Why Scotland fans have gone crazy for Panini sticker album as fans make up for lost time

The trip to the shop, the excitement at the prospect of opening what you hold in your hands. The sheepish look to the shop assistant as you prepare to be questioned with an answer ready. ‘They’re for my kid… honest.”

The dedicated Scotland Panini sticker album.

Back to the house. The smell of the pack, the noise of the tear, the glimpse of a shiny, the despondency at unveiling a double which instantly gives way to elation as you unearth the one you needed to complete a page.

Adults up and down the country have been revelling in nostalgia. Of being a kid again. Of memories of 1998.

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At the end of last month, Panini released a dedicated Scotland official campaign sticker collection and the uptake has been enthusiastic, passionate and, at times, childish.

So much so that on the day of launch the company had sold out of albums on their website and unsurprisingly on course to be the most popular one compared to similar releases for Wales and Northern Ireland in the past.

After it all, on these shores it has been a long time coming.

‘Cultural touch point’

But surely there is more to its popularity than solely the time which has passed since Scotland were at France ‘98

The sticker album has proven a huge hit with Scotland fans.

“It’s a perfect storm of the fact we’ve not been to a major finals for 23 years,” said Scotland fan Gordon Sheach, who described the album as a “signifier and cultural touch point” of being at a tournament.

"Obviously all the people who were kids and who associated collecting stickers with Scotland qualifying for tournaments before are adults now with disposable income who are more than happy to spend that on things like stickers so they want to reconnect to that.

“I think the uptake would have been phenomenal regardless. But because there is so much uncertainty you almost have to grab any level of normality as tightly as you can.

"It’s a tangible connection to a tournament we may not have many tangible connections to.”

Fellow Scotland supporter Craig McFarlane, who runs the Football Kit Memories podcast, added: “When I was putting it all together I was thinking I’m going to have this for a long time and it’s almost like a snapshot of that elation we had after the Serbia game.”

‘Got, got, need’

Due to the coronavirus, the idea of physically swapping stickers is out of the question.

‘Got, got, need’. One of the key and most enjoyable components of completing an album has been deemed a no-go area.

It prompted Sheach, who runs The Tartan Scarf website, and McFarlane to devise a simple but novel idea, the #ScotSwap on Twitter. Essentially, through them, like-minded fans can swap their doubles.

“I live in London, supporting Scotland is very much a family thing for me,” Craig noted. “My dad isn’t going to be buying a Panini sticker book so I need people to swap with otherwise I’m going to be spending a fortune.”

Gordon said: "The demand was there so we thought we may as well ride the crest of this wave a little bit but in a way that provides a sort of service and platform.

"We’ve said it a million times in the last year. People have been so isolated, any opportunity to bring people together and get people engaging with one another in a positive way about something we can enjoy, it’s got to be a good thing.”

Retro time

When it comes to these albums, there is always something to be wrestled with as an adult, ‘I’m 30+, should I really be doing this?’

"I think it takes you back to your childhood,” Craig said.

"There’s definitely a retro, vintage thing you feel. Even the smell of the stickers and seeing the David Marshall shiny is incredible.”

However, for parents, it is a fantastic excuse to connect with their children.

Dad Cameron, who describes himself as a “big kid”, decided to share the experience with three-year-old son Alex.

“It's great to have something small to do and share with a 3-year-old,” he said.

“Their wee brains tick over at a million miles an hour, so spending a bit of time getting excited about something, getting in the car, going to the shops and buying them is great. Particularly just now with everything being so difficult, it's something to focus on.

"The wee man doesn't understand Covid but he understands he doesn't get to play with his pals so you do your best to be his dad and his pal.”

Football gateway

While scratching an itch and fulfilling that nostalgia, it also acts as a gateway for young fans into the game.

“I'm keen to share interests with Alex and for me, football is more than shouting at a telly,” Cameron said. “It's about enjoying the whole daft culture round it and stickers are part of that.

"Plus, who knows if he'll see us play at a tourney until he's an adult so you have to take advantage of these. I'd love for us to be able to talk about players together and to remember this.

“It took me a while to trust him with sticking but he likes to get involved and we talk about players, particularly Hearts ones.

He added: “Collecting the stickers is fun in itself but doing it with Alex is even better.

"Would I be doing it if he wasn't here? No comment!

"Sincerely though, one of things I've learnt in this last year is that doing stuff you enjoy is important.

"It's good to be childish.

"The physical act of putting in stickers is brilliantly relaxing as well. A little slice of quiet reflection, concentration and no room for anything else for a few minutes. Brilliant.”

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