An Aberdeen man made many social media users say “mamma mia!” this week when he shared his Italian football shirt collection.
Neil Anderson, 32, posted images of his spare bedroom floor adorned with tops – vintage, recent and limited edition – he’s acquired over the years, with a stack of shirts close to 200 strong.
This amazing collection is squirrelled away in a cupboard in the north-east house heating engineer Neil shares with his girlfriend.
He spoke to the Evening Express about how he came to develop a taste for calcio …
How did Neil get into collecting Italian football shirts?
“I’ve been an Aberdeen season ticket holder since I was six or seven, and had every Dons home top from 1994/95 until this season.
“I used to get those and then, if I went on holiday with my parents, whichever ever city we went to, say Barcelona, I’d persuade them to get me tops.
“I was obsessed with all the different players and stuff.
“Round about that time the Football Italia show was on Channel 4 on Saturday mornings.
“For a lot of people my age, that’s how you watched foreign football.
“Now, you can watch it from all the different countries with Sky Sports and BT Sport, but, before that, Serie A was the only foreign league you could really access.
“I fell in love with all the teams, I thought all of the best players played there and the shirts were so cool.
“In Scotland, it was only really Celtic and Rangers winning everything. In Italy, there were six or seven teams who could win everything.
“I followed Roma and had a couple of Roma tops.
“As I got older I looked at my collection and I had tops from all over the place, so I decided to quit collecting from other countries and just focus on the Italian ones, mainly because of the memories it brought back and because I recognised so many players.”
How many tops does Neil have?
“I never realised the number until this isolation period. I buy a lot of them from a website called Classic Football Shirts and they had a challenge on Twitter, so I laid them out for the first time and thought: ‘wow – there’s a lot of them’.
“I don’t know an exact number, but I’ve got 160 or 170 Italian ones. Some of the lesser ones I couldn’t even fit in the photo.
“I’ve then got 50 or 60 which are Aberdeen or from other places.
“The sad thing about my Aberdeen ones is my mum threw my first set of them all out in a black bag when I moved out at 21, so I had to re-buy them.”
Does he have a system for buying them or specific things he’s looking for?
“It’s just opportunity, sometimes you’ll just see something.
“Or sometimes you get a player in your head and think: ‘I’ll need to get one of his shirts’.
“There’s a community on Twitter – where there’s quite a lot of people. Sometimes you can bounce ideas off of each other, especially if you’re looking at stuff on eBay and trying to decide if stuff’s real or fake, as people have different expertise.
“There was a guy was asking how many shirt numbers in a row people had in their collection.
“I realised I didn’t have any shirts numbered 14 or 15, so I’ve bought a 14 shirt – an Inter Milan 1998/99 away shirt with Diego Simeone on the back – and now I’m looking for a 15. I’ve got two options, there’s a cheap way – which is buying the top and official number set separately, or the more expensive way.
Has Neil kept track of how much he’s spent on his collection?
“I couldn’t tell you how much I’ve spent, but I’ve written most of them out and I’m going to work it out during isolation.
“I probably won’t tell my girlfriend how much it is.
“It’s thousands of pounds!”
Does he have a favourite?
“The one I got most excited about and thought: ‘Please don’t let there be a problem’, because I’d had issues before where I’d buy a top and it wouldn’t ever arrive, was a 1997/98 Fiorentina top from when they were sponsored by Nintendo.
“It was worn in a game by the Belgian international Luis Oliveira against Lazio.
“You can get the highlights from the game on YouTube and Oliveira scored.
“It’s ace knowing he’s worn it in the game and it’s a pretty iconic top as well.”