• First XIs

Memorable mascots

Robin Hackett
August 4, 2011
Gunnersaurus made his Arsenal debut in 1993 © Getty Images

Inspired by the glorious sight of Arsenal's long-serving Gunnersaurus at the Emirates Cup, this week's First XI looks at some of the game's more memorable mascots.

Major the Saint Bernard Dog (Newton Heath)
In the early days of English football, live animal mascots were very much the trend, and they would be adopted on a whim, sometimes for only a single game. In 1907, for example, Halifax supporters briefly wore cards featuring printed black cats in their hats after one such animal wandered into the team's dressing room, and 15 years after that Preston made a black cat the club mascot when it strolled onto the field at Deepdale. At Newton Heath, mascots played a significant role in keeping the club afloat during their early financial troubles. It's said the first mascot, in the 1890s, was named Michael the Bank Street Canary and supporters would pay to hear him sing but, so the story goes, he was actually a goose. More information exists on Major the Saint Bernard, a dog belonging to captain Harry Stafford. Newton Heath had been in such dire straits that they had to hold a board meeting by candlelight as they couldn't pay their gas bills, and their debts reached a whopping £2,670 by 1902. Stafford held a fundraiser to keep the wolves from the door, and the legend goes that Major wandered off and was found with a wealthy local brewer, John Henry Davies.

Davies and Stafford became friends as a result, and the brewer was one of the businessmen to bring forward the required investment. Davies took over as club president and, in that role, changed the club's colours from green and gold to red and white and prompted the name-change, by committee vote, to Manchester United. By 1909, Davies had decided to go ahead with building the state-of-the-art Old Trafford stadium and the club was known as 'Moneybags United'. Major was succeeded as mascot by Billy the Goat, who belonged to half-back Charlie Roberts - one of the key signings in the club's new era. Billy, like Major, would be paraded before games and was said to have taken a full part in social activities. "Following the 1909 FA Cup final win over Bristol City, Billy sadly died of alcohol poisoning after taking part in the post-match celebrations with the players," Jon Sutton, curator at the Manchester United Museum, told Culture 24. Billy's head remains on show at the club museum.

Macaca (Ponte Preta)
Formed in 1900, Sao Paulo club Ponte Preta made no distinction over the colour of its players from the off and is believed to have been the first in Brazil to have done so. Perhaps unsurprisingly, with a number of black players and fans involved, the club would receive a hostile reception from opposing teams and were labelled the macacada, or 'group of monkeys'. "Instead of fighting it," the club's official website says, "the crowd turned the hostility into good humour and took on the nickname: Ponte have been proud to be the Macaca." Fans would play their part by behaving like monkeys when the team scored a goal, and the club then adopted as its official mascot a female macaca wearing the club's kit. In 2000, the club's centenary, Ponte adopted a gorilla as its 'second mascot' and it can now be seen cheering on the team at their games in Serie B.

Hennes (Cologne)
Following in the footsteps of Billy the Goat, Cologne's own billy-goat has become the king of its kind, lasting - symbolically at least - for over six decades and becoming a key marketing gimmick for the club. It all began quite unintentionally in 1950: the English circus owner Harry Williams had been hosting his show in a hall in Cologne when his German wife, Carola, presented the club's board with a live goat as a humorous gift. It's been claimed that the directors were initially reluctant to make the goat their club mascot for fear they could become a laughing stock but, if that is the case, it did not take them long to change their minds. He was pictured as part of a team photo dated April 1950 and, only a couple of years later, had become part of the club badge. The goat was to be named Hennes, after coach Hennes Weisweiler, and was christened as the team celebrated success on the field. "At 2am," Weisweiler later said, "we'd pour Champagne over the goat's horns in the Unkelbach bar, where we celebrated all our wins, and collect its droppings in a bucket. Ever since, the goat's been called Hennes and Cologne are the goat club." The inevitable issue in selecting a living mascot - particularly when you take them out during drinking sessions - comes when the goat dies, but the club has sought out a successor with each retirement and in 2008 presented the latest incarnation: Hennes VIII.

World Cup Willie was a trailblazer in the world of football mascots © Getty Images

World Cup Willie (World Cup 1966)
It was not until 1966 that a mascot graced the World Cup, and the gimmick proved more successful than anyone had anticipated. Designed to get young people interested in the tournament while epitomising host country England, the lion wrapped in a Union Jack appeared better suited to a British event but still became one of the leading personalities of the tournament. He even had his own song, courtesy of Glasgow-born skiffle star Lonnie Donegan. "Somebody suggested a little man in a bowler hat, but that was too regional," Reg Hoy, the freelance designer behind Willie, told The Guardian in 1966. "Then came the man in a cloth cap, but that was too regional. I don't think the result's pompous. It's just to show we're not as clapped out as some people think we are. It's corn, but good corn."

Wolfie (Wolves)
A wolf took on the three little pigs during Wolves' 6-1 win at Bristol City in November 1998. Wolfie had travelled down to Ashton Gate for the match, where he would share the stage with the home team's City Cat as well as the three pigs, who were appearing on behalf of sponsors Coldseal. A children's penalty shootout had been set up for half-time, with the mascots all due to take part, but problems had already arisen. In Wolfie's 'official story' - Once I Was a Wolf - he gives his version of events: his own ball had been kicked out of the ground by a fan and, keen to secure another, he had gone after the ball the pigs were using. The pigs did not take the theft lightly. Two apparently went after him, hell-bent on revenge, but his "Wolfie vision was so good" he was "able to gain the upper paw". As one of the pigs said at the time: "Maybe Wolfie was taking his role a bit too seriously." City Cat arrived to smooth tensions, but the wolf and pigs were eventually ejected from the ground. A Coldseal spokesman placed the blame for the incident squarely with the wolf, labelling him "a known troublemaker". Wolfie strode out to the theme tune from Rocky the following week.

Hercules the Lion (Aston Villa)
Gavin Lucas had been on his final warning as Villa's mascot when the club hosted Crystal Palace in March 1998, but he was sacked after he, as the club put it, "let his heart rule his head" - Hercules the Lion was accused of mauling Miss Aston Villa, former topless model Debbie Robins, at half-time. "I growled and then grabbed Miss Villa around the waist with my paws and pulled her around a bit," Lucas explained. "It was a bit of a grapple and a bit of a hug. Then I gave her a kiss, but it wasn't much of a kiss because I still had my lion's head on. Debbie took it in good spirit. She was enjoying herself." Brown insisted his motivation was pure - "She's an absolute corker, but there was nothing sexual in it" - but admitted he had attempted to keep his fiancée in the dark over the affair. "She knows I was sacked, but she doesn't know why. I hope she'll be all right about it though because she's bound to find out now."

Cyril the Swan (Swansea)
Swansea had big ambitions for Cyril when he arrived on the scene in 1998, and in many ways he surpassed expectations. They had sold replicas in the club shop and even released a Christmas single - Nice Swan Cyril. Early the following year, Mike Lewis, Swansea's commercial director, said: "We never thought Cyril would become such a national celebrity." However, Cyril quickly developed a reputation for trouble. As early as November 1998, he had invaded the field during Swansea's 3-0 FA Cup win over Millwall, and was charged with bringing the game into disrepute. Swansea said Cyril was unlikely to speak at the hearing "because swans cannot talk", and the club picked up a £1,000 fine. He also threw a pork pie onto the pitch during an FA Cup game against West Ham, was given a two-match ban for a clash with Norwich coach Bryan Hamilton and allegedly pushed over a woman dressed as a dog at the Mascot Grand National. In Feburary 2001, he removed the head of Millwall mascot Zampa the Lion and drop-kicked it into the crowd.

Olimpia (Lazio)
When an Aquile, do like the Águias do. Benfica, Portugal's most successful club, had been inspired by a succession of eagles, all named Vitória, since the new Estádio da Luz opened in 2003. Lazio, faced with poor season ticket sales, decided to follow in their footsteps in 2010 and agreed to pay out €125,000 a year for their own living, breathing club emblem. Named Olimpia by the club's fans, the eagle made its debut ahead of a 1-1 draw with AC Milan in September that year, and Lazio then went on a six-game winning run to go top of the league. Their run came to an abrupt end in the Rome derby in November. Police had banned Olimpia from the game, fearful the animal would be targeted by fireworks or missiles, and Rome won 2-0. "Where is the pigeon?" Roma fans taunted in the aftermath. Lazio lost their next game 1-0 at Cesena, and their title challenge never recovered. Lazio have kept faith, though, standing firm in the face of ethical concerns from animal rights groups and the bird's occasional bout of stage fright, and new signing Djibril Cisse posed with Olimpia for the August edition of their official magazine.

Stuart Drummond was elected as mayor of Hartlepool in 2002 © PA Photos
H'Angus the Monkey (Hartlepool),br> Created in 1999, H'Angus managed to attract national media attention in his early years despite being affiliated with a Division Three club. With a character based on the local Hartlepool legend - during the Napoleonic wars, the locals were said to have hung a monkey in the belief it was a French spy - H'Angus quickly developed a reputation for chaos. He had a penchant for rugby-tackling photographers, and was thrown out of the ground on several occasions, most notably in November 2000 at Scunthorpe. During the half-time lottery draw that day, he simulated sex with a female steward before being frogmarched from the ground. "The club is taking this very seriously," a Hartlepool spokesman said. "A meeting with the monkey has taken place." Fans donned 'H'Angus Is Innocent' T-shirts at the next game, but the monkey, played by Stuart Drummond, had not learned his lesson. In May 2001, H'Angus was escorted from the field at Blackpool having turned up, according to a Lancashire police spokesman, late and "worse the wear for alcohol", while providing entertainment with a blow-up doll dressed in the Hartlepool kit. The club subsequently decided not to take H'Angus to any more away games. Drummond then, somewhat surprisingly, announced that he was going to enter the race to become the town's first directly-elected mayor. "People have said for years that a monkey could be elected in Hartlepool," he told the Hartlepool Mail in April 2002. "Now we're going to find out." He decided to campaign as the club mascot - "Vote for H'Angus. He gives a monkey's" - and said he would give free bananas to school children as part of his manifesto. He was narrowly elected the Mayor of Hartlepool that May, and remains in office after winning over the electorate three times in succession.

Deepdale Duck (Preston North End)
Preston were already sitting at the foot of the table when out-of-form Derby came to visit, and Deepdale Duck felt fired up enough to take matters into his own hands. Before the game, as BBC presenter Mark Clemmit discussed the recent dismissal of manager Darren Ferguson, Deepdale Duck felt sufficiently moved to interrupt him on two occasions. During the second half, the mascot apparently began berating Derby goalkeeper Stephen Bywater. The 'keeper complained to the referee and, with the feud having escalated, the Preston stewards removed him from the ground. Preston lost the game 2-1. A Preston spokesman said they were "still not quite sure why Deepdale Duck was escorted off", and a sense of injustice began to grow. Sheffield United mascot Captain Blade led a protests when, during the South Yorkshire derby with Doncaster the following weekend, he appeared waving a placard reading: 'Free the Preston One'.

Donny Dog (Doncaster Rovers)
Tracy Chandler, 40, lost her job as Donny Dog when she posed for some saucy photos in a Sunday tabloid to raise money for the NSPCC. The club emailed the mother-of-three to deliver the bad news and inform her that she had "disgraced the club". Chandler said she was "devastated" by the decision but, perhaps swayed by an indignant public, Doncaster chairman John Ryan had a rethink and reinstated her. "The Sunday Sport and a mascot designed for children is not an ideal mix," he said. "We were just a bit concerned about the sexualisation of young children. I think some people thought it was inappropriate and I think it was in a way, but I've seen the pictures and I think she looks very nice."

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