A Mascot’s Tale: Open Day Blues

Courtesy Graham Burrell

To celebrate the upcoming release of my book, Suited and Booted, I’ve saved a couple of mascot stories for you to read in the run-up to the launch.

It’s going to be on sale from June 7th, although you might have already seen it on Amazon £250; that’s so I could order some copies to sell myself!

f you feel inclined to get a two-week head start on everyone else I won’t mind.

However, if like the hundred or so people who have pre-ordered you’re happy to wait until the launch night, then there’s something here that will whet your appetite.

Before I start though, the launch. Sponsored by Lincoln City, the launch takes place on June 7th, starting at 7pm for those lucky enough to be either invited or drawn from the pre-ordered selection. At 8pm we’re throwing the doors open to all and sundry to come and get their copy, whether pre-ordered or not.

It’s in the TP Suite at the ground, the bar will be open and we’ve got a special guest coming along as well; he’s a former player with a huge influence in the books ending and he’ll be doing a short talk. There’s going to be a QnA with me on the life and times of the mascot and hopefully another special guest or two as well.

Invites will go out once the draw has been made from the pre-orders, so stand by your emails on Friday or Saturday, depending on how busy I get!
Anyway, the book is packed full of mascot stories, some funny and some sad. It’s got other themes running through it as you may have heard on Radio Lincolnshire last night, but I saved this special story for you this afternoon because I wanted to give you a treat before it’s launched. It’s also shameless marketing, much like me releasing it before Father’s Day.

Anyway, there was an open day at the club, I think it was around 2006 or 2007. I was always asked to go along and I dreaded them to a certain degree. On a match day you were out for 30 minutes tops, then you’d change and slide into anonymity. On these open days I could be required over a three- or four-hour period, often getting in and out of the suit several times. They were always in July as well and I’d get uncomfortable.

Not the same climbing wall; this is from 2007 as well, but at Sheffield United’s open day.

This particular year they had a climbing wall on the astroturf and it seemed like a good thing to get involved in. As a mascot you always wanted something to be doing, or you did ten years ago. Today’s lot are more sanitised and controlled, but back then I had free reign so I’d get into whatever I could. I’d already tried to start a police car parked at the event and got into trouble, then I found the climbing wall.

I’m scared of heights, I can’t get two rungs up a ladder without a tightening of the bum muscles, but when in the suit that vertigo didn’t hit me. I couldn’t see past the end of the suit’s nose, so I wasn’t able to ascertain where in the air I was. They wrapped this strap around me and started to help me up the wall.

It felt like great fun and all I had to do was let my hands and feet be guided. I was finding the holes myself with my hands and edging my whole suit up the wall, with nothing but the inside of my head for a view. After a while I realised, that I could feel my feet being guided anymore, so I was stuck. I couldn’t go down, I couldn’t go up, so I had a decision to make.

I glanced down, through the hole my head went through, and just aw the tops of people’s head. From being completely oblivious to my height I got a sharp reminder of where I was; ten foot or so up in the air. My guts dropped, I got dizzy and I did what I really shouldn’t have done. I let go.
I was strapped up so it didn’t matter as such, but as I tumbled from the wall there was no warning for those below me. I crashed onto one of the guys supervising the lifting and as one of my shoes came off in the fall, I also took out a small kid with a wicked head shot. I heard tears, laughter and more laughter, but as my arse hit the ground, I felt a huge amount of relief.

The scare had really shaken me up, I’m terrified of heights and that moment I realised I’d got so far up shook me up. I went into the room to change for a moment and sat on the Mrs Poacher outfit whilst getting out of my wet clothes. My partner at the time was with me although she’d been at work and we were in separate cars. She wanted to get off and offered to take my wet clothes home with her. I stripped down to my kecks, put my wet gear in the Mrs Poacher bag and put the suit on with just my pants. It was a hot day, so why not, right? I went back out, leaving her to get off.

I was out for an hour, huffing and puffing in the suit but still diligently signing autographs, posing for pictures and swearing through the mouth at people I knew because it made them howl with laughter. I say I didn’t relish the days, but it was nice to see a few faces after the summer, although I kicked numerous kids on the way round. Parents would urge their toddler or short person to stand in front of me for an autograph or picture, but unless that toddler or short person was five foot six or more, they were out of my line of sight.

I apologised umpteen times for bouncing kids around like footballs or giving them a little knee to the head, never intentional but always regretted. Looking back, I can laugh, but at the time… nah, at the time I chuckled once or twice.

Eventually, the day began to wind down and a nice cold beer was calling me in the Centre Spot (it’ll always be the Centre Spot). I went into the changing room, usually the tearoom at the side of the tunnel, and stripped off the sopping wet suit. I went to retrieve my dry clothes from Poacher’s bag and got the shock of my life.

I had got the bags mixed up and put my sopping wet clothes into the Mrs Poacher bag, along with my dry ones. My partner had then taken that home with her, leaving me with the Mrs Poacher bag containing no clothes at all. I had nothing to put on.

I never got my beer that afternoon. Instead, I had to wear the huge Poacher shirt as my own, tucked into the actual Poacher legs and, luckily, my trainers which were still in the changing room. I’m not sure what I looked like, a bit like a Poacher balloon which had been let down and had a sweaty ginger head drawn on it.

The worst thing was I had to stop and get petrol on the way home, so ended up going into Waitrose station with red and white furry legs, a XXXXXL shirt (which might actually fit now) and an embarrassed look on my face.

Not the best of days.


You can now buy my book ‘Suited and Booted’ right here on the site.

It’s the story of my time as Poacher the Imp, the Lincoln mascot, and the struggles I faced with mental health during that period. It’s hopefully going to keep a few people entertained with Imps’ titbits, funny stories and of course a serious message throughout.

It’s released on June 7th at an exclusive launch, details to follow, but anyone who buys between now and next Friday will go into a draw to be at the launch.

Want to know more? Of course you do.

Click here