From Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin to Dom Toretto and Luke Hobbs, circumstances can forge the most unlikely of alliances. Yet in all of human history there might never have been quite so much mutual enmity to set aside for the common good as that which exists between Harry the Hornet and his new boss Roy Hodgson.
Our tale dates back to the tumultuous winter of 2016, a period that will resonate across human history for so many reasons. Brexit was shaking the United Kingdom. A new president was preparing to take up residence in the White House. And, in a 1-1 draw between Crystal Palace and Watford at Vicarage Road, Wilfried Zaha did a dive.
For Harry the Hornet it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. A message had to be sent. As Zaha made his way off the field this wrathful wasp made his mark, hurling himself to the ground as if he were Ozzie Owl at the final fence of the 2000 Mascot Grand National.
Zaha applauded sarcastically, fuming to his teammates. What else could he do? One could throw haymakers at Harry for days and not leave a mark on his plush exterior.
Fists might not harm him but could words leave their mark? In August 2018 Hodgson, now Zaha’s boss at Crystal Palace, tried exactly that. The veteran coach had seen it all, from Halmstads to Grashoppers, UAE to Sweden 2 England 3. Nothing had prompted such invective as this so called mascot. This was the most searing of takedowns. Cicero’s speeches against Catiline just with more faux fur.
“If you’re asking me whether Harry the Hornet, who I presume is the mascot, should dive in that way, I think it’s disgraceful,” the Palace manager said. “Because that’s not what football matches are about. If it’s provoking the crowd into looking for something that’s not there, it should be stopped.”
The FA must intervene, Hodgson insisted. Surely they would take the side of one of the big beasts of the English game? Now, instead it was the six foot yellowjacket, all the while grinning that inane grin of his, that won the argument.
That appeared to be that. Harry the Hornet remains but there is something different about him, as though there is a mellower soul inside this vespine. Off slinked Hodgson into the sunset, a perfect final act complete with Crystal Palace soldered into the Premier League’s middle ground. Then, just when he thought he was out they pulled him right back in. The Watford job comes for all of us eventually.
Here they are then, once bitter enemies now on the same side of the desk. They might not like each other but dammit they had better get results. Eight wins from 18, that ought to do it.