Archive for September, 2010

Lee Hughes goes down clutching his face and they’re up off the bench, on the touchline, Parkinson and Breacker, telling him to pull his bald mug off the pissing floor. But there’s no way he’s getting up, not now – Murderer, murderer, murderer coming from the stands. Usually works a treat, that kind of shit raining down on him, it usually gets him going. So why’s he shanked two easy chances then? The first was a horror show.

The ref’s leaning down, having words in his ear. Time to get up, Lee Hughes. Nah, not just yet, thanks. He sees the ball bobbling at him again, and he stretches his toe, then watches it prod off to the left of the post. Bastard bloody luck, leaving him strutting around that pitch with nothing on him but attitude.

Well, it gets worse, Lee Hughes. Later you’ll step up for a penalty that you’ll drive down the middle, nice and safe. And you’ll see the Charlton keeper fling himself off left, but the ball will hit his boot, and fly up high above the goal. And that’ll be your day done, Lee Hughes, and no-one will pay you any mind.

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Parkinson has them lined up in rows in front of the tactics board. Notts County tomorrow, he wants them to understand just what that means.

‘Oldest club in the world, this lot,’ he says. ‘Notts County were there before all the rest, kicking cans around t’ alleyways on their own, long before anyone else turned up. Lonely business. Just imagine it, a league of one.’ He nods his head. ‘Oh, they’ve had their glory days too. FA Cup winners of 1894, League Two Champions of 2009/10, Anglo-Italian Cup winners ’94/’95.’

He stops to let what he just said sink in. ‘That’s right. This lot were lifting the Anglo-Italian while Charlton Athletic were still nursing a hangover from Pisa the year before. Bloody runners-up that year, too. This is a club with pedigree.

Towards the back Paul Benson lifts his hand.

‘Yes, Benno?’

‘Sorry, gaffer,’ he says with a cheeky-chappie Essex-boy wink-and-grin, ‘but aren’t Notts County a bit of a joke club these days, what with Sven and Sol Campbell and that?’

Parky composes himself. ‘No, Benno, they’re not. We take teams like Notts County very seriously.’ He surveys the rows of heads watching him; his eyes land on Kinsella, standing by the door. Charlton Athletic have to everyone seriously now, he thinks, not like in Kins’ day. Oldest club in the world, or otherwise, we’re all doggy-paddling, just trying to keep our noses above water.

Dodgy hips all over the place, dodgy tickers.

Oldest club in the world, yeah, everyone feels like that sometimes.

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Parkinson taps the microphone and peers towards the back of the bus.

‘Is this thing on?’ he says to the driver, who flicks a switch; ‘HELLO?’ Parky’s voice booms out, waking sleepy Gary Doherty in the front row.

‘Right, lads.’ His eyes scan the rows of bored faces. ‘Reidy, headphones off please. Mac, let go of Solly’s head, he doesn’t like that. Francis, stop oiling your joints.’

He waits for the coach to settle down, then begins.

‘The more observant among you may have noticed that we are now in Exeter. Soon we will be passing through the area of St. Sidwells, so named in tribute to the local saint Sidwell, a young girl murdered by a jealous stepmother, whose place of burial became one of many wells in the area which were the beginnings of Exeter’s water systems back in Roman times. As I’m sure you all know, St. Sidwells gave rise to the nickname, the Grecians, because the residents of the area are known as Greeks, or Grecians.’

‘Why dat?’ someone says.

Parkinson looks momentarily flustered. ‘Well, I suppose that was probably due to the location of St. Sidwells being outside the city walls. The name might well be a nod to Homer’s Iliad, in which the Greeks laid siege to Troy. But I’m just guessing. Anyway…’

Just then a hail of stones hits the coach window; Parkinson almost drops his microphone when he looks down the road and sees who’s there at the centre of a barricade across the top of Sidwell Street. ‘Stop the coach, driver,’ he says. The doors whoosh open. ‘Come on, lads,’ he says over the speakers. ‘Looks like an early kick-off.’

In the road Tisdale and his crew are waiting. Little oiks in tracksuits, their hair all matted and unwashed, jogging back and forth.

‘What do you want, Tisdale?’ shouts Parky.

‘Oh nothing,’ returns the bald-headed supremo with the metrosexual neckwear. ‘Just thought we could have a little pre-meet. Get to know each other.’

Just then the midfield boys come forward, juggling rocks between them. But they keep fucking up and dropping them all over the place on account of their greasy hands.

‘That’s some pretty passing you’ve got there, Tisdale.’ Parky sniggers. ‘Now watch this.’

He whistles, and Semedo steps forward, the ground shaking with each step. With a wave of his hands Martin and Reid go dancing off down the pavements, and Racon sort of starts praying. Parkinson shrugs, and presses Francis’s ‘on’ switch. But the big man runs straight into the nearest wall. ‘Damn bloody thing,’ Parky mutters, looking down at his remote control, ‘configurations are still out of whack.’

The teams are advancing on each other. Who will come out on top, the Greasy ‘uns or the Addicks?

Arthur’s bet: 0 – 2 (Martin, Abbott)

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