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Back in Britain - Part III of the Owain Williams saga

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Thank you both for your kind words and continued support. Chris - I'm not sure you've read my mind on this occasion, but regardless I think taking D&R to the top is a bit more of an achievement than Southampton!

What I will say is that I'll be taking a bit of a break from Owain's story until the New Year at least. There's more to come, but I've got a couple of other ideas I'd like to play with and I've been writing this one for eons. Thanks again to everyone following along, and see you all in 2019!

I had never known such a jubilant flight home. UEFA keep hold of the actual Champions League trophy, but the replica that would make its home in the St Mary’s trophy cabinet was a good as the real thing, and having been granted special dispensation to take it on the flight, it was the source of plenty of mirth. By the time we touched down back in Southampton, I had lost track of how many photographs it appeared in and how many players had strapped it in next to them. If there were ever a time to celebrate, this was it – they had earned every second of their triumph.

We were greeted like heroes at the airport, hundreds of Saints flocking to the arrivals lounge to cheer home their heroes and hope to catch a glimpse of the men who had brought club football’s biggest prize back to Hampshire. That was only the beginning – within an hour of touching down, we were back on the open-top bus, weaving our way through the streets of Southampton and a thronging crowd of red and white, the songs reserved for the stands at St Mary’s engulfing the roads of the city. The replica trophy was passed around the team like a child, and we were effectively worshipped.

By the middle of the afternoon – the bus parade ending at the stadium where yet more fans had descended to celebrate our success – I was shattered, and in need of a break. However, I had been summoned to the office of Mr Krueger for a post-season meeting – why it couldn’t wait for the following day I was unsure, but when I did make it to the chairman’s room, I was met with a beaming employer, a glass of wine, and what can only be described as a bearhug.

Owain, I’m sorry to add to your day but I couldn’t wait to speak to you. You don’t need me to tell you this, but everybody connected with Southampton Football Club is grateful beyond words for what you’ve done – this season has been more than we could ever have dreamed of.

“To see this club as national and continental champions, and to do it with energy and flair and attacking football, is not something I was ever sure I’d get to see. I’m not getting any younger, and you’ve made this old man very happy.”

“I’m glad to hear it Mr Krueger – it’s been brilliant, and everybody at the club should be proud of themselves, including yourself.”

“That’s kind of you to say so Owain, but you’re taking the credit here. I’ve sat in the background and let you get on with things, and the rewards have been wonderful. But I think the club needs more than that.

“I called you in here today to tell you two things, and here’s the first – I’m thinking about stepping down. I don’t know who will be taking my place – it may an outsider or another board member, that’s up to the Liebherr family, but I’ll be 70 years old in August and I don’t have the energy I once had. This season, Southampton has achieved everything I could possibly have hoped the club to achieve under my chairmanship, and I think it’s about time I started winding down.

“I want to reassure you that until anything goes through, it won’t affect the football side of things at all – I’ll set the budgets, give you your expectations, meet with you to plan and review – but you need to be aware that there’s likely to be change coming.”

Mr Krueger…

“Please Owain, I haven’t finished yet. The second I need to do, and it is linked to the first, is to secure the future of this football club after I step down. One of the ways I can do that is by making sure it holds on to its most valuable asset, and so I’m going to ask you to sign this.”

At that, my boss slid a document to me across the table, taking the pen out of his shirt pocket and placing it down next to the papers.

“I took the liberty of running things by Mr Thomson, and he’s very happy with the arrangement – although I understand if you’d like to speak to him first. You can look at the details for yourself, but what this does is increase your salary immediately, and add a three-year extension to the end of your current deal running out this year. I don’t want any boardroom politics in my absence, so there’s a clause in there stipulating that unless the club is in the relegation zone at the time, the decision to extend is yours entirely.”

I scanned the contract in something of a daze, stunned by both the news of Krueger’s decision to step down, and the figures in front of me – tax-home pay of almost £100,000 per week plus huge bonuses for winning any of the major trophies. The three-year extension offered me both job security, protection from internal wrangling, and the freedom to walk away if I found myself unable to work with the new boss. My employer had thought things through very clearly – it had clearly been on his mind for some time – and if Dean saw no problems with the deal, nor did I. After a brief moment, I returned the document complete with my signature in the appropriate places.

“Thank you Owain. Now, I understand you have a flight booked tomorrow. Enjoy your anniversary.”

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