Top 3, Bottom 3: Football Mascots
Just a bit of harmless fun to amuse the kids, or a sign that football in the UK is becoming more Americanised and gimmicky? Either way, novelty mascots are prowling the touchlines of football clubs across the country, and it would seem they’re here to stay.
In the last episode of the Footballing Life podcast, we discussed some of our favourites, and our not-so-favourites. Here are our choices, starting with…
Yes, we realise it’s called “top 3 bottom 3”, but we can reverse the order if we like and start with the worst. So we have done.
Number 3. Gunnersaurus.
One word: lazy. A quick Google of why Arsenal’s dinosaur mascot came to be reveals that “Gunners” is the North London club’s nickname (er, yep – we knew that) and “saurus” is because it’s a dinosaur. Bravo, Arsenal. Bravo.
Number 2: Captain Blade
Sheffield united are the blades, yeah? And pirates have blades, right? Hence, bloke dressed as smiley pirate gets the mascot gig . Pretty insensitive given the real personality of pirates, I’d say. They’re ruthless criminals after all.
Anyway, “Blades” used to be the nickname of Sheffileds both Wednesday and United, because of the city’s steel trade. However, according to an online history, in 1907, a cartoon appeared in a Sheffield newspaper drawn by an artist who was unfamiliar with the city, depicting Wednesday from Owlerton as an owl, and United as a blade. From then on the owl was used for Wednesday and United had the blades all to themselves, the site says.
See, that’s a good story. Now, why the pirate?
Number 1: the Deepdale duck
The Preston North End mascot is so bad, he was arrested! Well, according to some reports. In actuality, it seems he (she…it?) was thrown out of game for putting off the Derby County goalkeeper during a game.
In a game after the incident, the Sheffield Utd pirate mascot Captain Blade staged a sit down protest at half time, calling for justice for the duck. Which is relatively amusing. The pirate displayed a banner reading “FREE THE DEEPDALE ONE”.
But why duck anyway? Simply alliteration? Why not the Preston Pig? Or the Lancashire…Lemur?
PS: the duck pictured is not the Deepdale Duck. For an image of the real mascot, see this story, which is about how the duck is related to Mitt Romney.
The Top 3
Number 3: Kayla the American bald eagle
Now, this is more like it. Crystal Palace have gone a step further than simply dressing a man in a duck costume. Kayla, who is reported in some outlets to be 25 years old, but is 19 on her official Facebook page (maybe she’s sensitive about her age) has a two metre wingspan and appears before kick-off at Selhurst Park.
I once took a visiting American friend to watch Palace and had to explain to him that there is not normally falconry at English football games.
Number 2: Hennes the goat
Right, staying with live animals, we’re off to Germany – specifically Cologne. Hennes is a billy goat, which is also the symbol of Bundesliga 2 club FC Köln. The current incumbent in the goaty mascot role is Hennes the eighth. For the fact fans out there, goats only live around 15years. Cologne have had a live mascot since around 1950.
It gets weirder. Hennes lives with a rabbit called Willi. He goes on the pitch to test the grass, and only after this has happened can the game get underway.
Number 1: the city gent
Our winner is a fat bloke in Bradford (well, he was fat). Bradford City’s “city gent” was not even really a character, it was just a bloke called Lenny Berry who was, in fairness, a portly gentleman who walked around wearing a bowler hat and rubbing his belly.
That’s not the end of it though. You will have noticed that we’re talking in the past tense. This is an ex-mascot – he is no longer around. That’s because even though the concept was ropy at best to begin with, last year the man playing the city gent got thinner, and was deemed no longer suitable.
He’d spent nearly 20 years in role, but he got diabetes and quite rightly set about losing weight. Unfortunately, because the city gent was based on Stafford Heginbotham (great name), a rotund former chairman, Lenny had to go – after declining the option of wearing a fat suit.
Bradford also has as a more conventional mascot – Billy Bantam the chicken. But come on, surely even a skinny bloke with a bowler hat is better than that?