In my last article I wrote about the boot that started my obsession with football boots and why it was so influential in revolutionising an emphasis on footwear technology used in terms of enhancing players performances. I am actually going to skip past one boot in the Predator family, The Rapier, released in 1995 as the boot was very similar to the original 1994 version, with only some subtle differences.
This review is about, in my opinion, one of the most classic looking Adidas boots; the Predator Touch. The Predator Touch was released prior to the 1996 European Championships and was worn by many of the star players during the tournament. The boots themselves were the first on which Adidas introduced the fold over red tongue, which very quickly became established as one of the iconic aspects of a Predator boot. In my previous article, I spoke about the Predator Eyes being an key image, however, from the Touch boot onwards it became the tongue that many people adored seeing on the famous boot. The primary function in terms of technology was claimed to be that the fold over tongue enhanced the striking area of the boot, as it completely covered the laces to ensure a much truer strike on the ball. With regard to appearance, there were 2 very distinctive tongues available. One simply had ‘adidas’ emblazoned across it, whilst the other boasted ‘adidas MADE IN GERMANY.’ The main difference came down to where the boot was made. Germany and China were the 2 countries producing the boot and it was considered by many that the Germany productions were of a higher standard. For example, claims were made about the leather being softer and the general finish of the boot being to a much higher, more pleasing standard. I have owned both types of boot and, to be honest, looking at them, there were very few differences, if any. The look of the boot was identical (apart from the obvious writing across the tongue). When running my hands over the boots I couldn’t tell the difference. Perhaps the actual performance of the boot was slightly different, or there were differences in how long the boots actually lasted, but I cannot accurately comment on these observations, as I only ever played in the ‘Made In Germany’ versions.
In my opinion, Adidas seemed to get the weight of this boot correct. Yes: compared to today’s boots they are heavy, but the structure of the boot was so much better than seen with the earlier versions of the Predators. The Touch boots were my first pair of Predators, and also the pair that me completely hooked as a player on them. They were bought from a catalogue that allowed my mum to pay them off at something like £1.59 a week for about 18 months! It seems crazy now, but I guess back then, being at University, I had no idea how the Predator was going to be my boot of choice for my future in playing, teaching and coaching.
After releasing the Predator in 1994, Adidas were looking to improve the technology in the Predator fins and they were successful in doing this on the Touch. Instead of simply covering the whole front of the boot in the rubber fins, Adidas separated them into 3 different strike zones. These zones were arranged in a way that intended to improve contact on the ball, further enhancing the greater power and swerve for which the Predator range was now famous. Although the tongue now covered the laces, Adidas included a strip of fins around the lace eyelets so that should the tongue move, players still benefitted from a true strike on the ball. These newly placed zones meant that an increased amount of kangaroo leather could be used in the upper, resulting in a superior fitting boot when compared with the previous Predator models. All of the technology described here were really just subtle differences from the original launch. Perhaps the most spoken about feature added to the boots was the sole plate. Adidas surprised everyone by releasing a brand new sole plate on some of the ‘Made In Germany’ models, which consisted of 10 rubber blades positioned strategically across the sole plate, designed to enhance a players grip. Adidas branded this the TRX (Traction) sole plate. It was a development that proved to be extremely popular with players. Adidas further enhanced the performance of the grip when releasing the an updated version of the Touch the following year in which they had added another 4 rubber blades. They added a further 2 to the heel and then split the 2 centre blades in the forefoot in half, moving the position of them so that greater grip could be achieved. The new placement of the blades allowed players to turn faster and increased the support for the foot on the ground.
The original 10 blade sole and the second edition 14 blade sole
The ‘improved’ traction may have come at a cost though, as, very quickly, people began to report injures, deeming the increased traction to be the cause. It seems strange to say this, but players claimed that the grip was too good and, where a normal round stud would ‘give’ a little, the blades were not allowing this natural movement. These claims were all unfounded and it seemed that players experiencing the improved grip for the first time found it strange to work with.
The Predator Touch was the first Predator to be released in different colour ways. The classic Predator colours of black/white/red were released first and it was very noticeable that red was becoming a more dominant colour than we had previously seen on the ‘94 and Rapier releases. Next, Adidas did something that hadn’t been seen before – they released a white football boot!!! The Predator Touch TRX white/black/red was released and, to this day, I remember putting the first player I saw wearing them up in the air in a game due to the fact he thought he was good enough to wear white boots. Whilst many might not understand it now, in 1996 boots were black: pure and simple. A white boot broke the ‘norm,’ and players wearing them were perceived to be a bit full of themselves. Alessandro Del Piero wore them, but teamed with the Juventus kit they looked amazing. After the release of the white boot, Adidas went on launch a 3rd colour way in the stunning red/white/black boots. In fact all 3 colour ways look outstanding. For a long time, I thought that Adidas only made 3 colour ways, and, in a way, I was right. They only ever released 3 colour ways to the general public. However, a couple of professional players received specially made blue/black/white Touch boots. I have only ever seen one pair of these on eBay years ago. They were well worn and looked in very bad condition. I still kick myself for not just buying them, as they would look great in my collection! Blue obviously broke away from the traditional colours associated with the Adidas Predator, but one player who wore them was Gazza. He was playing for Glasgow Rangers at the time and the blue boot was a spot on match for their playing kit.
All 3 released colour ways
The Adidas Predator Touch had a few classic moments that, as a Scotsman and Man Utd fan, I will never forget. The first moment happened at Euro 96 in a game between Scotland and England. Scotland were trailing 1-0 and had a penalty to equalise the game. They missed the penalty and England went straight on the counter attack for Gazza to score a goal. A bouncing ball was played up to him; he flicked it over the head of Colin Hendry with a beautiful touch before striking the ball past the Scottish goalkeeper. The goal was followed by the famous ‘dentist chair’ celebration and remains one of the greatest England goals I have seen.
The second moment is one I am sure everyone has seen: David Beckham scoring from the half way line against Wimbledon on the first day of the 1996/97 season. Beckham struck the ball from a yard inside his own half, lobbing Neil Sullivan. Adidas couldn’t have asked for a better advert for the latest Predator boot. The goal was shown all around the world, demonstrating the claims of more power in abundance. Funnily enough, the boots Beckham wore that day were not actually made for him. The boots had the name ‘Charlie’ on the tongue, as they were intended for Glasgow Rangers’ Charlie Miller. Some say Adidas sent the boots to Beckham by mistake. Others say it was so that Becks could try them out for himself. Whichever is true, it materialised into a great move by Adidas as from that moment, Beckham became a life-long Predator fan.
These 2 goals summed up the Predator boots perfectly. Both had been struck with power and precision, as well as having an extra touch of class about them. This encompassed everything Adidas were trying to promote with their third generation of the Predator silo.
The RRP of these boots in 1996 was £129.99, which, back then was seen as a substantial price tag on a pair of boots. The Predator Touch, Made in Germany with the TRX sole plate is arguably the most sought after boot for collectors today, in all conditions. You can often find a used pair online, with prices varying from £50 to £250, dependant on colour and condition. For collectors interested in BNIB condition boots, prices can be extremely high. The standard, made in China, black Predator Touch with the Cup or Liga sole plate can sell for around the £300-£450 mark. In other colour ways prices can go even higher. As the Made In Germany model with the TRX sole are so sought after, prices can range from £500 to £1000, also depending on the colourway. In my experience, the white colour way is most people’s favourite, but the red is by far and away the hardest to actually find BNIB. Prices for the White Touch can go crazy in auctions, and I have seen one pair go higher than £1000, although I do think that is too high for these boots. The red Touch can also pull in this type of money in the world of collectors.
It was at this point on the Predator timeline that an increasing number of professional players could be seen sporting them in the world’s top leagues. The Touch is deemed by many to be one of the ‘truest’ Predator boots, given the Tongue, as well as the more prominent red included the colour way of the boot.
My next write up will be about the Adidas Predator Accelerator, which was created for the 1998 World Cup and also happens to be my favourite boot of all time…see you then!