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|