BECOMING THE proud owner of their team’s shirt for the first time is a momentous occasion for any football fan.
For Sheffield Wednesday devotee Chris Hall, however, it was a memory marred by loss for more than 20 years – until last weekend.
The Leeds-based accountant was seven when he got his first Owls strip in 1994.
He was left devastated when the garment went missing following its first trip to the laundry basket.
Mr Hall, now aged 27, spent the next two decades believing it had been stolen from the washing line, or mistakenly thrown away by his mother.
But the shirt and its owner are set for a reunion, after it was discovered at the bottom of his garden pond.
Mr Hall said: “I was gutted, I was only seven or eight at the time. I remember getting it. Wednesday were still playing in it when it went missing so I don’t think I’d had it that long.
“I initially thought it had been stolen, but my mum has a habit of binning stuff so I thought it could have been her.”
It was a clear-out of the garden pond in Mr Hall’s family home, who is originally from the South Yorkshire village of South Hiendley, which solved the mystery of the missing shirt.
The surprise came out of the blue – and white – for the fan who explained: “I got a text from my brother on Saturday with a photo of the shirt and a comment saying ‘found it’.
“The shirt had floated to the top and was covered in green stuff and creepy crawlies and had things growing inside it.
“One thing, though, was that it didn’t smell that bad to say it had been underwater for so long.”
The story prompted a huge response after it was posted on the social media site Twitter.
Despite its soggy state, Mr Hall is keeping the strip, which Sheffield Wednesday played in between 1993 and 1995, as a reminder of the glory days when his team played in the top tier of the English football league.
In recent years, Owls fans have been more used to watching their side struggle to beat mid-table mediocrity in the Championship League.
Mr Hall said: “It looks fine now it has had a wash. It’s just a bit stained. I’m definitely keeping it as a memento.
“When you’re little your first shirt means quite a lot. I started supporting them because my cousin did, but like a lot of fans I say that I didn’t choose Wednesday, Wednesday chose me.”