Meet the Stockport County superfan with more than 500 player-worn shirts

‘’It’s one of the most powerful and evocative vehicles for the history and memories of Stockport County.’’

Ben Walker is a Stockport County superfan like no other, with a love for the club that runs so deep that it has driven him to collect over 500 player-worn County shirts.

”I got into it in March 2012,” he said. ”It was a lad who used to play for us called Chris Williams, it was his shirt from the 2002/03 season.

”Something just resonated with me, it was a long-sleeved shirt that you couldn’t buy in the shop, it had the sleeve patches and the letters on the back.

”I was like yeah, there’s something magical about this.”

The emotion that owning this shirt brought Ben, started him on his journey to create his mammoth collection, a group so large that he now claims to boast one of the biggest collections of one-club, match-worn shirts in the world.

It was that summer that things really took off for Ben, as he managed to get a hold of County’s rare ‘Romania’ shirt.

The shirt is a result of a sole 1996 game against Blackburn in the Coca-Cola Cup, where Stockport’s home and away strips clashed with their opposition.

”It is literally a Romania shirt with our badge and sponsor over it,” he said. ”I managed to get a hold of one of them, I’ve had three now and there is only 12 in the world.”

Stockport County’s ‘Romania’ Shirt (Middle). Credit – Ben Walker

Owning the ‘Romania’ shirt put Ben on the map, and he soon became well-known in the community, which helped his collection grow to the next level.

”I’ve got a match worn home, away and third shirt, special edition, cup shirt, one-off shirts, every single shirt we have worn from 1988 to the present day,” he added. ”In most cases I’ve got multiple players for each of those as well!”

The 39-year-old has even gone one step further, and he owns Stockport County’s rarest shirt, a shirt so rare, that many people were unsure if it even existed.

In the 2008 playoff final at Wembley, Stockport lined up with no official substitute goalkeeper, as John Ruddy had elected to have surgery rather than sit on the bench.

Despite being a striker, Adam Proudlock had gone in net once before in the season, after a sending off, and had enjoyed a strong showing between the sticks.

And so, the rumour mill started, with some fans claiming Proudlock was actually the substitute keeper for the game, and had a specialist shirt made for the occasion.

”I thought there is no way,” said Ben.

”When [Proudlock] got the job as a manager at Eccleshall, I got in touch with the club and said can you ask him if there is any truth to it,” he said. ”Turns out he did, and he sent me a picture of this green keeper shirt!

‘’Proudlock 31 on the back and all the Wembley embroidery and everything. A week later I went down and got it off him.’’

Despite the pleasure Ben gets from owning the shirts, he also clearly loves sharing them with other fans.

He actively runs both Twitter and Instagram accounts sharing his collection with like-minded fans, as well as holding exhibitions showcasing his shirts to both fans and ex-players alike.

‘’It’s seeing people’s reactions to the shirts and the memories it brings back. When I spend time with ex-players and I show them a shirt that they wore you can see the emotion,’’ he said. ‘’Its gone from ‘I just want loads of shirts in my wardrobe’, to preserving the history of the club and using the shirts as a means to tell stories about our history, educate people and get people more involved with Stockport County.

”There is no other thing in the world that is as powerful and evokes memories in the way a football shirt does.”

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