FOR MOST young football fans, the opportunity to lead their heroes onto the pitch for a big match is a dream come true.
But eagle-eyed supporters at Edinburgh City’s end of season clash with Clyde on Saturday would have been hard-pressed to miss the looming sight of the Ainslie Park club’s 6ft 3in mascot.
Michael Hall was “absolutely mortified” when he became the victim of a brilliant stag weekend prank courtesy of childhood friends Andrew McCracken and Jack Holden as he got the ‘full mascot experience’ before the Citizens’ final home match of the season.
Michael, 32, donned a shirt bearing the name “Snugglemonster,” the ‘cute’ nickname given to him by fiancée Katy and the number 85 as he walked out of the tunnel with the two captains, before meeting both managers and the City squad after the game.
The Citizens’ are safe from the threat of relegation in Scotland’s third tier and sit 12 points ahead of bottom-placed Cowdenbeath.
Boyhood Liverpool fan Michael, a GP, was celebrating his upcoming marriage with a weekend-long bash in the capital, which included a mini-highland games as part of the festivities.
However, Andrew, 31, who supports the Anfield club’s bitter rivals Everton, revealed most of the members of their 17-strong group had no prior idea of what was about to happen when they arrived at the ground.
“It was just something me and Jack had come up with that we thought would be funny. Michael is quite a conservative man and a big bloke, so we knew he would be absolutely mortified by it,” he said.
“We got Katy to tell us a few personal things about Michael that we didn’t know, which is how the ‘Snugglemonster’ nickname came about and that was us, we just thought it was the best idea.”
Andrew continued: “Fair play to the club, they were right up for it, although obviously if the game had anything riding on it, I’m not sure they would have been quite as accommodating.”
PR man Andrew added the gag was partly due to Michael’s bold claim that he once ‘skinned’ former England captain Wayne Rooney during a youth match.
And Andrew couldn’t resist a dig at the Anfield club, who face Italian side Roma in the semi-finals of the Uefa Champions League tomorrow.
He said: “I think with Liverpool doing so well recently, he has been getting a bit cocky, he needed this to be taken down a peg or two.
“He always tells everyone that he skinned Rooney when he played against him, but nobody has been able to verify that claim.”
It’s not the first time the prank has been pulled on an unsuspecting stag this season as 38-year-old Nick Goff discovered to his cost when he was stitched up before Brentford’s English Championship tie with Bolton Wanderers in January.
An excerpt from the matchday programme read: “Congratulations to our oversized match day mascot, Michael Hall. He is at Ainslie Park making the most of his final weeks of freedom before marrying the lovely Katy.”
“No stranger to the football pitch, Liverpool-born Mike famously once played against Everton star Wayne Rooney. It’s understood that Wayne even let him clean his boots after the game.
It continued: “We hope all fans will join us in cheering on the 6”3 ‘Snugglemonster’ as he leads out The Citizens.”