Third Time Unlucky

In April 2019 it was a really exciting time to be a Lincoln City fan, with promotion to League 1 almost guaranteed, along with the likelihood of finishing top of the table and winning the League 2 trophy, writes Val Daniels.

My daughters were buzzing with excitement as they enjoyed the carnival atmosphere picking up plenty of photos with their favourite players and the managers. What better time to sign up for a mascot package for my youngest, Erin – it seemed like the perfect 11th birthday treat. I bookmarked the release date to make sure I was in with a shot of getting a date close to her birthday.

By 02 May 2019 the mascot package was secured and in June 2019 I provided three preferred dates for the mascot experience. As my daughter’s birthday was 11th October, the closest home games were Sunderland on 05th October and Shrewsbury Town on 19th October, so they became my first and second choices. Unsurprisingly the Sunderland game was over-subscribed with Junior Imps wanting to be mascots, and so I was offered the 19th October, but that seemed a pretty decent match to be a mascot for and as the date got closer I got more excited about seeing Erin run out onto the pitch.

There were a couple of setbacks to contend with before the date of the Shrewsbury game when Matt Rhead left the club, followed by the departure of Danny and Nicky Cowley. Erin was naturally disappointed, but there were still plenty of players that she was excited about meeting in October, not least of which was Harry Toffolo, who she had met on a couple of occasions before. So, we tried to put this news behind us and focused on the date on the calendar.

Another issue quickly materialised. The match against Shrewsbury Town was to be moved to the evening of Friday 18th October, which really complicated things. Friday evening was not the best point of the week for a tired 11-year old to take part in an event that was intended to be a birthday celebration. I feared it would be cold, maybe wet and stressful following on from a full week at school. I contacted Lincoln City Foundation, who were very supportive about changing the date and Erin was offered Saturday 26th October for the Bolton Wanderers home match. I felt relieved, it was a date close enough to my daughter’s birthday and most importantly a Saturday. I changed the date on the calendar and when the Shrewsbury match evening turned out to be somewhat rainy, with a 0-0 draw to conclude proceedings, I was sure that the decision to change the date was absolutely the right one.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t patting myself on the back for a good decision when our mascot match day arrived. At the hairdressers that morning we were excitedly talking about the match day ahead and Erin’s important mascot duty. The weather hadn’t been too great, and we had been anxiously monitoring the forecasted conditions and worrying about the amount of rain. The news came through that we had been dreading:

“Saturday’s League One game between Lincoln City and Bolton Wanderers has been postponed because of a waterlogged pitch.

The decision was taken following a pitch inspection at 10:45 BST.

Heavy rain fell during the night and more was forecast during the afternoon.”

It was impossible not to feel upset. Everything had been carefully planned for the day; friends and relatives had been primed about the occasion, with instructions about looking out for my daughter running out onto the pitch and Erin had been excitedly talking about which of the players she might get to meet. Once again, for the second time, being a mascot, wasn’t to be. Even worse, the terrible weather continued, flooding Sincil Bank and causing damage to the Co-op stand and other areas of the ground.

It wasn’t clear what would happen next. There was no rearranged date forthcoming for the postponed Bolton Wanderers match and the weeks passed by, taking us further away from my daughter’s birthday. The lovely staff from Lincoln City Foundation were excellent in keeping me informed throughout all of this about what was happening. Eventually, on 29th November I was offered further available dates to take up the mascot package. By now, the choice was somewhat limited, so the best date for us was the Good Friday match when Doncaster Rovers would visit Sincil Bank LNER Stadium. The new date was put on the calendar, and with Christmas on the horizon, I didn’t give it much thought. I felt content that at least by April, there was a much better chance of good weather.

By early March, with the date getting closer it was time to start feeling a little excited. Third time lucky, Erin would finally get her chance to be a match day mascot. In addition to this, an unexpected surprise came my way when my husband announced that he had applied for me to be a Mother’s Day mascot on Saturday 21st March and his application had been successful. Sadly, neither of these events was to be, when on Friday 13th March 2020 a historic announcement was made that would affect all football games for the foreseeable future.

“The EFL have agreed to suspend all matches until at least 3 April in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

The board were unanimous in their decision which will see two full rounds of fixtures postponed across the Championship, League One and League Two at the minimum.”

The 2019-20 season was not the season when Erin got to be a match day mascot. It has been disappointing and upsetting, but I am remaining philosophical. The Foundation, who have been excellent at all times, have already been in touch to confirm that she can have a date next season and surely, just surely, after being unlucky three times, the next date just has to be the one that goes ahead.