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Posts Tagged ‘charlton athletic’

Mortimer lights a cigarette and kicks back, resting his feet on the table where old papers are in a mess and last night’s brandy bottle stands one third full. The morning after the night before, and there’s a feeling of quiet jubilation in SE7. A night of fear and madness for the referee – baying crowds, baying benches – and that goal from Wright-Phillips.

Morts draws on the cigarette, winces as he blows a plume of bluish smoke out under the low lamp. So many days have passed and no more leads. In his dreams he strains to hear the words that Parkinson formed in his mouth but never spoke. As he lay there on the floor, battered and passing out of consciousness. But always the words elude him. And now Parkinson is gone; it’s like he never existed.

Think, Morts. He frowns, stubs his cigarette out.

And there’s a knock on the door; he tells the shadow in the reeded glass it’s open.

The man who comes in wears a snood high over his mouth. He pulls it down.

‘Racon,’ says Morts. ‘I’ve been expecting you. Take a seat.’

And Racon sits right down. His hands wrestle in his lap.

‘Why so nervous, Therry?’

Racon pushes a picture across the desk, says ‘I want you to make him disappear.’ But in a French accent.

Morts laughs. ‘Therry, that’s not the kind of business I’m into.’

Racon puts his head in his hands; when he looks up his eyes are crazed and searching.

‘I don’t know what to do,’ he says.

‘Why don’t you start at the beginning?’

And so Racon tells him all about it, how the little Irishman’s pushed him out, and how the midfield now lacks balance, how they sit too deep, how they don’t carry enough threat.

‘So what do you want me to do about it? They’re winning, aren’t they?’

Suddenly Racon’s temper explodes. ‘But that’s just it!’ he shouts, banging a wild fist on the table. ‘It’s some kind of voodoo shit he’s into. But they believe it, Mortimer. They believe!’

The bandy-legged Frenchman closes his eyes; when he opens them they are full of knowledge. He’s said too much. He pulls up his snood and stands. And without another word, he leaves.

Mortimer pours himself a brandy. They believe. He repeats the phrase two or three times, turning the words in his mind.

How strange.

They believe.

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Little Charlie Bucket pushed forwards with the crowd as it edged closer to the gate. The sense of excitement was in them all, all the boys and girls and men and women that held in their hands a red ticket. With a clunk the gate wrenched open and they poured forwards, into the grounds of the magical factory where Sir Chrissy Powell was waiting, dressed in red velvet, his eyes twinkling with a smile that cracked his face in two.

‘Welcome, children! Welcome, one and all!’ called Sir Chris.

‘Oh Chrissy Powell, Chrissy Chrissy Chrissy Powell,’ sang Arthur at the back, his haddock flying high from the pole he swung wantonly above the heads of the kids, causing Sir Chris to turn quizzically to Slater at his side. But Slater could only shrug, forcing Varney to step forward and explain, ‘Just a local fishmonger, Chris. Quasi-mythological status among a very small number of the Addickted.’

Sir Chris nodded, not missing a beat as he reached for the hand of little Charlie Bucket. And together they led the procession through the factory door, where doves and yellow butterflies flew in the rafters, confetti fell unendingly, not a cloud gathered, and month was always May.

And where the workers ran like they’d never run before.

When the crowd had gone there was one man left out in the street. He wore a heavy coat, the collar plucked. His hat brimmed low over his eyes. And from his mouth drooped a lit cigarette.

‘Just what’s going on in there?’ said Mortimer under his breath. ‘What’s the story?’

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It’s Sunday afternoon and Mrs. Murray is taking in the washing when she hears a whining down the end of the garden. She pauses, gazes down the path, and turns back towards the house.

‘Richard dear,’ she says as she closes the kitchen door. ‘Don’t you think we should let him in now? He’s been out there all night, the poor love, and it’s getting awfully chilly out.’

Murray has on that dear old sweater she bought him three Christmases ago – the woolen one with the zig-zag patterning. It warms her to see him wearing it as he lowers the paper and looks over at her.

‘Not after yesterday, love. He needs to learn what’s acceptable and what isn’t.’

‘Oh, it wasn’t all his fault. And he tries so hard to make you happy, Richard.’

She goes back to her folding, and Murray sees again the red-faced old man storming by the dug-out. It means something when it comes to that kind of thing. But he can’t do it again, can he? He couldn’t face all the palaver. It would mean he’d got it wrong again. When he thinks of those steady old times, Curbishley… and it’s just not the kind of club to go around sacking managers just like that. We’re no Southampton, after all.

‘Go on, dear. Go down there and let him back in. He’s been punished enough.’

Bloody women. He feels the strength sapping out of him, and he knows he’ll fold again. So why fight it? After all, it’s a family club, and we reward loyalty – we give our people a chance or two.

He goes to the counter, picks up the lead, and sets off into the garden.

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Radostin Kishishev unscrews the lid of the J&B bottle sitting on his desk and plonks a dash into his glass. It’s hot in the office; Kish loosens his tie and frowns at the wall as he lifts the glass absent-mindedly to his lips. There’s a rap at the door.

‘Come in,’ says Kish, and raffish Gustavo Poyet sticks his head through the gap.

‘Raddy! Why don’t you lose that frown and we’ll go for some oysters and Martinis, maybe end up in a bar somewhere with some broads, get our kicks and suffer a heart attack or two. What do you say?’ 

‘I’d love to Gus, but I can’t. I’ve got the Charlton pitch tomorrow and I can’t find the right angle. I can’t find that spark.’

‘Forget it – just dip into that old nostalgia routine of yours and it’ll all be fine.’

Nostalgia, thinks Kish, his gaze drifting to middle-distance. Like a carousel, it takes us to a place we ache to go again. It lets us travel the way a child travels – around and around, and back home again, to a place we know we are loved.

‘Come on, Rad. They say once you start drinking alone you’re an alcoholic. Do me a favour now.’

The pain from an old wound. He sees the Valley, 26000 people, the Premiership.

He downs the last of his scotch and scoops up his hat.

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Tangoman lies on the bed. His cup of coffee gone cold on the side, pastryflakes scattered all over the sheets. Over by the sink Pardew is grinning at the mirror; beside him Dowie’s face is big and glum.

Tangoman flicks his eyes from one to the other, then lands them on the third man. ‘What’s wrong with you, Reed?’ he sneers, his tongue flicking reptilian on his lips.

And Les Reed shuffles from foot to foot, takes his hands out his pockets, puts them back in. ‘Nothing guvnor, it’s just… there wasn’t to be any more killing.’

‘You gone milky, Reed?’ Tangoman’s face throbs orange in the halflight. In his pocket he thumbs his flick-knife. Pastryflakes on the sheets.

‘No, boss, not milky. Not me.’ He looks left, catches a glimpse of Pardew’s mouth in the mirror, curled to a snarl.

The room goes dark, momentarily; the light dips. Tangoman sits up, draws his knife.

‘What was that?’ he rasps.

Dowie raises his heavy lids. ‘Looks like something moved across the window, boss.’

Out on the window-sill, something is hanging; something masked, caped, and dark.

And the wind breathes at the window-pane: Semedo.

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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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