David HartrickComment


David HartrickComment

Something slightly different now, a little work of fiction for you to enjoy

Day One – Welcome to Hell 

What a shit hole. 

Alright, so I might have told the accountant I wanted to buy a football club, but this?  I'm not sure if the car park's even fit for dogging.  It’s no wonder that prick's not answering his mobile – I'm going to stick it up his arse when I see him and he knows it.  

Why didn't I at least Wiki this lot before I signed the paperwork?  I built an Internet Empire without having to resort to pornography, yet got too excited at the prospect of owning a football club to do the homework.   

Jesus, leaping in with both feet like that – I’m Nigel de Jong. 

I might not have Premier League or even Championship money but I thought the budget stretched further than this – bloody Vauxhall Conference football.  Saying that, I may as well try to get into the spirit of things for as long as it takes for me to work out an exit strategy – bloody Blue Square Bet Premier football.  I've at least heard of this lot but that's mainly down to an FA Cup third round appearance in the ‘80s. 

Memo to self: research business decisions beyond the 1984 Grandstand vidiprinter in future.

I thought an established club at non-League level wouldn't be this run down – and this is just staring through the 50% tint on the car window.  Looking up I can see a painted name on a once-famous sign, now reduced to a faded shadow.  Looking down, the word 'pothole' barely seems adequate for the innumerable hippo's yawns littering the car park.  This isn't even disappointing – this is frightening. 

I had visions of at least being able to park my car in a neatly white-lined space marked 'Chairman'.  As it stands I’ve been forced to abandon the Range Rover in something resembling the 26th minute of Slumdog Millionaire.  Thank God I didn't bring the Aston.

As I open the car door I notice the air is thick with fried onions and burgers, apparently made of roughly half meat, half carpet.  Prada shoes meet B&Q gravel as I step out to gaze upon my new empire.  

To repeat: what a shit hole.

To the left of the car park a steady stream of bobble-hats are parting with their hard earned fivers to enter a structure rather hopefully entitled the 'Grand Stand'.  A Range Rover with private plates is being viewed as something akin to witchcraft by a queue of people with whom I have nothing in common.  I've seen the odd eyebrow cocked in my direction so I assume word's got around the new chairman's in town.  To my right I see a door marked 'Staff Only' which I guess is my entrance.  With a deep breath of icy air I make my way towards it, lighting a Benson for comfort as I go.  The smoky filter just beyond my nose does nothing to improve the view as the Rice Krispies snap, crackle and pop beneath my feet. 

As I reach the door a man appears, opening it wide as if expecting me.  He looks about early 30s.  The suit that hangs about his body would disgrace a charity shop sale rail.  If I combine his attire with his body language, general demeanour and what looks suspiciously like a wig, I’m guessing whoever he is, he’s yet to marry.

“You the new Chairman?”

I nod a response and flick the barely-smoked cigarette away to my right.  He thrusts out a hand covered in a mixture of dirt and white paint to clasp mine and introduces himself as Richard, Club Secretary.  He turns and leads me into a corridor that runs beneath the small stand; I follow without a clue where we're going, observing a discomfiting lack of windows.  It feels like the journey to the centre of the earth.  A door appears from the midst of the cave with a sign marked 'Manager' on it. 

Shit.  I've just realised I don't even know who the manager is.

Richard half trips as he opens the door and I'm thankful the wig stays in place.  As he crosses the threshold I catch him mouthing the words ‘He's here’.  Entering the small office I find two middle-aged men, one slumped in a tracksuit behind a dusty, paper-strewn desk, another standing over him with a face like he's been chewing pine cones.

“Thank you, Richard.  Now take that awful wig of yours and fuck off.”

Richard complies with standing angry man’s order and shuffles out somewhere behind me.   Even though I now own this little corner of Mordor, I get the feeling I'm being told who really has the power.

“You've met Richard then.  I've no doubt he told you he had some fucking job here but he's just a fan we use for the shit I can't be bothered with.  I'm Bryan Ramsden-Smith, club director for life due to the fact my family founded this place, and no doubt the person putting out the fires once you've pissed off back to your ivory tower.”

What the…?

“This is Terry Maclean, he's your manager and resident club alcoholic – you'll be pleased to know if we paid him more he'd have a raging drug problem, as well.  Now you're here he’s your problem.”

I look at the tracksuited man.  His outfit is stained with what I really hope is beer, and as he melts further into his lopsided chair I realise he's not just drunk, he's wasted.

“Now do you want some boots and a ball so you can piss around on the pitch like a dancing fucking bear before kick-off? Show the fans how much of a football man you are?”

When I answer it'll be the first words out of my mouth since leaving an extremely abusive message on the accountant's phone.  He’s going to get another in about five minutes.  I stumble and fumble out the words “No, I'm not Michael Knighton.”

“Michael Knighton?  Why you *hic* talking… talking 'bout Knight Rider?”

With that comment Maclean finally slips all the way from the chair that had been clutching desperately to his last shreds of dignity.  As a body disappears under the desk in front of me Bryan Ramsden-Smith bumps past and leaves me one last outpouring of bile.

“Welcome to the club Mr Chairman.”

Sarcasm drips from the words ‘Mr Chairman’ like a dew drop hanging from a snotty kid’s nose.

“We're bottom of the league, the grounds fucked, your manager's a disgrace – and they're all your problems now.”

I can’t say it enough.  What a shit hole.

The story continues in issues one, two and three of Man & Ball magazine, available online here. For regular updates from the Man & Ball team you can follow their Twitter here

Dave is one of the editors of this parish as I'm sure you know and can be found on Twitter here