Fan finds old '96 sticker album with six stickers missing, tracks down and photographs the actual players

Posted by Chris Wright

Premier LeagueOther / PA Photos / Adam Carroll-SmithFormer Newcastle hero Philippe Albert now sells fruit and veg in Belgium.

During a routine rummage through the detritus in his loft, 29-year-old Portsmouth fan Adam Carroll-Smith came across his old 1996 Premier League sticker album.

A quick flick through the weighty tome revealed that his 12-year-old self had come within but a few stickers of completing the album, with just six players left unaccounted for: Stuart Ripley and Lars Bohinen of Blackburn, Philippe Albert of Newcastle, Keith Curle of Man City, Scott Minto of Chelsea and Gary Penrice of QPR.

Regaling his tale to BBC Hampshire, it was there and then that Carroll-Smith decided, in his own words, that "a great wrong had to be righted" and immediately began plotting just how he was going to go about putting his long-standing beast of burden to rest.

- Fan finishes quest for '96 sticker album

Rather than scouring the internet for mint copies of the outlying stickers, Carroll-Smith, now a solicitor, decided that the only way he was going to get full and proper closure was to begin a quest to track down the six players in person, take their photographs and stick them into the yawning gaps in his album.

The English players: Ripley, Curle, Minto and Penrice proved to be a doddle as Carroll-Smith was able to set up meetings with the four ex-pros using nothing more than a fair few internet searches, social media conversations with third parties and a list of contacts he compiled through various online football fan forums.

As was perhaps to be expected, the task of tracking down the two foreign players on the list was a little more difficult, especially as both have since returned to their native lands since calling time on their respective playing careers.

Indeed, it took two ferry excursions to the continent for Carroll-Smith to successfully hunt down Phillipe Albert, who now works in the fruit and vegetable trade in his native Belgium, and Lars Bohinen, who is currently appearing on the Norwegian version of Strictly Come Dancing.

After six months of toil and trouble on his quest to spear his White Whale, Carroll-Smith was finally able to complete his 16-year masterpiece and affix the mugshots of the final six players in place.

However, upon closing that chapter of his life after years and years of searching, Carroll-Smith decided the only fitting end for his '96 album was not in a frame in pride of place above the mantelpiece or back in the box in his attic -- oh no, the only fitting end was a Viking burial-at-sea.

Yep, he threw it into the English Channel off the storm wall at Southsea.

"It was a cathartic experience," he told the BBC. "My wife and I have just had our first child, so this was a symbolic way of showing I'd grown up.

"The sticker album was then and this is now."

What a man. What a legend.

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