put into administration and being on the brink of existence. Having -10 points deducted meant that, again, we were involved in another final day showdown, this time with Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough in a ‘loser goes down’ fixture in 2010 where we needed to avoid defeat to stay in the Championship or face relegation to League One. We drew 2-2 and stayed up.  Just 3 years later we beat Watford to win the Play-Offs at Wembley having beaten our fiercest rivals, Brighton & Hove Albion, at the AMEX in the Semi-Final.  We then experienced a further 2 trips to Wembley for an FA Cup Semi-Final (v Watford) and Final (v Man Utd) in 2016.

We became an established Premier League club and recorded some great results, both at home and particularly away. Winning at Anfield 3 seasons running, Chelsea two seasons running as well as winning at Arsenal and Man Utd and being the only team to beat Man City at the Ettihad in their title winning campaign last season! So there were certainly many ups and downs but on the whole it was a very enjoyable 15 years.  


Any divided loyalties when Dover and Palace played each other in the FA Cup in 2015? It was a dream tie but a nightmare one at the same time. Regardless of what people say, many fans of Non-League clubs tend to follow a ‘big’ club from the top divisions as well, not always but in many cases. However, you never really believe they will ever cross paths competitively.


Unfortunately for us (Dover), Neil Warnock was sacked prior to the game and Palace appointed Alan Pardew. Eager to avoid being on the end of a major Cup upset on his debut, Pardew sent a full strength side to Crabble that saw off Dover 4-0 with relative ease.


How do you view the seasons for both Dover and Palace before the current break in proceedings? There is often a lot of symmetry in both clubs’ seasons whether it be the lack of a striker, having a better away record or the threat of staying in the respective division etc. This season in particular Palace were doing very well considering the lack of investment in their ageing, current squad. We had beat Brighton away at the end of February though which is always great! We were in no danger of going down but were not really going to finish much better than mid table. However, the possibility of a highest ever Premier League finish (9th or above) is/was still on the cards.


Dover were/are 12th, right in the middle of the 24 team league. Our target was to make the Play-Offs but, realistically, despite being up in amongst them earlier on in the season, we were never going to make them so now the season has ended prematurely it hasn’t really affected us at Dover in terms of league positioning.


Your best XI from your time watching Dover? This has been talked about amongst a lot of us supporters during the lockdown. However, I have come to the conclusion it’s simply too difficult to settle on an XI.  It’s very hard to compare players from our most successful period during the late 80’s to early 90’s to more recent years playing at a lowly Step 4 Football compared to Step 1.


Having said that, David Leworthy is a Dover Athletic Legend and would be the first name on the all-time XI team sheet without a doubt! He never wore these shirts, however.

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