Euro 1996 was a landmark moment for an entire generation of English football fans, as well as being the reason why expectations are always so high going into major tournaments.
Games played in England, the penalty shoot-out win over Spain, the heartbreaking semi-final defeat, the legitimately great soundtrack to the tournament (even if ‘Three Lions 98’ was arguably better than the original) – the tournament had it all.
Tickets were in high demand for the tournament, with England’s great run coming alongside the chance to watch all-time greats who fans might otherwise have been unable to watch on these shores.
The likes of Hristo Stoichkov, Paolo Maldini, Gheorghe Hagi and Michael Laudrup were all involved for their respective countries, making the discovery of a treasure trove of unused match tickets all the more heartbreaking… or so we thought.
Some 31 tickets were found in Stoke-on-Trent when an anonymous fan opened a suitcase given to him by his late mother 10 years ago.
The tickets, which all carry the name ‘Ben Edwards’, included at least one for the final at Wembley, where Germany beat the Czech Republic thanks to a Golden Goal from Oliver Bierhoff.
“I have no idea how they ended up in the suitcase,” said the owner, who has described the situation as a “complete mystery”.
“I don’t think my mum was a ticket tout!”
However, after the BBC covered the find, it has since emerged that all might not be quite as it seemed.
After reading the story, another football fan has come forward with what he thinks is an explanation for why the tickets appear to be unused.
Chris Salt claims to have received an identical set of tickets from his mother, who worked for ticket distribution company Synchro, right down to the seat numbers being the same.
This suggests they were commemorative tickets, sent out as souvenirs, even if they were printed by the same company who were responsible for the real thing.
“I was 16 at the time and I was a big football fan so my mum thought she would give me some. The tickets I have are in an envelope from The Portman Group head office in London, who were responsible for the printing. It seems they printed them off for staff on request,” he said.
While it looks like they’re not official match tickets, there’s still potential value to collectors, according to Hansons Auctioneers sports valuer Alistair Lofley.
“If they were printed as a souvenir just after the tournament in 1996 that would make sense, and football collectors will still be fascinated by them,” he said.
The set of tickets is expected to fetch up to £150 at auction, just a little more than you’d have had to pay for just one ticket for the final back in 1996.
(Images: Getty/Hansons Auctioneers)