THE ALLEYWAY behind the high street was dimly lit and perfect. No one had passed in either direction for at least 20 minutes. As time drew on the task seemed more achievable, albeit no less irksome.
It had become a desperate occupation, but there was no other choice if the team was to continue performing well. The amount of money riding on these nocturnal expeditions was so high that ethics were irrelevant. The star striker must retain his outstanding form, especially considering the indifferent performances of his teammates.
It was just after 10pm. Four hours ago the lid had almost been lifted on one of the biggest secrets in football. He’d got a result from the match and managed to palm off the press in the post-match interview, but he needed tonight to go off without a hitch to complete the run in to the end of the season. He could feel the low thud of adrenaline.
At first this little whim, as he thought it was then, seemed as harmless as wearing lucky underwear or kissing rabbit’s foot. The manager wasn’t a superstitious man, but plenty of his players were. He surveyed the dark street from the car he’d hired and wondered how it had come to this.
He’d noticed something strange about Luis Suarez a few days after becoming his manager. He’d called the striker in for a one-to-one and offered him his complete trust, as he did with all his players. Suarez had seemed shifty then, and it wasn’t until responding to a panicked, late night phone call to the striker’s home that he discovered why. Fortunately, no one asks questions when a middle-aged vagrant disappears.
Already he had sussed out the rest of the squad as a bunch of overpaid underachievers, and he needed his best player to be as happy as possible to produce his best football. Once he’d overcome the initial shock and been assured that no one else knew, he offered the striker his full support. League performance was everything.
The goals kept going in, but the demands to be sated became increasingly frequent and acquired. Homeless men didn’t do for long and by Christmas women were the preferred choice. Not just any woman, but a particular type that had he given this heinous menu more thought beforehand, he would never have guessed.
Just as humans prefer a fatted calf, Luis preferred the larger lady. The sort who wear XXXL fleeces, scrape their lank hair back in a Croydon facelift and march around with a determined expression and a box of Mayfair Menthol clutched in stubby fingers were ideal. Luckily this was the north west of England, and like the stolen credit card and fake driving licence he’d used to hire the car, this commodity was in no short supply.
And so he found himself waiting for the end of shift at the back door of Superdrug. This was the seventh different market town he’d visited in two months, but that afternoon’s outburst had shown the situation was getting out of control. Whatever the cost, he needed those goals.
A few yards away a metal door squeaked open and a figure lumbered into view. For a moment the face was illuminated until a plume of smoke rose into the night air.
He readied the chloroform.
|2||PSV Mornington||El Pons||52||0|
|4||Still Don’t Know Yet||Pete||46||4|
|5||Wandsworth Window Lickers||Will||46||2|
|6||Headless Chickens||John N||44||2|
|7||Sporting Lesbian||Ben M||43||2|
|10||FC Testicluadew||James N||41||1|
|11||Lokomotiv Leeds||Ben S||36||1|
|14||Just put Carles||Carles||33||0|
|17||Judean Peoples’ Front||Sholto||32||1|
|20||Vasco De Beauvoir||Stix||15||0|
THE CAR pulled to a stop and he killed the lights. It was late at night and only the glow of the radio illuminated their faces. He turned to her.
“I really need this,” he said over his Genesis CD.
“Look, Mike, it’s not that easy. I can’t just click my fingers and get you a job,” she said nervously. There was no other light around them as far as the eye could see, except the dim red suggestion of the M3 a couple of miles away. He’d seemed so pleasant and well mannered in the studio, but he was different now. He probably didn’t have any rare Brentford Football Club memorabilia to show her.
“But you must be able to,” the tension in his voice was clear. “You’re one of their most popular anchors. The Woking job, that’s over now. The board called me in yesterday.”
She took a deep breath: “Not all ex managers make good pundits. I know you did okay in the screen test today, but there are other factors. Do you know how many former managers we have coming in? Lots of…”
“But I could do it,” he cut in. “I’ve got the experience. To manage a team propping up the league for most of the season, well, it gives you plenty to analyse. It gives you perspective,” he was louder now, and the Home Counties twang he worked so hard to hide was becoming more pronounced.
“We’ve already got a team of well known pundits who the punters love,” she was firmer, and trying to steer the conversation towards getting away from the desolate spot in which she found herself. “They’re not some one-season pony with three worst manager of the month awards and a string of ill-advised signings. They’re household names: Jeff Stelling, Matt Le Tissier, Alan McInally…”
“Screw Alan McInally!” His hands hit the steering wheel in frustration. Her head snapped round to see a wild look in his eyes as he stared into the darkness. His breathing was deep, animal.
“If I don’t get this then there’s nothing,” he continued. “Nothing. I’ve been talking to my agent and there are no offers to manage another club. No job in football’s top flight and my life’s over. You have to get me a job, Natalie.” His knuckles were white. His eye twitched.
“I’d like you to drive me home now,” she made the sound, but it was barely audible. The end of the sentence was swallowed by the realisation that she’d seen Sam for the last time.
He opened the door and stepped into the chill of a Surrey spring night. She became more rigid in her seat as he retrieved something from the boot. In a flash her door was opened.
“Get out!” He shouted. Then without waiting he grabbed her sleek dark hair and dragged her out of the car. She screamed but there was no one to hear. The noise was enveloped by the lonely isolation.
He threw her to ground and stood over her. The lichen was damp and cold against her tights.
“I’ve been patient,” he said, the strain of his team’s poor league performances and early cup exit very much apparent. “But you’re negativity is starting to anger me. You don’t understand. No one understands. You just think the Kenna League is a bunch of guys in the pub doing a fantasy football auction. Do you know how much my back still stings from wearing the Bramble Jersey during the January transfer night? This is serious, more serious than you could ever imagine in your cosy studio.”
“I understand. I agree with you,” she simpered.
“You’re mocking me,” he snarled. Something briefly shined at his side.
“Please, please don’t hurt me,” she sobbed. Tears were streaming from her dark eyes. In places they were beginning to stick hair to the sharp curves of her Slavic features.
The open car door was the only window of light in the wide open space of the dark heathland, made blacker still by the overcast and starless night sky. Not even an owl hooted.
The melancholy voice of Phil Collins coming from the radio drifted over the purple flowering heather and sweet scented gorse, punctuated by 17 blows from a socket wrench.
Coloured performance chart
Canesten Combi Cup semi final first leg
Second leg to be played 30 April.
|1||Vasco De Beauvoir||Stix||32||1|
|4||Sporting Lesbian||Ben M||26||2|
|5||Lokomotiv Leeds||Ben S||25||1|
|6||Still Don’t Know Yet||Pete||24||1|
|8||Just put Carles||Carles||23||2|
|13||PSV Mornington||El Pons||19||0|
|15||Wandsworth Window Lickers||Will||17||1|
|18||FC Testicluadew||James N||12||0|
|19||Judean Peoples’ Front||Sholto||12||0|
|20||Headless Chickens||John N||10||0|
|Player of the week||10||Sessegnon, S – SUN – MID|
CHANCES of a debut manager winning the Kenna league and cup double for the second season in a row came to an end today.
Sporting Lesbian, who have dominated this season’s league campaign since before anyone can remember, were found to have been dumped out of the Canesten Combi Cup quarter finals after a goal recount.
The Lesbians were initially thought to have progressed to the semi finals last week at the expense of Just Put Carles. It emerged that goals from JPC’s Mikel Arteta and Jordan Henderson were overlooked.
The administrative error led to fierce criticism of the Chairman who is alleged to have been dicking around in the former Gestapo headquarters in Warsaw instead of attending to league matters. He has denied everything.
The recount sees Just Put Carles, who have been resurgent in league form of late, pitted against Still Don’t Know Yet, who haven’t.
Known across the Kenna as ‘the tactical Brambler‘ for his underhand gamesmanship, the FCT manager is also looking to defend his league crown, but faces an uphill struggle as he attempts to claw back a 72-point lead from Sporting Lesbian in just six weeks.
For Spartak Mogadishu the cup holds the only chance left of picking up any prize money this season. The Pirates had challenged for third spot but – like Hairy Fadjeetas, Northern Monkeys and Newington Reds before them – their league campaign appears to have run out of steam.
At the bottom, Headless Chickens are just about keeping their, uh, necks above the waterline of the relegation zone.
The cup semi final first leg will be held this weekend.
Another event being held this weekend is the Greenwich to Tower Bridge pub crawl. The bit of walking, 11 pubs and short boat trip is a follow up to the incredibly successful pub crawl of the number 38 London bus route in autumn. For more information contact the league.
Canesten Combi Cup quarter final recount
|1||Judean Peoples’ Front||Sholto||39||3|
|2||Just put Carles||Carles||34||1|
|3||Sporting Lesbian||Ben M||32||2|
|4||Lokomotiv Leeds||Ben S||31||1|
|5||Still Don’t Know Yet||Pete||27||2|
|10||PSV Mornington||El Pons||21||1|
|11||FC Testicluadew||James N||20||1|
|13||Wandsworth Window Lickers||Will||20||0|
|18||Vasco De Beauvoir||Stix||12||0|
|19||Headless Chickens||John N||10||0|
|Player of the week||11||Rosicky, T – ARS – MID|
THE KENNA League has been accused of taking a ‘back of a fag packet’ approach in the wake of a cup results controversy.
On Tuesday Kenna HQ published aggregate scores of the Canesten Combi Cup quarter finals which were immediately called into question.
Sporting Lesbian were initially believed to have beaten Just Put Carles after their match at The Gash. It now appears that result was wrong and JPC will progress.
The Spartak Mogadishu manager also claims that his team had no chance of beating Northern Monkeys. Both goal counts are to be reviewed.
The league has come under severe criticism surrounding the matter, with the Chairman’s official visit to Poland pinpointed as the reason for the oversight.
Rumours abound that instead of attending to Kenna business the Chairman was making ‘guess where I am’ phone calls to his mates from the duty office of the former Gestapo headquarters in Warsaw.
“You can shine a desk lamp in my face and kick me in the knackers with a jackboot, but I’ll keep telling you the same story: what with eating a strange mixture of cabbage and pickled herring at mealtimes, and drinking myriad shots, I’ve had my hands full,” said the Chairman, who isn’t any less of a man for discovering a taste for quince vodka.
“You must appreciate that I’ve had no access to Microsoft Excel for a week, something the Headless Chickens manager will understand, and when I return to Kenna HQ all will be resolved.
“Right now I’ve got three more days of Poles giggling as I attempt to communicate with them in their native tongue.”
TITUS BRAMBLE lived up to his Kenna reputation by scoring an own goal, but it wasn’t enough to stop his team from progressing to the semi finals of the Canesten Combi Cup.
Spartak Mogadishu took a first-leg lead home to win a close-fought battle with Northern Monkeys in the Somali capital on aggregate.
“Yarrrrr! That yellow-bellied scoundrel Bramble will be feelin’ the tip o’ me cutlass in training this week,” said the Pirates boss suggestively of his haphazard defender.
A draw in Mogadishu was a good result for Northern Monkeys, particularly given security fears that Islamic extremists Al Shabaab may target the fixture.
The Northern Monkeys manager said: “We covercame home-grown terrorists, a crumbling infrastructure, high unemployment and a lack of decent plumbing to make it this far in life only to be undone by an unlucky first leg.”
Spartak will face FC Testiculadew in the semis after, as predicted on these very pages last week, Dimitar Berbatov and Loic Remy helped poach a win from a two-goal deficit.
In the other semi, Still Don’t Know Yet trounced Vasco De Beauvoir to set up a tie with the untouchable Sporting Lesbian.
The Still Don’t Know Yet manager said: “When a van load of heavvies in balaclavas kidnapped James Collins from the team hotel in August I vowed revenge on the league, and to knock the Chairman’s team out of the cup is sweet revenge.”
Asked by media to respond to this claim at a press conference, the Chairman fumed: “Why can’t you vultures just leave these allegations alone? I will only talk about football.
“There is no hard evidence linking me to the Collins affair, far-right political groups in Italy or the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.”
Still Don’t Know Yet v Sporting Lesbian
Spartak Mogadishu v FC Testiculadew
League table and weekly scores are available by downloading The Rub from the link on the right-hand side of this page.