Premiership Papers: Chapter 8
We’ve lost our first two games. Sorry, not we, force of habit. The first team. Proper shoeings they were, too. 4-0 and 3-0.
Watching a team disintegrate under pressure is probably one of England’s most underrated spectator sports. But to get its full flavour, you have to be in the position I’m in. Out of the team. It’s like being back at school and watching your mates get in the most enormous shit imaginable, and you’re not involved. Come on, admit it, it’s fucking brilliant.
A football’s club a fun place to work when in that situation. Everyone in the team and everyone who gives a shit – and the two are not the same, by the way – gets increasingly depressed. Fights break out. The manager starts panicking. If it goes on for a while, it starts getting really fun, because people start getting desperate. There’s a random bonding weekend – I remember one year it involved cross-dressing and acting out Shakespeare. That was brilliant, that was. Strange creatures start flitting through the dressing room – Feng Shui experts, faith healers, priests, sports psychologists. People get increasingly earnest before games – COME ON LADS. COME ON!!!!!! THIS IS OUR HOME!!!!!! NO ONE FUCKS WITH US IN OUR HOMES!!!!!!! That kind of shit.
Things haven’t got that bad yet. It’s only been two games, after all. The management and the senior players are making a point of that, actually. Insisting that nothing’s the matter with a slightly mad glint in their eyes. I’m not sure it helps to insist everything’s fine, but I like a bit of trouble as long as it doesn’t involve me, so I don’t offer this opinion.
In the week after the three nil, Silver catches me on my way out from training. He drags me out to the pitches. It’s a beautiful day. The sun’s bright, but not too hot, and the light is that cool kind of clear you sometimes get in early autumn. I chew on some grass and prepare to listen.
“The team’s struggling,” he begins.
“Early doors,” I offer. “Give it time.”
“It’s not a question of time, Aaron. Do you know what Einstein said the definition of insanity is? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. That’s exac …”
“Who’s Einstein,” I ask.
He stares at me. I look innocently back.
“Just the greatest genius of the last century. The American scientist. Relativity? No? Big hair?”
“Ohhhh, the fella with the hair. Yeah, got him now. Good lad, that. Marvellous effort with the hair. How d’you reckon it went down with the ladies?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea, Aaron. Shut up and listen, will you? It’s not about time. Archie’s gone. He’s a dinosaur. It’s a modern game and the team needs a modern man in charge of it.”
“What, like Pete Doherty?”
He wants to scream, does Silver, but I’m impressed. He keeps his voice calm.
“No, Aaron. Me. I don’t do this lightly. No one respects Archie more than I do. He’s been like a father to me. But there comes a time when a man has to think of the greater good. Nothing would please me more than Archie staying as manager and me working for him. But I can’t in good conscience sit by and let this football team, this club, this community, be destroyed. And that’s what will happen if we keep going with these 1930s methods.”
“What’s this got to do with me?”
“If you want to save this club, help me.”
I wouldn’t piss on you if you were on fire, pal. “Help you?”
“Yes. The Chairman agrees with me, but he needs a push. I need your support. Tell the Chairman – or let me tell him, on your authority – that Archie’s lost the dressing room. You’re a stalwart, Red. Everyone knows your loyalty. If you tell the Chairman that, he’ll believe you. He just needs that last push.”
“And why would I do this again?”
“I’ll put back in the 1st team when I’m manager. And I’ll give you a contract extension. Five years.”
For the first time in the entire conversation, I take him seriously.
“And you’ll double my wages.”
“I can’t do that, Red. But I’ll do what I can. You have my word on it.”
“You’ll double my wages.”
He pretends to think about it, and then says yes. He’d suck my cock now if I told him to. We shake hands, two solid men agreeing on a deal.
I stay by the side of the pitches, hugging my knees. Why the fuck is grass green? I’m going to have to find that out, it’s really annoying me. I pull out my phone.
“Fimus? Redders. I’ve got something for you.”