Binned, stolen, or somewhere under the bed: When footballers’ medals go missing

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After putting all that effort into winning them, it’s surprising how many players allow their awards to go astray – some never to be seen again

7 August ~ In July, Liverpool’s Rhian Brewster was filmed wearing his Champions League winner’s medal while getting his hair cut at the barbers. Some applauded how he was sharing the medal with the public. Others thought he ought to focus on getting first-team football. Given how many footballers have mislaid their medals, he’d do well to simply take care of it.

Winning a record number of 13 top-flight English titles may explain Ryan Giggs’s attitude to the whereabouts of his silverware. While having a clear-out, he found a handful of Premier League winner gongs stashed away in the back of a drawer. He’d forgotten they were there. “I am proud of what I’ve achieved,” said Giggs, “but looking at a medal or talking about what I’ve won doesn’t do anything for me.”

Arsène Wenger feels the same way. He claims to have not kept a single medal, preferring to give them to club staff. Although Tony Adams has a different view on his former manager, saying Wenger was so angry about losing the 2001 FA Cup final to Liverpool, that he tossed his runners-up medal in the bin.

Most are keener to keep hold of what they see as their part of history. Celtic reserve goalkeeper John Fallon was an unused substitute in the 1967 European Cup final. He still got a winner’s medal – just not for long. Moments after receiving it, Celtic manager Jock Stein took it away, saying it was for the referee. It was later discovered it had been given to club chairman Sir Robert Kelly. Fallon had to wait until earlier this year before having it returned, after an unnamed person donated it to the club.

In January of this year, former Ipswich Town winger Mick Lambert had his 1978 FA Cup winner’s medal, earned after appearing as a substitute in the 1-0 win over Arsenal, stolen in a robbery. “Whether we’ll ever see it again I don’t know,” he said. Three weeks later, he found it under his bed, while trying to get to the plug sockets behind the headboard.

Alex MacDonald was less fortunate. Six years ago, while holidaying in Benidorm, his winner’s medal from Rangers’ 1972 Cup-Winners Cup was ripped from the gold chain he wore around his neck. He remained philosophical. “I have always been of the opinion that if you get a wallet stolen, then maybe the person that stole it needed the money more than you did,” he said. Kirkintilloch Rangers Supporters’ Club paid UEFA £900 for a replica, which was later presented to MacDonald at Ibrox.

Chelsea’s win over Manchester United in the 2018 FA Cup final meant Cesc Fàbregas added something previously missing from his extensive medal collection. Although he won the 2005 competition with Arsenal, he no longer has the medal as his father, who looks after his memorabilia, somehow lost it.

Southampton have only won one major trophy, thanks to Bobby Stokes’s goal in the 1976 FA Cup final. Stokes’s medal very quickly left his sight. The day after the final he took it to the Beehive, a pub in Paulsgrove, Portsmouth. However, Bobby was Portsmouth-born, and the pub was his local. So despite playing for the rivals he was able to pass his medal among the many fellow drinkers without trouble. Later that evening, he was photographed wearing a policeman’s hat, while the officers posed with the Golden Boot he was presented for scoring Southampton’s most famous goal.

It’s not just medals that go missing, either. Having won the 1982 European Cup in Rotterdam, Aston Villa then lost it at the Fox Inn in Hopwas, near Tamworth. Colin Gibson and Gordon Cowans wanted to show it to fans. “Gordon and I had had a few drinks,” said Gibson, “when someone turned round and said ‘the cup’s gone, it’s been stolen’.”

Bizarrely, it was handed into a police station in Sheffield. Undeterred by the identity of the thief remaining a mystery, the officers on shift formed two teams for an impromptu game to see who got to lift the famous cup.

Those who have lost but are yet to find their medals can take encouragement from auctioneers Hansons, who this year received Johnny Hancocks’ long-lost winning 1949 FA Cup final medal for Wolves from a private collector. Medals mark the end of a competition but can often go on to have their own, long-running story. Mark Sanderson

This article first appeared in WSC 390, September 2019. Subscribers get free access to the complete WSC digital archive – you can find out more here