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A Manchester Born Bhoy


Celtic_1967

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I will be using FM09, once it is released, with a large database, all leagues in Scotland, England down to L2 and some undecided continental European leagues as well as MLS.

This is my first story, so constructive critisism is welcomed. I also need to thank a forum member for their kind permission. They shall remain nameless for now, but they know who they are!

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No-one was sure where the gaffer was, but I was about to find out.

‘Kowalski’ boomed a voice across the dressing room.

I looked up and saw the chairman standing in the door way. He sounded ****ed off. Everyone was staring at me now.

‘Yes, Mr. Chairman’ I said as I stood up and made my way over to the door. I hoped to God that I wasn’t the reason he was ****ed.

‘My office, ten minutes’ he said as he turned and closed the door behind him.

Sensing something was about to go down the changing room fell almost silent. I hurriedly got changed and combed my hair. As I went out of the door I threw my car keys at one of the Under-19’s who was busily cleaning boots and asked him to put my training kit in my car.

I headed to the small office that housed the chairman on the odd occasion that he was at the training ground. As I approached the door I started to feel sick. I suspected the worst. The season had finished the day before and as such my contract was up very soon. At 34 I was hoping for 1 more year, but that seemed unlikely now.

I knocked on the door.

‘Come’ said the voice from beyond.

I entered the room slowly; the chairman had his back to me. His assistant, Jennifer, flashed me a reassuring smile. I only wished she knew how pretty she was and how much I loved her.

The man behind the glass topped oak desk turned in his chair and dismissed his assistant. I tried to smile in her direction as she left the room, but I was so blinded by her beauty that I couldn’t even look in her direction before she closed the office door.

‘Mr Reid’ I stuttered as calmly as I could, ‘if this is about my new contra......’

‘Be quiet Kowalski’ he interrupted.

I was immediately silent. I felt so vulnerable stood there; this man had the power to end my playing career. A career that had covered 17 years and taken me from growing up in Manchester, starting my professional career at Altrincham, moving on to Rochdale, Southampton, Manchester City, New York and finally here, the club of my dreams. I desperately didn’t want this to be the end.

The Chairman looked up from his computer and gestured for me to sit down. I did.

‘Thanks for joining me Mike. I have some good news and some bad news for you. Some of it affects you personally and the rest of it affects the club as a whole.’

‘Ok, can we get the personal bad news out of the way first’ I asked, daring to hope that this wasn’t the end.

‘As far as the club is concerned your playing days are over.’

My heart sank; I loved this club more than anything. I’d been supporting the club since I was 11. I still remember my first match, standing with my Dad and one of my younger brothers watching a two nil win. From then on it was my club. Even playing in the park as a kid I played for the jersey. My Grandad had bought it for my birthday because my parents couldn’t afford it.

‘Mr Chairman,’ I pleaded, ‘I know I’ve got one more seaso......’

‘I’m sorry Mike, I know you’re the club captain but the board feel that you aren’t up to the task of top flight football any longer.’

Something wasn’t right. Did he say the board weren’t convinced? **** the board, it wasn’t their decision, it was the managers.

‘I’d like to see the manager please’ I said, ‘I’m fairly sure staff contracts are his decision.’

‘Well therein lies the problem, you see’ said the chairman, ‘we have no manager as he has just resigned his post’.

‘What?’

‘Apparently couldn’t stand the abuse from the fans any longer, they’ve wanted him out for quite some time. He decided that the time was right.’

‘Ok, so you want me, as club captain to go and tell the rest of the lads the score, yeah?’

‘Not quite, the board know you love the club and that you were looking for some extra responsibility around the training ground.’

‘That’s right’ I said.

‘How would you like to manage this great club?’ the chairman asked.

‘Erm....’ I was stunned. ‘Erm......’

‘I understand if you need some time to think it through’.

**** thinking it through, I thought. I want this opportunity. Defensive midfielder and club captain are one thing, but manager of this famous club, that’s an entirely different thing. It’s a job I would crawl through broken glass and **** for. I’m not letting this get away.

‘No not necessary, I accept’.

‘Don’t you want to discuss terms?’

‘Not really, what ever you have planned for salary and contract length will be fine’. I hesitated for just one second as a thought manifested in my head, ‘actually I do have one requirement Mr Chairman.’

‘Mike, call me John, what do you need?’

‘Jennifer’ I replied.

‘What? My assistant....’

‘Yeah...is that ok?’ I asked.

‘Well not really, she’s a good assistant, but I tell you what, if you can find me a replacement whose as good then Jennifer can be your assistant.’

The challenge was on! I would find the best damn replacement there was! My head was spinning, in fact I only heard the chairman the second time he spoke.

‘Mike, you can go now, but not a word to anyone, we aren’t going to announce the appointment just yet. That way you have four or five weeks to get acclimatised, but as far as we are concerned you’re the manager as from now. Expect to see your contract tomorrow; I need it signed straight away’.

‘John, we might have a problem. I don’t have my Uefa Pro Licence yet?’

‘Ok, no problem, tell Jennifer to sort out the course in the next 2 weeks, and that the club are paying for it.’

‘Thank you sir’ I replied, and with that I headed for the door.

As I stepped through the door I was full of confidence. I stopped at Jennifer’s desk and passed on the chairman’s message.

‘I’ll sort it for you now boss’ was her reply.

‘You were listening weren’t you?’ I asked.

Jennifer looked shamefaced, ‘I’m sorry’ she said meekly.

‘No worries. Do you want to come and be the management team assistant?’

‘Absolutely, I love y...... I mean I’d love to’.

As I walked out into the corridor I threw her my best cheeky wink....’better hope I can find a decent replacement then’.

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I went down to the changing room and located my car keys. Heading out to the car park I didn’t say a word to anyone. Getting into my car I couldn’t keep the grin from my face. It was like being 11 all over again, opening that birthday present and seeing the shirt of my heroes peeking out from under the wrapping, especially when you consider the disappointment I’d faced a few weeks before. Being told that I wasn’t getting the one thing I wanted more than anything hurt like hell. Now I had more than I ever wanted and no intention of letting go.

4 hours after I got home there was a knock at the door. I opened it and was greeted by a delivery driver.

‘Mike Kowalski?’

‘Yeah’

‘Sign here’ he said thrusting a pen and clipboard into my hands.

I signed and he thrust a large box into my arms. Clutching the box I staggered into my front room. I set the box down on the floor and proceeded to tear of the packing tape. Inside was all sorts of bags and boxes, along with a handwritten note. I put the note to one side and began to unwrap the items. I had been sent a brand new set of training gear complete with boots, a brand new Blackberry mobile and a top of the range laptop. I picked the note up and began to read:

‘Dear Mr Kowalski,

I have prepared the enclosed items for you at the Chairman’s request. With regards to the laptop it has mobile broadband built in, so you can access the club systems anywhere in the world. Also I have installed a little surprise for you. Sorry it’s not totally up-to date, but the newest version isn’t available yet.’

The note was signed ‘Jen’ x

I was intrigued to know what this surprise was, so I booted up the laptop to check it out. Nothing obvious on the desktop. Ah, found it, hiding in the programs list. Football Manager 2008. That made me laugh.

I decided that any girl with a sense of humour was worth having around, but to do that I was going to have to find a replacement.

Might as well make a start on that. I found the desktop icon that linked into the club servers and connected. Having written the Personal Assistant ad I emailed it to Jen and asked her to place it in all the major newspapers.

Looking at my inbox I found that I had a message from the Chairman.

‘Mike,

I understand that you will want to review your staff and make changes accordingly, however at present we insist that the club retain the services of Gary Pendry as Assistant Manager as the cost implications of terminating his contract are huge. However other than that you may hire and fire the staff you see fit.

Currently we are working on your budgets for the season, we will update you on 19th June when all club budgets are finalised.

As a supporter I look forward to seeing this club move on to great things and as such offer you an ‘unofficial’ welcome to Celtic Football Club in your new position as manager.

Officially we will announce your appointment once the squad returns from holiday, as such we wish for you to keep a low profile, however feel free to use the club facilities as you see necessary.

John.’

I hardly slept at all that night, and was up by 6:30. I telephoned my assistant manager.

‘Gary can you meet me down at the club at 9:00 please?’ I asked, ‘and bring an up to date squad list’.

Arriving at Celtic Park felt surreal. I’d done it hundreds of times as a supporter and more recently a player, but this was totally different. This was my club now. I didn’t want to arouse to much suspicion so I parked in the usual players car park and made my way on foot the short distance to the stadium. Walking up Kerrydale Street, which leads to the main entrance I was stopped at least a dozen times for autographs and photos.

As I made my way up the steps the reception staff must have seen me coming and ran to open the door. I stepped inside and felt at home in the sea of green and white.

‘Would you care to follow me to your new office Mr Kowalski’ said one of the young girls behind the desk, ‘Mr Pendrey is waiting there for you’.

‘It’s ok’ I replied, ‘I’ve been there enough times to know where it is, and besides I have somewhere else I need to go first. Could you let Gary know that I’ll be with him in five’.

I turned and headed up the stairs to the trophy room. As I entered I could feel the SPL trophy staring at me. Winning this had been the pinnacle of my career, my only winners medal. I vowed to double the tally in the coming season. I left the trophy room and went directly to my office.

As requested Gary Pendrey was waiting for me. I sat down on the far side of the desk opposite him. He had brought with him the squad folder as requested and had started to lay the contents of the file out for me.

‘Before we get started Gary I want you to know that I am looking forward to working with you, I want you to stay on as assistant manager. The board have told me that they are not prepared to let you go, and to be perfectly honest, that suits me just fine.’

Reassured by this Gary offered to take me through the playing squad file. I knew most of them already and so asked that he just let me have the reports for the under 19 team. As he sifted through the paper on my desk a thought occurred to me.

‘Gary how many under 19’s do we have at the club, and how many are likely to make the first team in the near future?’

I had my own ideas on the answers to these questions but wanted to see what Gary could come up with.

‘I’ll be in a better position to tell you after the 19th June’ he replied, ‘since Tommy passed away the academy has been running without a manager. As such I’m not sure how it looks at the moment. What I do know is that we need to appoint someone to run the academy team for us, but Tommy’s shoes are mighty big and it’s going to take a huge personality to fill them.’

‘You don’t fancy it do you Gary?’

‘No thanks, running the reserve team and covering first team training is enough for me. To make sure that we give the youngsters the best chance we need a person who’s solely dedicated to nurturing the talent’.

‘Okay Gary, thanks. I think we’re done here for now. Enjoy your holiday and I’ll see you in a couple of weeks.’

I was about to leave the office when the phone rang.

‘I’m on my way’ I said.’

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ok guys you rumbled me, but at least I know that the story is being read. Hope your enjoying it. I'm looking forward to next week so I can get some matches in.

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I arrived at the Chairman’s office in less than 2 minutes, despite it being up 2 flights of stairs.

‘Any idea what he wants? I asked Jen as I entered the room.

‘You mean you didn’t run all this way to see me?’ she said with a smile ‘anyway it’s me that wanted to see you.’

‘Oh, sure, what can I do for you?’

‘Just wanted to let you know that you leave for Switzerland tomorrow’.

‘eh....what?’

‘Your Uefa Pro License course starts in 2 days in Geneva.’

‘Oh right yeah, of course’.

I’ve told Mr Reid that you will need some help with the administration side of your role whilst your away because you’ll be busy studying, and he’s agreed to let me go along with you’ she said, trying to keep the excitement out of her voice, ‘er...as long as you don’t mind?’

My immediate thought was ‘damn no I don’t mind’, but I thought better than to repeat it out loud.

‘Of course not, I’ll be glad of the company and the help’.

***

The following morning I got into the Club car and was greeted by Jen.

‘Do you have everything you need?’ she asked.

‘Certainly do’. I held up my laptop bag, ‘and I’ve remembered to bring Football Manager’ I smiled.

‘Okay driver Glasgow Airport please.’

On the way to the airport we chatted about our lives, although this seemed to include mainly questions about my life from Jen and not much about her life.

We checked in at the airport and boarded the plane. At takeoff I felt a squeeze on my hand. I looked down and saw Jen’s hand in mine. It felt soft and warm.

‘I don’t like flying’, she admitted.

‘It’s okay, I’ll look after you’.

When we landed Jen finally let go of my hand. I rubbed the feeling back into it. She was very apologetic, but it didn’t bother me.

Upon arriving at our location Jen checked us both in and we were shown to our rooms. I excused myself and went to lie down. I was dog tired. It had been an eventful couple of days. When I arrived in my room I decided that whilst I was here to work I would make this trip as much about fun for both of us as I could. I rang down to Jen’s room but there was no answer. I poured myself a drink from the mini bar and turned on Sky Sports News. A few minutes later I tried Jen again, this time she answered.

‘Hi Jen, its Mike’

‘Oh hi, did you ring before?’

‘Yeah, how come you didn’t answer?’

‘Sorry I was in the shower’.

Aaahhhh man, now that was an image I was happy to have in my head, but I had to shake it loose before the pause between us became too big.

‘Anyway, just wanted to invite you out to dinner tonight, say about 7:30.’

‘I’m sorry Mike, I can’t. Mr Reid said that I don’t have an expenses account for foreign trips so I’m paying for everything but the flight and the hotel myself’.

‘Okay, did he say I couldn’t take you to dinner if I paid for it, and not the club.’

‘No’.

‘Okay be ready at 7:30 and I’ll meet you in reception’.

***

I woke the next day with thoughts of Jen swimming in my mind. It had been a wonderful evening of smiles and laughter. At the end of the night she had kissed me softly before going into her room. I wanted more, but knew it was too early for that, even though I suspected she wanted me too. Anyway I had just been appointed manager of one of Europe’s biggest football clubs; I already had enough on my plate.

Jen joined me for breakfast and smiled at me throughout, even though we were talking about work. We had received 3 responses to our advert for a Personal Assistant. Jen had brought the one she thought to be best. I asked her to go ahead and set up a meeting for when we arrived back in Glasgow.

The next few days were really busy for me, getting through all my training sessions and tests and I didn’t see Jen half as much as I would have liked. She seemed to be busy dealing with all my correspondence and was always pleased to see me when I had the time.

We left Geneva a week later, me clutching my Uefa Pro License like a 9 year old with a 50 metre swimming certificate. Pleased as punch and unable to hide it.

We arrived back in Glasgow at 10am and made our way back to Celtic Park. I had offered Jen the rest of the day off but she insisted she had things to do.

I found myself killing time in my office. DAMN IT why couldn’t the club announce my appointment, then I could get on with some work. I needed to start thinking about transfer targets, staff additions and training and tactics. However I couldn’t do any of this until I had been given my budgets because I didn’t even know what staff I would have so no point putting schedules in place until I know that they will fly.

I picked up the phone,

‘Jen can you get Mr Reid on the line please?’

‘Sure’

The line went silent and then clicked, this let me know I’d been connected.

‘Hi John, wondered if you had time for a quick chat?’

‘Come up to the board room’.

I placed the receiver in the cradle and headed for the corridor. Up in the lift all the way to the top floor, across the thick green carpet in the foyer and knock on the door. No answer. Knock again, nothing. I pushed the door open and stepped inside. The room was huge, on the walls were pictures and signed shirts from former great players and managers. On the far side of the room was a glass display cabinet. I moved towards it and stared at the holy grail.

‘You realise that it’s nearly half a century since Big Jock delivered the ultimate prize?’ said the voice from the doorway.

‘Forty one years’ I replied. ‘But I’m going to bring the real one back to the club’

Oh my God what did I say that for. I only qualified as a fully professional manager yesterday afternoon and now I’m promising European Cups to the chairman of Celtic Football Club. Thank God I hadn’t said it drunk in a pub full of supporters.

‘Mike, that’d be fantastic, I can’t wait for that day to come.’

Oh **** he thinks I’m serious. I guess now would be the best time to make the request that I called him for. I turned to face the Chairman.

‘John I want this club to be as successful as every Celtic fan out there. However at the moment I simply can’t do it because I can’t start building my vision. I don’t even know what I’ve got to spend. I know this club can’t spend the same sort of money as even the poorest English Premier League clubs because the TV sponsorship money isn’t anything like as high for the SPL. As such I want to focus on building a young team, whether that is local lads through the academy or foreign youngsters who come for not much money.’

‘Mike, Celtic FC is not a selling club.’

‘ Nor would I advocate that they should be, I just think that if we can get players on the cheap, build up a strong squad and sell a few youngsters at massive prices we can experience the success we crave and the financial stability of the club for a long long time. However to do that I need some resources. I’m going to need decent transfer budget this season so I can rebuild in one or two key areas and I need to know right now that I can go and get an academy director to look after our Under-19’s. After all they are the bedrock of my plan’.

‘Ok Mike, you have the clubs blessing to start the search for the new academy director, but the appointment won’t be announced until your appointment as manager’.

Happy with the arrangements I had managed to make I decided to head home for the day. I stopped off in my office to collect my things and as I did found myself taking into the phone again.

‘Want to join me for pizza and a movie at my place tonight.... ok great.....meet you out front in 10 minutes’.

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