Swapping Panini football stickers is a rite of passage. It separates the entrepreneurs from the victims, the playground wheeler-dealers from the kind of lads that will swap an FA cup shiny for a Gareth Southgate portrait snap.
These days, footballers are airbrushed into male model perfection, with dedicated teams of stylists preventing any embarrassing fashion faux pas. They’ve got perfect teeth and hair implants, healthy faces and well-practised smiles. That’s not how it was in the golden years.
Footballers used to look like footballers. And sometimes, they looked like builders or accountants. Or animals. But they were real. Real people, who would rather be kicking a ball than posing for a photograph, people with flaws, and silly names, and poor hairstyle choices.
Frankly, there’s a large novel’s worth of material in the hairstyles of our old Panini sticker collections. But we’ve boiled it down to seven classics for your enjoyment.
1. Abe Van Den Ban
We’re starting on a very strong foot with Mr Van De Ban. His football career was unremarkable – his major achievement was helping FC Amsterdam through to the quarterfinals of the UEFA cup quarter-finals once in 1975. But the strength of that facial flourish has secured his legacy. Just look at it.
2. John Bumstead
You’ve got to feel for poor John Bumstead. Chelsea defender, dedicated athlete, talented sportsman- but it all counts for nothing. He knows, John Bumstead, he knows that you’re laughing at him. Yes, the word bum is in his name, and thus will make the John Bumstead sticker one of the most desirable in the playground. It’s a weight on his shoulders. The shoulders of John Bumstead.
3. Lazio-era Paul Gascoigne
Oh Gazza. Our Falstaff, our Romeo, our King Lear. The most Shakespearean of all our footballing tragedies. Let’s be honest, we’ve all had period where we’ve put on a bit of weight, moved to Italy and grown a ponytail that made us look like an ‘80s drug lord, haven’t we? We all have.
4. Lee Sharpe
Let’s take a moment to admire the precision of that centre parting. Lee Sharpe should be enjoying comfortable twilight national treasure years by now, a la Beckham or Giggs, but, for reasons unknown, it’s never quite happened for him. Lee Sharpe must remain in 1995 forever, carefully applying wet look gel to his curtains. We will remember him.
5. Jason Lee
Back in 1994, Nottingham Forest striker Jason Lee was getting all kinds of hairstyle related abuse from fans. ‘He’s got a pineapple, on his head…’ the typically witty song went. Jason Lee got the last laugh. Nowadays, he enjoys royal status in Dalston, where he is celebrated as some kind of style prophet.
6. Vinnie Jones
It’s probably safe to assume that Vinnie Jones’ footballing career had taken a back seat to his gangster b-movie ambitions by this point. That’s a debt collector stare that’s been practised in the mirror, isn’t it?
7. Jonny Metgod
Ending on a spiritual note, here. Dutch defender Johnny Metgod had a name like a mystic penguin storybook and the kind of hairstyle that Rooney has spent millions trying to avoid. This is what footballers looked like before Instagram, kids.