KM: Alex, hello! First, a massive thank you for chatting to us here at KIT Mag, we’re absolutely delighted to have you here with us! First of all, how did you end up hearing about the magazine and what were your thoughts on Volume 1?
AB: Hello, thank you very much for having me! I had seen various people on Twitter talking about the magazine and giving it great reviews. It caught my attention as I’ve always been interested in football shirts - I used to collect them! I’ve enjoyed reading the magazine, and I think it’s been put together well and had some fascinating articles.
KM: Where did this all start for you and just how did you end up being a Kit Manager?
AB: I’ve always been passionate about football. When I was growing up, I’d be watching any game possible, playing anytime I could so I always knew I would end up working in football in some capacity. Of course, I wanted to play professionally, but that wasn’t to be.
I volunteered for two weeks at a charity football academy in Ghana. I enjoyed my time there so much, I moved to Ghana for two-and-a-bit years. The charity I worked for gave underprivileged children a chance to play football every day while being schooled, fed three times a day, and be given a real chance. We had many success stories of players for the National age groups, and many of the children have gone over to universities in the United States on full scholarships. They play at a good league standard whilst completing degrees.
I then moved back to England and needed a job. I took a job at Brighton’s training ground and I was approached to work in the kit team with the U23s after a few months.
At the time in the club, there were quite a few people called Alex working around the squads, so they wanted a nickname for me on one of my first days. With my surname being Burrows, they somehow shortened it to Buzz?! I’m not sure why or how, but it’s stuck to this day!
I had never thought about a career as a kitman, but it was an easy decision the more I thought about it. I had always been interested in different kits and boots and so on and being in and around a match day was a bonus. For a few years, I was with the 23s and eventually became kit manager three days before our 3-0 opening day win at Watford (also Graham Potter’s first league game).
KM: Talk to us about a day in the life of Alex Burrows and what it’s like to be a kit manager at a top-flight football club? Who are the people who make up your team, and what do their roles involve on a day-to-day basis?
AB: A typical day would be arriving at the training ground from 7am. Getting the footballs, bibs, etc. ready for training. Ensuring all the players’ extras are out and ready. Heading out to training to help with anything needed, back inside to clean the boots as the boys come back in. Then it’s prep for the next day putting training kits together and working on any printing and match prep that needs to be done for the upcoming games.
It’s a great being in my role, and I enjoy coming to work every day. The role can be very busy, and lots of things can happen and at very short notice. You need to be organised, flexible, hardworking, and prepared to work long hours.
I’m the manager to four other kit staff. I have Paul, who works with me on the first team side, Harry, who oversees the Academy kit and travels with the 23s, then Dominic, who is with the 18s and laundry, and Alex, who is our laundryman for the whole Club!
KM: When it comes to the actual design of the Club’s football kits, are you involved in any of the important decisions that the Football Club might make in terms of things like the type of fabric used in a jersey, the proposed colourway by a kit manufacturer etc?
AB: I’m part of the process for selecting future training kits, travel kits, match kits, or anything that we order. There are certain things that we request in terms of fabric. For example, we need the training kit tighter fitting as the players prefer this.
Nike will give us multiple options on shirts, and I have an input on what I think will work for the players, their feelings on it, and whether it will clash with other teams, whether we have the option of alternative shorts/socks etc. It’s important that I am part of these decisions to relay feedback from the players about what they would or wouldn’t want.
Ultimately a kit is designed and selected for performance reasons. A good example of this was a black away kit that we had a few years ago, a really nice kit but it caused a few issues for the players at times.
KM: In your view, how important is it that kit manufacturers get these kinds of details right for their football clubs and do you genuinely believe that the quality of a kit can improve the performance of a team on the pitch?
AB: It’s imperative that the kit works. Going back to the previous question with the black kit, now that I have had that feedback, we have gone with brighter coloured away kits in recent seasons.
Anything that could give us a better advantage we will look into. I’m in a lucky position as I will choose which kit we wear for each game, but for me, anytime you can wear your home kit, I think you should. They are your colours. That’s what your fans associate with your club, the club belongs to the city, and the supporters, we are blue and white, and I try to keep us in that kit as much as possible.
If there is a game when I think it could be a little borderline of a clash, I will speak to Lewis Dunk (the captain), Adam Webster, and a few other players to get their views. At Villa away two years ago, we wore the home kit, I put us in dark blue socks rather than our white. I had spoken to Dunky about the plan to do this, and he agreed in a split second - if you see the royal blue socks, it was more of a contrast to our white and Villa’s light blue socks.
Last season I changed us into the blue away shorts a few times with the home kit again so that in that split second, a player knows blue is us. You don’t have to change shorts for a clash in the Premier League, but I often will if I think it will give us that slight split-second advantage, for example away at Leeds. It’s funny how some kits work, though: in the green away kit two seasons ago, we were unbeaten; in last season’s yellow, I don’t think we picked up more than two points!
KM: Define a great looking kit in your view. Which particular boxes need to be ticked for you to see a shirt that you just know, is going to be successful?
AB: That’s a tough question. I think a great kit needs to be in line with the Clubs’ values and beliefs. I’m really enjoying teams having updated old school kits now. There have been some great kits in recent seasons that have been a throwback to old kits. In terms of boxes being ticked, I think it must fit well - it’s all well and good looking great, but if it’s put on and doesn’t sit well, then it’s no good.
Currently, at club level, I think the size and design of the sponsor can make or break a shirt as well. If you think about iconic football shirts, nine times out of 10, you can name the sponsor! But other than that, I wouldn’t say a kit has to have this or not have that - I think a great shirt can be entirely different to another great shirt.
KM: How much of your time goes into preparing for a match-day fixture, and what does this typically involve? Are you always aware of Brighton’s opposition attire in advance and do you work closely alongside your opposite number at other Football Clubs?
AB: In general, I will start getting ready for our next fixture the first day we are back in after the previous game. Printing shirts that players have swapped or kept, preparing the warmup kit, all our spares, staff kit, coats, rains jackets, boot warmers - the list is long! I use a checklist every game just to ensure I have everything.
I will submit our kit selections about a month/ two months before the fixture to our Club Sec, who will then let the Premier League know. Once the Premier League has accepted both teams’ choices, we will go from there. Sometimes they will ask us to change goalkeeper kits - for example, we wore our Volt goalkeeper kit instead of our black goalkeeper against Everton as they were wearing their black away kit.
I speak to the opposition kit men regularly, and it’s good to help each other out as it’s a unique job. If we turned up to a game and we needed something, we will always help each other out and have a chat over a cup of tea or coffee!
KM: You and your team are in and around the Brighton & Hove Albion changing room each and every day – how closely do you work alongside the coaching staff at the Club in understanding what motivates players and helps them perform etc? Do you get involved with training at the Elite Performance Centre and how does your team’s relationship with the manager work?
AB: Yeah, it’s a privileged position to be in. We have a great relationship with everyone at the Club. I work closely with the coaches in terms of the equipment they need, for example, if they need extra bibs or balls on a particular day and then for the match day squad.
I think Billy Reid must get sick of me asking for the squad before the game!! But all joking aside, it’s important we know as early as possible which boots and extras to pack for the players. I will always inform the coaching staff if there are any changes with kit etc.
At Brighton, Graham Potter and Dan Ashworth have brought a really good atmosphere and mindset to all the players and staff. We are all in it together, and my department and I feel very valued by the club and coaching staff. As kit men, you play an essential role as you work very closely with the players and build a strong relationship; the players and staff often come and sit in the kit room to have a chat or coffee.
We do as much as we can for the players and management on a match day, so they can concentrate on trying to get three points. Day to day training I’m outside most of the time, just on hand for anything that is needed.
KM: Do many of the players have any odd requests/habits/superstitions when it comes to wearing their match-day jerseys and training apparel in the way they prefer for things to be laid out and so on?
AB: The current squad we have now are quite easy in this respect. The goalkeepers will have lots of extras for training and the games, but nothing out of the ordinary. Some players have specific socks they want, and others will always have their boots in the boot warmer before the game.
Dan Burn has his lucky flip flops, which I’ve had to glue back together several times. The lads are on at him to get rid, but there’s not a chance they are going. I’m more nervous about forgetting to take Dan’s flip flops than most other things!
I will always write the fixture and date in the captain’s armband for Dunky to keep, and I will always put it on his arm just before he goes out. When I collect the Anthem Jackets on the pitch, Yves Bissouma will always be last, and we will have a quick chat and embrace.
KM: Tell us about your stand-out favourite Brighton & Hove Albion kit during your time with the Football Club and why it’s your favourite?
AB: I think since I’ve been working for Brighton, this year’s away kit must be up there. I think it’s brilliant. It looks great, fits well, and has good options with mashing up different socks and shorts. Last year’s home kit was also nice, it was a bold and unique design, but I think again it looked fantastic.
One thing the Club do which I believe is unique, is keeping the away kit from the previous season and making it the third kit in the following. I think this is great for supporters, especially as it’s quite rare to have a kit for two seasons in a row.
KM: Have you had any real kit emergencies during your career in kit management and if you have, what have been your worst nightmares? What kind of events would lead to a team having to borrow kit from an opponent?
AB: Touch wood, nothing major yet. It’s obviously a kitman’s worst nightmare, but that’s why I have my checklist! I did get the spelling of a player’s name wrong once in the 23s, but luckily for me, he didn’t come off the bench!
I always put the shirts in last, so in a way, they are the easiest thing to forget, strangely! All the kits are submitted before the game, and the referee will approve them, so there should be no issues on the day with clashes.
KM: What’s your favourite kit of all time and why?
AB: I was born in Portsmouth and had a season ticket for many years following them home and away through all the Divisions, and the 2007/8 Pompey home shirt has a lot of memories for me. Winning the FA Cup obviously being the highlight. To be fair, all three kits that year were nice!
Other than that, I have a couple of other favourites that are quite different! We would go on holiday to Portugal most summers, and I began collecting shirts each year I was there. I really liked Benfica’s Pink 07-08 away shirt - looking back now, it’s not great, but I used to wear it all the time!
And then another shirt I loved was the 2004 Brazil shirt. Ronaldo was my idol, and the whole football world then was brilliant, boots, kits, even the T90 football!
Alex, it’s been fantastic to chat to you and learn about your role with Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club – thank you so much for your time today and a huge thank you to the Football Club for allowing us the time to talk with you.
Thank you so much for having me! Always keen to be involved if you need me again!
Words and Images: Alex Burrows, Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club