What if every club had real-life mascots?

29th November 2014

The Eagle has landed. Or more accurately, the Eagles have landed. 
Of course, today's visitors are known throughout the footballing world by their avian nickname.
And if we were at Selhurst Park this afternoon, we would see Kayla the eagle fly across the stadium before the game as the home side pay homage to the creature which adorns their club crest.
They're not the only team to do this. Both Benfica and Lazio have employed live eagles to fly around their stadiums before matches.
In fact, Lazio "signed" their bird of prey on a €125,000 one-year deal from Portugal's Benfica -- copying a tradition employed for decades by the Lisbon side.
This made me wonder about whether other clubs, which have animals on their badges, would parade a real life version on the pitch before a match.
Coventry City have an elephant on their badge.
Can you imagine a bright spark in the club's marketing department trying to pitch the idea to the groundsman?
I think there have been enough problems around the Ricoh Arena recently without having an adult elephant marching up and down the pitch a few minutes before kick-off.
And it's not just the effect the animal's weight and massive feet would have on the playing surface.
Older readers will remember what a baby elephant did to the Blue Peter studio many years ago. Imagine the carnage the full grown version could deposit on a football pitch - especially with the noise of 20,000-plus fans to help add to its nervousness.
I suppose at least there would be plenty of fertiliser to spread over the grass in order to help it recover from the trampling.
If you think that has the potential to cause chaos, what about Hull City?
The old Health and Safety bods would go into complete meltdown if anyone suggested employing a real life version of their mascot. 
But the idea of having a live tiger at roaming around the KC Stadium isn't quite as far-fetched as it sounds.
In America, live animal mascots are far more popular than they are over here. And the deadlier the animal, the better!
Louisiana State University has had a tiger as its mascot since 1936, and visiting teams have to pass the caged beast on the way to their locker room!
Mike, as the Tiger is known, is also paraded around the stadium prior to the match, in a cage topped by LSU cheerleaders.
And don't think because it's a university team they don't get big crowds. The appropriately named Tiger stadium has a capacity of 102,000!
Apparently, this season Mike has been conspicuous by his absence from Louisiana matches. Asked why he hadn't been attending, Mike's personal vet said it was because he didn't want to.
Before games, his match cage is left open and if Mike wants to walk in he does, if he doesn't, so be it.
 Which is fair enough. Who's going to make a fully grown tiger go to a football match if he doesn't want to?!
Louisiana aren't alone in having a history of real-life deadly animals as their mascots.
In 1908, the University of Florida chose the alligator as an emblem to represent their sports teams - an appropriate choice seeing as the state is literally crawling with the creatures.
As a result, the university's American football team started to call itself the Gators.
A live alligator named Albert first appeared at the university's football games during the 1957 season, and served as the mascot of the team on the field before a costumed version of Albert became the mascot in 1970.
Although not so popular on this side of the Atlantic these days, real-life mascots were more prevalent in this country at the start of the last century.
Apparently Manchester United captain Charlie Roberts was given a goat by the manager of a travelling circus in order to act as the club's mascot.
After home wins, Roberts used to take the goat with him to the pub for a drink to celebrate.
Unfortunately, after Manchester United's 1909 FA Cup win the goat had one or two drinks too many and sadly died.
In between the World Wars, the fashion for live mascots diminished to be replaced by suited up versions like our very own Cyril the Swan.
It's probably just as well. I imagine the famous dust up between Zampa the Millwall Lion and Cyril a few years ago would have finished very differently had it been fought out by their real life counterparts.
Somehow, I don't think it would have been the Lion's head being kicked into the crowd by the Swan!
I was about to suggest that a costumed Swan is far less bother to look after than keeping the real thing, but then again . . .
When you look at Cyril's charge sheet back over the years, perhaps it would have been easier to look after real life Swans, instead!
I wonder how easy they are to train to fly up and down the length of the stadium like Kayla the Crystal Palace eagle?
Mind you, getting one to take on the kids in the half-time penalty competition may be a little trickier. 
Real life mascots might make the annual mascots race a little bit more interesting though.  I wonder how many clubs would dump their current mascots in order to adopt a cheetah?
Enough of this silliness and back to today's game. 
Let's hope the Swans soar high above the Eagles and fly off with another three points this afternoon!
C'mon you Swans.