Merlin’s Premier League stickers were the standard playground ritual when I was a kid. Swapping with your mates, trying to find that elusive shiny and then eventually seeing them banned by the teachers for distracting from lessons.
Then when you ended up with 10 Darren Anderton’s, using the spare swaps you had to stick over your Power Rangers lunch box after it became uncool to leave it uncovered.
My first album I think was 1994 and I had them all the way through to 2004.
The only one I ever managed to complete was 2000, and that was because you could send away 100 swaps and choose what you would receive in the return to commemorate the millennium edition.
I remember longingly reading up about swap meets in the hope that one day I might be able to go and finally complete a book, but 2000 was the only one I managed. I’ve still got it somewhere.
It warmed my heart a bit when I saw that in 2016, the tradition of sticker albums is still going.
My own exposure to them has been limited to the last two World Cup books from Panini, 2010 was completed and I’m still missing a few from 2014, although that was partly down to the fact that actually going to Brazil to watch the World Cup distracted me from finding the 50 or so stickers I need.
It was the last World Cup edition that caused a real boom in sticker collecting – How Panini football stickers came back from the dead.
I seem to recall a mad rush for them in ASDA – perhaps because the way they were selling them in packs of five in a clear A4 wallet. This made them easier to notice on the shelves. I often find that the little packets are shoved at the back somewhere or unnoticeably on the kiosk which then means that they aren’t spotted by kids (or adults!) and are less collected, especially now when there are a million and one things to attract your attention.
What’s perhaps most incredible about sticker collecting is just how long they’ve been going and how varied they are, perhaps best reflected by this image of the current 20 Premier League managers.
Here you’ve got players from all kinds of clubs, ranging from Mauricio Pochettino at Newell’s Old Boys in Argentina to Louis Van Gaal at Antwerp in Belgium.
Sticker albums could well be the best piece of seasonal nostalgia there is – and long may they continue.