Early Doors

Fan tracks down ex-stars to ‘complete’ 1996 sticker album

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Philippe Albert then and now

Here at Early Doors we know the pain of falling just short of completing a football sticker album only too well, with the sticker ghost of Dutch goalkeeper Hans van Breukelen still haunting our almost full Italia 90 book.

Adam Carroll-Smith always thought he had completed the 1996 Merlin Premier League book as a teenager, and indeed used to boast about it, but he suffered "a gut punch" when he found it in the attic recently and realised that he had actually fallen six stickers short.

He decided that "a great wrong had to be righted" but instead of going straight to eBay or contacting the manufactures, the 29-year-old solicitor decided to go way beyond those measures to complete his book.

Instead, over 15 years after he thought he had completed the set, he decided to track down the six players he was missing so that he could take their photographs and add them to his collection.

Stuart Ripley (ex-Middlesbrough and Blackburn), Lars Bohinen (Blackburn, Nottingham Forest, Derby County), Philippe Albert (Newcastle United, Fulham), Scott Minto (Chelsea, West Ham), Gary Penrice (Watford, Bristol Rovers, QPR, Aston Villa) and Keith Curle (Wimbledon, Manchester City) were all found and photographed by Carroll-Smith who wrote a book about his experience.

"They were all fantastic, really accommodating guys," Carroll-Smith told the BBC after an epic mission that included trips to Belgium and Norway to get the snaps of Albert and Bohinen.

"No matter how modern the game gets, football stickers will always have a nostalgic quality," he added.

You would expect after going to all that effort that Carroll-Smith would put the finished album under lock and key but instead he decided to throw it into the Solent.

"It was a cathartic experience… my wife and I have just had our first child, so this was a symbolic way of showing I'd grown up," he revealed.

"The sticker album was then and this is now."

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