Some regular readers of my blog may be aware that for many years I ‘portrayed’ Poacher The Imp down at Sincil Bank. I gave up in November 2013 to accommodate a move away with work, but recently I’ve put a few sneaky performances back in. I could never give it up completely!
As it’s a quiet news week I thought I’d do a quick blog about one of my away trips many years ago. Now for the last eleven years or so I’ve been planning on writing a book about my experiences and the club as a whole: I’m delighted to say I’ve actually started to pull it all together now and you never know, I might just get something published before I turn 40.
Anyway I recall an away trip to Shrewsbury on the opening day of the 2004/05 season. I had a decent relationship with their mascot, Lenny the Lion (or Ron the builder to give him his real name) and I knew there would be free tickets laid on. My old man would drive which would give me room to fuel up on the amber nectar before getting out there as Poacher. Nothing screams ‘top mascot performance’ better than a few pints of the jungle juice.
The game was at the old Gay Meadow which was a classic lower league football ground. They did they best they could with limited access and often suffered a winter break when the River Severn burst its banks and encroached on the playing turf.
The game was even more important as they’d just bounced back from a spell in the non league scene, and we were their first game back against ‘proper teams’. There was a carnival atmosphere in the ground and in the football pubs, not that we found that out though.
My old man and I had decided to have a few beers around town, and we’d blagged some street parking. I didn’t tell Dad we’d parked on the same street my ex girlfriend lived on, it seemed a bit stalker-ish. It probably was looking back….
Before I go on I should elaborate why Shrewsbury is my preferred away trip. Back in 2001 I had met and made future plans with a Shrewsbury girl. It hadn’t worked out as I’d intended due mainly to her not wanting it to, but I’ve always had a bit of a bee in my bonnet about the town. I loved it there, I was made really welcome whilst dating her and I often went to their games if we weren’t playing. I felt comfortable and therefore whenever it came up on the fixture list I made the journey. Looking back now it seems even more stalker-ish than the last paragraph.
We made our way into town and frequented a few of the pubs I’d been in when I was dating her, although to my Dad’s disappointment they weren’t really football pubs. We spent the whole pre match build up making our way from one disinterested family pub to another doing our very best to unintentionally avoid the several hundred travelling Imps fans. I think he was glad by the time we made our way to the ground to actually feel like he was going to a football game.
Ron had come good and provided a couple of tickets for us on the proviso I did a stint as Poacher. I’d always known Ron as an energetic mascot who put in his all, so it did surprise me somewhat to still be drinking in their players bar at 2.45pm. He got changed much quicker than I could, but we managed to get out on the pitch for ten minutes or so. It was a warm day anyway so the longer I spent ‘hydrating’ the better. Those suits get pretty warm in December I’ll have you know, so August is no fun at all.
You’d imagine that there isn’t much trouble you can get into in ten minutes on the pitch, and you’d be right. I did a full lap mainly to antagonise the home support as I loved to do. Secretly I hoped maybe they’d appreciate seeing a football league mascot again, but they didn’t. I didn’t ever do it to cause trouble, just to build a bit of atmosphere. Just before I made it to our fans something hit me.
It was a size ten blue and white Adidas Samba.
I must admit to be a little taken aback, so I turned to see where it had come from, and this kid was leant over the hoardings shouting abuse at me. I popped the mouth open on my head to get a good look at him. I say he was a kid, he looked about twenty one but he had thrown his shoe so in my eyes he was a child.
“Did you just throw your shoe at me mate?”
He described to me how he wasn’t my mate, how being in the suit probably meant I preferred my sexual partners to be underage and how I should go back where I came from and mate with somebody. It wasn’t entirely pleasant but it wasn’t entirely unexpected either. Again I asked if he had thrown his shoe at me.
In response rather than actually answer he hoisted his socked foot up onto the wall in front of him and smiled. He had thrown me his shoe. Suddenly the vitriol subsided as the severity of his situation hit him. He only had one piece of footwear on his trotters.
“Can I have my shoe back please?”
I thought briefly for a moment. I often saw odd trainers or socks on the road and wondered at what point someone goes out and loses a shoe or sock and doesn’t retrieve it. Maybe here in my angry young aggressor I had some sort of answer. However as a fan of Adidas trainers it did pain me to think of a pair being parted due to the owners inability to focus his aggression in any other way than taking off his shoe and throwing it.
I retrieved the trainer and did my best to get it back to him. I couldn’t throw it too hard as the stewards would think I was being aggressive, but I couldn’t get too close as he looked like he might lash out at me. I gave it a weak wristed toss over the hoardings and turned to make my way to our fans.
As I did I felt the trainer hit me again. There’s no helping some people.
We won the game 1-0 thanks to Gary Taylor Fletcher, and we ended the season beaten at the Millennium Stadium by a decent Southend side. We’d witnessed arguably the last great Lincoln City team, and I’d started the roller coaster ride by being hit by a trainer. Twice.
On our way out my Dad and I spotted a wheelchair bound Shrewsbury fan talking to a fellow Imp. We made our way over and complimented him on his sides potential for the season ahead.
He also told us to go home and multiply, I’m not sure whether he meant separately or with each other. We were in Shrewsbury after all. It took all of my diplomacy to convince my Dad that tipping him out of the wheel chair was simply not cool, no matter what he said.
So there we go, a small taste of the sort of anecdote you may get in my upcoming book. I’m 40 in November 2018, so if you haven’t seen it by then can you start getting on my back please? I want to publish something other than a blog before I depart this earth.