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Speedo Mick: A Man of Courage and Compassion

The story of a man, his club, and a passion to help those in need

Liverpool FC v Everton FC - FA Cup Third Round Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

There’s a popular saying that to truly understand someone you have to ‘spend a day in their shoes’.

If that is true, you might need to get in shape just to read this article, because if you spend a day in Michael ‘SpeedoMick’ Cullen’s shoes you probably wouldn’t make it to lunch before collapsing of exhaustion.

You see Cullen, more famously known by the moniker ‘SpeedoMick’, has spent the last two months on a 1,000 mile walking journey from John O’Groats to Landsend (map below), and is nearing his final destination.

For those of you unfamiliar with the exploits of Speedo Mick you may be asking yourself:

Why is this man walking 1,000 miles in the winter?

What does this have to do with Everton?

Why is he in a Speedo?

Well, before we move forward and try to catch up with exploits of present-day Speedo Mick, let’s go back and recap how the attention of the world ended up on a middle-aged man in a bathing suit.

The Early Days

Michael Cullen grew up in hard times and under hard circumstances.

A young addict who struggled to stay clean, Cullen spent a large part of his early life homeless and without much to his name in terms of property. With seemingly little to give to the world in his state, Cullen admits it would have been easy, if not understandable, for everyone to label him a lost cause and leave him to write his own demise.

However, Cullen says that at every turn he found at least one person willing to help him. Sometimes that help took the form of food or shelter, while other times it was simply someone reminding him that his life was worth it.

It was this kindness that would spur Cullen to become the bathing suit-laden fundraiser we know and love today. After overcoming his own struggles (with help from others), Cullen got on his feet, and despite his childhood struggles established a career as a lighting engineer.

Flash forward to 2014 and Michael Cullen decided it was time to show the world just how grateful he was for all of the love and support he had received throughout his own life.

But how would he give back to a world that helped him so much?

Unlike most people, Cullen didn’t donate his time to a food bank, or volunteer at a school. No, Cullen took to the water.

In an effort to raise £2,000 for a homeless hostel (the same kind that had helped keep him alive) Cullen strapped on a banana-hammock and decided to swim the English Channel. Cullen completed the journey and raised the amount he had set out to earn.

He had done it.

He had given back.

It was time to take a rest and reflect upon a job well-done.

Except that’s now how it panned out.

Little did Mick know his smallest piece of clothing (we assume) would end up being the catalyst for the biggest change in his life.

SpeedoMick at his first Everton match in full swimwear

Speedo Mick is Born

According to Speedo Mick swimming across the English Channel was nothing to be nervous about.

You’re in the water, what else would you wear?

Wearing a Speedo to an Everton match, however, is a different story.

After completing his swim, Mick decided he would see if he could keep his fundraising momentum going by showing up at the next Blues home match at Goodison in his speedo.

A life-long Everton supporter, Speedo Mick has acknowledged how nervous he was to take his fundraising (and speedo) out of the English Channel and into the Premier League.

“It’s nerve-wracking getting out of the car before a game and my heart will be pounding.

”But all the smiles I get from people make me forget my fear.

”The support I receive is everything.

”If there was no support, I’d just be a loony running around in my knickers.”

And support he has had.

Making the rounds at Goodison before a match, Mick has become as much a fixture on home game days as Z Cars.

Never lacking for love from Evertonians, or even the visiting fans, Cullen (now Speedo Mick) says he raises about £600 a match day simply by walking around in his signature look and asking for support.

That means in the 6 years since first showing up to Goodison in his ‘knickers’, Mick has brought in approximately £80,000 for charity on gamedays alone.

Add in his other fundraising exploits and Speedo Mick has single-handedly raised well over £100,000 for charity in less than a decade.

As the time passed, Speedo became more and more popular not just at Goodison but across the league. He began to head to away grounds, and even inspired an AFC Bournemouth fan to follow his lead.

Speedo, however, didn’t use his new found fame to enrich himself.

Rather, the Everton-loving speedo wearer has poured himself even more into fundraising for those who are less fortunate, vowing never to forget those who helped him along the way.

“I’ve been right at rock bottom, I was homeless. I pretty much gave up on myself for a long time.

“But the thing that always inspired me was the fact that no one ever gave up on me.

Now I’m doing all this I’m giving back everything that people gave to me during some really, really tough times.”

And though Mick has started to earn a pile of plaudits and awards, it’s his humble nature that always shows through in his bid to help his charity Leave The Light On do its work.

Yes, he does own clothes.

Whether winning the British Pride of Sports Award in 2017 or being named Liverpool Echo’s Community Person of the Year, Mick has always maintained that EVERYONE who chips in is part of the work he does.

“As it is, most fans are brilliant – and every fan who puts a pound in the tin is doing every bit as much as me.”

However, after hundreds of matches spent fundraising, Mick decided it was time to ratchet up his intensity and shoot to raise as much money in one event than he had over the entire 6 years since stepping out of the English Channel and into his seat at Goodison.

The Walk

So how do you top swimming the English Channel?

Or being seen worldwide on the telly every weekend in your Speedo?

You follow the advice of The Proclaimers and ‘be the man who walks a thousand miles’!

After whispers that he was going to hang up his Speedo a few seasons ago ended up being false rumors, Mick set his mind to one-upping himself and raising even more money for people in need.

So last year he decided he would walk.

Far.

Very. Very. Far

On December 11th 2019, Mick took off from John O’Groats with the goal of completing his 1,000 mile journey in about two months.

His initial goal was to raise £100,000 for charity, but as usual, ‘Speedo Mick’ went above and beyond. Just this week, only 100 miles from his final destination, Speedo announced that he had already raised over £200,000!

What a man.

His journey has been equal parts inspirational and entertainment.

A quick look at his twitter shows just how amazing his trip has been.

Getting ‘arrested’ for dancing?

Check.

Dance a jig in the foyer of a top-rated hotel?

Done.

Go sledding in a speedo?

Done.

Walk through a hurricane?

Why not?

Giving a talk on British Morning Television?

Check.

Get interviewed by Sky Sports in the mixed zone?

Of course!

However, for all of his exploits, it’s hard to imagine the highlight of Speedo Mick’s journey (besides his £200,00 raised of course) is anything other than his stop over at Finch Farm for a visit with the club that Mick loves almost as much as it loves him.

(Yes, I know he was welcomed at Anfield for the FA Cup match but this is better!)

Suffering from a calf injury and momentarily delayed on his 1,000 mile walk, Speedo Mick paid a visit to Finch Farm, where he was welcomed by an Everton legend

After a tour, Mick got some much-needed treatment on his injured calf.

Then once he was all set, Speedo got to meet the boss himself, Carlo Ancelotti.

Of course, Ancelotti had only question.

“Why not the Summer?”

Finally, Speedo was welcomed (raucously I might add) to Goodison by the fans.

There is no way that Mick could have ever imagined being part of Everton lore when he hit the water six years ago.

However, in that time Michael Cullen has used every opportunity possible to help out those in need, just like he was helped in his own youthful struggles.

With less than 100 miles left on his journey, Speedo Mick’s adventure covering the length of Britain and raising hundreds of thousands of pounds for charity is almost over.

However, for anyone paying attention, it’s a sure bet that this won’t be the last time we hear from Speedo Mick.

There is no doubt he will spend the rest of his life helping others in one way or another, even if he does hang up the Speedo one day.

Mick may rest, but he will never stop fighting for those who need it most.

The great ones never do.

Thank you Mick, you are an inspiration to us all, COYB!


Here is the link to Mick’s charity Leave The Light On, with more information on the organization and the stellar work they do.

It’s not too late to support Speedo Mick as he approaches his goal of £250,000 - here is the link to the GoFundMe page.