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Crystal palace

      Exploring over 50 years of Palace and Panini stickers


      It's been over 50 years since Crystal Palace were first immortalised in sticker form by the iconic brand Panini. Here, football sticker expert Greg Lansdowne explores the highlights of that half-century.

      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.

      Panini enjoyed far greater attention in the British Isles when they released albums under their own name. So it was that Football ‘78, their debut covering the English and Scottish top-flights – plus the English Second Division – was a roaring success.

      As Palace were in the second tier, they were restricted to a team group sticker and the sharing of a gold foil badge with Fulham. In Football ‘79, shiny badges were replaced in a one-off experiment using a silky material – Palace’s, like all the other Division Two clubs, came in yellow.

      Promotion that season meant the south Londoners enjoyed full status in the following Panini album – Football ‘80 – and again in Football ‘81.

      In a bumper 17-sticker section, Palace were treated to a silver foil badge, team group, manager Terry Venables and 14 players in all their glory. Rising stars such as Kenny Sansom, Peter Nicholas and Vince Hilaire rubbed shoulders with more experienced squad members such as John Burridge, Jim Cannon and Paul Hinshelwood – all decked out in the classic Admiral strip.

      While the season after was less auspicious for the Eagles, they were at least given the honour of featuring on the cover of Football ‘81 – Gerry Francis pictured battling for the ball with Manchester United’s Ray Wilkins.

      That Panini album was also significant for Palace fans as it was the only one that campaign to feature Clive Allen in a Palace shirt rather than the Arsenal or Queens Park Rangers jerseys he wore in rival publications.

      Relegation meant Palace were reduced to just a team group and badge in Panini albums over the rest of the 80s, although Jim Cannon and Steve Coppell did feature as ‘Division 2 Heroes’ in Football ’88.

      If promotion to Division One wasn’t enough for Palace fans in 1989, a long-awaited return to receiving a coveted double-page spread in the Panini sticker album was the icing on the cake. It almost meant a first Panini sticker for the majority of the selected players, including Ian Wright – whose Football ‘90 sticker will now set you back three-figures!

      Geoff Thomas and Mark Bright were the only two players to appear on the Palace pages throughout their Panini run from Football ‘90 to Football ‘93. That final season not only marked the end of the club’s latest tenure in the top-flight but also Panini’s reign as the undisputed kings of English football’s sticker domain.

      When Merlin won the licence to publish the official Premier League album from 1993/94 onwards, Panini were limited to albums for the lower leagues – starting the following season.

      Palace featured in Football League ‘96 and First Division 1997 before a short return to the Premier League in 1997/98 coincided with Panini bringing out Superplayers ‘98 – Official PFA Collection, made up of top-flight players wearing plain tracksuits.

      The Eagles next popped up under the Panini brand when the Modena company brought out a range of Championship collections (initially cards, then stickers later on) between 2006/07 and 2010/11.

      That was the end of the relationship between Palace and Panini until the latter finally won the Premier League licence for the 2019/20 season. The release of Football 2022 last year saw the bond between Palace and Panini, which now spans over 50 years, grow ever stronger.

      Panini fan? Shop the club's sticker-inspired clothing range here.

      Greg Lansdowne is the author of Panini Football Stickers – The Official Celebration, published by Bloomsbury and available to order online here.