Back then, my abundance of excitement wasn’t matched by a requisite disposable income, so it was almost impossible to complete an album. I took matters into my own hands.
Weekly pocket money, when distributed, would be spent completely on stickers. Money to spend on holiday? Spent completely on stickers. Money to go down the shop and buy my dad a paper? Spent on stickers.
In 1998, I graduated from Premier League sticker albums to the more exotic Fifa World Cup album, full of players I’d never heard of or seen play on TV.
But it wasn’t until 2010 that I completed my first World Cup album. My student loan had kicked in, enabling the acquisition of food, alcohol and stickers – during that summer, mostly the latter.
Short spells between dissertation writing and exam revision were unwisely spent adding to the collection in the local Co-Op. One triumphant morning, after handing in my dissertation, I celebrated by showering the shopping belt with as many packs of stickers as I could pick up. “Aren’t you a bit old to be collecting stickers?” “Er… They’re not for me. They’re for… my nephew… John.”
My addiction stretched to Euro 2012, and then the 2014 World Cup. Several attempts were made to encourage others in the SportBusiness office to begin collecting, but though some colleagues signed up to sticker chat and daily swaps, they lacked my zeal.
Until one day – June 4, 2014 – I received the following email from an older colleague with whom I’d never really spoken before: “Hi Robin. Word on the street is that you are the man to talk to about ‘swapsies’ for my son’s Panini album. If you have any time this afternoon to trade let me know!”
My immediate delight at finding a new swap partner with was only mildly tempered by the fact it was a six-year-old.
I’ve since overcome the ridicule that surrounds a grown adult collecting pictures of footballers. I’m not quite sure why I find it so appealing. The most likely theory, I think, is the nostalgia that surrounds it. The World Cup offers me the opportunity to revisit my childhood every four years. It’s just now I have a salary to support the addiction.
I’m well on the way to completing this summer’s World Cup one (at the time of writing, 113 of 682 stickers are missing). Thankfully I won’t have to spend the £773.60 expected cost of filling an album with sticker purchases alone. Want to swap? Hit me up.