Michael Kennard has met David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Roy Keane and many other luminaries of the early seasons of the Premiership era. They have even posed for photographs at his home in Brighton.
The 33-year-old is no superstar agent, though. He is a collector of football memorabilia, and has one of the largest collections of Corinthian football figures in the United Kingdom.
Figures from Bobby Moore to Gary Lineker, Stuart Pearce to Tony Adams and Tony Yeboah to Dennis Bergkamp stand to attention two deep on green shelves adorning his garage’s walls.
“I started collecting Corinthian figures when I was nine or 10,” he said. “I’d been a playground Chelsea fan and played as them on Championship manager – to be able to have these physical little replicas blew my mind!
“My focus on the 1990s stems from my love of football at that time, it was when I fell for the game.
“The pre-1999 figures take me back to a place where life was so much more care free.”
Indeed, Corinthian capitalised on the revolutionary coverage of the Premiership, formerly the First Division, on Sky and began selling figurines of English football’s finest in the form of Headliners, later ProStars, in 1995 until 2008. MicroStars figures were introduced in 2001, too.
The first set, of England players in their white Umbro home strip, was released in October 1995 ahead of the European Championships in 1996 and endorsed by David Seaman.
Here’s the other complete box of unopened sachets I have.
Prostars series 1.
Had to cut the tape from the top to get this pic! pic.twitter.com/OlObbZcqhT
— Corinthian Collector (@CorinthianHead) May 10, 2019
Soon, figurines of the league’s first group of imports, including Peter Schmeichel, became must-haves.
The attention to detail makes every player’s figure an uncanny resemblance. Neville Southall’s moustache is perfectly trimmed, Jaap Stam is wearing a grimace in an Umbro Manchester United shirt and Carlos Valderrama’s emblematic hair is as bonkers as it is expertly crafted.
Their bases, of different colours which represent their rarity and trade value on the school playground, see them likened to Subbuteo figures, but they are much more than that: they were meant for trading, trying to recreate Paolo Di Canio’s volley against Wimbledon with the man himself and obsessing over – or vilifying – whilst standing them in incomprehensible, chronologically-impossible formations on one’s bedroom floor with Pierluigi Collina taking charge.
Kennard said: “Being around them evokes a wonderful feeling of nostalgia – I’ve been asked plenty of times before how much I’ve spent on them, but I’ve intentionally not kept count.
“I know I have almost all of the Headliners and I have completed series one to three of the ProStars.
“Jason Wilcox and Kevin Gallacher in Blackburn Rovers’ brilliant McEwans strip, Ken Monkou, Dominic Matteo, Michael Thomas, Mark Bright and Chris Waddle are the Headliners I am missing.
“A great figure worth mentioning is of goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi, who in a Japanese national team release had a kit with flames on.”
He is using his collection and expert knowledge in an effort to publish “the ultimate Corinthian book about everything”. Having originally focused on the 1990s era, it will chronicle the figures’ history.
Kennard said: “There will be a section featuring other collectors, too, so get in touch with your pictures, please!”
He is also using his collection to raise money for former Southampton player Francis Benali’s Iron Fran challenge, in which he completed an Ironman triathlon (a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and then 26.2-mile run) on seven consecutive days between 29th April and 5th May inclusive.
“I’m a fan of social media, so it has been nice to grow a little community on my Twitter account (@CorinthianHead),” he said. “I did a poll to create a Corinthian team of the 1990s (below), which I will be auctioning off for Benali’s Iron Fran effort. The man is a champion!”
It was Benali’s third gruelling physical challenge in aid of Cancer Research UK, which has already reached its fundraising total of £1 million. You can donate here: https://fundraise.cancerresearchuk.org/unite/iron-fran
He showcases his collection on Twitter, and runs a daily #NameThatPlayer competition. Recently, Jari Litmanen in an Ajax shirt and Sampdoria’s Roberto Mancini have featured.