Lucas The Kop Cat gave us one of the few highlights of the Norwich game by spying on their warm up; an older generation remembers the arguments about Ellie The Elephant’s reboot, as controversial as a new Doctor Who. But somewhere in Stanningley the oldest mascot of all might be drawing her pension and watching on.
The city of Leeds went football crazy in 1949/50. Major Frank Buckley was asserting himself as manager, and in an icy FA Cup replay at Burnden Park, Leeds beat First Division Bolton in extra-time, Buckley calling it the greatest FA Cup display he’d ever seen; then Cardiff were dispatched in the fifth round to set up a glamour trip to Arsenal.
Not everyone was happy. Angry letters to the papers denounced the obsession with soccer when a general election was imminent. But that was nothing compared to the flood of letters answering a request to name United’s new mascot.
For several weeks Mrs Burnett and her daughter Annie, of The Fleece Hotel in Stanningley, headquarters of the local supporters’ club, had been dressing up a doll in Leeds colours and handing her to goalkeeper Harold Searson, who placed it in his goal. The one game they didn’t do it, Leeds lost. This lucky mascot needed a name.
Atomic Annie, suggested someone; this was the 1950s. Also: Lena The Loiner, Luwyn — ‘Leeds United Win’; Laura — standing for ‘Luck Aids United’s Rise Again’; Lucy — ‘Leeds United’s Cup Year’; Scora Lott Nelson; Major Barbara; Gorgeous Gussie; Juno and the Paycocks; Goldie Blue; Goalie-Locks; or Olga, an anagram of goal.
The winner, chosen by Searson and United’s captain Tommy Burnden, was another play on Leeds United’s initials: Lulu. 300 fans had suggested it; five of them won a guinea each, including a Mrs Leeson, who wrote a ‘victory tune’ for Searson and Lulu:
‘Lulu always has to be in the net behind o’me / She’ll be there with me, by gum / When we get to Wembley Stadium / You can bring Gert and we’ll put on a spurt / But I’ll bring Lulu.’
Sadly, Lulu’s luck ran out in the sixth round at Arsenal. 150 coaches took 4,000 Leeds fans to Highbury — presumably including Lulu — but the First Division side won 1-0. ◉
(artwork by Grady Tidy)