FIFA 12: The Harry Shovel Diaries – Part 4
This latest instalment of footy journalist Iain Macintosh’s FIFA 12 diary sees the titular Southend Gaffer get down to the nitty-gritty, and draw tears from the faces of men who spend every Saturday cropping people for laughs. It’s a corker this part four, so read on.
I cracked my knuckles as I watched him squirm, staring hard into his frightened little eyes. There was no need for clips round the ear today. No requirement for pilliwinks, or even for Lesley, my giant of a fitness coach. It was just me and Blair Sturrock. Manager and soon-to-be ex-player. And my knuckles. A well-cracked knuckle can be very important in my line of work. Aye, it can break a man’s spirit, if you stay quiet and let it.
“So, what did you…erm…want from me, gaffer?” young Blair warbled.
“Is it a new contract?”
“Please tell me it is.”
“I could do with one, gaffer. Christmas is coming up.”
“Let me put it this way, young man,” I said, stretching out my fingers. “Have you ever thought about becoming a Jehovah’s Witness?”
“Why would I do that?”
“They don’t celebrate Christmas, lad. It might work out cheaper for you in the long run.”
Blair’s head sagged as if it was about to fall off.
“This is the hardest part of any manager’s job,” I told him sympathetically. “I hate it more than anything in the world.”
He looked up at me, tears welling up in his eyes.
“Telling a player that he has to move to a different club?”
“No, son, that’s easy. Telling a player that he’s rubbish, that he’s on the transfer list, that no-one wants him and that he should consider a new career outside of football, that’s the hard part. Oh…huh…look at that, I did it. That wasn’t so bad, was it?”
Blair howled and ran from the room.
“Send Barry Corr in, will you?” I shouted after him.
Barry trotted in looking perplexed.
“What’s wrong with Blair?” he asked, all concerned.
“I’ve just told him he’s leaving, young man. He’s no longer part of my first team plans. Or my reserve team plans, for that matter.”
“Oh,” said Barry. “Ah well, less competition for my starting place, eh?”
“Hmmm. Yes, about that…”
Poor Barry. He must have thought he was safe after those goals against Burton. But he wasn’t. None of them were. Not that clever so and so Dickinson, not Neil Harris, not young Asante. They were all for the chop. We didn’t need them anymore. We had pace. We had Tahj Minniecot, an Australian forward faster than a greased whippet on a children’s slide. Two games he’d played.
Two games he’d won. Seven goals. That boy had changed everything. I bought another one and all. From the same Australian club. Gol-Gol Mebrahtu, his name was. Rubbish, obviously, but quick. So quick.
“I’ll not be calling you Gol-Gol,” I told him at his first training session. “Not ‘til you actually score some. Until then, you’ll be known as ‘spare’. Spare spent most of his first few weeks on the bench watching, as we all did, as Tahj did the business.
We were going places. That halfwit of a chairman wanted promotion in my first season, did he? Well, I was out to get it before Easter.
With the unwanted players dispatched, I got up out of my seat, switched the lights off and called it a night. Whistling happily, I strolled through the door and out into the corridor.
“You wanted to see me, gaffer?”
“Bloody hell!” I shouted, jumping out of my skin. “What are you doing there, you evil little bleeder?”
Young Harry Crawford looked at me timidly in the darkness.
“You sent a message for me, gaffer.”
“Eee, did I?”
“You did, gaffer. I was told you wanted to see me, along with all the other strikers. But you never called me in. I’ve been here for three hours.””
“Ah. Go on home, son.”
“Phew!” said Harry. “I thought you were going to sack me, like you did the others.”
“I am, son. I am. Sorry, I probably didn’t make that clear, did I? Lets try again; go on home…because you’re fired.”
Hardest part of the job, I’m telling you.
For more from the world of Harry Shovel, feast your eyes on part 3 here.