A bitter Rod to swallow

Kenna transfer deadline 12pm Tuesday 2 February.

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THERE was a knock on the door. The chairman bade enter from his desk.

A slim Colombian sidled in and said: ‘Gavnor, you want see me?’

‘James, good to see you,’ said the chairman expansively, putting an ‘h’ sound on the ‘J’ like he’d heard the intellectuals do making wry observations on the Football Snidely podcast.

The chairman continued: ‘Fantastic performance this week, James. It’s great to have you back from injury, but I didn’t ask to see you.’

The midfielder held up a note torn from a noticeboard. In marker pen it read ‘J Rod, my office now!’

The chairman smiled: ‘That wasn’t meant for you, James. You’re doing just fine. Would you go and tell Jay Rodriguez to come to my office?’

The Colombian nodded and left, clearly relieved. The chairman stood, went to the cocktail cabinet, and mixed his second pink gin of the morning.

He took a sip and mildly rebuked himself for signing two J Rods at the Kenna auction. The £13m for the South American was almost immediately repaid after a couple of matches. The £0.5m for the English striker was another story.

A smart rap at the door snapped him out of his reverie. ‘Enter.’

A man bun walked into the room, and the chairman motioned it to take a seat. The two men were silent for a few moments before the chairman moved over to his desk and stood looking at his striker.

‘Can you give me a good reason to let you go ahead of Tuesday’s transfer deadline?’

Jay Rodriguez stared back unmoved.

‘It’s just, I was all ready to let you go,’ continued the chairman. ‘I only paid point five for you at the end of the auction because someone had already bought Ashley Barnes, and until this week you’ve given me just that in performances: point five.’

The words hung in the air, but the player couldn’t have looked more relaxed. The chairman thought to himself ‘he’s been on the end of this before. At Burqini Pool Party in 2017/18. At Judean Peoples’ Front in 2015/16. At Headless Chickens the season before that. And twice again at JPF the season previous and the one before that. None of those teams won the title. The man’s a curse and he bloody knows it!’

He tried a different tack: ‘Jay, I’d like to share with you how happy I am you scored twice and got an assist on the weekend. I would really like to see more of that from you, but you’ve put me…you’ve put your teammates in a very difficult situation.

‘You see, next Friday I want to sign…,’ the chairman spent the next 10 minutes laying out his plans for the Kenna transfer window. The players he coveted. The players he thought had potential. The players he dismissed as ‘John Jensens and Stefan Schwarzes’.

All the while Jay Rodriguez barley moved a muscle, which the chairman guessed was just in case he tweaked something.

‘Now, Jay,’ the monologue was drawing to a close. ‘I’m going to keep you on. I want you to finish the season with us. We’re eighth in the league and if things go well next Friday we’ll be in a position to make a decent fist of it.

‘But I need you to stay fit and keep getting games. If I keep you on I’m going to look stupid in front of the rest of the league, in front of the rest of my league, if your form and fitness drift. Do you hear me?’

The striker stood and left the room without saying a word.

‘Damn that man!’ growled the chairman to the empty room as he made a fresh assault on the Angostura Bitters. ‘Damn him! He knows I haven’t got the money to let him go and sign….’

There was a crash like the sound of a balloon bursting followed by the muffled tinkling of glass.

‘Damn you, J Rod!’

He knelt down to begin picking up shards of glass, and then stopped.

‘Why on earth did the JPF manager sign you three times?’

Kenna League week 18

Full scores available from The Rub.

Kenna League week 18 - 26 January 2021
Kenna League week 18 – 26 January 2021
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Cuckoo Lane

Turning into the pathway he stopped still and stared into the black.

Sodium lighting in the street was doing little to penetrate the narrow passage and he could only see a few feet of heavy stone wall disappearing into nothingness.

Straining his ears after the dash along the pavement, urging the blood fizzing around his head to stop, he could only make out distant traffic from the London Road until he heard the faint scrape of a footstep up ahead.

He fished out his phone and flicked on the torch. Slowly at first he advanced, the phone illuminating a small circle of light just in front of him. The ground was littered with leaves in various stages of decay, the gauzy halo of lamplight reflected pale greens, white golds and tans. The foliage tangled with broken twigs and heavy rainfall from earlier in the day, all of which squished underneath his shoes. The smell of wet fauna and the cold, smokey aroma of evenings suddenly lengthened filled the air, and it almost felt like the damp and decomposing vegetation underfoot would seep through his leather soles and up his body, bringing with it anxiety, low self-esteem and a sense of doom lapping at his soul. Doctors might call it Seasonal Affective Disorder. Kenna managers knew the sensation simply as ‘the season’.

He ducked under an arched stone bridge, his trepidation and nerves echoing from the grimy walls. Stood upright the other side he paused and listened. Was that another footstep?

He ran. Slowly at first as he bowed to dodge a second arch, but then in full strides, the ends of his breath visible in the jolting ring of torchlight. Hanging birch leaves brushed his head and shoots of ivy lashed his eyes.

If he failed to catch the fleeing form before the end of the lane he knew it would be gone for weeks, only to reappear fleetingly just before the February transfer window.

Surfacing at the other end of the passageway he slowed to the disappointed jog/walk of a commuter styling out just missing the 76 to Waterloo.

That was it. In the quiet street opposite Rowlands Pharmacy – hands on his knees, long deep breaths inflating and collapsing his shoulders – he knew the chase was futile.

The ghost of J Rod’s form had vanished.

Kenna week 6

Full scores available from The Rub.

Kenna League week 6 - 27 October 2020
Kenna League week 6 – 27 October 2020
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