Rotherham United, Paul Warne and my face: A Mascot’s Tale

Courtesy Graham Burrell

The Imps travel to Rotherham this weekend, knowing that a win at the New York Stadium would be the first for a Lincoln side playing the Millers away since 1957.

We’ve only beaten them once since the turn of the eighties, that coming during the 1999/00 season. It was our first game out of the third tier last time and it brought me a certain amount of pain.

For those who have not yet read or bought my book, here is an extract from it featuring Rotherham, current manager Paul Warne and me getting hurt a little bit.

The New York Stadium – courtesy of me.

The new season dawned, as they always do, full of hope and optimism. It is one of the reasons I love football, the mistakes of the previous campaign can be forgotten after a couple of good results, and unlike real life, every twelve months you get to start afresh.

The 1999/00 season started well enough for City, beating the highly-fancied Rotherham 2-1 on the opening day. Rotherham scored late on through experienced striker Paul Warne, who came on as a substitute and now manages the club.

Whilst warming up at half time Mr Warne had become the first player that Poacher had tangled with. I’d started the season full of beans and optimism. There’s something about that first game of the season that every football fan should cherish. It’s a time when the slate has been wiped clean, and you can be full of positivity and hope. Nothing from the previous campaign really matters, your new signings are still all potential world beaters, and this is your year. With nothing else at all in my life, I placed an awful lot of importance on football.

I’d seen the Rotherham subs warming up and I made my way around to them opening my arms as if to receive a pass. They decided to play the game and Rob Scott (future Boston and Grimsby manager) knocked the ball over to me. Showing wonderful hindsight given his later employers, I launched the ball into row Z and sprinted away chuckling to myself. The Imps faithful let out a few laughs, job done.

Paul Warne was a respected pro, and now he is a respected manager, but nobody likes to be mugged off by a mascot. Warne certainly didn’t, and on retrieving the ball he decided he’d get a laugh of his own. He thought it would be amusing to wallop the ball as hard as he could at me, and it seemed the travelling Rotherham fans agreed.

As I turned to face the players, he volleyed the ball into my face, knocking me backwards onto the turf. I could hear laughter, much louder laughter than when I’d kicked the ball away. I suppose it looked funny from many angles, but from inside the suit with a split lip, it was hard to spot the funny side.

Mind you, I deserved it. After all, what harm was there in a player booting a ball at a mascot anyway? Weren’t we there to get a bit roughed up when the occasion called? I didn’t hold it against Warne too much, not that he would have cared if I had. After all, we still won despite his last-minute goal, and everything looked rosy, despite those financial storm clouds gathering.

If you haven’t yet bought my book, why not do so now? It’s good, a publishing company offered me a contract last week, although it was called a ‘contributory’ contract which means I pay them some money. That ain’t happening, so I’ll have to keep hawking it around on here instead.

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