Football fetishes: Are you a secret squirrel, and if so what do you collect?

Of course in the old days it was so much easier. In the 1950s your football supporters' uniform consisted of a rosette, possibly a scarf, and a woolly hat.


Of course in the old days it was so much easier. In the 1950s your football supporters' uniform consisted of a rosette, possibly a scarf, and a woolly hat. All these proclaimed your allegiance to your Club. A rattle was an optional extra.

Today if you tried to get into a football ground carrying a rattle it would be confiscated as an elf n safe tea hazard, or even an offensive weapon.

The point I am trying to make is that you could only wear one woolly hat and rosette at a time, and in those more innocent times carry one rattle. So why buy more than one of each?

The choice of which football memorabilia to collect too was very simple. You either collected cigarette cards, or programmes. Since I never learned how to smoke, nor how to chew gum, I never purchased such items nor collected the cards that came with them. But I still have the programme from every Norwich match I have attended (starting with the away League Division Three fixture against Brentford in 1959 and continuing till the home match against Leeds today). And like Martin Peters, I was ten years ahead of my time.

At an early age I decided not to invest my pocket money in Rembrandts or hedge funds, but to collect Norwich City badges instead. My first ones were yellow plastic ones shaped like a Sheriff's star. I still have one with a picture of Tommy Bryceland and one adorned with Terry Alcock's picture. A couple of years ago I showed the latter to the great man himself in the Gunn Club. I am not sure who was more embarrassed, him or me. But the onlookers found it amusing and took the mickey out of both of us.

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I am now the proud possessor of over 200 badges, plastic and metallic, all proclaiming my allegiance to Norwich City. Some of them are classics, like the Milk Cup Winners one and the 1971/72 Division Two Champions one, or nostalgic, like the one proclaiming my membership of the now defunct “Norwich City Supporters Club”. Others are interesting, like the “Battle of Carrow Road”, recalling the “Chase Out” days, or the enigmatic “FCUK Blue Scum” (whatever that means) one.

I even have an official City steward's badge even though I am not a steward. Like a good journalist, I cannot reveal my source for this one. All I will say is that it cost me several large glasses of Scotch in bribes, but was well worth it. That was one badge which is not readily obtainable from any of my usual sources (the club shop, the Wolves supporting badge man who sets up stall on Carrow Bridge at every home game, or the badge man with horribly bad teeth who vends City badges and some politically extremely incorrect ones on Riverside on Saturday mornings).

Norwich City Football Club stalwart Roy Blower recently sold off most of his collection of Canaries memorabilia which he had amassed over a lifetime of supporting the club. This was partly because he had no longer any room to store it, but partly because of the sheer volume of football items now on offer. As well as badges, I once had a collection of Norwich mugs, books, videos, and ties.

The whole point of being a collector is that you seek to have a complete collection. So, yes, at one stage I had an example of every mug ever issued by the club. And each of the club ties. And of the club shirts. But a few years ago I underwent a damascene conversion. I realised that the club shops which mushroomed in the 1990s could produce club merchandise more rapidly than my bank manager and I could afford to purchase it. Old Trafford now has a superstore. Even Norwich has not one but three club retail outlets.

Every month it seems they churn out different new club ties, DVDs, books, and mugs. And clubs now offer two official shirts (at about �50 each), home and away, which change every season. Not to mention the official club shorts, socks, and goalkeeping kits. Maximisation of revenue is the name of the game.

The whole range of club merchandise is displayed in the official catalogue, on the internet, and in the special offer computerised messages which regularly flood my inbox. Everything from golf balls and lampshades to advent calendars and underwear is available in the official club colours.

Even the Capital Canaries offer commemorative badges (which I bought), and polo shirts (which I didn't - how many Capital Canaries play polo, for starters?). Parents tear their hair out when confronted with sobbing offspring demanding the latest gear, all available at high prices with a flourish of a credit card. And little old collectors like me have just been forced to admit defeat. We will never be able to complete our collections unless we take on levels of debt rivalling those of the Greek or British Governments. I even have a terrible suspicion that one reason for the demise of the Royal Bank of Scotland is that my overdraft with them part funded my collection of Norwich memorabilia over the years.

John Fowles wrote a very thought provoking book called “the Collector”, in which he derides collectors as sad anoraks who completely engross themselves in their collections as a substitute for living a real life. There is some truth in this and some people can become so obsessed by collecting to the exclusion of everything else that they verge on the sinister. I hasten to add that I am not one of these. My house is not a museum and I interact with the outside world. I have a happy life, a beautiful girlfriend, a good job, and a wide variety of friends and work colleagues. But I admit to a weakness for Norwich City badges. My badges are pinned to a scarf (which I do not wear to matches) and which reposes at home. I do not draw attention to my obsession, sorry, my collection. Until now.

Now that I have come out of the closet, please let me know what footballing memorabilia you collect, hoard, or squirrel away. Maybe, just maybe, you have the one item for which I have been searching for years. I might even pay a good price for it to complete my collection. I am currently on the lookout for the “2009/10 Division One Champions” badge. Please let me know when you see one for sale.