Mike Hill: Relax! It's a stick up . . .
It is around this time of year groups of men in offices up and down the land reconvene a secret club which only assembles every other spring.
After discreetly checking membership has been renewed, plans are made for the first get-together with barely disguised enthusiasm.
The countdown to a major football tournament signals the arrival of a new album and cast of stickers to be collected.
Not by the dads, of course, but their offspring, whose bundles of swaps are rather too keenly whisked into work with a list of those numbers junior needs to fill their book.
Sticker collecting is one of the casualties of teenage years, when the swirl of hormones means swapping pictures of footballers is relegated to attempting to swap affections with the school sweetheart. Courting while collecting just ain’t cool.
So imagine the surprise of the parent pestered to buy that first album on discovering the Italian kings of the collecting game are still alive, kicking and emptying the nation’s piggy banks.
And for dads everywhere this is an unexpected excuse to rekindle a long forgotten childhood passion.
There are not many pastimes when an adult needs a child for cover – owning a Scalextric being the obvious exception – but sticker collecting is perfect as no newsagent is likely to bat an eyelid at an adult regularly purchasing packets.
A quick survey of fellow dads and mums – while male-dominated this is not a men-only club – reveals the ease with which parental interest can edge towards renewed obsession once awoken from a 20-year hibernation.
There are few things more frustrating than getting home from work to casually catch up on the deals of the day, only to discover junior has traded Daniel Sturridge for an unheralded Hungarian squad man.
Not that Sturridge will be getting swapped for anyone this year, as the publishers have chosen to leave him out of this year’s book, along with clubmates Divock Origi and Emre Can.
Ever was it thus for collectors across the generations with star names missing the cut at every tournament, while others sneak on to the pages despite not making their nation’s final 23.
But try explaining England’s best player not making the plane to France to a Liverpool mad seven-year-old, especially when his Belgian goalkeeper keeps turning up in packets.
Having a household with two or more children comes with the added potential of one child losing interest leaving a half filled album for ‘someone else’ to finish.
Especially if child No.2 has form for always wanting what child No.1 has, whether they have shown any previous interest in the subject or not.
The first sign of a waning of commitment to the cause generally comes with a, “could you stick them in for me” request, which is eagerly met.
Indeed, during the last World Cup I am ashamed to admit to opening and sticking in a whole packet bought for the children after returning home from work to find the house empty and an album just sitting on the sideboard.
Of course, I was rumbled by the eagle eyed five-year-old who, despite having no memory of what he has done at school on any given day, possesses the mental capacity to memorise the faces of footballers from five different continents.
And the cunning to negotiate two replacement packets in exchange for not telling his mother.
n Aasma Day is away.