Magical day for mascot

The roar from the stands before today's Carrow Road clash with table toppers Charlton Athletic is sure to give even the most seasoned Canaries' pro an extra shot of adrenaline.

The roar from the stands before today's Carrow Road clash with table toppers Charlton Athletic is sure to give even the most seasoned Canaries' pro an extra shot of adrenaline.

But there will be no big match nerves for one young debutante emerging on to the hallowed turf in front of nearly 25,000 supporters.

According to mum Carol, Bethany Clarke's face has been “one big smile” since she was told on Wednesday that she had been picked as a Norwich City matchday mascot.

Running out with the players in her very own Canaries' kit, the sports-mad 12-year-old will launch a two-year �200,000 sponsorship deal between Norfolk County Council and Norwich City designed to inspire youngsters to achieve more through sport.

Part of the package will see the council nominating a home matchday mascot, with pupils from schools around the county also being encouraged with free tickets.

Bethany's John Grant School, in Caister, near Yarmouth, was chosen to launch the scheme as reward for it this week being granted specialist sports college status.

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A number of her friends at the school, which caters for a wide range of special needs, will be in the stands to cheer her during her big moment in the centre circle.

Mrs Clarke, of St Hugh's Green, Gorleston, who has two other children, Jordon, 14, and Aston, seven months, said: “Bethany is mad about all sports. She does everything the school offers, but PE and swimming are her favourites.

“Once she is given her new Norwich kit we will never get it off her. She will end up sleeping in it. When she was told about being the mascot, she shouted 'yeah' and has not stopped since.”

Mrs Clarke, whose partner Chris is an Army mechanic, said Bethany was constantly cheerful despite having a rare chromosome abnormality bringing with it a range of problems, including learning and behavioural difficulties.

She said: “We are so proud of her. She does really well for a child they said I would never bring home from the hospital.”

Mrs Clarke said Bethany was an ardent Norwich fan along with her father and big brother, but confessed she would be keeping quiet about her allegiances - having been brought up in Ipswich.

Jill Waters, the school's assistant head, said sport had great benefits for all of their 120 pupils. They could access it whatever their disability and the confidence it brought helped their learning.

A lifelong Canaries fan and season ticket holder, she confessed she was just as excited about their big day as Bethany.

A Norwich City spokesman said: “The experience of being matchday mascot is a memorable and exciting day out for the children involved and their families. We're delighted as part of our relationship with Norfolk County Council to offer them a place with the other season ticket holders or members and the Canary Experience mascots.”

Norfolk County Council leader Daniel Cox said: “The reason for our two year link up with Norwich City Football club is to use 'the beautiful game' to increase people' s aspirations through sport, as we are ambitious for Norfolk, its children and its residents.

“Part of the deal is having a block of tickets at each home match for groups of mainly young people who are overcoming particular obstacles - such as our guests today from the John Grant School. And we will also be nominating a mascot place at each game.”

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