On Boxing Day, the news filtered out amongst the Albion community that Richard Eades, long time mascot at the Hawthorns, had tragically died in the early hours of the morning.
The outpouring of shock and sadness by so many in the football community, and not just those associated with West Bromwich Albion, is testament to the high regard in which Eadesy, as I knew him, was held, and a measure of how many people’s lives he touched in a positive way.
Most will know him as either Baggie Bird, Baggie Junior or Albi, and will not have seen his face. As a man in a costume, he brought joy and happiness to many young Albion fans over the past 15 years, but he was more than just a mascot.
I came to know him through Boing FC, the Albion supporters’ football team, for whom I played in the early 2000s. As a long distance supporter, I didn’t know anyone else on the team when I first turned up but, as manager of the team, Eadesy was eager to make everyone feel welcome irrespective of their level of talent, which was particularly good for me given my limited skills as a footballer. I thoroughly enjoyed my few years on the team, particularly the trips to WorldNet to play supporters’ teams from all over the country, and Eadesy was a massive part of that.
I hadn’t seen him for a number of years but we kept in touch on Facebook and I was not surprised that he went into refereeing, such was his love for the game.
He was such a kind-hearted and selfless man, demonstrated by the amount of work he did for the club and its fans, and to be taken so early is a massive shock and a real tragedy.
Obviously, the loss will be felt most keenly by his fiancée, Carly, and their two young children, Lily-Mae and Archie. My thoughts are with them, and I hope they can take some small comfort in the knowledge that he was well loved by so many.
Eadesy, more than just a mascot, he was an Albion man through-and-through, a referee, a coach, but most importantly, a father, fiancé and friend who will be greatly missed.
Rest in peace, Rich.