AFTER jumping out of a plane, supping a pint in Emmerdale’s Woolpack and managing to pay a bus fare in postage stamps, Cherries announcer Mike Botto doesn’t have too many unfulfilled dreams.
From the sublime to the ridiculous, the life-long Cherries supporter got round to striking off 10 life ambitions having put his head above the parapet with a personalised list of challenges for charity.
But there is one outstanding goal which the 34-year-old still needs a little help from his heroes with.
Botto’s finest hour in eight years behind the microphone was raising the roof at Dean Court with the announcement that Cherries had finally secured promotion to the Championship, despite a torturous wait for other results at the end of their penultimate-day victory over Carlisle United in April 2013.
“I was stood on the gantry with Eddie Mitchell and Neill Blake and when they gave the thumbs up I was able to officially announce it had gone our way," recalled Botto.
"It was nerve-wracking but very exciting and on a different kind of level to anything I had experienced in the past.
“When I first started watching the club in 1987, we had just gone up to the old Division Two and I had watched us slowly decline in my time as a fan and working for the club. I was not sure I would ever see us get back to that level.
“It was pretty special and the number one moment for many supporters of my generation.”
Pangs of regret were in short supply that day, but Botto might be forgiven for having mixed emotions.
“I was chuffed, but equally if we had got to Wembley I would have got to go on the pitch and big up the crowd, so for the past few years I have wanted us to get to the play-offs,” he added.
“Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t have swapped it for the world, especially after the heartbreak at Huddersfield a few years before, but it remains an unfulfilled ambition so anywhere between third and sixth will do nicely this season!”
A march to the arch would be fitting for the Cherries volunteer after a year of unusual tasks undertaken to raise money for the British Heart Foundation in memory of his late father Andy Botto.
With the support of wife Claire, and children Seth, five, and Alexis, one, Botto went from sampling sushi for the first time to appearing on television in Come Dine with Me and Countdown.
The IT sales worker, now based in Luton, admitted he "wasn't any good” in his stint as a stand-up comedian, while running a marathon and enduring a day of total silence ultimately proved less daunting than paying his bus fare in stamps.
Explaining his rationale, Botto said: “I had seen an episode of the Office where Ricky Gervais’s character said that stamps were legal tender. It turned out to be completely false and it was one of the more difficult challenges.”
He continued: “The whole thing just started off as a giggle really. I sat down with my wife and set out to tick off my bucket list the little things I had never got round to doing. We knocked it up in an hour and decided to go with it.
“It was only when the idea of charity came into it that I really committed to doing them. It was a mixture of unfulfilled things I had been intrigued by over the years.
“If I had realised how seriously we would end up taking it I might have given it a bit more thought but once the list was online there was no going back.
“I did it with one day to spare and left it all to the last minute.
"The final couple of weeks were ridiculously busy. When I was at school I always left my homework until the Sunday night and it was a bit like that with the list.”
With attention now switching to his ninth – and arguably most anticipated – season as the voice of Dean Court, Botto insists the larger attendances and expectation levels bring less pressure to his role.
“In a smaller crowd it’s a bit more intimate and you can pick out faces while you’re doing it. I have found it a lot easier with a full stadium than I did when I started out. It was a third full," he added.
“I try not to ham it up too much because not many people are not too fussed about the match day announcer. When I go to a game, I’m certainly not.”
That is, of course, unless Cherries get to Wembley. Over to you, lads...
- Mike Botto’s Just Giving page for the British Heart Foundation is still taking donations. Visit www.justgiving.com/thebiglistof10