Oldham Athletic's hopes of securing a top-half finish in League One have suffered a blow following a serious injury... to their mascot, Chaddy The Owl. The 7ft bird was entertaining the crowd before the Latics' clash with Carlisle at the weekend when he spotted a BMX lying idle.
And after several attempts to pull a wheelie, Chaddy's tale ended in tragedy as he fell off the bike and tore ligaments in his ankle.
“I was all right on the BMX when I was younger, so I thought I’d give it a go,” said 34-year-old Wayne Hurst, the man behind the costume.
“I set off towards the fans and the bike went over. I put my leg down to stop it, but went over on my ankle. I knew as soon as I hit the ground I was in trouble.” Chaddy was wheeled off to hospital for X-rays, receiving a standing ovation from the fans, but not before an agonising wait on the pitch.
“I was shouting to the stewards that I’d hurt myself, but they were just laughing at me,” continued Hurst. “Eventually the St. John’s Ambulance people came. They wanted me to take my head off so they could give me gas and air, but I said no. It’s an unwritten rule that I never take my head off in front of a crowd.” Clearly Hurst’s dedication to being a mascot knows no bounds (except a BMX, perhaps). As Chaddy The Owl he regularly runs the Manchester 10km marathon to raise money for Oldham hospital’s children’s ward.
And during his audition in 2004, he did cartwheels and ran up and down the pitch entertaining an imaginary crowd. He doesn’t mind throwing himself about, either, as this latest incident shows. He once ran straight into a goalpost, while in the Mascot Grand National a few years ago, in which he was expected to match the previous Chaddy’s back-to-back wins, he rugby tackled the race leader and finished 15th. This is Hurst’s, and Chaddy’s, first injury on the field of play, and he was forced to miss Oldham’s 1-1 draw with Crewe as a result.
The club is wishing him a speedy recovery. “It looked quite nasty,” said Oldham chief executive Alan Hardy. “Clearly the pressure of the end of season run-in caught up with him.”
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