While everyone was talking about ‘Team of the Eighties’ Crystal Palace as the emerging force in English football at the end of the 1970s, another name was also catching supporters’ attention.
Palace might not have lived up to their tag but Italian company Panini were certainly the number one football sticker business of that decade. Having established themselves in their home country during the 1960s, Panini set about building a presence around Europe in the 70s.
Although the company released World Cup albums in the UK for Mexico 70 and the following tournament in West Germany, they were reliant on an English publisher called Thorpe & Porter to distribute them. That these albums are now scarce is evidence of the struggle to get them to young British football fans.
Similarly, Panini’s English domestic album collaborations with the same company – using the imprint Top Sellers – are now equally rare. Crystal Palace appeared in the first two of these – Football ‘72 and Football ‘73 – before relegation prevented their participation in subsequent editions.
Among the south Londoners' section in Football ‘72 were stalwarts such as John Jackson, Mel Blyth, Steve Kember and Phil Hoadley, who famously appeared holding a cigarette in one sticker album, though not a Panini one.