I’ve noticed the Imps are doing another fireworks night this year and it’s brought back memories of some great nights in the past.
I remember they used to be staged around matches, I think Lincoln City Ladies played a game against Oldham around one such event, but after a while, it was decided to have music and a bit of entertainment – that meant me. For those who don’t know (which means you haven’t read my book…) I used to be mascot ‘Poacher the Imp’.
You can get tickets to this year’s event here, but in the meantime, I thought I’d bring you a short extract or two from my book about two events a decade ago, one in which Poacher was a winner and another, well another where someone hadn’t read an unwritten rule.
After attending so many events organised by others, I decided I needed a ‘home event’ to gel with the people of Lincoln a little more, or to have a few drinks with the mascots. Lenny the Lion at Shrewsbury was well regarded and I thought I could perhaps capture some of that magic. Wayne Banks and JV were approached and we discussed what might be good for the club. It was decided that we should have a mascot race at Sincil Bank before the annual fireworks display. I could get a few mascots over and we’d do a bit on the pitch before the fireworks. It would be great for the kids.
I got some good support as well. Jerry came from Scunthorpe and Steve came from Hull. He had often come to our games when we played Hull and I had run the Hull 3K race for him earlier in the year with Ed taking the role of Mrs Poacher for the first time. We both knew the importance of the characters to these events and were happy to help out.
We had ten mascots in all including Splat the Cat and of course Mrs Poacher. We were to run an obstacle course in front of the Coop stand, meet the kids and generally entertain the crowd. I think even JV went in a suit to boost the numbers for the first event. It was important that we put on a bit of a show and the kids loved it. We signed autographs, shook hands and generally interacted as much as we could. It went down well with the families to have so many mascots on show.
We made the heats to the main race funny as well. I theatrically fell over a hurdle before obstructing Splat the Cat to win my race. It was all pantomime of course. I couldn’t do an obstacle course at the best of times. It was my home event and another one of those unwritten rules is that the home mascot wins his home event.
Whilst falling over the hurdle I had hurt my ankle a bit so I went off at the break with a bit of a limp. When I got into the changing room it appeared that my ear had also been broken off (the one on the suit, not my actual ear). A steward radioed through to Bev Gambles who was on duty and he jokingly referred to it as an emergency.
Bev only heard the emergency and having seen me limp off she shot into action. She burst into the home changing room looking flustered and ready to administer some proper emergency care and instead she found a room full of men laughing with a broken ear. She wasn’t best pleased to have run half way across the ground just to find out that it wasn’t a medical emergency. In fact, she was really angry with me and I got a short sharp telling off! Serves her right for getting my head nicked all those years earlier. I went out, won the last race as per the unwritten rule and set about planning with JV and Wayne for the same event next year.
The following year saw me take part in my second home event at Sincil Bank. The first race had been a resounding success, and it had been really well attended by fellow mascots. The second was no different, Steve came over from Hull City, Jerry came again from Scunthorpe, and as usual Kool Kat and Mrs Poacher were there too. James Brown did Mrs Poacher, he was the fan that had paid for the coach all the years ago when we were facing administration. I think he relished the chance to give Mrs P a go.
To try and keep my mind distracted, I rocked up at the ground early, and launched myself into playing the gracious host, along with JV and Wayne, who were once again behind the whole gig. I drove there as well, knowing that would keep me off the amber nectar.
This year the local council had brought a mascot, another Imp. One was probably acceptable, two was just about okay (if it was me and Mrs Poacher). Three Imps took the biscuit a bit, even more so because the new guy decided he wanted to win the race. He had been training to win it, and he didn’t know about the unwritten mascot rule, because he hadn’t read it. He thought it was okay to come and win, in fact he thought it was a proper competition, and not just a fun event for the kids. He didn’t understand, I won my home event, or at least I was supposed to!
I had to try and be on my game, but his suit was flimsy, and I was beginning to show signs of thirty-year-old spread. He had trained for weeks ahead of the event. I had been through emotional turmoil, and had ruined my health with beer, fags, and junk food. He had an energy drink before the heats. I had a Marlborough Light. There was only ever going to be one winner.
In fact, I almost didn’t qualify from the heats, even Kool Kat looked to have upped his game for the 2009 event. I desperately didn’t want the smug git from the council to win, but once we got to the final it became apparent he was going to. My lame efforts to nail him at the start only ended with me on my arse gasping for air, as he waltzed off to claim my prize. That was our last mascot event at Sincil Bank, not because I was petulant and miserable at losing (although I was a bit) but because fireworks cost a lot of money.