Chris Smith has developed a bit of a habit.
“I’ve got a dealer who I have now become good friends with, he lives round the corner from me so he provided me with the green I was needing,” he says.
“He gives it all in little jiffy bags so it can look quite suspicious.”
Smith isn’t referring to narcotics. Smith is a Lego enthusiast. He suffered a shortage of green bricks when building a replica of Easter Road, the home of Hibernian F.C.
For three years the Crystal Palace supporter has been addicted to building Lego models of British football stadiums.
40 out of 92
Smith’s hobby initially started as an experiment to see if he could build the home of his beloved Crystal Palace.
Now he has loftier goals.
“The project is to build all 92 English league clubs, so far I’ve done 40 out of 92.
“The Scottish ones came off the back of that, so I’ve added on at least the Scottish Premiership teams as well.
“All 92 English league teams and 12 Scottish Premier League teams have been commissioned.”
Despite working as a full-time carer, Smith tries to dedicate a few hours to stadium construction each week.
While Smith isn’t halfway through his project yet, he has ambitions of doubling the tally in order to display all the grounds together.
“The idea was always to make them for other people so they could display them, I obviously don’t have anywhere to put them myself. Although it would be cool to make two of each and run an exhibition.”
Time, money and effort
Building a stadium from hundreds of pieces of themoplastic polymer understandably takes a lot of time and effort.
When building a stadium for the first time, Smith says it takes days of trial and error.
He explains exactly what went into his magnificent Wembley Stadium build.
“Wembley is probably the biggest stadium I have made and there’s about 2,500 pieces used in that. A stadium tends to consist of at least 1,000 bricks.
“If you have all the bricks handy that should take you a few days. Most stadiums measure in at about 50 centimetres by 50 centimetres.
“Typically a stadium is made up of £150 worth of bricks at least, and I tend to sell them for about £300. There’s not much money to be made – it’s more of a hobby with some bonus pocket money.”
Asked why he sells his replica stadia for such a modest mark-up, Smith says that he wants the finished article to be within the price range of normal fans: “I keep prices low so fans who are really enthusiastic about it can get their hands on a completed stadium.”
What makes a fun build
Old Trafford, The Emirates Stadium and Wembley are all magnificent structures, but Smith insists that there’s more fun to be had building the home of Isthmian League Premier Division residents Dulwich Hamlet.
“It’s much more interesting doing the lower league clubs. They tend to have a lot more character,” he says.
“I made a replica of Dulwich Hamlet’s Champion’s Hill. We did an event at the local club where school kids came along.
“We did a Lego morning and they all designed their own future Dulwich Hamlet stadium – it was great fun.
“If you do a Wembley or an Emirates it’s not as interesting because people have seen all that before.”
Looking at Smith’s completed stadiums it would be reasonable to assume that meticulous planning had gone into the creation.
However, Smith prefers the traditional Lego-building approach of ‘build and see what happens’.
“It would be quite boring to sit there planning everything out and there’s not really much point, because you don’t really know what it’s going to look like until you start building.”
This process is rarely straightforward. Smith cites Queens Park Rangers’ Loftus Road as a prime example of a project not going to plan.
“When you think there’s going to be an easy one there are always issues that come up. Looking at QPR’s stadium, it looks like the most naturally Lego stadium, but the stands are so deep that it was really difficult to get the right gradient.
“I got there in the end though!”
Now three years into his project, lego-building remains a part-time hobby for Smith.
But he does dream of teaming up with the Danish giant.
“It would be interesting if one day Lego said, ‘Chris can you design us some and we’ll make them into sets’.
“That would be ideal and then people could build them for themselves.”