It was when I was in Manchester last week that it dawned on me that stage 2 of the World Cup Countdown had begun.
I was in a newsagents trying to get an iced lolly, when I noticed that the Panini 2010 World Cup sticker album was on the shelves.
When the World Cup sticker album appears on the shelves, it means the World Cup is agonisingly close, despite the fact that various issues from the club season are still to be resolved.
As is tradition, the album is given away with a national newspaper, preceded with an advertising campaign, and this year is no different, as the News Of The World are going to give it away with this week’s edition.
World Cup stickers are a strange bunch, as some teams have their photos taken by a photographer creeping up on players to get a close-up while they are singing their national anthems, hence the rather bizarre facial poses.
Other teams prefer to have a photoshoot for an hour or so while the squad meets up for a friendly in February or March.
I can only imagine the excitement being a player taking part in this photoshoot at getting your photo taken during the winter months, as the Press Officer tells you that you are getting your photo taken as the World Cup isn’t that far away, and they need to meet pringing deadlines.
The less said about the photoshopped efforts of players from countries where their FA won’t co-operate with Panini, the better.
Andrew Stewart – NIR – FWD – Manchester United FC (Eng) or Andrew Stewart – NIR – FWD – Linfield FC would have been brilliant as a sticker, possibly even a shiny.
You know, if i’d really worked hard at being a footballer, I could have been so good that you would have had to swap the entire Saudi Arabian team to get my sticker.
It always does make me laugh at how some players stickers seem to have a swap value similar to the player’s ability (ie – if you want Wayne Rooney, you would probably need to swap 10 players just to get him)
Due to space constraints, an editorial decision is usually made that some of the so-called ‘minnow nations’ only get 1 page (compared to the standard pages) and there is two players to a sticker.
I often wonder has this ever been used as a motivational tactic, as a manager takes out a copy of the Panini sticker album, rants furiously at the fact the team only has one page with two players to a sticker, and urges them to prove people wrong.
As the World Cup is a quadannual event, I only ever had one World Cup (1994) to enjoy the joy of collecting football stickers.
It is a bitter irony of life that you collect football stickers with a pittance of pocket money, yet when you are working and have disposable income to spend, you are long grown out of collecting football stickers.
Stage 2 of the World Cup Countdown is usually followed shortly after by stage 3, but it will be interesting to see how it develops.
Stage 3 is usually marked by the video for England’s (or Scotland’s, if they qualify) official World Cup song being released and played on rotation by the music channels, followed up by an appearance on Top Of The Pops.
Sadly, there’s no more Top Of The Pops anymore, nor is there an official song, at the insistance of Fabio Capello, so we’ll be infested with chancers trying to cash in on football fever by bringing out their own efforts.
For me, the best England World Cup song that never was came in 1998 when Space, Echo and the Bunnymen, Ocean Colour Scene and Johnny Marr collaborated on a song called ‘On Top Of The World’
It was set to be a classic, until someone at the FA suggested that they should get the Spice Girls to sing on it.
It’s almost an analogy for the England football team. Despite the personnel at their disposal, they always find a way to cock it up.