NEAR POST – A MISCELLANY OF MAD MASCOTS

Football club mascots are a funny bunch, going from the sublime to the ridiculous. Some mascots are logical extensions of the club nickname, Cyril and Cybil the swans at Swansea City and Ozzie the Owl at Sheffield Wednesday, for example. Others are distinctly leftfield and downright weird, dreamt up by “blue sky” (or, in the case of Coventry City, sky blue) thinking in marketing department “thought shower” sessions, or by terrace wags. These ones in particular interest me, as do the stories behind how they came into being. So, with the utmost respect to my club Bolton Wanderers’ mascots Lofty the Lion and Lofty Jr, I’m going to focus on the madder club mascots.

Marvin the Moose (Cambridge United)

According to the Cambridge United website, Marvin the Moose was born on the away terrace of Blundell Park, Grimsby at approximately 2.15pm on Saturday, August 19th 1989.

United fan Dale Collett flew back from a holiday in Spain on the morning of the 19th and drove to the match without going home to drop his bags off or stop for a shower. Taking his place on the terracing in the away end, he warned his fellow fans “Don’t stand near me, I smell like a moose”.

The travelling fans then began raising their collective hands to the side of their heads in an imitation of antlers and bellowing like a moose. As is often the way with crowd behaviour, this caught on very quickly. Within weeks, the entire Newmarket Road end of United’s ground could be seen “moosing” visiting goalkeepers in an attempt to put them off.

The club then adopted a moose as its mascot, christening him Marvin (as you do) – “the world’s first scratch and sniff mascot”!

The Canary & Norfolk Dumpling (Norwich City)

Before Norwich City had Captain and Camilla Canary as their mascots, the weird and somewhat scary pairing of the Canary and Norfolk Dumpling walked round the perimeter of the pitch prior to kickoff.

The mascots represented two things Norwich and Norfolk were historically renowned for – the particular breed of canary with its strong, upright, robust appearance that came to be known as the Norwich Canary, introduced into the city by Flemmish immigrants in the 18th century; and the Norfolk dumpling, made to a specific recipe using flour and a raising agent rather than suet. Norfolk folk were referred to as ‘Norfolk Dumplings’ in the same way that Yorkshire folk are called ‘Tykes’ – something specific to the region being used to characterise the populace at large.

Whilst the logic behind the choice of subject matter for the mascots was relatively sound (they could have used a pot of mustard I guess, but rendering the Norfolk Broads in mascot form would’ve been more of a challenge), the execution left a lot to be desired. The oversized dumpling head and sharp-beaked canary in full evening dress looked surreal and scary like characters from a German fairy tale, guaranteed to give young supporters nightmares! They also elicited howls of derision from away fans. No wonder Norwich City “retired” the mascots and consigned them to the Bridewell Musuem, adopting the cuddlier and more child-friendly Captain and Camilla Canary.

Moonchester & Moonbeam (Manchester City)

As is the fashion these days, Citeh have two mascots – male and female anthropomorphic aliens by the names of Moonchester and Moonbeam. Both aliens come from the planet Blue Moon, ‘Blue Moon’ being the club’s unofficial anthem. The “chester” part is self-explanatory. The marketing meeting probably went something like this:

Highly-paid Marketing Consultant Type: “Your club song is ‘Blue Moon’, right?

Citeh Marketing Department: “Yeah.”

Highly-paid Marketing Consultant Type: “Hmmm… The moon… Space… Astronauts…”

Citeh Marketing Department: “Go on…”

Highly-paid Marketing Consultant Type: “…Aliens! Aliens come from space, right?

Citeh Marketing Department: “Yep.”

Highly-paid Marketing Consultant Type: “Cuddly male and female aliens. Let’s call them Moonchester… Moonchester/Manchester, geddit? See what I did there? …And Moonbeam ‘cos that sounds girly.”

Citeh Marketing Department: “Genius. Nice one, top, sorted! Buzzing! Mad fer it! Have a shitload of cash!”

Hammerhead (West Ham United)

The back-story to the semi-robotic character is that he came into being when a bolt of lightning struck the old Thames Iron Works, where West Ham were originally formed over 100 years ago.

The club website describes him as being:

“As strong as iron, as fast as (double FA Cup winning captain and club record appearance maker) Billy Bonds and blessed with the goalscoring prowess of (club record goalscorer) Vic Watson, some say he was a shipbuilder at the Thames Iron Works while others say he is a knight from the historic Bolyen Castle (depicted on the club badge).’

Gunnersaurus Rex (Arsenal)

Nothing represents Arsenal Football Club and their origins in the Royal Arsenal armaments factory more than a big green dinosaur!

They could’ve gone for Canny the Cannonball or Howie the Howitzer but no, the club opted for Gunnersaurus Rex, guns being a bit violent and all.

According to Arsenal, Gunnersaurus Rex hatched out of an egg found deep underneath Highbury’s North Bank in August 1993. His mascot debut was at Arsenal versus Coventry City in August 14, 1993.

Why is he called Gunnersaurus? Well, Arsenal’s nickname is the Gunners. The ‘saurus’ part was made up so they can have a dinosaur-like mascot, obviously.

Pottermus (Stoke City)

The area around Stoke-On-Trent is known as the Potteries due to the predominance of ceramic manufacture in the region and, from what we’ve seen of mascot naming conventions, it’s a short synaptic journey from “potteries” to “hippopotamus” and ‘Pottermus’. Apparently, there is also a Mrs Pottermus too, seen on MOTD wearing a girly bow and a skirt. However, it could always have been Pottermus in drag.

Sammy Sulphur (Harrogate Town)

He’s yellow. He’s crystalline. He melts at 115.2 °C. He smells like rotten eggs! He’s Sammy Sulphur – Harrogate Town’s mascot.

H’Angus the Monkey (Hartlepool United)

Hartlepool folk are known as ‘monkey hangers’; after a French vessel was shipwrecked off Hartlepool and the only survivor was a monkey. Having never seen a Frenchman before, the Hartlepool mob assumed that the monkey was a French spy and hanged him.

H’Angus the Monkey is Hartlepool United’s official mascot, and has had a colourful life. He made his club mascot debut on October 31st, 1999, in Hartlepool’s first round FA Cup victory over Millwall.

H’Angus has been ejected from away grounds on several occasions, and famously stood for Mayor of Hartlepool on a free bananas for all schoolchildren ticket. He won the election.

Frogmore the Frog/Nelson & Mary Rose the Dogs (Portsmouth)

Portsmouth have had some strange mascots over the years, notably Frogmore the Frog, and Nelson and Mary Rose the Dogs.

Fratton Park is on Frogmore road, so having a frog as a mascot was a no-brainer following the skewed logic of football mascot naming.

Given Portsmouth’s naval history, calling your mascots after a famous historical Admiral and a Tudor ship also makes perfect sense.

Nelson the Dog seems to be a fan of adidas by the looks of things, as he has three strips on his footwear. Most mascots have two, mascot trainer fans.

Chang the Elephant/Mr Toffee (Everton)

Being sponsored by a Thai beer company whose logo has elephants on it readily lends itself to having a cuddly elephant as your mascot. However, the fact that “chang”is also a slang name for cocaine seems to have escaped the notice of the football club.

Plus, when said elephant replaces dear old Mr Toffee, he’s on a hiding to nothing. Elephant… Hide… Anyone? Never mind. What was so wrong with Mr Toffee anyway, proffering sweets to kids? Oh, wait a minute. Now you come to mention it…

Robbie the Bobby (Bury)

Robbie the Bobby is Bury FC’s official mascot and is named in honour of Bury born Sir Robert Peel.

Robbie’s been through a lot over the years. He once lost his head, which caused him a few problems, obviously, and while David Nugent was at Bury his mum created an entirely new suit for him!

Rumours that Robbie had to arrest Nugent for impersonating a striker are unfounded.

So, that’s my miscellany of mad mascots. I’ll save examining what motivates grown men and women to don an out-sized foam costume for another day and another article.

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