Daisy desperately needs Frank Lampard. If she leaves without him her father could take her for ice-cream at Disneyland and still not cheer her up. Gary only needs another five to complete his set while Scouse Dave is only here for ‘shiney’s and team photos. And I thought I had a problem.
It is midday on a Saturday afternoon and I am in The Common Room in Sheffield. In 12 hours time this venue will be rammed full of England fans struggling to see the match. Right now it’s full of football fans struggling to fill gaps in an album.
Tables have been set out and I take my time to figure out the room. This isn’t entirely out of shyness, rather I’m not too sure how this works. I take a few minutes to sort my swaps into order, then a few more listing my ‘needs’, then a few more simply buying myself some time. The mood feels familiar and I soon realise that this isn’t the first time I’ve been in a room full of nervous strangers that are forced to talk to each other. While this isn’t exactly as terrifying as speed dating there is a similar sense of in-trepidation.
To be frank, we are all here for the same sad reason – to swap stickers. While the parents may try to convince you that they’re here to complete their son or daughter’s album they aren’t kidding me. Mainly the room is filled with young men just like me of the ‘got, got NEED’ generation, only we’ve grown out of the playground and graduated into the sports bar. However, there is one more group which consists of the forty-somethings who started out with the football cards in the late 70’s, some men just never grow out of this obsession.
Gradually I look around, lock eyes with another lad and sheepishly ask if anyone wants to see my pile, which feels far less silly when said out in public. Soon enough I realise that my swap pile has been managed far better than most. For one, you can actually hold it in one hand and flick through while there is one girl who has clearly gotten far too excited, amassed far too many and is now stuck with a pile that has to be split twice. Some even go to the extent of sorting MY pile into order again to make the flicking through a little easier.
Inside an hour I’ve managed to swap around thirty stickers, a good day’s work. Part of the pleasure is found in helping someone else complete their album yet I’m more pleased to reduce my own pile of swaps. By the end my pile has halved and it’s pretty pointless trying to shift anymore.
With only 40 odd stickers left to go it’s become a numbers game, I’m not even looking at players’ faces anymore. Each sticker is simply another gap. While I’m pleased to fill a few more there are a few disappointed faces comes 1pm. Gary still needs five to complete his set, I still can’t get rid of Roman Shirokov (611 and judging by everyone else’s piles I’m not the only one) and Daily still hasn’t got Frank Lampard.
If you fancy doing a swap, here are my lists.
Doubles – 2, 11, 19, 37, 41, 57, 65, 79, 80, 84, 93, 97, 139, 216, 226, 232, 233, 236, 239, 240, 245, 321, 322, 326, 376, 377, 383, 384, 391, 517, 532×2, 537×3, 540, 542, 544, 611
Needs – 21, 32, 68, 109, 138, 142, 149, 152, 159, 164, 260, 276, 287, 288, 301, 303, 338, 369, 402, 446, 459, 465, 469, 470, 471, 474, 476, 495, 505, 546, 569, 573, 580, 583, 591, 617, 621, 628