Saturday, 26 November 2011

You Looking at My Bird?

Hello all! Well, I'm back from an overseas adventure. Looks like I chose some good games to miss out on. Southend in the JPT (L), Southend away (L), Sheffield Utd in the FA Cup (L), Crawley away (L). If ever there was a doubt in your mind that I'm a  good luck mascot to the club, it must surely now be gone.

Thankfully, I'm back again and in attendance at the Cheltenham game today. If you were to pick up one of Martin Brodetsky's lovingly-fashioned matchday programmes today - you would see the below article within. Although he'll probably have censored slightly the bit about me not believing in Jesus. Cos he's a Militant Methodist, if you didn't know.

The article below has a very tentative link to football though, if I'm honest.


You Looking at My Bird?

Today we welcome our near-neighbours from the near-WestCountry, The Robins of Cheltenham Town. They will surely be made slightly more welcome than some other Robins might be, perhaps.

The visit of today’s red-breasted friends made me wonder something - why are so many teams nicknamed the Robins exactly? Bristol City, Swindon and Cheltenham all sharing the same moniker; all from nearby each other in the WestCountry, to boot. So what is it about a scrawny little red-breasted bird that makes it such a popular club mascot/logo/nickname anyway?
A Christmas Robin. Ahhh (SHOOT IT!).
I decided to have a detailed and thorough delve into the history books and find out…

Well, OK, I had a 5 minute look on Wikipedia. But that’s good enough research for today’s quick-fingered, surface-not-scratched society, I say.

First up, I couldn’t find any special reason why the WestCountry seem to love their Robins any more than other regions. So sorry about that. If you really want to find out and are willing to fund my research accordingly, please send a cheque to the Campaign for Archive Searching Hunts (or ‘CASH’ for short), to the club marked for my attention.

I can tell you about the general popularity of the Robin though. Sit down – it’s interesting.

According to Wiki, the robin has always featured prominently in British folklore, especially around Christmas when other birds flew south for winter, but the stoic British Robin stuck around to dart amongst holly and mistletoe with us. In the 1960s, the Robin was even adopted as the ‘unofficial national bird’ of the UK.
Wrong Robin.
There is also a rather quaint story that explains the bird’s red-breast as being the stains of Christ’s blood after a robin flew into young Jesus’ ear to sing him a pretty song whilst he was being crucified. Nice idea, but not very well thought through, in my opinion. For a start – Jesus didn’t really exist (my opinion, and the correct one, actually).

Away from Britain, the Robin was also held to be sacred to the mighty Thor, god of thunder in Norse mythology. That might help explain why Jan Aage Fjørtoft decided to spend a few productive seasons at the wrong end of the A420. He thought he was playing for the glory of Thor. Silly boy!
Fjørtoft: In service of Thor.
Thor apart, why has the choice of a well-loved yet still small and scrawny bird as a symbol of sporting prowess become so popular? After all, The Robin is not alone here. I can understand the choice of a majestic, powerful eagle by Crystal Palace, the fictional liverbird and phoenix of Liverpool and Aldershot, the seagull connection with seaside Brighton and Torquay (Although a flying feral rat is hardly a great image, in my view), the wise and wily Owl of Oldham and even the arm-breakingly unnerving menace of Wycombe’s Swan.

But The lowly Norwich Canary, Newcastle & Notts County Magpies, the West Brom Thrush and the Swift* amongst others – all these little birds make appearances on Football League club shirts.

Some of you might say “Yes, but its obvious why Newcastle and Notts County chose Magpie – because they play in black and white stripes you silly man!”

But I say to you – would not the Badger be a better mascot? A big old scary-clawed, sharp-toothed, TB-riddled Badger seems more fitting to strike a bit of fear in the opposition as a sporting mascot than a mangy old shiny-thing hoarding, unlucky bird, wouldn’t it?

“Howay The Badgers, Man!” would go up the cry at St James’ Park.

Well, it’s a thought.
Angry Badger: Watch out Mackems!
One potential answer to the small Bird-love comes in Desmond Morris’ 1981 classic “The Soccer Tribe”, where he states that the choice of a small bird is thought to symbolise agility in darting around the field of play. So there you go.

And yes, that quote was also from Wikipedia, I haven’t actually read the book.

Anyway, back to today’s game! You’ll just need to turn the page to read about that.

Up The U’s!

† He's not really.
*Brownie points for you if you can name the club with the swift on their badge. You are very clever.