Nasty Tommy, Panini Football Stickers and National Transplant Week.


Back in the 1970’s I lived on a nice little council estate in a pleasant Devon town. We used to kick a ball about down at the garages, no doubt driving those that lived in the nearest houses crazy. I have no doubt because ‘Big Vern’ that lived in the nearest house used to get the right hump. He’d shout at us when he could stick the noise of footballs crashing against garage doors and our mate Dave’s incessant high-pitched commentary no more. In fact, we couldn’t stick Dave’s commentaries either, it used to drive us mad too, he was always whoever was top scored for Liverpool at the time. He wasn’t bad at football either, so even worse was his ‘What a goal’ celebration every time he beat Neil in goal, the goal being a garage door. Neil used to be a bit overweight and not too great at football so was always in goal, his nickname was ‘Pasty’ and wasn’t that good in goal, so Dave scored a lot. ‘Goaaaaaaaaaaal’. Shut up Dave.

Some relief then when the Panini football stickers craze hit the town. Big Vern could get back to listening to Jim Reeves in peace, Neil could get back to doing what he enjoyed best, emulating Evel Knievel on his Chopper, and we all got a break from Dave scoring more goals than us and doing our eardrums in. We were addicted. The trouble was those stickers were costly. If you did a paper round or had generous pocket money you could build your collection but working out how much it would cost to fill your album didn’t bear thinking about. And of course, we didn’t think about it.

‘Swapsies’ was the pastime  before, during and after school. Some boys (girls didn’t do Panini) would have fists full of swaps, most people had multiples of the same player that nobody wanted. Others of course were coveted, we were learning the laws of supply and demand. For argument’s sake if Ian Porterfield (I’ll use him because he was my football hero scoring the only, and winning goal, for Sunderland against Leeds in the 1973 FA Cup Final) was a sticker everyone wanted and somebody had him to swap, he could command 5 or even 10 stickers in return.


Generally everyone had similar money to spend on these stickers so albums filled up comparatively. Like most estates and schools I’d imagine there was always one kid who’d be given more than everyone else. Ours was Tommy. He was a couple of years younger than us but always has the best bike, football, skateboard etc so was tolerated at an age where a year age difference is massive. Tommy got into Panini late. So late that we had got to that point where spending your pocket money on a pack of stickers when you were just after one or two players to finish your album was heartbreaking, but the more swaps you had the more chance of getting Ian Porterfield. Tommy was very keen to catch up and a fast learner. I’m sure for all the right reasons his dear Mum and Dad just bought him boxes and boxes of these bloody stickers. He must have been the only kid in the town that didn’t have an album that was dog-eared at best and falling apart at worst. His album was pristine and filling up fast.

My album, Dave’s and Neil’s were finally finished, a lot of boys had reached done theirs too while other kids had given up hope and therefore collecting. Still persevering, our mate Kev just needed one sticker to fill his set, we’ll stick with Ian Porterfield. As interest dwindled and swap opportunities less and less it looked as if poor Kev was going to be the proud owner of an incomplete sticker album. As we all know, you may as well not have bothered starting if you are not going to finish.

Just as hope had all but disappeared, it appeared again, Tommy was back. It seemed that where ever he had been the distribution of stickers had been somewhat different. He’d not only completed his album but had a pile of swaps so thick he could hardly hold them. Sadly for him he came back to an estate and school that were pretty much over Panini football stickers. His dreams of being the most sought after, and therefore popular, kid in the gang were dashed.

Dashed that is except Kev who was still desperately and increasingly forlornly looking for Ian Porterfield.

Timmy had him, the word got out, Tommy had Ian Porterfield.

‘He’ll be out in a minute’ Tommy’s mum smiled as Kev and the rest of us knocked on his door in eager anticipation.

Tommy had him all right, at least he said he had. He wasn’t going to let his moment of glory be spent quite so quickly though. Yes he had him but he wasn’t going to let us see him just yet. On his request we wandered down to the garages where it was promised Ian Porterfield’s existence was going to be proven to all. Kev had started to look a little anxious, he desperately needed that sticker but also knew that Tommy didn’t need a swap as he’d completed his collection. Oh dear, would he ask for something a fortune like 50p or maybe his football.

Kev didn’t have to wait long, surrounded by us boys, Tommy reached into his pile of stickers and pulled out Ian Porterfield. There he was, Kev’s eyes lit up, ‘What do you want for him?’ he asked Tommy, hoping for the best but fearing the worst.

The worst wasn’t even imagined.

‘Nothing’ replied Tommy, he held the sticker up in front of Kev, then with a smile on his face,  ripped it to shreds.


I have never forgotten that, not that it has played on my mind all these years, goodness no but it still lurks in the kid part of my memory as a particularly nasty thing to do. It’s been brought back to the surface this week ‘National Transplant Week’. It seems terrible to me that 1000’s of people die each year waiting for a transplant. Sadly people die premature accidental deaths every day too. It’s obviously terrible not only for the victim but also family and friends when that happens. It’s totally understandable that people are emotionally all over the place when tragedy strikes. It’s also as tragic when they refuse to allow their loved-ones organs to be used to save another person’s life.

Can you imagine visiting a ward of full of critically ill people with possibly weeks or even days to live. It would be a hard thing to do at the best of times. Imagine then visiting it knowing that by giving your permission to donate organs from your loved one, you could save all of their lives. Imagine then, the looks on their faces when you refused and sent the body to be cremated or buried instead.

A bit like Kev’s when Timmy ripped up Ian Porterfield. Except that Kev got over it, the people in that ward almost certainly won’t.

Imagine their faces if you agreed, even better if you were the sadly recently deceased and you’d Joined the NHS Organ Donor Register, please ensure you can do one last great thing whilst on this Earth, please register today

Thank you.

Simon Nott


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