The 2014 World Cup has been a salmagundi of unpredictability, with late goals aplenty and Costa Rica. In among the surprises, however, have been some constants from tournaments past. From that familiar feeling of disenchantment that grips supporters of England every four years, to the cries of "got, got, need" that accompany quests to complete the official World Cup sticker album.
Collecting and collating stickers is a football tradition, nay institution, that transcends generations. For one 29-year-old Portsmouth fan,however, it became somewhat of an obsession. Like many of the best stories -- think "Are You Dave Gorman?" and "Round Ireland With A Fridge" -- Adam Carroll-Smith's "Six Stickers" is based on the premise of a quest that seems pointless to pretty much everyone in the world aside from the author.
The tale begins when Carroll-Smith discovers to his horror that the 1996 Premier League sticker album he had always proudly proclaimed to be complete is actually bereft of six little faces. The names Stuart Ripley, Philippe Albert, Gary Penrice, Scott Minto, Lars Bohinen and Keith Curle wouldn't have struck terror into too many players and fans in their footballing heyday -- but their absence from Carroll-Smith's book keeps him up at night, and then some.
What follows is a journey full of high-jinx, ferry crossings and lexical banter as Carroll-Smith sets off to track down the six missing men. The book chronicles his mission but throughout the 254 pages, Carroll-Smith also does some pertinent philosophising about football -- notably about how football, and his relationship with the game, has changed since he first began consuming it as a child.
It is a book that will certainly resonate with any fans who watched football during the mid-90s, particularly if you were, like author, at the sort of age best described as one's football-supporting pomp. Mentions of players such as Peter Atherton and John Beresford are sure to bring pangs of nostalgia, while Caroll-Smith's informal, diaristic tone is a welcoming one; his ever-changing emotions and evolving misadventures akin to a football-loving Adrian Mole.
Ultimately, Six Stickers is a witty exploration of the romance surrounding the beautiful game and an eminently readable offering that is a must for anyone who has vociferously cursed at pulling out their third Blackburn Rovers shiny in as many packs.