In most American sports, cheerleaders are as much a par of the matchday as the players themselves. They are gifted athletes who put hours into their craft performing death-defying stunts in time to music. In England, we took that concept and decided to replicate it in the form of a bloke in an oversized fur suit.
Nevertheless, mascots have become as much a part of the matchday experience as buying a program you are never going to read and keeping it in the loft for the next 20 years. At best, they help motivate the crowd; at worst, they are nightmare inducing. With that in mind here are my top five mascots in English football right now.
5. Harry Gator – Harrogate Town
A mascot is always better if it is relatable to the club in some way. Be it the animal on the badge or a historic link to the town, it is always helps cement a teams identity.
To date, there have been no reports of alligators in North Yorkshire but Harry makes the list, nevertheless. The reason for this is firstly, because of a top-class pun, but also because alligators are absolutely terrifying. As H. Jon Benjamin says in ‘Archer’, ‘Maybe deep down I’m afraid of any apex predator that lived through the K-T extinction.
Physically unchanged for a hundred million years, because it is the perfect killing machine. A half ton of cold-blooded fury, the bite force of 20,000 Newtons, and stomach acid so strong it can dissolve bones and hoofs.’ Okay, he is talking about crocodiles but they are the same thing, right?
4. Billy the Badger – Fulham
So many teams play in black and white that it is somewhat of a surprise that a badger only appeared in the last 15 years. Fulham tried a number of mascots before settling on ‘Billy’ Sir Craven of the Cottage sort of made sense but the mascot that was just a laptop screamed ‘kill me now’.
Billy is one of the ‘cuter’ mascots in the league with designers seeming intent on making their mascots nightmare-inducing but he also has a cheeky side.
Billy has written himself into folklore after wrapping an arm around Avram Grant at half-time when the Cottagers were a goal to the good against Chelsea; and he is still the only mascot to have been sent off after delaying the restart of a game by breakdancing. Rock and Roll.
3. Green Devil – Forest Green Rovers
FGR made a statement by going completely vegan, and this only serves to make the Green Devil even more frightening: as an herbivore, he is not a predator; no, this beast kills for sport.
Imagine the scene from the first Shrek movie when Shrek appears behind the villagers and they empty their bowels before fleeing? That is what we imagine pre-match huddles to be like at the New Lawn stadium.
For whatever reason, some intern piped up in a meeting and said, ‘What if, and hear me out, it had a mohawk?’ That intern is probably working in the London Dungeons, now, adding twirly cartoon moustaches to the wax-works in the Jack the Ripper exhibit, such is their talent for taking scary concepts to the next level.
2. Harry the Hornet – Watford
Outside McDonalds in Watford town centre is a giant hornet – just to confuse tourists. It is, of course a homage to Watford FC who adopted the nickname ‘the Hornets’ in the 1959/60 season. We will ignore the fact that the clubs badge is now a stag (the symbol of Hertfordshire) and say that the hornet is the de facto symbol for the club and therefore Harry makes perfect sense.
He irked Roy Hodgson for mocking Wilfried Zaha for diving for which the man behind the mask had to step down. It may be a bit immature but frankly someone had to do it and for that we applaud Harry.
Just in case that was not enough, he also had a televised wedding to a Harriet Hornet in 1998. The pair have not been seen in public together for a while which does not bode well for the marriage but it is as the saying goes: six-foot-humanoid-hornets cannot be choosers.
1. Gunnersaurus – Arsenal
Okay, so there are no dinosaurs running around Arsenal. In fact, there is hardly anyone running at Arsenal but Gunnersaurus remains one of the most iconic sights at any football ground in the country.
Between AFTV and an appalling playing squad, Arsenal do not have much going for them. The fact that they made their mascot redundant and then promptly spent £40m on Thomas Partey to propel them to a mid-table position, was not a good colour for them. There was a public outcry and the fact it took banished Mesut Ozil offering to pay his wages for the club to decide that he was going to come back in some fashion.
Gunnersaurus is possibly the most iconic mascot in the league. Whilst a lot are just gimmicks in some way, Gunnersaurus is about as Arsenal as having an aging star underperforming whilst making a ludicrous amount of money per week.