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jdoyle9293

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  1. A monolith of endless albeit probably expensive opportunities towers over a shrinking James in a mock pathway absolutely crammed to the rafters with tourists and school wantaways in the middle of the day and workers and shops that you only see in train stations up north like The Pasty Shop or Upper Crust, designed for the filling up of carbohydrates. James slides a bank card confidently into a monolith and a touch screen keyboard comes to the fore. James quivers over the ‘S’ but types ‘P’ instead. Followed by an ‘O’ and an ‘R’ – PORTSMOUTH selected. FIND 17 CHEAP FARES FROM £498 OR MORE. Cheap fares, **** off. James retrieves his bank card slightly more timidly with a look over his shoulder in the midst of Edinburgh Waverley train station’s concourse. A gaggle of suitcases with incessant wheeling of their deteriorating wheels are underscored by that belittling, wrenching and deafening sounds of the English. And what’s worse – English south of Newcastle. Twenty plus platforms to choose from and with one solitary rucksack and thirty minutes until a train slides through Portsmouth. … ‘No happy endings, unless fairytales come true’ James kills the iPod as the Uber rolls up to some pokey old building with a vague colour arrangement of yellow and blue. “Here you are, pal, Basingstoke F.C. Enjoy!” The Uber driver, so desperately to improve his 3.8* star rating, so desperately to squeeze a 5* out of his latest customer, bids goodbye, speeding off in a tyre screeching J-turn. He adjusts his tracksuit, rubs his eyes and approaches some flimsy white door that wouldn’t look out of place in your gran’s conservatory or something. Is a tracksuit suitable for what is essentially first contact at a new job? James pondered as a man trundled out from behind the less than pristine white door dressed in what has been described by people running work placement workshops as “Saturday Job Smart Casual”. James shook the thought of education from his head and accosted the man with a handshake. … “What we need to give you, and perhaps each other is an education,” ah ****, not this again, James’ thoughts trailed off towards the Southerner who was sat opposite, entirely grating on him. “Where are you staying in the mean time?” “I’ve got a… Southampton, I’m in some hotel but looking for somewhere to rent soon.” Two pairs of we know better than you, we’re from the south eyebrows jump up the faces of the clean shaved, not a flicker of a wrinkle, ‘I moisturise daily’ faces across from James. “That’s…” “Some distance.” The pair finish of each other’s sentences. James quizzically glares back at them. He’s stuck of something to say, grasping at the thin smog of southern air. “We’re doing a complete re-launch of the academy system and we’d like you to start immediately. We’ve got a pre-season game tomorrow, we’ll discuss more then. You’re our new assistant.” The man with the aptly tracksuited ‘TP’, was James’ new boss whilst the smart casual fella was an assistant to the main squad’s manager. “James,” the assistant manager squeaked, “do we have a deal?” A smile followed by a couple of handshakes and the formalities were out of the way. One of James’ eyes was already nervously twitching about the trip back to Southampton. … University campuses gave James the creeps so the twiddling of thumbs mid-transit on the rickety train from Basingstoke to Southampton led to a re-location of the arranged meet into the city centre. If you can call it a city. Eleven long, torturous months since they had previous met. James was slumped in some poor excuse for a bench just outside some church grounds purposefully an hour early so he could cobble together some form of words. The preparation, of course, would prove futile because as soon as Amber turned up, jeans tucked into boots, a long coat collar meeting her wispy hair which would be auburn in the sparkling July sunlight, he would melt underneath the heat. Umpteen questions had crossed his mind. How much worse is England than Scotland? Do you miss Edinburgh? Do you miss everyone back home? Do you miss me? Have you met anyone new? How is university? Have you seriously met anyone new? What’s the best thing about drinking too much to handle and coasting off your inevitably flimsy student loans? Please, have you met someone new? Have you moved on? Thoughts flew by, compressed by their speed of light, through the church bells as they struck four. As predicted. The boots. The coat. The hair (in its auburn state). The big ****ing green eyes. She couldn’t sit on the bench quick enough. James had this idea in his head in that hour long brainstorming session that he was going to take things all cool and seriously and try not to give anything away, maybe even slip in a fact that he’d had a girlfriend, or two, probably just one because that might be too much of a stretch and he’d eventually be whittled down to the fact that he got off with someone in Milk shortly after their break up and then cried on her sofa when he couldn’t stop thinking about Amber. “Hello—” Yeah, that’s it, James, launch straight into the kiss. Let’s ditch Plan A almost immediately shall we? Not even any pleasantries or greeting, just a kiss. Is that how you greet everybody nowadays, she’ll be wondering. James thought, almost out loud such was the expulsion of his emotions upon seeing her again. “I’ve missed you, too.” She spluttered into that cheek-flaring, unwavering grin that he’d missed. … An alarm clock. Unfamiliar curtains met with familiar green eyes next to him. ****. “Basingstoke!” James jumps out of his skin and the bed that he had shared with Amber that even to the absolute hilarity discovered by Amber. “Pre-season, I’m due there in about two hours.” “I’ll drive you, don’t worry,” Amber clambered out of bed, “wait. You’re playing again?” “Coach. I also live down here too. In Southampton.” Confused green eyes. James always thought they looked colour corrected by some omniscient VR machine or that she was perpetually wearing vivid contact lenses. And with that puzzling thought in his head, he dressed himself over the threshold of a shared flat with half a dozen prying eyes on the hallway staring at him.
  2. “Naw, they said I could do more physio if I was wanting to play back at Merchiston but professionally they said slim to no chances.” James ponders over the big unopened envelope in his grip. “You dickhead, I was talking about your results, not the fitba!” A friend points at the envelope to an aghast James. No answer. His friend saunters off, presumably satisfied with his own results, not that James would know, his focus hadn’t been on his own results, why would he care about the results of a man who he was distant with at school, never mind when he’s spat out in some city like Manchester or Liverpool and he’s a couple of hundred miles away? The burgundy of a Heart of Midlothian shirt James will never wear professionally clings to his back with sweat. The nervous rattling of that big envelope in his hands. He’d never given university much thought. His footballing ability would prevail in the end, it had to. ‘****ing UCAS points’, he mutters under his breath, testing the seal of the envelope with no real intention of opening it. His head snaps back. A scan around the hall. Everyone is talking in some form or another but nobody is really saying anything, or rather, nobody is interested in what the other person is talking about. They’re all ******** themselves, regardless of their results, because they’re thinking about ‘what next?’ Whether it’s accommodation at some recently refurbished halls of residence or whether it’s being forced to put their hand in their pocket for rent at their parent’s place as they’ve exited education. James couldn’t concentrate. Two hundred quivering students were in about a hundred metre radius of him. How was he to open up, what is literally in his future, amongst so many people who he disliked or had no care for? Even his excitement for Amber’s positive results was curbed by two things: her preferred university is in ****ing Southampton, it’s almost as if her personal statement simply read: ‘GET ME OUT OF SCOTLAND’, or she was just too spineless to break up with him face to face. “Relationships always break up at university,” his brother had told him in a rare fit of misplaced philosophy, as if it was a tool to calm James down. Another tempting peel of the envelope. Another spy to make sure nobody dared to look at his results. James gives his hair another shake as a purpose, who knows, but for that micro-procrastination, for that distraction from allowing a slither of your future to be told to you by some Times New Roman font on a piece of not even nice printer paper. And then he gives the envelope an: ‘ah, bollocks to it’, a shut your eyes and tear the paper. A fiddling with the paper inside follows the tear. Intermittent discovering of the paper headed by the sixth form college typically titled with ‘JAMES SUMMER’ and his student number. Mathematics is the first line inside fresh black font lower down the page. James’ eyes stutter across the page, never had he been so nervous to look at a letter of the alphabet. E. … “All I’m saying, it’s that I know what we can call our first child,” James muffles into folded arms at a computer desk in the school’s library. “If it’s a boy.” Amber shuffles closer to him, knowing even less than she did before she stumbled across this conversation with her boyfriend. “Is it Adam?” Amber throws up into the air. James shoots to an upright position in the chair as if he’d given him a dig with a cattle prod. A completely bemused look on his face underscored with the frantic panting, sweating and bashing of keyboards from post-pubescent young adults around the library. They are tightrope walking underneath a future that has been advertised to them as swimming with sharks or swimming in gold. The library is never as busy as it is on results day afternoon when everyone remembers about the Clearing process – a second chance ‘at life’, one of James’ teachers called it. As if University is everything. “Adam. Tell me, how the **** would I get an ‘M’?” James’ raised voices offsets a softening in Amber’s face which in turn fuels an instant regret and another retreat into the crevices of his arms. “I’m sorry—” “No, it’s me. My fault, I mean.” A muffled voice struggles to escape James’ grip in the heart of his Hearts shirt. “Just at least check Clearing. Look—” Amber’s timid and caring voice drags James up for a simple glare at the cold light of the computer screen. A byline reads 499 courses in 87 universities. James jumps up to his feet and drops his tattered, unsuccessful envelope at the desk. “I’ve gotta go. I’ll see you tomorrow, or at least before you go to Southampton.” Amber is strewn dishevelled across not one but two computer chairs. She logs out of the computer for James and slings her bag over her shoulder. … “Southampton?! That’s a joke, right?” A lankier, probably more confident version of James bellows with arms folded on the same yellow and blue skirted touchline of Merchiston Wanderers. “No.” “And what about—”, a crunching tackle is made about fifteen or twenty yards from a boy in yellow, “good tackle, Tommy, brilliant tackle. Let’s hit ‘em again, lads, ‘mon!” Like a switch, he reverts back to the decibel level that is owed to a normal face to face conversation, “I take it you didn’t get in?” “Two D’s and an E.” James mutters under his breath. “Well, you did better than me. You should be out on the lash drowning your sorrows, man, not here watching some under-14s stuff—” an obvious foul goes unpunished by the referee and the man sharing James’ conversation dives back into manager mode, “’mon referee that was diabolical, ****ing diabolical!” “I want to do what you do, Kevin.” James mutters to the scoffs of who must be named Kevin next to him. “Have you rung Mam about your results? She’ll be getting worried.” Kevin points to a car across the touchline as if to say ‘do it and get out of my sight’. James is about to take him up on the offer when an extended arm grips at the SPL badge on the arm of his Hearts shirt. “Don’t tell Mam or Dad... but if you actually want to do this, I’ll put towards for your courses.” James leaves him with a reluctant smile.
  3. Haha, thanks. And yes it is, but only in its title. Just to give me a gimmick to make sure I don't leave it unfinished.
  4. Rust has long since peeled the once yellow and blue paint from the metal barrier around Merchiston Wanderers’ pitch. The bracing Scottish wind unfurls the beige raincoat over shivering almost hairless legs behind the barrier. The young boy, possibly of drinking age but definitely still of school or university age, pats the raincoat back down under his thighs. He stretches his legs out under the barrier. And takes a sip from his 500ml bottle of Lucozade. The bitter, relentless rain batters the five or so uncovered inches of skin from lower thigh to upper shin that quivers in the torrential conditions. The teams of yellow and black with timber merchants or corner shop sponsorships on their shirts carry on about their business through squinted vision. The play reaches the backline of the yellow side’s defence. The boy tucks his legs in, anticipating a sweeping run from a fully tracksuited linesman on the touchline. The linesman, probably a Dad or a pal of one of the players, stutters about twenty-five yards behind play, missing a clear offside as the team in black thread a ball down the far side’s wing. A jog to the byline is rendered futile: a goal. Two greying faces stood on the touchline, battered by rain, turn their hoods to the boy. “James! On you come, son!” One of them barks. Fast and short sprints somewhere vaguely near the touchline, knees hitting hands, half-arsed stretching of groins and thighs carries follows a drenched raincoated arm around his shoulder. The manager. “Now, I’ll not stick you out wide. Their centre halves are flagging, find those spaces, you know. In between those lines. Be a nuisance.” His hands go a thousand miles per second faster than his slow, plodding pattern of speech. “Ross!” The manager beckons a wide-man off the pitch. Ross and James interchange. “Who’s this underage bufti?” One sub five-foot balding striker in black mutters as James passes the threshold onto the pitch. James ignores him, clambering over his purposefully outstretched leg and half-hearted faux apology. Two men double James’ age kick off in the centre circle and their first thought is backwards: to James. The team in yellow, Merchiston, flood forward. The defensive units of two centre halves and goalkeeper are the only ones left behind him. Three in black charge towards him. Rather than go dead straight, James opts for directly from back where he plodded onto the pitch. To that bald dwarf. The perceived intimidation given to James from that short man falls from his young, sagging shoulders and unprepared, shivering legs. He arrows ninety degrees to his right, meeting the bald man. A drop of the shoulder infield. A feint to go back the other way. The roll of the ball through gaping black socked legs meets the approval of the two managers on the touchline. An embarrassed but about a century late clamping shut of the legs naturally follows. Those who had had a couple of drinks or a couple of lines too many the previous night are found out. Two more steamroll towards James and are immediately disposed of. A flick of the right foot throws the ball into the clogged penalty area. The ball squirts back out to the right and finds a yellow shirted teammate. Four committed but lazy black shirts are rendered useless on halfway, the other six hug the edge of the penalty area. Acres. A simple cut back to James from wide. The rain flops James’ fringe in front of his eyes but, nonetheless, the pass is short anyway. He gallops to collect the ball thirty yards out. The goalkeeper is already vulnerable. He knows what’s coming. It’s obvious but another matter is stopping it. In one movement, James brings the ball more centrally and flicks the hair from his eyes. A shift of the ball back onto his right. His standing foot goes. It slides. Further and further. His groin extends. His knee folds in half to compensate. A loud POP. James feels his mouth grow aghast as the black shirted defensive line’s eyes collectively light up. A ten metre sprint for the vacant ball and vacant patch of land. Muffled giggles from bald men closer in their age to their pension than to James’ age. A curdling yelp from a statuesque James. Before James can hit the turf like a sack of potatoes, the counter attack has begun. They gallop through soft grass through a stricken, prone James. A punch of the turf. Shouting and shouting. The sound of a ball bursting a net followed by sporadic applause from those infield and those watching as well as a “get in there” from one touchlined woman. “Bradley,” the manager frantically waves his arms about as the players re-take their positions. “Ref, rolling subs, yeah?” … Paint at the foot of the rickety bed literally dries as James adds a second pillow under his right knee. There is a window to his left but there’s not much of the world that is offered to James except the horrendously repetitious greying of clouds overlapping darker grey clouds. No skyline, no sun, no discernable colour. Reverting back to the unnatural light of the ceiling’s bright overhead tube is as close as you can get to exiting a dark cinema screen in the midst of the perfect summer’s cloudless day. A door swings wide open. A pitiful but much welcomed and needed smile. Brown hair curls at its ends and peeks around a fur hood of a well-worn jacket. Brown hair that threatens to be auburn, maybe it turns auburn when it’s sunny but there’s not much sunny days to be had in this part of the British Isles. “What you doing in here, you daft bastard, eh?” That voice. It was James’ weakness but at that point it strengthened him in the respect that the voice gave him absolute amnesia to the sheer pain of his knee. “On a Sunday as well?” The split second serious face that James absolutely adored because he knew what often followed was a splutter of laughter and a smile. That sort of puffing out of the cheeks smile where she was fully aware of how she was smiling and tried to suppress it. She hid it, through fear of ridicule from James, with a swift kiss on the lips. Swift enough so that the incoming nurse wouldn’t interrupt but long enough for James to cotton onto the smoky aftertaste. “It’s nothing to worry about, I—”, James’ timid voice is immediately quelled by her raised hands. She knew that he knew about the crafty cigarette on the taxi over. The cheeky ‘only a quick one, the wind of the taxi will blow away the smell and taste’ sort of cigarette. “Ah, naw, I wasn’t worrying about you. It’s more—” “Amber. You’ll ****ing ace the exam. Don’t worry.” James wraps his hands in hers. “I know, I know—” “You’re pretty much already in Uni.” Amber hushes him with a finger to his lips, as if to stop him jinxing it. “Don’t. Just because you don’t have to try this year. I do,” The rattling of the ward’s door and sight of an overworked nurse at the foot of the bed silences Amber for a second, “they’ll probably give you a job here if you go through Uni, you’re here often enough anyway with your football.” The nurse politely smiles, waiting for the conversation’s end. She hands a couple of forms to James on the bed and explains the schedules of appointments before quickly leaving. “Ruptured,” James mouths, pointing at his knee, “a year minimum of physio before I can do anything, if all goes to plan.” “Maybe you can get some advice on some physiotherapy courses at Uni, then.” Amber mutters with a futile wink. “You know, I don’t want—” “I know, I know.” Amber grips James’ hand disappointingly, crumbling to the bedside chair.
  5. Took out the tactic from the beta version and replaced it with a new one, saved the game and now that save works perfectly.
  6. Also re-downloaded .NET framework and DirectX to no avail. It is the FM Touch version as well. I've tried other saves and begun new ones and the game is fine in that respect, it just appears to be with the one save that doesn't work in each of its auto save files and the main save file.
  7. On the latest update 18.1.2 my game crash dumps upon every time I try to proceed. I have tried numerous saves, both with and without custom logo packs, after clearing cache, after reloading the skin, after rebooting my PC and after un-installing and installing the game on steam. I have seen a lot of troubleshooting being due to graphics cards but my game has worked perfectly throughout the entire beta with only one crash dump hiccup in 2 weeks. The latest update has left me unable to even press continue without the game crashing. FMT 2018 v18.1.2.1043484 (2017.11.18 13.55.39).dmp FMT 2018 v18.1.2.1043484 (2017.11.18 14.03.55).dmp FMT 2018 v18.1.2.1043484 (2017.11.18 14.12.12).dmp FMT 2018 v18.1.2.1043484 (2017.11.18 15.34.33).dmp FMT 2018 v18.1.2.1043484 (2017.11.20 17.38.35).dmp FMT 2018 v18.1.2.1043484 (2017.11.20 17.55.05).dmp FMT 2018 v18.1.2.1043484 (2017.11.20 18.34.35).dmp FMT 2018 v18.1.2.1043484 (2017.11.20 18.56.23).dmp
  8. July 9, 2044 Thirty-six hours before the 2044 UEFA European Championship final, a sharp knock smashed through his hotel door. “You’re due in the hotel lobby for a drink with Mrs. Stephens in two hours sharp.” A pistol was pointed to the head of Mark Stephens, still wrapped up in his duvet, dreaming of a Welsh victory. Scott and George Turley were stood on the other end of those guns, foaming at the mouth, waiting to pull the trigger. Mark shot up to hold his hands in the air, naked in front of his two aggressors. They scoffed aggressively before exiting the room, slamming the door shut on its way out, the hinges destroyed. One hour and fifty-eight minutes later in the hotel lobby: Mark swallowed half of a bottle of beer in one swift movement. Janice strides up to Mark in a nude dress, clinging to her hips. She lifts a hand to Mark: “if you put one step wrong, you will be taken care of by those.” Janice points to Scott and George in the other corner of the lobby, hands on their holsters. “I’m sorry I got you into this, you’re obviously not the man I thought you were—you cannot handle this.” A bottle and a half of prosecco and two hours later this had turned into: “The thing about Tom and Ed not being yours, that was blackmail, they 100% are but I needed your attention.” “Okay.” Janice forces herself onto Mark, hushing him with her lips. “I’m sorry.” “What’s the plan for tomorrow?” Mark reluctantly backs out of the kiss to Janice’s surprise. “I can’t tell you, you’ll only sabotage it.” Janice yanks Mark towards him. At that moment, Mark catches a glimpse of Mick Pickering outside the hotel, one hand in pocket, the other nervously checking his phone, tapping his feet. The Turleys scurry outside to meet him. “Never mind then.” Mark forgets he has seen Pickering, forcing himself into Janice’s kiss once more. Through the tongue and teeth and lips, Mark had a counter attack.
  9. July 7, 2044 Cardiff, Wales Mark and Janice were alone: it was officially a day off. They sat together, enjoying their son’s participation in the European Championship quarter final. The entire thing was tainted from Mark’s perspective as Welsh captain Tom Stephens shook the hands of his eleven red-shirted Spanish opponents. There was an unparalleled buzz around the stadium—well, unless they had swapped Hampden for Ibrox. The crowd was 85% Welsh, roaring home the National anthem. The two sat down after Mark belted out the tune. “We have one more job and you can retire from our business,” Janice began as Alejandro Sanz rattled in Spain’s second goal on the half hour, as if that was the news to cushion the blow of Wales’ pending exit from the tournament. “Semi-final in Cardiff: Scotland v Denmark. Get Scotland into the final, Scott and George have got a Danish player willing to throw the game.” Mark sat in silence watching the game, nodding slightly, a concession. Vicente Abad notched Spain’s fourth goal on half-time before Mark spoke. “This is it after Wednesday: no more.” Janice agreed with her nod. Wales won 4-1. The Turleys big idea was in the form of £20 million waged on Scotland to qualify from their semi-final in Cardiff against Denmark and the Danish player targeted was Sebastian Ipsen. Tony McCallum was back on their side too as he notched an 84th minute equaliser, taking the game into extra time. The game was poised on a knife edge, 1-1 as Scotland were flailing with a man disadvantage, thanks to Scott McAllister’s straight red. Mark and Janice, just like the weekend, were sat together, Mark sat tight for the game to pan out. “Ipsen should have thrown it by now, Mark. What if he’s pulled out, what if he—” “What if he what? Actually wants to win a game of football? Win the European Championship with his country? Have some pride in his work and for his colleagues and his nation? That’s bizarre.” Mark’s true colours finally burst onto Janice after a month of toil. Just as the two launched into a whispering argument near the press box, Sebastian Ipsen wheeled away in celebration. The Danish quarter of the stadium were in raptures, the Southampton midfielder had sunk Scotland in the 119th minute. “Look at that. Looks like he got a better deal.” Mark proudly sat back in his chair, Janice screaming through her matted hair. “How much did you bet on Scotland?” Mark smugly asked. “Thirty-five million pounds.” Janice wept. “He must have got a better offer.” Mark left his seat, safe in the knowledge that he had acquired a new signing for Redditch. Earlier in the day, Mark Stephens had promised Ipsen a contract at Redditch if he rejected the Turleys money and played for the love of the game. That determination took Denmark over the line.
  10. June 27, 2044 Wrexham, Wales Mark Stephens was always nervous about the upcoming contest: Wales v Germany. Spain were awaiting the winner and Tom Stephens hadn’t really clicked into gear yet. There was an extra determination given the game was being played in his home country. Mark was terrified of his involvement with the Turleys and his mother. Outside the stadium, signing autographs, Scott and George were off to one side, simply chatting and laughing along with Marcel Bahr and Gunnar Merkel—two German centre halves. Mark was utterly incredulous. He marched over to the quartet where Bahr and Merkel immediately. Two loyal defenders for their clubs: both one club men with Bahr an Arsenal defender, Merkel a Bayern Munich man were both selling their country out for quick money. “We’re looking at 5 million apiece for you. We want a 1-0 Wales win. Nothing more, nothing less.” Mark hung his head in shame at being associated with the Turleys. He had fallen out of love with the game. Then, on 57 minutes, his own son handed the Turleys €31.6 million. A threaded through ball from the right wing found Dean Parry on the edge of the box and with one touch he finished beyond Nawrocki. Mark Stephens, usually in jubilation mode for Wales triumphing in a tournament of this nature, was subdued, escaping the stadium the moment the final whistle blew.
  11. June 25, 2044 Conwy, Wales “Get on with it, Mark. Do not bottle this now.” George imposed himself on Mark in the hotel kitchen, there was seconds to get this done. The breakfast platter of orange juices was lying in front of them, Mark was quivering whether to slip the capsules into the liquid. “Just put it in six of them, that’s all we need. Six here and six next door.” Scott grabbed the capsules, distributing the drug over a few glasses. “We’ve got ten million on this game, Mark, no ****ing about.” George shooed Mark out of the kitchen as they followed. Seven or more bookings were placed on the Ireland v Scotland second round match. The freshly built Conwy International Arena was the stage for the huge British contest, a potential match against Russia or Switzerland in the easier half of the draw. Scott and George banished Mark from the Scottish hotel’s kitchen, where they carried out the same deed before travelling to the stadium. Mark watched the ensuing carnage. Forget 2006’s battle of Nurnberg, late challenges from fatigued and drugged players saw nine bookings inside the opening half. With the game wrapped up, Scott and George fled the arena, having almost doubled their money. Mark left at full-time, with a winner yet to be resolved, a 0-0 scoreline. Scotland would progress thanks to a Scott McAllister extra time winner.
  12. June 12, 2044 Glasgow, Scotland Mark always preferred the tighter boxed stadiums as opposed to open national stadiums such as Hampden, Olympiastadion and Wembley. The stadium was vibrating, almost 10,000 Scots were in attendance, a huge Celtic contingent. German and Palestinian flags arched round a third of the stadium in the corner with small pockets of Israeli fans. There was an anticipation of something pre-game. Mark had met with the two subjects the previous morning upon the deliverance of the briefcases. Mark snuck a peek before visiting the hotel room in question: four million euros split evenly. German and Manchester United goalkeeper Andrzej Nawrocki was handed one bung as well PSG winger Patrick Helmer. “Patrick, you don’t come to close to scoring a goal. Andre, let one slip through your fingers, it’s easy as that. You get all of this upon completion. Don’t make it obvious.” Mark shuddered, disreputing the game as he slipped out of the hotel room a floor above his. The press box was up in arms as Helmer slid a fourth minute chance beyond the goalkeeper, skipping the ball slightly past the post. Heart in mouth time for Mark. There was no minder accompanying Mark—they were on different Group D duties in Wrexham. German celebrations ten minutes later, Helmer sprung the offside trap, rattling in a shot into the top corner. Mark put his hands to his face, Helmer had just put Germany into the lead, the referee had almost ran back to the centre circle until the flag caught the referee’s eyes: a sharp whistle. Helmer threw his arms, enraged at the linesman, ruling the 17th minute opener out. Helmer handled whilst threw on goal, he skewed another two shots wide before half-time. He was on thin ice. The German manager, Roman Weidenfeller, was cycling through his attacking options on the bench early in the second half. Helmer switched to his plan B, his immense workrate. The PSG winger, playing number nine for a depleted Germany, ran the most out of their entire eleven and three subs. With the third sub coming onto the pitch in place of Michal Byrtek, Helmer had escaped. The other side of the deal wasn’t sealed and the time was ticking over. Helmer had to create something out of nothing. Hugging the left wing, Helmer turned his back to goal as the move broke down, playing a long ball back to the centre half. Gunnar Merkel was caught unawares, slicing at a clearance allowing Israeli sub Asher Hozez on goal. Hozez slipped the ball straight down Nawrocki in his career’s most vital moment. The tame effort was almost passed off by the German defenders who prepared for the next move. The ball squirted through Nawrocki. Hozez strut in front of the Palestinian flags, arms wide. Israel had just pulled off the biggest European Championship shock in history. Mark was one step closer to freedom.
  13. June 10, 2044 Glasgow, Scotland Mark was stood blankly talking to two suits clad with the UEFA logo in the bowels of Hampden Park. “You don’t ken Glasgow, pal. Come tae Rangers.” One official said. “Rangers? Get tae ****.” The other spluttered. The conversation turning towards the Old Firm completed Mark’s job for him. Mark laughed along with the two polarised Glaswegians, signalling to those behind him: Scott and George Turley. They snuck down into the tunnel, pushing a player in dark blue into a room. Five minutes later, after Mark was jovially deciding between Rangers and Celtic, George Turley pushed the player in Scottish blue, Tony McCallum back into the tunnel. Ice bandaged to his knee. McCallum motioned to a physio nearby, and with that distraction, the Turleys escaped back up to the director’s box. “My knee’s gone Andy.” The scorer of Scotland’s muttered as he feigned a limp down the tunnel. Another ‘injury’ in Tom Marshall as the pair were brought off at half-time. Janice and the Turleys magic had worked a treat as Scotland surrender a lead in Glasgow, Netherlands romping home to a 3-1 win after 3 goals in 17 minutes. “Job one done,” Scott began with a smug look on his face in the press room post-match, “you’re on your for the next one: Ibrox in two days.” “Israel v Germany.” Mark muttered, almost knowing what the plan was. “Two briefcases will arrive at your door tomorrow. You distribute them.”
  14. May 28, 2044 With a gun pointed to his head, literally, Mark begrudgingly accepted the ‘summer job’, covering the Turleys, Janice and Bachlund at the European Championships in Scotland and Wales over the summer. With the promise of ‘the final job’, Mark was quietly hopeful of his future being just that, his, for the rest of his life. A quiet life in Worcestershire, watching his son and, perhaps, grandson excel in the Premier League. A big swing in the favour of Mark to carry out the job was the safety of his family. Footage of Tom and Scarlett’s new home, planted by the Turleys, played out on Scott’s phone. “Good luck in the Champions League final.” George spluttered towards a floored Mark, Scott spat at him on his way out. Pickering struck a post and McCormick hit the side netting early on as Redditch took command of the game. Redditch were in unchartered territory, as they had been for the entirety of Mark Stephens’ reign. This was bread and butter for Stephens, however. The game was stage managed by Mark Stephens. They had dipped their toes in PSG’s final third in the opening ten, before retreating back into a counter attacking model. This invited PSG onto them, Antoni Albert hit one from distance that scraped the crossbar. The French side penned Redditch into their own half, Alejandro Lorenzo slinking beyond a couple of Redditch’s defenders before the brick wall of Marc Palau. A long diagonal to Liam Colquhoun and a threaded ball to Mick Pickering. Counter attack complete. Pickering rounded the goalkeeper, sliding the ball onto the foot of the post. The game changed on that one, near perfect moment. The half-time whistle blew on the stalemate. The same blueprint was carried out by Redditch only with the reverse result: Redditch’s Pedro Rebelo putting through his own net. Albert’s powerful cross was diverted by the Portuguese full back. Redditch collected medals at the end, only silver. With that, Mark Stephens’ tentative approaches in the summer transfer window became justified. The central midfield sieve was far too wide when the pressure told in the final. Vujica Miletic, Brian Nicolau and Brice Rousseau: three young central midfielders were earmarked along with Espanyol’s Robert Scaion in defence. Redditch were going again.
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