#bumble | #tinder | #pof ‘If you lose that you lose something vital’

John Major was in No 10, the Ford Mondeo had just been launched and Terry Venables was England manager when Gunnersaurus first made his way out onto the pitch at Highbury for the 1993-94 season.

Now, following a tumultuous transfer deadline day of comings and goings in north London, the big green dinosaur – underneath which Jerry Quy had spent every matchday over the past 27 years – has found himself surplus to requirements.

The headlines may have screamed it “Partey time” after Arsenal splashed out £45m on Atletico Madrid’s Ghanaian midfielder but for most Gunners’ fans, the removal of the man behind the Premier League’s most well-known dinosaur seemed a prehistoric move – even if Arsenal insist the mascot itself will return at a later date.

Since his removal, Gunnersaurus has received widespread support, not least from Mesut Ozil who has offered to pay “the big green guy’s” wages in a bid to keep him in gainful employment. 

No fans admittedly means that mascots are pretty much surplus to requirements on a Saturday at present. And it’s not just Gunnersaurus looking for different ways to keep himself occupied. Investigations by i have revealed that Oxford’s Olly the Ox hasn’t been seen since the start of lockdown.

Wycombe, meanwhile, told us that Bodger – the Chairboys’ long-term mascot – left his post in March to become a paramedic and that a replacement is yet to be lined up.

So is one of football’s most unheralded jobs under long-term threat? Is the buzz that mascots provide in danger of being lost? Who better to ask than Mr Bumble, the Barnet bee.

Wayne Humber, who has donned the costume for the past 11 years, is a two-time winner of the Mascot Grand National and made his debut alongside football’s friendly green giant in a pre-season match against Arsenal at Underhill back in July 2009.

“We would always play Arsenal in our first pre-season game,” he tells i. “It would be 95 per cent Arsenal fans and it was probably our biggest match of the season.

“Gunnersaurus showed me the ropes, I guess you could say. We went for a walk round the pitch and he talked me through what he usually did on a matchday.”

Like many others, Mr Bumble currently finds himself with his wings clipped as he waits for supporters to return to the Hive. He does, though, believe that mascots provide a vital link between fans – young and old – that shouldn’t be overlooked.

“Joking aside, I’ve done this for a long time,” he says. “I’ve seen kids grow up in the time I’ve done the job. You do it for a bit of laugh, you have a good bit of banter with the adults, the wind-ups, but the mascot is an important figure at any club.

“I’ll climb up 20 rows of seats to say hello to a couple of the older fans at Barnet and you can see that it makes their day. I only do pre-match, so I’ll go back and get changed when the game kicks-off. I’ll walk past them five minutes later and they have no idea that I’ve just been speaking to them, dressed as a bee.

“I think it’s still a very relevant role – it helps the club connect with their community. If you lose that then I think you’ve lost a very important link.”

The dinosaurs are extinct – what happens to Gunnersaurus in the coming months might go some way to deciding whether mascots are too.

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