Haunted by Recurrent Football Stickers
BBC News Magazine
30 May 2014
Everyone who collected football stickers as a child is haunted by the players that seemed to come up again and again. Readers told us whose face was burnt into their brain. Clare Spencer tracked them down.
Previously the Magazine revealed the world of the adults who still obsess over the Panini, Topps or Merlin stickers of yesteryear. Many recalled the multiple duplicates - the player whose face seemingly greeted them every time they opened a fresh packet of stickers.
There weren't more of any particular player, the sticker companies have always strenuously argued. Topps, which now also owns Merlin, says each sticker is printed in the same numbers, and always has been.
But there is an explanation for the phenomenon of multiple duplicates. More popular players in any given area won't be swapped. Instead, someone will stick the first sticker of a player in their album. The next time they get that player, they still won't swap him. So he isn't in the market to be swapped and other players seem to come up more often.
Here are five supposed multiple duplicate players. We tracked them down and got them to pose for new stickers.
"Somewhere under my bed there's a small army of Paul Rideouts," complains Richard Spalding from Doncaster. "Every time I opened a new packet, there'd he'd be, fixing me with that unblinking stare. 95/96 was a tough year."
"Are you trying to say I'm common?" is Paul Rideout's quip at being told he's someone's multiple duplicate. Now a youth coach in the US, he's just happy to be remembered.
"I had a career but it wasn't a star career," he says. He makes sure to point out that career includes a hat-trick at Wembley. Oh and there was the FA Cup winner in 1995 for Everton against Man United.
"Stuart Nethercott used to be in pretty much every pack in the 1994 Premier League edition," remembers John Day from Essex. "There were so many spares that his face ended up being plastered all over the school lockers. There must have been hundreds of them!"
This sticker-related notoriety of the former Spurs, Millwall and Wycombe Wanderers full back was documented briefly on his Wikipedia page. It's since been updated but the Telegraph's Matthew Moore wrote about it at the time. The Wikipedia page used to read: "Schoolchildren of the period were known to cover their friends' lockers as well as their school corridor walls with numerous copies of the Nethercott sticker, earning Stuart Nethercott a degree of fame and notoriety he was unable to attain in his footballing career.
"I did have a good football career but all they remember is the stickers," laughs Nethercott. He's now teaching sport to children in primary schools across Essex.
"In 1987, Kevin Poole of Aston Villa was Panini poison," complains Martin Bissett from Rossendale.
Much like Stuart Nethercott's face staring back from school lockers, Bissett recalls Poole's face was plastered on "just about every" lamppost in the area "because kids couldn't swap him."
It's the first Poole has heard of it. He collected stickers himself in the late 1970s but can't remember anyone sticking out for him in the same way. He doesn't mind being called Panini poison. "It's a good thing people still think of me," he insists. Poole went on from Aston Villa to Northampton Town, Middlesbrough, Hartlepool United, Leicester City, Birmingham City, Bolton Wanderers, Derby County and finally to Burton Albion where he is now a goalkeeping coach.
"How do I remember him this long?" asks Michael Dommett from Alton. This Len Badger card from 1968 was the oldest proffered by any reader. It may be a long memory but it's not joyous. "Half a dozen of him, and all I wanted were Southampton players," he moans.
Badger doesn't remember the card. "I should imagine it's frightening," he guesses. He doesn't have anything from his footballing days. He was Sheffield United youngest ever captain and was in the 1966 shadow England squad before their 1966 World Cup win. But, after 30 years as a publican in Derbyshire, he hasn't kept any memorabilia of his playing days.
Will Jordan still remembers Mark Grew scuppering his friend's plans to complete his album in the early 90s. The friend "swore that he opened a packet of PRO SET cards and every single one was Port Vale goalkeeper Mark Grew".
"He'd saved up his pocket money all week and all he had were nine swaps."
It didn't all go to waste. "If I remember rightly, I think we used them and my four Robert Rosario swaps to help pass our fire building badge at cubs that week."
"Is this a wind up?" questions Grew. He has one theory why he has stuck in collectors' memory. "It must have been for my good looks".
He remembers the "horrendous" goalie tops of the time. "I'd ask for them to just get me a plain green one but they always came out with these multi-coloured ones".
He's still at Port Vale as the assistant manager.