When the Manchester United squad flies out to the United States on Monday at the beginning of their five match pre season tour, the organisation behind the scenes will resemble that of a military operation. The preparation for a new season is hectic at the best of times but when a long overseas tour is also on the agenda, much of the responsibility falls on the shoulders of kit manager Albert Morgan. The club’s official website manutd.com speaks to the man himself to find out what’s involved.
Now the players are back, is this a busy time for the kit department?
Very much so. We’re still a week away from the pre season tour to North America, so we’re not quite at the most manic time yet, but usually a couple of days before we go away my blood pressure goes through the roof! All the players are back and naturally they need various kit items, so I’m dealing with lots of requests at the same time.
So do you get much time off during the summer?
Not really! People say to me at the end of the season “You’ll have eight or nine weeks off now, won’t you?” But that’s not the case. This year I’ve had around four weeks off, which is very rare, but now I’m back and my department is working extremely hard to get ready for the new season.
And this year there are brand new kits to organise for all the players
Yes, and not just for the first team but the Reserves and Academy too. Assistant kit manager Alec Wylie and I have just taken a delivery of 60 odd boxes of training and match gear, some of which is for Academy kit manager Ian Buckingham to sort out for the youngsters. When United introduce a new kit, it arrives at Carrington at various stages over the summer and we sort it out gradually, but it all needs to be here and ready for the day the players return for pre season training.
How do you measure new players for their kit?
For new signings, we use our experience to work out what size they need. So we’ve watched Javier Hernandez on TV at the World Cup and can estimate what we need for him. We’ll then make changes if necessary once the players arrive. The players need to be comfortable in what they wear, so we have to get it spot on before we put the final numbers on the kit just before the start of the season.
How much are you taking on tour?
We’ll be taking 20-25 skips. Tours are a mammoth operation. We are playing five games this year, but we’ll have 10 match kits for each player. That’s because many of the players change their kits at half time, and then often swap them with the opposition at the end of the game. Of course, we can sometimes make kits up at the end of the tour, but we don’t take that chance because there are no guarantees. On top of that there are all the boots, plus our sports science and medical teams’ equipment, so it all adds up!
So preparation is the key?
We have to be well organized, it’s no use if we turn up somewhere in America and we’ve neglected to bring one item of kit or another. I’d be in real trouble with the gaffer, so it’s better if we cover all bases and take everything with us!
Are you looking forward to the new season?
Yes. When I first took over this role from Norman Davies in 1996, I was told that the job gets easier once the season starts. Visiting places like the US and the Far East in pre season with United is really enjoyable, but it’s hard work for us! Once you’re in to the nitty gritty of weekend-midweek-weekend games in the Premier League and Champions League, you get into a flow and a routine. It’s still non stop but Alec and I are lucky because we have a hard working team who all muck in to get the job done.
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Did you know?
Our writer Frank Scicluna was at the same job of Albert Morgen! He was the kit manager of Australia National teams for 12 years and had a great memories. One of them was with Diego Maradona: “the three weeks of the two matches against Argentina in 1993 were an absolute highlight. I met with Maradona three times including 15 minutes talking to him – as best as I could because of his lack of English, over a cup of coffee in transit at Auckland airport. We flew to Argentina on the same flight after the game in Sydney.” He was also with the youth team in Malaysia for the 1997 World Youth cup.