AS the van stopped it jerked him awake.
He had no idea for how long he’d been out. The buzzing pain in his head felt like it had been hit hard.
Slowly he opened his eyes. Darkness. The smell of dusty wood and oil. And was that icing sugar?
The back door of the van was thrown open and country air flooded in. He tried to sit up but realised with an ache his hands and ankles were bound tightly. There was a sack over his head.
He heard a step on the metal tailgate and then his hands were grabbed behind him. Emitting a yelp as he was yanked along the floor of the van and roughly pulled off onto wet grass.
A pair of large hands picked him up by the armpits and dragged him backwards a few yards. He tried to resist, but it was useless and his feet slid harmlessly through the sod. He was too tired and dehydrated to put up a fight against someone who was certainly so strong. In a few moments he was tied to a large tree. He felt the rough bark on his hands.
“What do you want?” he rasped. His throat was sandpaper.
Ignored, he was about to ask again when the sack was whipped off his head. He squinted into the light and eventually made out one door standing open on the back of a dirty white van. The only evidence a numberplate and the words ‘Turbo Daily’ on the closed door. There was no one to be seen in the isolated countryside.
Then he looked down. His heart skipped a beat.
Standing just in front of him was a metal frame holding a small chair and a mechanical arm. The end of the arm was extended to within five inches of his groin.
“Get comfortable, manager,” said a deep French accent in his ear. There was particular Gallic disdain on the last word. He froze.
The stranger moved into view. He was well built, bald and African. He was also familiar, but he couldn’t place him.
“You’ve been sent by the department, haven’t you?” he said, trying to get tough in spite of his disadvantage. He knew Kenna HQ was behind this little game. He wouldn’t be intimidated, even if his captor looked like he could pin a tiger inside three rounds.
“You don’t remember me do you, manager?” the disdain was there again. He could remember the face, but from where he was stumped.
The African continued: “In the 2009-2010 season, you paid £3m for a striker, but you let him go because you said he ‘couldn’t shoot’. You insisted he did not deserve to play even for Timbuktu, manager.”
His heart sank. He should have known straight away. The Staffordshire numberplate. The West African patois. The smell of pastry. It was his former player Mamady Sidibie.
“You scored two goals all season,” he couldn’t help retorting. He checked himself. Big Mama was not interested.
Sidibie fetched a wooden crate from the van and seated himself on the contraption. He reached forward and slowly pulled back the arm, the spring creaking. From the crate he took a pastry. It looked like it was once a delicious apple turnover, but was now clearly well past its sell-by date.
“The French pastry business is not so good, manager,” said the Malian. “It turns out people in Stoke would rather go to Greggs. Who would have guessed?”
Before he could offer any response, Sidibie pulled a small string on the device and it flinged the bichon au citron into his genitals at over 40mph.
In the split second between initial shock and crushing agony, he could only contemplate another trophyless season.
After a couple of minutes Sidibie stood up and came face to face. “You know why you’re here, manager, so you know I will keep firing stale pastries until you convince me I do otherwise.”
Big Mama picked up a mouldy pain au raisin and reloaded the trap.
Canesten Combi Cup – quarter final first leg results
Pikey Scum 1 – 3 Team Panda Rules OK
Walthamstow Reds 1 – 0 Cowley Casuals
Dynamo Charlton 4 – 0 Just Put Carles
FC Testicualdew 0 – 1 Hairy Fadjeetas
Kenna table – week 30
Full scores and tables are available from The Rub.