It was a bright cold day in April and the training ball had just struck thirteen – the little mid-field player who was on loan from City.
“Come on lad, waken up!” Said Big Jimmy, after which he stuck his hand down his own trousers and had a scratch that was as exciting as winning the Lottery.
“Oh that’s better, that’s much better,” he then shoveled a large bacon sandwich into his mouth.
Spanky, his sidekick and Assistant Manager, would just ignore the fact that Big Jimmy always spoke while eating and that bits of everything would fall on to his training sheets.
He and Big Jimmy had been buddies since High School. Every time that Big Jimmy changed football teams, Spanky wouldn’t be far behind.
In the early days, big Jimmy had been excellent as a manager – he was more Alex Ferguson than Sarah - but nowadays he didn’t move to new teams, so much as get run out of town.
This process ended with Jimmy and Spanky back in their home town where they’d started out all those years ago.
The local team, one that Big Jimmy’s father had played for in the 1940s, had seen better days – during the war years Sir Stanley Matthews had played for the team (so the rumour went) and Big Jimmy’s father swore blind the he could runs Matthews off the park. That was all a long time ago and probably left well alone.
Greenpark United had been a force in football in the ‘20s when the town was building ships and importing sugar and money was floating around. Now they were lucky to get a couple of hundred attending on a good Saturday and the bottom line was that the club was broke.
Eddie Cairns had bought what was left of the club a year or so after the financial crash. The previous owners had been a family who’d controlled it since 1901, but had now sold up to open up a bar in Ibiza called ‘Mama’s Whallopers’.
The controlling family had made a small loss in the transaction but felt they were lucky to find someone as unique as Eddie Cairns.
Eddie’s plans weren’t as crazy as they first appeared. He intended to buy low and then sell the ground and all its facilities for a nice little profit, thank you very much. Until then, he’d just sit back and enjoy the football until the time came when there was no one left to play.
That April morning, Big Jimmy and Spanky strolled into Eddie’s office for their usual mid-morning huddle. They would run over Saturday’s play sheet, Eddie would grunt his approval and then they’d all be on their way. Except today wasn’t a usual type of day.
“Sit down boys,” chirped Eddie with a hint of order in his voice.
“Cheers....Boss.” Spanky was always the polite one.
“Anything to tell me?”
“Same team as last week,” grumbled Big Jimmy.
“Good...drink, anyone?” Asked Eddie.
Although it wasn’t so much about asking, Eddie was already up and pouring and not waiting on an answer.
Spanky was just about to accept a whisky when Big Jimmy glared at him.
“I think you might need it after I tell you my news,” said an excited Eddie.
After Eddie told them his plans, there was silence, that was until Big Jimmy swore. Quite a few times. Then Big Jimmy decided to speak up.
"You're selling the club, this club with all its traditions and supporters and history?"
"And debts," said Eddie glaring straight at him. "I've sold the ground to the Mallens."
"The supermarket people?"
"The very ones," said Eddie pleased with himself.
"What happens to the team? Where do they move to?"
"You can do what you want with the team," said Eddie.
"We'll be finished. That's an end to it."
"Unless you want to buy the team from me," said Eddie.
"With what money?"
"A pound and it's yours," said a smug, Eddie.
When Big Jimmy got back home, he tried to kick the dog. No one here is saying that is the correct way to behave – but it’s how Big Jimmy would deal with stress.
Could he take on the team? How would they pay the wages? Where would they play?
When Big Jimmy's wife got home, she found him crying in the cupboard under the stairs.
"Hey Harry Potter, what's happened now? Your number nine stubbed a toe again?"
Elsie, Big Jimmy's wife, had heard it all before, well, except that selling the team was a new one. She knew this was a big deal and she knew that if Big Jimmy didn't have the team he'd be at home a lot more and liable to talk through Judge Judy.
"Why don't you see if there are folks in the town who would be interested in helping you," she told Big Jimmy
And little did Elsie realise but her suggestion was to start a process that would see the town fighting to save their football team.
bobby stevenson 2014