Panini. For a certain generation that name brings to mind the great obsessions of childhood. Pocket money. Newsagents. Swapsies. A bygone age where collecting and building things was the norm, sadly replaced now by a generation used to chainsawing zombie rapists to death on a video screen.
For all its nostalgia however, Panini had a flip side too, a colonel Kurtz cooked kipper up the river. It was true. The competition to fill up its pages raged in playgrounds all over Britain. A secret dealing culture ensued. Mysterious figures in hooded parkas charging outlandish prices for Steve Archibald and Coventry city's emblem. And the holy grail of the whole Pannini subculture, year 1978, Sammy Chung. The Wolverhampton Wanderers manager
For a certain period in my primary school, Sammy Chung became a religious type figure to be whispered like the reverend Mooney. No one had him. Even Posh Arthur, whose estranged dad was a dentist and paid him off like a fuck trophy couldn't find him. It became an obsession. Everyone wanted Sammy Chung. He would have been impressed if he knew. He probably had better things to deal with. Wolves played shit at the time. Like they were made out of Lego. He shouldn't have had a sticker really. I began to hate him. He was slippery and elusive. Like a fat eel on a river bed. He caused us no end of bother.
Eventually all this led to a riot. A Panini riot. In Joyce's corner shop. Joyce was a big lesbian who hated Panini kids. We hated Joyce. It was a good combination. We were huddled around her bacon slicer. Her eyes were like those out of a joke shop, bulbous and round like a Chinese marble. It didn't matter.... Suddenly a mad kid called Barry called out 'I've got him. I've got Sammy Chung'. Cue pandemonium.
Someone knocked over a jar of midget gems and Joyce. Her left tit fell out. Blue veins like a frozen Mars bar. Everyone dived on Barry. Big asthma Barry. He used to eat worms and was frightened of semolina. He didn't care. He was mad. We should of known.
Turned out he didn't have Sammy Chung after all but he'd drawn a rough picture of a Chinaman on a bag of pickled onion crisps. Pointy hat and a batman gown. Silly sod. Still I nicked five free packets of stickers whilst Joyce was trying to put her tit back in. I think someone done a Boston crab outside on mad Barry too, World of sport style. I don't think anyone ever got Sammy Chung. He was the most famous Asian man in the world for us one summer. Till David Yip, the Chinese detective came along on telly.
I don't think he ever had a sticker.