Last weekend, as sheets of rain fell on the Emirates during Arsenal vs. Everton, NBC’s cameras panned to a fan in a Speedo. After we featured him on The MEN IN BLAZERS SHOW, we learned more about his backstory. His name is Michael Cullen and he’s a lighting engineer who lives in London with his wife Rachel. He also goes by “Speedo Mick,” attending Everton games, home and away, dressed in only a swimsuit. It’s part of his effort to raise money for Woodlands Hospice, where a friend of his received care. It’s a crusade that began in June 2014 when he swam the English Channel for the same charitable cause. In this edition of Three Questions, we talk to him about his motivation, making it from England to France, and Everton.
MiB: America got to know you this past weekend as the slightly crazed, speedo wearing fan at the Emirates. But there’s far more to the story. Explain what you’re doing and the cause it benefits.
Cullen: The Woodlands Hospice in Liverpool is amazing. They need to raise one million pounds each year to keep the Hospice open. I had a target of £5,000 and I never reached it after the swim, so I thought, “I’m not having this.” I decided to carry on fundraising by going to all the Everton home and away games in my Speedos, goggles and swim cap. The rest is history.
MiB: Why Everton?
Cullen: My family have blue blood running through our veins. We love Everton FC, although it has been very frustrating for a long time to be a blue nose as we haven’t won anything for years. But, nevertheless, we still love this club (The People’s Club).
MiB: Take us through the physical and emotional journey that was swimming the Channel.
Cullen: After getting a knee injury that prevented me from running very far, I began to think about swimming the English Channel. After booking the boat and training intensely for two years, the day came when I just had to hope that the weather was good to me and just have faith in myself that I had done all I could to prepare for this challenge of a lifetime. It was as if the gods had told the channel to “shhhhussh.” It was as calm as I’ve ever seen it, and I knew that this was possibly the best chance I would ever get to swim to France.
After just five hours of swimming, I hit the wall and it was as if I was going backwards, I had my wife playing my favourite songs from the boat as I stopped and they threw me my feed, which you got every half an hour into the sea so I could catch it like a seal. At one point, my wife played me the “Jaws” theme, which was hilarious. When I reached the my tenth hour of swimming, I had past the worst of it. I battled on to France, I spent the last three hours swimming in the dark. After 11 jellyfish stings and 15 hours and 54 minutes of swimming I stood on French soil. It wasn’t just my training plan that got me over that day, but all the people who donated to the Woodlands Hospice and gave me encouragement to see me through my doubts and fears.
MiB: Tell us about the most unusual encounter you’ve had with a fellow fan since taking on the Speedo persona.
Cullen: At first, the reactions were astonishment, shock and bewilderment, with people moving as far away from me as possible with a lot of disgusted looks from fans. But I just stuck with it as I had a vision that things would turn around. The best reaction I have had though was when I went to watch Everton vs. Aston Villa and Villa fans, after applauding me, for being there in my Speedos and raising money for charity, began to sing about me.
MiB: Now that we’re entering November, how often are you checking the weather ahead of match day? How much longer can you keep going?
Cullen: Well the temperatures are dropping rapidly now and I can feel it, but I never check the weather before a game. As Doris Day says, “Whatever will be will be.” I’m hoping that the colder it is the more respect I may get, and respect may equal donations. That’s my line of thought. Of course it can be little embarrassing for me if it is cold, if you know what I mean. But what I am doing is nothing compared to what the nurses and the families and, of course, the people who are in the hospice with life limiting diseases are going through. It is a mere drop in the ocean for me. I am a man in his Speedos at a football match who may or may not get a little humiliated. They are saying goodbye to their loved ones. So I’m doing my little bit.
You can donate to Speedo Mick’s cause HERE.
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