When FFT became Taddy Bear
Staff writer Andrew Murray found out when he answered Tadcaster Albion’s call to be their fuzzy suit-wearer
“Hey, come over here, Taddy. I want to have a tug of your tail.”
Depending on your point of view, this is either really weird or illegal – or both. To be honest, lads, you’re lucky it’s only my bear arse you want a piece of...
When Fourfourtwo answered the call of Tadcaster Albion to be their mascot for the day, we weren’t expecting to get propositions from a number of middleaged Yorkshiremen with an unhealthy craving for anthropomorphic posteriors.
“We’re looking for someone to become Taddy Bear on matchdays – could it be you?” read the Brewers’ tweet, 10 days before I’m standing next to my new, er, friends in the eighth tier. “1. Yes we are serious; 2. You get in for free.”
Reliably informed that the costume’s former occupant didn’t come a cropper in Spinal Tap drummer circumstances, I apply, on the strength that a) I’m very cheap and b) I’ve seen The Jungle Book at least four times. Somehow, the gig is mine for Tadcaster’s Integro League Cup tie against fellow Evo-stik Division One North side Ossett Albion.
Shattered after a four-hour drive from south-west London up to north Yorkshire and intoxicated by the pizza-infused hop smell hanging in the air, courtesy of the adjacent John Smith’s brewery, I’m soon welcomed by Jay Taylor – author of the tweet where this all began.
“We received about four or five serious requests,” reveals Jay, who heads up the Brewers’ social media. “Most were local, but one guy was a little too keen to be a mascot and was going to travel from Torquay every week!”
Taddy Bear has been part of matchday at the i2i Stadium for more than six years, and today has even had a wash “for the first time in years”.
I ask a league official to zip me into my furry attire. “Aye, all right,” he smiles. “But have you had all your proper jabs?” Rabies, after all, is common among fuzzy mascots...
Emerging from our cave-like dressing room, I bump into PA announcer Colin Swann, who’s doubled as Taddy at club events. Any advice? “Just try not to make any kids cry,” he chuckles. “The steps are a nightmare, too. Oh, and you’re going to get bloody hot in there.”
Colin is right: I nearly stack it down the stairs on my way to try shifting a couple of official programmes. Business is slow, though, and I give up after a Brewers fan takes a good look at me before grunting: “I can’t read.”
Tail between my legs, I pinball my way pitchside as the players walk out of the tunnel, although I can’t even line up any high-fives properly. The cup clash gets underway, so I join young fans Noah and Rex for a kickabout.
“Oh Taddy, that was rubbish,” shouts Noah, dribbling the ball around me with ease. “Wait, I can see your skin! I knew you weren’t a real bear. They don’t wear watches. And put some trousers on.”
The seven-year-old’s trash-talking now complete, and with Josh Greening firing Tadcaster 1-0 in front, I head over to the clubhouse to ‘help’ before the half-time rush. Soon drenched in beer – a lack of opposable thumbs is bit of a problem – I stagger back onto the playing surface smelling like the brewery next door.
“I bet it’s hot in there,” says Tadcaster midfielder Pete Davidson after a quick half-time kickabout with the substitutes. Part beer, part Persil, part sweat, it’s not a nice place to be.
“Taddy Bear, you deserve a Taddy Beer after the game,” adds substitute Aaron Hardy. “I’ll f**king need one,” I reply. In front of a youngster. Note to self: must stop swearing.
I try to catch manager Mike Morton’s eye and warm up on the touchline. “I’ve never seen such crap,” shouts one fan. “You should go on.”
With 20 minutes to go, Tommy Wood levels for Ossett and I sink to my knees. I look like I’m having a breakdown, but almost immediately Conor Sellars takes aim and nets a splendid goal from long range to restore Tadcaster’s advantage. My attempts at starting a chant by the home faithful, however, receive a rather muted response.
“Get your bonnet off,” shouts one fan. “Taddy Bear!” hollers another. “Sit down, you fool, we can’t see a thing.”
As the full-time whistle edges nearer, youngsters Harley and Finley usher me to the tunnel, where dancing, smiling – which is pointless when no one can see your face – and more high-fiving await the victors at the final whistle.
So, the swearing, poorly-poured pints and terrible dance moves aside, how did I get on? “You were certainly more enthusiastic than our usual fella,” says fan Andrew Charlesworth. “He’s got rhythm. You haven’t, but at least you tried hard.” Trust a Yorkshireman to tell it like it is. Now, has anyone got a number for the RSPCA? My tail has never seen such action.