Today we interviewed Phil Duffy who is the kit man of Aylesbury FC who currently play in the Southern Football League Division One Central and Luton Town Ladies.
I had particular interest in asking Phil some questions as I was born and bred in Aylesbury, although I followed rivals Aylesbury United (The Ducks) in my younger days and was a regular at the now derelict Buckingham Road.
1. Who are you Kitman for and how long have you been in the position?
“I am Kitman for both Aylesbury FC, who play in the Southern League Central Division, and I am also Kitman with Luton Town Ladies FC in the Womens FA National League so I lead a double Kitman life. I joined Aylesbury FC in the Summer having moved from Leighton Town FC with the Management Team between the two clubs.”
2. How did you get your current role?
“As I said above I joined Aylesbury FC in the summer having previously been Kitman at Leighton Town FC. I had started to photograph games home and away and through this I became closer to the Management and the players around the club which progressed to being asked by the themnfirst team Manager, Scott Reynolds, to come onboard with the Management team as Kit Manager.”
3. Have you had any previous experience? (if so who for)
“I was with Leighton Town FC last season after being around the club for a few years as a photographer.”
4. Is it a role you’ve always wanted to do?
“I was called in for a meeting with the Manager and the Assistant Manager at Leighton Town and asked if I would like to take on the role as Kitman, I’d never thought of doing it before and it did come right out of left field, but it was an offer that I was happy to take up without taking too much time to consider what I was letting myself in for.”
5. What are your responsibilities as a Kitman?
“Kit Man is a great role around the club you get involved in so many aspects of the football club. Obviously I am responsible for the first team kit to be ready for the next match, sometimes to very tight deadlines, and just about anyything thing else; which can range from Manager and player phone calls or text requests for anything from collecting pasta at 5am for away trips, resistance bands, a particular type of screw in stud, training kit, even a scarf for their dog to wear at matches or just down to their favourite haribos to be in place in the changing room before kick off on matchdays. I really enjoy being the conduit for the players on matchday and training nights as well during the week so they can focus on their football and we can create an as professional environment around the playing staff as possible. I take great pride in arriving early and having the dressing room all ready with kit hung and laid out, refreshments ready and the all important sock tape to hand. Also I am the last to leave ensuring that it’s as clean and tidy as possible and that nothing is left behind, except for cast off underpants! They get slung straight in the nearest bin.”
6. Do you have a beer/wine with the opposition Kitman after the game (like managers)?
“Normally a few words over a coffee if time permits before the game after the changing rooms are set, or yes a quick nod of appreciation in each others direction over a welcome pint of cloudy cider if I’m feeling adventurous.”
7. Have you had any certain players have special kit requirements?
“It’s so important to get to know players as individuals rather than just expecting everyone to have the same needs, some players will need slightly larger warm up shirts, or shorts. Some like a resistance band left on their peg and of course those who prefer cut socks. We recycle all the cut feet for keeping players phones and keys etc separate in the valuables bag if they so wish to. Always having the vicks vapour rub for those who need it, it’s all about contributing to those small percentages that came make all the difference on a Match Day.”
8. Do you get any input on the clubs kit designs?
“We have a chap at Aylesbury, Mike Farquharson, who is the driving force behind the scenes on a number of things and sourcing the kit and training gear is one of them although we do get shown mocks ups and ask for our input. Obviously we get the kit at Luton Town Ladies the same as the Men’s team have.”
9. Do you own any football shirts, if so how many and what’s the most treasured shirt you own?
“I used to have a part time business buying and selling football shirts around 15 years aho which was fun for a while, I do still have a number of shirts in my collection.”
10. Do you get to keep shirts from your club or opponents?
“Yes I do have some shirts from clubs that I have worked at but I don’t have any opponent’s shirts.”
11. What in your opinion is the best football kit of all time?
“The Luton Town Home and away kits from 1982-84 are so iconic and are admired and recognized as classics from collectors and fans of many sides. I also love the home nations kits from circa 1982 World Cup in Spain, there was something fantastic about those kits that summer.”
12. How was your playing career, who did you play for, what position etc.
“I only played local County League level as a player, in the late 80s to mid 90s I was a marauding right back with a thunderous shot which got me a few screamers in the opponents onion bag from time to time.”
13. Have you made any errors like, forgot the kit or bought the wrong kit?
“Touch wood, not yet, I may have left the warm up bibs for the bench back at the club on one occasion at an away game this season, but it’s usually players who are forever leaving items of their training kit, shinpads, boots at a training venue or after a game. To which I get the text a few hours later or the next day….. ‘’Kitman, do you have, by any chance……?’’.
14. What’s been your proudest moment as a Kitman?
“With Leighton town last season we got through eight rounds of the FA Vase to reach the Quarter Finals, we were almost in touching distance that was a great run and I was very proud of the achievement from the Management Team and a fantastic group of players, some amazing lifelong memories were made along the way.”
15. What characteristics do you need to be a Kitman?
“You need to have the confidence to be in and around some lively characters and join in the banter without crossing the line, being in my mid 40s I bring a degree of life experience and a lot of the players I have been around will talk to me and air their thoughts that they might not wish to share with the Manager or coaches, so I am there for them for them to get things off their chest but I take great pride in confidentiality with both what you hear from individuals in the changing room, physio room, Managers room and up to the Board room.”
16. What’s the funniest kit related story you can tell us that has happened to you or you have witnessed?
“Last season a young player turned up wearing pink boots for a home game, they were promptly hurried away after the game by a pair of senior players who shall remain nameless much to the younger players distress, after about a week of being held hostage they were left in a safe place for their rightful owner to retrieve.”
17. Who does the laundry at home?
“I have to say that we both do, but my wife probably does the lions share of it if I’m honest. The Committee at Aylesbury FC arrange for the kit to be taken and returned from the laundry so that is one task that I don’t have to look after which is a great support from the club.”
18. Finally, why do you love being a Kitman?
“I just love being involved in football to a degree where you are in the mix of it all but not so that you have the weight of results and expectations on your shoulders. It’s like being a kindly Uncle who loves his nieces and nephews but can hand them back to the parents and the end of the day, but you get to do all the fun stuff. I am inspired by pushing myself and helping others achieve above and beyond their goals. I set high standards of myself and those around me to provide the highest possible standards of professionalism in whatever I set out to do and this role can give both a great deal of satisfaction and probably the same amount of frustration too.”
Thanks to Phil for letting me ask him some questions about being a kitman. He gives a really good insight of what goes on behind the scenes.