PICTURE the scene – a heated local derby between the Clarets and Preston North End at Turf Moor, interrupted by a human-sized bee rugby-tackling a naked football fan with the numerals 2-0 emblazoned on his posterior.
Well that’s just one of the incidents that has boosted Burnley Football Club mascot Bertie Bee’s profile globally. The hysterical but surreal acrobatic challenge, sending the unfortunate streaker somersaulting through mid-air, became an instant internet phenomenon and has topped the 250,000 mark on YouTube.
It’s been 11 years now that Bertie Bee has been parading the perimeter of Turf Moor’s playing surface.
The Clarets’ 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace earlier this month signified the club mascot’s anniversary after he first took flight for Burnley’s clash with Lancashire rivals Preston on March 4th, 2000.
Michael Bradshaw (38) the man who brings Bertie Bee to life, said: “It was a special day as it culminated in me celebrating 11 years as Bertie Bee. My first game was against Preston. It was a very big occasion and a full house.”
Burnley Football Club’s mascot has out-lived five managers – Chris Waddle, Stan Ternent, Steve Cotterill, Owen Coyle and Brian Laws with the famous ‘streaking’ incident cropping up with Ternent at the helm on March 17th, 2002, in a 2-1 victory.
“The streaker incident was also against Preston,” Michael said. “We’d done a big pre-match, going round the corporates and meeting the kids and then I had a challenge against the Deepdale Duck on the pitch, an assault course. I beat him again and I’m undefeated against the Deepdale Duck.
“Then just towards the start of the second half the streaker jumped over from the Jimmy McIlroy Stand, ran up to the Preston fans and had 2-0 on his backside; but when you looked closer it looked more like 210.
“I’d just come back from having a drink and to be honest I thought it was a Preston fan who had jumped over from the Cricket Field Stand so I just cleaned him out with a rugby tackle. I played Rugby League for about 15 years but it coincided with being Bertie Bee. I’ve given 100% to Burnley Football Club as Bertie Bee.
“I just thought to myself I’m going to have to take him out. It’s caused a lot of hype. I think it’s had something like 250,000 hits on YouTube and also it got me on TV on A Question of Sport’s ‘feel the celebrity sports star’ so that went down quite well. I’d say it was my biggest moment, but the streaker’s smallest moment.”
Read more about what Bertie Bee - aka Michael - has to say in not-to-be-missed Face To Face interview with Dan Black in today’s Express!