Monday 18 July……Chadwell Heath……muggy and overcast….ideal swing bowling conditions………The line of oxygen tanks and asthma pumps made Allerdice’s heart sink faster than a Met Commissioners career. He’d only asked the lads to do a series of sprints and jogs lasting an hour. This was bread ‘n butta as far as Allerdice was concerned. The collective voice from the squad was that “the ball did the work”….Allerdice retorted that the ball had obviously “bin on strike last seezun then ‘eh lads?” The St Johns ambulance brigade from nearby Redbridge had been alerted and a temporary “Mash” style emergency field unit had been erected on the training pitch.
A sea of vomit was being mopped up by the groundsman, sprinkling sand onto the worst areas, he’d never seen so much filth on a pitch since Mitchell Thomas donned the claret n blue. Allerdice stood in the middle, surveying the wreckage, bodies lay strewn amongst their agents cradling their “stars” sweat matted brows, consoling them. “Listen ‘ere ya buncha tarts” yelled Allerdice, “Ye think the ball will do ‘t work for ye in the Championship yev got anuvin fin cumin. Ye need ‘ard work, balls, sweat ‘n tears. Granted we can play thru sum and thump em ‘n all, but let me tell ye now, you lot turn up at Donny on a cold Tuesday nart, and that lot’ll be sniffin blood and wanting to take a scalp. Yew think this is ‘ard? We ain’t even started ladies”. With that Allerdice spun and kicked a ball in one movement which seared into the top corner.
Zavun Hiines looked on admiringly “so that’s what it looks like”….the net rippled…..The remainder of the squad looked up at Allerdice through gritted teeth and a steaming haze of pain……AG never made them hurt like this.
The squad supported one another back to the sanctuary of the changing room, which Wolly found ironic as it was probably the first time he’d seen the squad supporting each other since he’d been there. Wenston Reed was being given a fireman’s lift by young master Tomka, Illoonga had been left behind on his hands and knees, crying in pain that his lungs were going to explode. Luiz Boa Marte felt sorry for him as he knew Heritta had not run for 18 months. Crouching next to full back he whispered in his ear “I hear the boss is planning a new contract for you”….Illoonga suddenly stopped moaning, rose to his feet and begun stretching.
Freddy Piq had been working the channels as usual (or as Murk Nobel had commented, “anything to keep as far away from the 6 yard box as possible”) and had been so far on the periphery he’d fallen down a ditch and was hyperventilating. His roommate Pabla Barrora was currently contacting the fire services to arrange a winch to haul him out. As each player regained their breath they began checking their blackberry for news of a move that would take them away from this terror. Rab Greene had been inconsolable since news of Villa’s purchase of the flying Irishman and had refused to talk to everyone. Scottie didn’t know which way to turn (which in itself was ironic) his confidante and representative Jaime Redknepp had been uncontactable since Mr Allerdice showed him door/floor.
He’d also been receiving strange texts from someone called AVB in broken English, but as he’d never met the South African batsmen he thought better of replying. Corlton had been in the headlines the most which had angered and made the others jealous. As the squads studs begun the tapping noise on the cold tiled floor, Corlton had surged ahead, seemingly looking for a private spot to take a call. The rabble stopped to watch the scene unfold. Allerdice too stopped in his tracks, supping his Gatorade and eyeing Corlton suspiciously. Corlton was wandering off down the corridor shouting “Show me the money I’m a ‘kin international man!”….Doris, the little old tea lady was approaching him dead ahead. It became quickly apparent that the corridor was far too narrow for both to pass. Corlton, ever the gent, stepped to the left, however, Doris had followed suit, Corlton therefore quickly stepped to the right, again Doris followed him, Corlton started sweating.
This time he made a point of looking to the right, but actually stepped to the left, but again Doris had pre-empted this move and followed suit. Corlton slammed his back against the wall, slowly sliding down, hands covering his eyes, sobbing gently to himself “not again, please god no!”….Allerdice adjusted his half eye spectacles and took out his Bic, “ Note to self, Corlton couldn’t beat a granny 1 on 1.”
Sully was waiting in Allerdices office. “Alreet chuck, got yer passport ready for ‘Agen?” roared Allerdice, Sully chuckled, “I don’t think you have to worry about me Mr Allerdice, I was more concerned with what I saw on that training pitch, where was the ball exactly?” replied Sully curtly, “Well definitely not in their pants I can tell thee that much, ya need to ‘ern the right ‘t play wit ball lad, this lot couldn’t blow up a beach ball let alone mix it wiv hungry Championship players. Gimme a couple ‘o weeks and they’ll be eatin ‘owt me ‘ands….break ‘em and make them, like training a puppy”…..Sully looked away…”Well, I’ll just have to trust you on this one.
Anyhow, some good news for a change, sponsorship deal, meaning cash, meaning transfers”. “Oh aye, Oooze been mad enough ta climb in ‘t bed wiv us then?” chuckled Allerdice, “The well reputed and obviously greatly foresighted company is Campari….very big in ski jackets apparently in 80’s” answered Sully, “Oh aye, still got one actually” beamed Allerdice, “Hmm, thought you might have….anyhoo, they’ll be sponsoring the main stand – that’s the biggest one to you – one compromise is that we’ll be draping a huge replica ski jacket over the stand as part of the deal. Season ticket holders will have windows through the fabric to view the game through so shouldn’t cause too much of a fuss. Only downside is the players will be running out of a zip rather than a tunnel.
But hey ho, that’s business” Sully sat back and clipped then end off of his cigar, Allerdice crossed his legs, “So my lads’ll be runnin out of a giant fly? What the ruddy ‘ell ya thinkin man?!” roared Allerdice, “Well some would say after the last couple of seasons this is long overdue” retorted Sully. With that Sully rose and went to the door, “By the way Mr Allerdice, win a game eh?” and exited. Allerdice took his size 12 boot and threw it at the door, he sat back for a moment and realized there was only one thing for it…his little black book…..and his Bolton copy of the yellow pages……this may be harder work than he thought.