For Richard Hartley, being the mascot for Dewsbury Rams means more than a quick dance around the pitch on match day, it’s a way of life.
When Richard, 35, puts on his mascot head, he transforms from a truck driver to Roger the Ram.
Dewsbury Rams had been searching for a new Roger for some time after the last mascot retired, and when Richard heard about the opening, he jumped at the chance.
“It’s been a bit of a dream for me,” said Richard. “I’ve always wanted to be a team mascot. You have the team on one side and the spectators on the other and you’re right in the middle. It’s very thrilling.”
Since taking up the role in 2011, Richard has thrown himself into it. The Rams’ mascot used to attend fewer than 10 events each year. But last year Richard donned his costume to appear at 92 events around the area – not including matches – and he’s aiming for 120 this year.
Born and bred in Dewsbury and now living in Mirfield, Richard sees Roger’s main job as ensuring the people of Dewsbury get behind their club.
“The fans get a lot of pride from Roger,” said Richard. “Before they didn’t really care much for it, but now they chant my name.
“It’s something to rally them with and make them proud to support Dewsbury.”
Richard hasn’t missed a home game and he aims to keep going for as long as possible.
“Some people just do it because they get free entry to the games but I’m out there an hour before kick-off and I’m the last man on the pitch,” he said.
“It’s my job to make everybody smile whether we win or lose – and it we lose I’ve got to get up and make them happy. I’ve named myself ‘chief morale officer’.
He gets on well with other mascots – especially Hunslet Hawks’ Harry the Hawk and even Battler the Bulldog from fierce local rivals, Batley Bulldogs.
“I don’t wish to make any enemies,” said Richard. “They may be from a different team but they are a mascot just like me.”
Richard doesn’t deny that he is enjoying his new found fame – Roger the Ram won best mascot in parade at last year’s Sue Ryder mascot gold cup.
“When I walk down the street nobody knows who I am, but when I put the costume on I sort of become a celebrity. It’s a bit of a zero to hero thing.”