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Confessions of the greatest football manager of all time


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While I wasn't able to attend the awards ceremony myself I find myself in awe, proud, and more than a little bit jealous of the winners, plus the community as a whole that has inspired them to write in the first place. Galvanised to come up with some content worthy of such a great community, I'm dipping my toe in the water with an idea that's been in the back of my brain for a while.

Full disclosure going in, while it is about football management, it isn't necessarily that involving football manager and has other themes besides, hope you enjoy reading it as much as I am looking forward to writing it!

 

Like the rest of you I believed the hype, my father, now my late father, Max Mcneil was the greatest football manager of all time. He won more games and more trophies than anybody else ever. In the end it became his obsession, probably what killed him, he wouldn't stop until he had won his 100th trophy. It took him 40 years, which works out at an average of 2 and a half trophies a year.

To put it in context, Alex Ferguson won 49 trophies over the course of his managerial career, which in terms of winning spanned from 1976 until 2013. That's 49 trophies in 37 years.

Thus my father was considered a genius, a football management god, achieving managerial feats that would never be replicated.

I am his youngest son, Michael Mcneil, and at the time of his death aged 75 I am 20 years old, and because my father was also rather prolific when it came to sowing his wild oats I am the last of the 12 Mcneil children he sired.

While I might be the last in every other respect, I am the first and only in one very specific category, I am the only member of our family, and potentially the wider world who knows the truth. My father, my late great father is a fraud and a cheat and he has left it to me to decide what becomes of his legacy.

Edited by Mandy42
hit the submit button by accident! curse my fat fingers
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I suppose the only place to begin, would be at the beginning, which seems a bit of a silly thing to say, especially after blurting out the accusations right off the bat.

I guess I understand now, why he told me. Something like this it eats you up inside, it produces a whole mixed bag of emotions. I find myself giggling to myself about how crazy and unbelievable it is, like I know the punch line to an insider joke. Or I just drift off staring into space contemplating the wonder, the power, the sheer temptation of what he had at his disposal.

For the longest time I raged at him, safely hidden beyond the grave,

"WHY DID YOU PICK ME YOU B*STARD! WHY DO I HAVE TO CARRY THE BURDEN OF YOUR LIES" I felt he had dumped the weight of the world on my shoulders, that when he pulled back the curtain, laid it all bare, I was somehow complicit, if I didn't come forward with what I had learned then in some small way I had accepted and agreed with his actions.

Had he picked me because I was young, relatively new to the whole Mcneil experience? Maybe, but I understand now that the most simple reason was, he had to tell someone, he had to let it out before he died, I'm amazed he carried it with him as long as he did.

Once again I'm getting ahead of myself,

my name is Michael Mcneil, I'm 20 years old, born April 1st 2047 (but it was after midday so it's alright). My father was Max Mcneil, born February 15th 1992, died Wednesday October 12th 2067. His 100th trophy had come just 5 months earlier, with his Hoffenheim side continuing their domestic dominance with their 3rd Bundesliga title in a row. That 100th trophy was met with more than it's fair share of apathy, if 99 trophies was a milestone that would never be repeated then how significant was pushing the unbeatable line just one more step to 100. His death however, that sent a shockwave around the sporting world.

Through his career my father had managed in nine different countries, the number of players he had managed, coaching staff he had worked with, peoples lives he had intersected with was unfathomable. Everyone in the footballing world knew a guy who knew a guy who most likely had at one point had a full English breakfast with my father. At football stadiums all over the world, stands packed with fans commemorated his death by celebrating his life, they applauded for 100 seconds at every fixture that took place in the week of his death.

If you think that being a blood relative of the man would make his passing much more personal, then you are sadly mistaken. Was I sad that my father was dead, yes in a biological, psychological way, but not much else. Much like my fathers football family lineage his biological family had spread in the wake of his journey. I had been born in England, and while my father had been chasing more and more trophies, managing in Italy, Denmark and finally Germany, I had stayed in England with my mother. I was grateful to the man, he had looked after me and my mother (a member of the cabin crew whilst he was England manager) set us both up for life and attempted to integrate us into the wider Mcneil family. But he had never been an overly hands on active figure in my upbringing, there was no inner circle, no secret communication, not then anyway. He never missed a birthday or scrimped on Christmas, but when it came to his death, I found out the same way everyone else found out, Sky news.

That is why the morning of Thursday October 13th 2067 you would have found me leaving my riverside penthouse apartment in Leeds city centre and getting into the back of a taxi bound for the airport, on route for a plane to Sweden. Why Sweden you ask? (I certainly did!)

The night before I had received a call from my ,then, late fathers solicitor, a man as aloof as the name Tiberius Clark might suggest. There was no chit chat, no enquiry into how I was taking the news just a precise and efficient undertaking of the task at hand. I was informed that the funeral and the subsequent reading of the will would take place in Stockholm Sweden. After I enquired as to why, Tiberius simply stated,

"It was you fathers wish to handle the details of his death in a country which he had not managed, as not to alienate any of the supporters in any of the countries he had worked. He also always liked Sweden and always regretted there was never a Nobel prize for sport." Without another word, Tiberius then hung up on me.

Just another day in the life of a Mcneil descendant. Though even on important days like today, when the world stops and holds its breath for a microsecond to mark a great man's passing, the minute daily details still need attention. I had an Amazon delivery to sign for before I got in the back of the taxi.

 

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22 hours ago, mark wilson27 said:

Now this has intrigued me

 

20 hours ago, BenArsenal said:

Oh wow, a mystery!

Consider me intrigued too. :D

 

19 hours ago, bigmattb28 said:

Hmm very interested in seeing how this pans out

 

4 hours ago, BenArsenal said:

I have to say, that is quite excellent writing.

Looking forward to more.

thank you for the kind words :)

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The flight time from Manchester to Stockholm was 2 hours and 20 minutes, and like most people who find themselves trapped in a pressurized metal tube hemmed in on all sides with a generous sprinkling of average humanity, I was mildly irritated. My noise cancelling headphones had me safely cocooned against the generic background noise that many people make, usually punctuated by the thrilling solo performance of discontent children. Safe in my silence, head pressed against the side of the plane, my mind wandered.

It wandered, before settling on Lawrence Fishbourne.

He's sat drenched in sweat, tied to a chair, with electrodes attached to his temples. He's also drooling in a very unattractive way. Before you make all sorts of assumptions about my mental state and sexual preferences, Hugo Weavings magnificent voice floods the scene describing how mankind cannot exist in paradise as the human brain fundamentally rejects any sustained state of happiness.

Now while I don't subscribe to the idea that we are all hooked up to a master computer and our existence is nothing but a fabrication to keep us compliant, I do see where he is coming from with the whole happiness thing. In a relative sense my life is exceptional.

I want for nothing, food, clothes, a roof over my head. Like most of my siblings I could while away my days doing precious nothing, my livelihood sustained by my Fathers fortune, the fact I chose to attempt some level of further training and employment is simply that, a choice. There have been women, lots of them in fact, and I am yet to reach an age where finding one specific woman becomes a big deal. I also chose to not dwell on whether these women are attracted to me personally or my affluent family in general. Thus why am I irritated, annoyed, not just by my present surroundings but how the day has unfolded to this point?

You might instantly jump to my defense and suggest, your father just died! give yourself a break. It is a strong position, a convincing argument, but the man who provided for me in life is likely to continue to provide for me in death. A 12th share in 40 years success, is still a decent sum. It's 3 and a 3rd years to be precise, if I get to pick which years I'd definitely take his England managers career. That technically would be 4 years and it includes his only international trophies so there might be some opposition from the others, but its the time I was born and the most time he spent with my mother so they can sod off! Ultimately though my relationship with him will continue much the same, despite the unfortunate fact he has past away.

My frustration stems from celebrity and societies obsession with it. Now lets be clear, there are no photographers leaping small children in a single bound to take a photograph of me. There is never likely to be a requirement for me to obtain a super injunction to hide the details of which of my relatives, or team mates relatives I am misbehaving with. I fly pretty far under the radar. That said, due to my fathers nomadic progression across Europe, and the fact that football is a universal language, my name rings a larger bell than I would like most places I go. I have no qualms about falsifying my last name for day to day things like takeaways or table reservations (unless hypercritically my surname might get me in somewhere that a Mr Bloggs, Jones or Smith might be ignored.) However when presenting ones passport to board an airplane, there really is nowhere to hide.

It also doesn't help (Thank you Tiberius Clark) that the public seems to know more about my fathers funeral arrangements than I do. The funeral isn't until Sunday, which in itself is ok, however the fact that it will be a public ceremony, held in the Nationalarenan, or Friends Arena, home of the Swedish National teams and AIK, is less ok. It's a 50,000 seat stadium! I'm struck for a moment which might be worse, the wider Mcneil family standing in the centre circle surrounded on all sides with empty seats and a random three Swedish men and a token dog, or the opposite, every seat packed and my fathers vision realized, his death celebrated as raucously as any kick off.

I was still trying to process this while I was in said passport queue. Now I don't want to be disparaging about the woman handing out the boarding passes and checking the documents. When not in her work uniform she might have been found at any one of a number of football stadiums, striped to the waist, covered in appropriately colored body paint, screaming abuse at players and referee alike, all while holding a plastic pint pot in one hand and her meat pie of choice in the other. On the other hand she might only log onto BBC sport to check the water polo and dressage results and therefore not have a clue who I was. 

In the end, the sort of person she was, was irrelevant.

She had been standing in departures twiddling her thumbs for god knows how long waiting for passengers to check in, during this time she had been subjected to the news ticker on the TV screens opposite. They repeatedly repeated that Max Mcneil's funeral would be held in Sweden on Sunday, with more details to follow. Regardless of her sporting interests, she had eyes and a brain, thus when my documents passed before her eyes, her brain made the connection. My name was Mcneil and I was travelling to Sweden.

She gave me, the look.

The look is excitement, tempered with a conspiratory glance that indicates the person knows who you are, but is going to protect you without freaking out about it and making a big scene. This is all well and good, as long as you respond to the look with an acknowledging and appropriately deferential gesture, usually a nod of the head, which indicates your eternal gratitude at not having attention drawn to yourself. If however you do not complete your side of the transaction, then all bets are off. Also, the transaction only lasts as long as you are in their general vicinity, as soon as you have moved away, they usually can no longer maintain the immense level of professionalism required for a microsecond longer and turn to the closest work colleague to share their story. This is usually accompanied by some form of sagging or deflating, either collapsing into a chair or simply making a noise that resembles a deflating balloon.

I suffered through this two more times at security and boarding the actual plane. Thus my mood on board was poor to say the least. Little did I know, this would turn out to be the high point of my long Swedish weekend.   

 

  

Edited by Mandy42
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I'll be honest, I've read a few good stories here on FMS, but this feels like it could be written into an actual novel that people would buy. It's that good. :thup:

Keep going mate. You're doing fantastic.

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3 hours ago, BenArsenal said:

I'll be honest, I've read a few good stories here on FMS, but this feels like it could be written into an actual novel that people would buy. It's that good. :thup:

Keep going mate. You're doing fantastic.

thanks a lot for the amazing feedback! will continue to try live up to it!

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Obviously getting on the plane is only, by default, half the journey. I went through the whole rigmarole again upon landing at Stockholm Arlanda Airport. I will be the first to admit I do not fly well, my head fills up with what feels like cotton wool and no amount of sweet sucking or ear popping seems to result in it clearing any quicker.

Young man flying alone with large suitcase (because my suit won't fold down very well into cabin luggage) must tick a certain box on a certain check sheet at airport security as I was politely but firmly moved to a windowless room where I was asked to open my suitcase. A woman with white gloves on proceeded to carefully search through my clothing, while her male colleague kept an eye on me in order to judge any reaction I might have.

"Could I please know the nature of your visit?" The man asked. I blinked, mentally processing what he had said. I might take in some of the city while waiting for Sunday but I would definitely not class this trip as falling into the pleasure category. It also felt distasteful to consider turning up for my fathers funeral as anything akin to business, even if financial assets were going to be divided up. In the end I went with the cold stark truth.

"I am here to attend my fathers funeral." I stated flatly, rubbing my right temple as I attempted to dislodge some of the cotton wool. The woman raised her head to look at me,

"I am sorry for your loss," she managed in my direction, while she held open a large white carrier bag that I had stuffed full of it's contents before ramming it into the bottom corner of the case. She indicated with her free hand for her colleague to take a look inside. They shared a glance, one eyebrow each raised in a silent question. The man looked into the bag, looked at me, then shrugged, with that less than definitive gesture my suitcase was zipped back up and returned to me and I was free to continue my journey. For me that was a 20 minute train ride from the airport to Stockholm Central Station on a completely automated electric train. A scan of my boarding pass on the platform secured my passage meaning there wasn't even a conductor working the train. From the central station it was a further 10 minute metro ride to my hotel, the Lydmar Hotel, where I had a large king room booked, unfortunately under my real name, with an advertised exceptional view of the harbour and Royal Palace. However by the time I reached the hotel none of the cotton wool had budged, which left the view or anything but collapsing on my king sized bed out of the question completely. My mood was so sour that even the cursory,

"We hope you enjoy your stay with us at the Lydmar," When I had finished checking in, was met by a,

"How am I supposed to f*cking enjoy a funeral," Which I am only 50% certain I didn't say out loud. Upon reaching the haven of my room I mustered maximum effort to kick my case into the corner and yank the curtains closed in the bedroom before collapsing face first onto the as advertised wondrous king sized bed. 

Once more you would be forgiven from assuming that a family event, all be it a funeral, might have contained some planning and communication between members of the family. We had our traditions, hence the contents of the plastic bag in the corner of my suitcase.

Communication was not one of them.

Any of my relatives could be staying in the suite next to mine at the Lydmar, or they could be staying anywhere else in Stockholm, Sweden or the wider world. I had positioned myself in the general vicinity of proceedings at a hotel I liked the look of and was not inconveniently situated, mainly due to the wonders of European capital public transport. Tiberious Clark would inform me where I needed to be and when, or at least that was our usual family plan. 

While I dosed, fully clothed in my hotel bed I had a dream consisting of snapshots of 11 journeys similar to my own. 11 other Mcneil children descending on the Swedish capital, some of them being stopped, as I had been in customs, others getting taxis to the most expensive room they could find, while a couple were at the opposite end of the spectrum, finding the cheapest room they could and sweating the pennies as they did so. In reality most of that might be true, the only part of the dream I knew would be inaccurate was the number of journeys, some of my relatives would most definitely be travelling together.

I woke to the contrasting sounds of my light, care free ringtone and the harsh almost violent rumble of it vibrating against the nightstand. I stretched my hand towards the phone just as it stopped ringing. This gave me time to conduct a brisk physical inventory. In the negative column I had drooled into the pillow, but on the positive side of the scale the cotton wool had packed itself back into whichever compartment of my brain it sprung from whenever I flew anywhere. A few blinks and a rub of some sleep from my eye and the phone screen swam into focus. 

1 New Missed Call: Martin.

1 New Voicemail. I manipulated the various screens until I was able to find and dial my voicemail number

"Hey Mick, its me Martin, I figured you'd be one of the first ones here, all that youthful exuberance and can do attitude! Anyway, I've just landed and I know this sounds rather soppy, what with the old man being a long distance dad and all, but I'd rather not spend too much of this trip on my own. Get back to me if you want to catch up this evening, if I don't hear from you I'll get the unsaid message and simply man the f*ck up. Cheers!"

I lay on the bed a moment his message resonating within my head, he was right, when it came to "the old man" there had always been an acceptance of the distance and the hole that left in our daily lives, but there right then there was another layer to the emptiness that I had carried with me for most of my twenty years of life. I decided I would call him back and we could man up together, but first I would shower.

Before I go to meet Martin I guess I should give you the cliff notes on the "Mcneil dirty dozen," I doubt they will all be so courteous as to approach single file so I can introduce them to you all. Plus I am under no illusion that you are hanging around for the scandal of cheating and fraudulent football and not the Mcneil family tree captured in all it's glory using different coloured crayon.

But my hunger has won out, I've called room service, so I need to shower before I eat, before I call Martin, so you'll have to wait a while longer!

  

Edited by Mandy42
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I think by now you are well aware that my father never had just one of anything.

His managerial career spans 9 countries.

He managed 11 domestic clubs successfully and 1 International team for a total of 12 (we don't talk about the unsuccessful clubs)

He won 100 trophies

In his personal life he had 4 girlfriends

He had 12 children, one for each different team he managed, if your brain thinks that way.

Adding a few broad strokes to the bare bones above. He managed in the following countries in the following order:

England, Scotland, Switzerland, Holland, France, Spain, England National Team, Italy, Denmark and finally Germany.

He managed the following clubs (successfully):

Guisley AFC, Nottingham Forest, Ayr United, Servette FC, HHC Hardenberg, Amiens, Celta Vigo, England, Empoli, Fredericia, Vendsyssel FF and Hoffenheim.

In his professional career my father was adored, not just for the brand of attacking football he favoured, but because he was never shy of a challenge. He could have (with maybe a few exceptions) at the height of his power and fame, taken charge of any club in any division, anywhere in the world. He didn't just manage in big leagues, he didn't just manage big teams, he went where he wanted and success followed.

Now to his personal life.

I meant what I said when I referred to the children's mothers as girlfriends, my father was never once married. Perhaps he was blessed by the times in which he lived in, shotgun weddings and the requirement to be married before having children were no longer any kind of taboo. If you were married or in fact sleeping together was seen as insignificant compared to whether the correct pronouns were being applied for the rapidly increasing number of discovered genders (over 200 at last official count). Perhaps he was a man of his word, none of his exes have ever really had anything bad to say about him, he always looked after them and provided for them, even after they had drifted apart. Perhaps there were would be in laws privately tearing their hair out at the prospect of their daughter not definitively securing her future with a piece of paper, but none of that ever made it into the media spotlight.

On a first come first served basis his children are:

Melinda and Melissa (twins)

Marcus

Mary

Mark

Maria

Mandy

Maggie (definitely not Margret)

Martin

May and Meghan (Identical twins)

Michael

I hope you were able to notice the trend.

In some way all of us are cursed with the same obsession that drove my father to greatness, but depending on the era in which we emerged, that obsession has been twisted into something quite tragic.

Both Mels, Marcus and Mary were born in the early years to the first girlfriend Olivia. As they were the first four, and because everything our family does is somehow distilled down to sports they gave themselves the rather arrogant nickname "The Top Four." There problem (which they would frequently remind us about) was that they had suffered through the leaner years, the years before the success and knew what it was like to go without. This experience, rather than keeping them humble and ensuring they knew just how fortunate they were, instead led them to never want to be without ever again.

The Mels were stereotypical WAGS, though they fell very much into the G category. They had clothing and perfume brands which survived on the strength of the name alone. Along with Marcus and Mary they were terrified of losing the celebrity spotlight, the name the wealth and the fame was crucial to their sense of self. There had even been talks of a television show: Going Mad with the Mcneil's But thankfully nothing had ever come of it.

Mark, Maria, Mandy and Maggie all came (one at a time) to the second girlfriend Anna. The family was based in Switzerland, while my father worked first there and then managed in Holland and France. Where as the Top Four eventually wanted for nothing, these Mcneil children never knew anything else. They had everything they needed and more. Plus growing up on the continent and in such a linguistically diverse country as Switzerland they were able to speak multiple languages. Marcus is always easy to wind up when we inform him that unfortunately scouse does not count as it's own separate language. To this day there is definite tension between these two groups. The Top Fours self importance does not sit well with the others, they can in no way relate to the sparse years, despite how often they get reminded about them, they don't get it, don't want to get it and made sure they didn't. This mixture of sibling tension and opulence was a bad mixture for the European children, they strayed from the tracks early and often, with the financial backing to stray far. To this day they live in excess, Mark will drink anything, Maria and Mandy smoke or inject anything and Maggie shag anything that stands still long enough. They almost feel guilty for having always had more than their older relations and always being blamed for it. This guilt has led them to be unable to live in the adult world where they would be forced to take responsibility for these feelings, so instead they stay as blasted as possible.

Next up are Martin, May and Meghan, they were born to the third girlfriend Sofia, while father was managing in Spain. Sounds slightly stereotypical but they all have such intense passion, which in the case of the twin girls seems to have tempered their Mcneil obsession into something extremely positive. Martin's passion is words, he is a sports journalist, unfortunately for him he is also rather enthusiastic about gambling on sport. May and Meghan have both taken their genetic gifts and made the most of them. Picking their fathers nationality over that of their mother they are both current England women's internationals at the highest level.

That leaves me, the last Mcneil, born to Freya, my fathers final girlfriend while he was England manager for one 4 year cycle. I am singular in that I am the only, only child, which sounds ridiculous in a 12 child family, but I am also the only one yet to truly fall into the grip of the Mcneil obsession. It is impossible not to be involved in some way with sport if you are a member of this family, but my chosen career will (hopefully) be much more altruistic than the others. I am currently completing my education in the field of sports psychology, not the motivational stuff that sees you closeted away with a team the week before a main event. More the desire to ensure sportsmen and women are prepared for their life after sport, when the screaming crowds have died away, when the money is beginning to run dry and the glory days of ones athletic prime are but a fading memory.

I could bore you with many examples, some humorous, some tragic of why such a field needs to exist and why I am motivated to be a part of it, but luckily for you it is time for me to head out and meet Martin, so you are spared for a time at least.

  

 

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2 hours ago, BenArsenal said:

That is brilliant.

Get thee a book deal. :D

I live in dread of the day this feedback changes to "nah it's sh*t now mate" lol!

thanks for the continuing praise, hope you keep enjoying it :)

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  • 2 weeks later...

I rang Martin before I left the room, check he was still on for meeting, and determine what his plans were.

"Hello?" I was ringing from the hotel room phone so he wasn't certain who it was.

"Hey Martin, it's me, you still in the mood for a catch up? or was that a fleeting experience?"

"Definitely be good to see you Mick, can't shake this empty feeling and it's beginning to get to me." That's family code for SoS, the Mcneil obsession does not do well in crisis.

"What did you have in mind?"

"AIK are playing tonight at Friends Arena, can you believe they moved  their game from Sunday to tonight in order to accommodate dads funeral?" I couldn't quite believe it, but then I thought nothing about the old man could surprise me.... how wrong I was.

"You want to go to a football game?" I asked, ruefully shaking my head at this families obsession with the game. "I take it you have money on the outcome?"

"Eh... well yeah," I could feel from the tone of his voice that he was getting defensive, changing his mind. "Look if you don't want to come that's fine, its a stupid idea anyway, I can always go on my own." Yeah I thought, and blow even more money on in play betting from his seat in the stadium. That wasn't the reason I was going to go though, I too could sense the creeping emptiness that came with living in a world that didn't have our father in it, and in all honesty it would be good to see Martin.

"I didn't say that, I'll be there, just a couple of things though, where are you staying? And is this an official Mcneil outing?" Martin laughed, his defensiveness evaporating as  though it had never been there in the first place.

"I'm staying at the Quality Hotel Friends, right next to the stadium, just rock up there when you are ready and no, I think I'd rather go incognito for as long as possible."

"Suits me just fine, I'll come to you, see you shortly."

With that I hung up, picked out a generic jeans, jumper combo from the suitcase, left the big carrier bag alone as it wasn't an official family outing, found my coat in case the Swedish autumn decided to bite, and was out of the door a couple of minutes after putting the phone down.

 

Was going to keep going with this piece but I fear my man flu is winning, don't want to lose what I've already got down, so I'm going post this and edit it when I feel better. Sorry for the short post!

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  • 2 weeks later...

In the end it turned out to be a good game, which wasn't really the point of the evening and speaks volumes about the state of the typical Mcneil family relationship.

Both teams needed a result, with only a couple of games left in the season AIK were in need of a win to keep the pressure on Malmo at the top of the table. Their opponents Kalmar FF were only 2 points above 14th spot and the dubious honour of "qualifying" for the relegation playoff game. Despite the large gap in table position the two teams played attractive open football which kept the 25,000 ish supporters entertained.

While I enjoyed it, I must admit my mind wasn't entirely on the game, I was looking around the Friends Arena imagining what it would look like for my fathers funeral. It currently sat at about half full and even then the noise was impressive, I was concerned over how much noise could be created if it was full, or conversely how oppressive it would feel if it was cavernously empty and silent.

One thing I wasn't worried about was Martin's gambling habit, yes he had money on the final result, he had gone for a 2-2 draw, hoping that both teams attacking intent would cancel itself out, at 10/1 he was full of gamblers optimism. That was the extent of his gambling though, no impulsive stabs at number of corners in the next 30 seconds or any of the other daft in play markets, simply because I had demanded his phone from him as soon as we had met in the bar at his hotel. Yes he had grumbled, but in the end he had coughed it up with a rueful smile.

As has been the way of male Mcneil communication since the dawn of time, we talked, but without really looking at each other. Our sporadic attempts at showing interest in each others lives with a,

"You alright then?"

"Your looking well, you lost weight?"

"You heard much from the others lately?" Were intermingled with crowd noise and our other comments regarding the game,

"Their center back looks like a right bruiser! He could mount a solar panel on that forehead when he retires and still make a living!"

"Come on ref! he's offside!" and a couple of huffs and puffs from Martin when either team looked close to breaking the deadlock.

The friends arena has a large cube suspended from the rafters below it's retractable roof. Each side of the cube has a massive jumbotron screen which played advertisements, safety announcements and game highlight footage directly after they had happened. This was how I experienced the game, deep in thought regarding my father, the funeral, the will, I would be alerted by a swelling in the level of crowd noise, and then look up at the screen to see what had just happened.

In the first half Kalmar FF hit the bar twice, AIK had a goal ruled out (correctly) for offside, which was a perfect use of the VR (Video Review) technology which had been prevalent in sport now for almost 40 years. Where ever possible, the rules of the game had been simplified down to remove rule interpretation as a source of inconsistency. Now offside was simply any player beyond the line of defense when the ball was played forward, linesman could flag if they were certain, or could leave the decision to the VR system, which would flag up any rule infringements and alert the referee if a goal occurred before a definitive change in possession.

Thus in the AIK goal that was ruled out, AIK scored from a corner, there was nothing wrong with the corner, however in the build up to winning the corner, an AIK player had been offside, hence the corner should not have been awarded and the goal was chalked off. In general the system was well received, missed infringements were only enforced if they led to a goal thus fans got to see attacking moves completed and the stoppages were short and only if they were needed.

The first half drew to a close without either team finding a way to score, Martin was still holding onto his optimism as his result was still possible. Though now devoid of any distractions and in real danger of having to have a proper conversation until the game resumed, we left our seats and sauntered for a drink and some snacks.     

Edited by Mandy42
work computer is being slow, keyboard keeps freezing!
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21 hours ago, BenArsenal said:

Well let's hope VAR in the future is as you've described, and not the shambles it is now...:p

I had a moment where I thought, why not make it what I want it to be? :p 

Plus get rid of the stupid "interfering with play" part of the offside rule, because for the money I am paying players in wages, you better be interfering with play for the full 90 minutes!

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  • 4 weeks later...

I have been informed by someone who knows a lot more about it than me, that hope can drive you insane, my brothers eagerness to return to his seat having purchased a "Stor Stark" of Jamtlands Bryggeri Hell (a choice based completely on the name alone). I settled for a Skal cider and shuffled back after him trying to not dribble too extensively from my plastic cup.

Martin seemed to visibly relax once he was back in his seat, as though football fate would have looked down upon him and judged him to be wanting if he had not shown the due diligence of being back in his appointed position before kick off. His relaxation was however entirely relative, he was still rocking back and forth and dithering his leg up and down with enough force, to earn himself perplexed looks from the people who could feel the vibrations he caused, through the connection of their seats.

The second half commenced with both teams adopting a slower tempo, they seemed to realize that the pace at which they had tried to bludgeon each other into submission in the 1st period, was not sustainable for the full 90 minutes. 10 minutes, 15 passed with no real cut or thrust from either side, the majority of the crowd became more interested in the conversations and singing going on around them. There was however, no point in me trying to pick up even the small talk of before with Martin, with each passing moment he focused more and more upon the game before him, to the exclusion of everything else. If before he had been restless energy, now he was leaning forward, elbows on his knees, chin in his hands, channeling all that energy through his eyes onto the pitch as though he could influence the game by sheer force of will.

Interesting, in my broader psychology reading, many people have had many interesting and borderline crazy things to say about force of will. In one such textbook is the following exercise, designed to highlight the arrogance of the human condition, and question how much we truly know about the world around us:

Pick a denomination of coin, any will do, it doesn't have to be go big or go home, size, despite what women tell you isn't the end of the world.

Say you pick a £1 coin, spend a fixed period of time searching for them wherever you are, be that on the pavement or in the desk draw at work, your partners wallet, wherever. Do you find more or less £1 coins? Is it pure luck? or because you are looking for them you are bound to find more?

Next take the same fixed period of time, search for £1 coins, but truly commit to the belief that you will only them because you have willed them into being through the power of your mind. To be clear, these objects did not exist and your mind has pulled them out of the stream of creation and forged them into what you want them to be.

Continue the exercise alternating between focusing on luck and will power as your source of £1 coins, you can keep a tally of your findings and see which belief yields more coins than the other. However the real point of the exercise is to ask yourself to conclusively prove which method is possible and which is not. Can you say without a shadow of a doubt that the coin you found in the desk drawer that wasn't there yesterday you didn't simply will into being?

I cannot prove conclusively whether Martin's intense focus lead to Kalmar FFs goal against the run of play in the 62nd minute. It was a simple goal really, a poor clearance from AIK led to a press around their box and resulted in a Kalmar corner. A well delivered cross was met at high speed by the slab like forehead of Ragnar Gustafsson, who when he wasn't cleaving people in half with his battle axe on a frozen beach somewhere, played centre back for Kalmar. The away fans went wild, they were one step closer to the promised land of top division security. Martin on the other hand simply turned to me with a tight smile and a slight nod, ticking the goal off in his mind and muttering

"Just three more now" under his breath. The game opened up again, the AIK fans howling and demanding retribution, while the Kalmar fans whooped and chanted with delight at being ahead. Martin was much more neutral, he willed both teams on, as at this point he was at his most relaxed, he needed both teams to score so whoever got the next goal was irrelevant, as long as they got it soon.

Perhaps there is something to this mental focus lark! As a swift Kalmar break led to them scoring again 10 short minutes after they had netted the 1st time. Once more Gustafsson the marauder played a role, smashing into a tackle and winning the ball from AIK's Turkish top scorer Turgay Kucukandonyadis, leaving the striker apparently dead on the edge of the Kalmar box. His raking forward pass left much to be desired in terms of accuracy, but with the open nature of the game he had a full 3rd of the pitch to aim for and Kalmar's right winger Karl Wicksel scampered onto it. One touch and another searching through ball played in speedy Kalmar striker Axel "The Energizer" Alfredsson, who slotted between the legs of the stricken AIK keeper and doubled the visitors lead.

"Don't you dare score another now!" Martin whispered, he could have yelled it for all I know as the roar of the Kalmar faithful was deafening. They didn't, seemingly happy with their 2 goal cushion the visitors shut up shop, using the Energizer as a frustrating out ball to relieve the pressure of wave after wave of AIK attacks. Now the nervousness was back, Martin once more rocking from side to side, swearing at the ref every time a spirited Kalmar challenge went unpunished, or when they blatantly pushed the boundaries of what was seen as acceptable time wasting. His neutral demenour was most definitely gone, Kalmar had served their purpose, but his interest in them was gone now, his silent message was clear, he needed them to capitulate not once, but twice.

The Kalmar fans message was also quite clear, at least their sentiment and emotion, I have no understanding of the Swedish language so can only assume that the repeated chant they peeled off with increasing glee was something along the lines of

"WERE GOING TO SEE YOU TWICE NEXT YEAR..... YES WEEEEEEEEEEERE GOING TO SEEEEEEE YOU TWICE NEXT YEAR!"

10 minutes to go and if I had felt the creeping urge to look in my coat inside pocket to see how much money Martin had placed and how much he stood to win, that urge dramatically intensified when some fantastic trickery from who else but Kucukandonyadis saw Gustafsson turn instantly from hero to villain as he scythed the front man down in the box and conceded a penalty. There were the usual histrionics from the Kalmar supporters but as the huge rectangular screens replayed the AIK striker getting harvested like so much wheat, the appeals petered out to the murmuring of the blind and biased. The howling started up again the moment the ball was placed on the spot, but to no avail, cool as the proverbial cucumber, a phrase which does not take into consideration cucumber encountered in sandwiches in most petrol stations across the European continent, Kucukandonyadis slotted home into the bottom right corner. 

Martin was out of his seat without him really understanding how he had got there, my hand was in my jacket pocket and his phone was in my hand in much the same way, my eyes boggled, £1,000! I know use Mcneil's were loaded but such a sum on a game against two teams he knew nothing about was surely excessive even for an excessively excessive family like ours. The only thing on show 12 minutes later, 2 minutes into 5 of time added on was an excessive show of emotion. Those two were at it again, Kucukandonyadis using his pace latch onto a hopeful ball behind the Kalmar right back, with a deft flick he knocked it beyond the defenders attempted recovery tackle and drove straight into the box. He charged straight into Gustafsson's path, the Swedish defenders face (gloriously picked out on the big screen) looked as though he wanted to snap the puny Turkish man's legs before feasting on a couple of his children,, but probably due to what happened the last time he attempted that he hesitated for a split second. Betrayed by his body the Kalmar centre back was helpless to prevent The Turk's sharp step over and swivel to create himself enough space to attempt a right footed curling effort at goal. The Kalmar keeper dove valiantly trying to tip it onto, over or away from the crossbar but blocked as he was by the not inconsiderable size of his team mate, he saw the attempt late and could not stop it from cannoning off the underside of the bar and restoring parity between the two sides.

I would like to say I retained my composure, but that would be a lie, me and Martin embraced, laughing and hollering like idiots in a very un Mcneil display of affection. The next few hours were a blur of bars and drinks which saw me deposited back at my hotel room in the early hours of the following morning. I staggered rather merrily into my room to find a parcel, that most definitely had not been there when I left, sitting rather innocently on  the desk at the foot of the bed. My brain intended to enquire as to it's contents straight away, my legs said "**** that ****" and I promptly fell face first, fully clothed, for the second time in so many days and passed out on the bed.    

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  • 4 weeks later...

A hangover is many things, most of which are not pleasant, however it is a wonderful tool for sharpening perspective. The parcel that had peeked my drunken curiosity the night before didn't even manage to catch my attention as I shambled back and forth past it into the bathroom. 1st time was to fill a glass of water, conduct some ablutions, before returning to bed. 2nd time I went in and had a shower, brushed my teeth to rid myself of "birdcage mouth" before once more slumping on the bed and hunting for the TV remote. At this point I spotted then parcel, my memory jogged slightly, but not enough to clamber back off the bed to investigate. I lazily channel surfed, dried in the towel wrapped around me and finally decided I should complete the process and get dressed. Actually I came to the realization that I was hungry, and that unless I intended to order room service, I needed clothes before I could rectify my desire to eat.

My hands brushed over the parcel on my way out the door, but the urge to eat was too strong and my brain informed me it would still be there when I got back. I got down to the hotel restaurant at very much the back end of the breakfast sitting, but the staff were more than happy to sit me at a corner table out of the way of the sunlight so I could drag myself back to something resembling feeling human through a prolonged process of drinking cups of coffee.

I would like to point out at this moment that I can usually handle my alcohol better than this. I am in no way a hardened drinker, but I would like to believe I'm no lightweight either. My rougher than usual nature could probably be put down to the emotions that were tied up amongst the drinking. Despite my slight distaste, I had to admit a certain euphoria at being involved in the drama of Martin's successful bet, that helped get the 1st few drinks down very easily. What followed then was a mutual understanding that we weren't just celebrating the victory of that evening, but also drinking to our common loss. Less euphoria more resigned melancholy, again it is hard to describe how you can miss someone whose default state is "not there" but there is almost a built in reaction to knowing that something you had is gone, someone you saw however infrequently that you will never see again.

This washed over me at breakfast, and while I wasn't exactly blubbering into my black coffee I didn't feel like dawdling in the public restaurant too long. I wolfed down a mixture of English and continental staples before retiring once more to my room. Finally, wanting something to distract me from my swirling mood and darkening stomach I pawed the parcel off the desk and dropped it on the bed next to me. It was a square cardboard box, on closer inspection there was no label, nothing. I opened it carefully, peering curiously inside. To my complete lack of understanding, looking up at me was a miniature rubics cube. Removing it from the box it fit easily in the palm of my hand, it strangely felt warm to the touch, and annoyingly I realized as I turned it over in my hand, some kill joy had solved the thing before putting it in the box!

That is until before my eyes, with a delicate click the cube changed configuration all by itself in my hand. I will not deny, I yelped in a very unmanly manner and dropped the thing like a hot coal onto the bed beside me, while I jumped up and stood at the end of the bed staring down at it intently. A moment later I cast my eyes around the room, looking for the source that had to be controlling the cube, and also for which of my relatives was likely hiding somewhere and filming my reaction. When neither was immediately apparent my attention returned to the cube. It lay on the duvet, periodically quietly clicking as it moved around itself. Intrigued as to how it was doing this I tentatively reached down to scoop it off the bed. It was at that moment, when I once more touched the cube, that my world imploded.

I went cold all over, my breath misting out before my eyes.

I felt sick

Dizzy

The whole hotel room seemed to lurch as though struck, vibrating like a tolling bell.

Then with an ear shattering rip I was pulled backwards, and it felt as though every inch of my being was sucked inward, straight through a point directly behind my belly button.

There was a flash of light, and I stood swaying gently from side to side, my hands on my knees, head stooped low, fighting the urge to be violently ill.

"Hang in there lad, it will pass in a moment." A voice close by called. I risked a look up, my eyes watering but clearly slowly. When they did I almost fainted except for the bizarreness of it all grounding my mind and keeping me from processing it. The man, whose voice I had just heard, who was lending a supporting hand to my shoulders, was my father. Stranger still, past him in the distance, was not the interior of my hotel room, nor even the skyline of Stockholm, but for some reason unbeknown to me, the twin towers of Wembley

  

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Nice to see this back!

Slightly off tangent for a bit, but I looked up Friends Arena on Google Maps, and my word, what a stadium. Looks spectacular.

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On ‎01‎/‎01‎/‎2020 at 14:14, BenArsenal said:

Nice to see this back!

Slightly off tangent for a bit, but I looked up Friends Arena on Google Maps, and my word, what a stadium. Looks spectacular.

aye I looked at some pictures to aid in the description and it does look rather special!

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"What... Where? Is that Wembley?! And who the hell are you?" I swayed more than slightly while this man who looked the mirror image of my dad stopped me from falling over with his arm firmly around my back.

"We will get to that, but first we need to get into the ground, with the tickets we have you won't want to miss the game!" The game? my mind mumbled, but I'm in a hotel room in Stockholm! That voice however, lets call it the voice of reason, was much more subdued than I expected it to be. I felt sick, slightly giddy, and particularly light headed, none of which made it easy to resist the soft but constant pressure in the small of my back which guided me through the crowd towards a turnstile. It turns out he hadn't been kidding about the tickets!

"I must be dreaming," I managed to mumble to myself, still swaying more than I would like, as we found ourselves in the center of the North Stand, middle row in the middle of the Royal box. I felt like I was coming around slightly, I turned, to try and confront the man who looked like my father, he was on my left which meant as I looked at him my attention was drawn to movement beyond and below him. The roar of the crowd hit me like a physical blow, I once again rocked unsteadily and once again the man accompanying me seemed to sense this and rested his hand on my side. "Those are rather retro looking kits," my poor addled brain managed to make me mutter, though over the din of the crowd my comment went unheard. With great mental focus I was able to dial back the noise level to the point where it became akin to being slapped repeatedly in the face with a wet trout. Once this had been achieved I quickly began to notice details:

One team in red socks, white shorts, red shirts.

The other team white socks, black shorts, white shirts.

The balls being carried out by some of the players looked like medicine balls, all orange leather, no sponsors or details of any kind.

Beyond the two lines of players, amongst the swirling mass of the crowd countless Union flags and Bundesflagges shimmered and danced in the warm summer air.

All the movement, the noise and atmosphere was too much for my struggling mind, I bent forward, put my hands on my knees and focused very hard on trying not to vomit. This time it was the man on my right who leaned down to support me.

"Hey, lad, you ok? Bit worse for wear are ya! Don't be chucking on me this is my best suit!" He patted my back lightly in support and the absurdity of it all helped settle my stomach. At that moment I had an idea.

"I'm feeling much better now thank you!" I managed while standing back upright, "You wouldn't happen to have a match program would you? Something to distract me for a couple of minutes to make sure it doesn't come back?" He looked skeptical, but as I looked him up and down in his black wool three piece suit, how one earth he wasn't melting I've no idea, he seemed to get on board with my idea and handed me a booklet that had been folded in his suit jacket pocket.

1966 Fifa World Cup Final

Tilkowski

                                   Hottges                                           Schulz                                                            Weber                                                          Schnellinger

 

                                                                                           Beckenbauer                                                Overath

 

                                Haller                                                 Seeler                                                            Held                                                             Emmerich

 

                                                                                           Hunt                                                              Hurst

                                                     

                                                    Peters                                                               B.Charlton                                                     Ball

 

                                                                                                                                 Stiles

 

                                Wilson                                             Moore                                                            J.Charlton                                                   Cohen

                                                                                                                              Banks                          

 

Suffice it to say that I continued to feel dizzy well past the team introductions and national anthems, I mutedly passed the program back to the gentleman on my right, managed a marginally reassuring nod at the man who looked like my father, whenever his gaze focused on me, and other than that I valiantly attempted not to vomit before the approaching kick off!                             

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  • 3 months later...

Looking back now, I should have known something was different. They say the human brain takes in more information than we can consciously process, that what we perceive is only a fraction of what we observe. Studies under hypnosis have indicated a level of detail recollection far surpassing that of normal recall. 

I'm sure my father has shown me the grainy black and white highlights film of the 1966 World Cup final, going on and on about how Alf Ramsey was his inspiration for becoming a football manager. I am less sure, but willing to give it a go, that with just a swift kick to the grey matter I could recall some of the key events of the game. What was unfolding in front of my eyes however, was much more than I could possibly have gleaned from highlight film. Yet at the time, I was so caught up in the moment, and the desperate urge not to vomit, that I didn't realize this until it became clear to me by other means.

I had no recollection of the coin toss, or that England won it, you would have thought we had won the whole thing by the upsurge in cacophony from the crowd. That however did not last long, on 12 minutes the sound of the stadium changed, drastically. Suddenly I didn't feel like I was at a football match, I felt like I was at a funeral. Sigfried Held crossed the ball into the England penalty area, Ray Wilson attempted to head it clear, but misdirected it straight to Helmut Haller. Gordon Banks and Jack Charlton failed to divert his resulting shot, and England were 1-0 down. 

I knew, that in just shy of two hours there would be people on the pitch, and they would think it was all over, but right then, in that moment, it felt as though all the air had been sucked up out of Wembley stadium as the atmosphere dropped like a rock. I heard mutters and murmurs around me in the crowd.

"1st goal we have conceded so far in the tournament...."

"Don't be daft Eusebio scored for Portugal in the Semis"

"That was a penalty... I meant from open play!!"

"Well you didn't say that did you...."

"Regardless, it's the first time we have trailed in a game."

Suddenly it wasn't just the atmosphere in the stadium that felt, flat, wrong, listless. My whole world shifted at a right angle, one minute I was standing, the crowd noise and jostling bodies surrounding me. 

The next I was laid in the fetal position, completely naked, in my hotel bath.

The moment after that, everything went black. 

  

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  • 2 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

Did I really mentally equate the Germans equalizing in the World Cup final to waking up with a hangover from hell in a hotel bathtub?

That certainly had seemed the case, for that sudden second of stark sensation, being naked, cold, feeling like my very soul had been rung out and was draining down the plug hole. Then there was an instant of darkness, and a moment later I was back in the Wembley crowd, swaying slightly, with a sharp pain behind my eyes, but thankfully fully clothed and otherwise no worse for wear.

I tried to put any lingering after image out of my mind and focus on the game. The tension was palpable, England trailing, every German tackle and touch was booed, with the shouting only growing in volume with ever minute that passed with the opposition still ahead. When Wolfgang Overath conceded a free kick on the 18 minute mark. The howling and jeering had reached fever pitch, Bobby Moore took the free kick immediately, floating the ball in to the German penalty area, where Geoff Hurst rose unopposed and scored with a downward glancing header. England had trailed for all of 6 minutes, the jubilation and relief at drawing level only suggested the potential scenes if England went on to win.

2 minutes later and it was the turn of the German supporters to show their derision, Martin Peters robust challenge earning him a place in the referees book with a yellow card. After that, the game, and the supporters, settled down. Perhaps it was an inability to sustain such an intense level of emotion, perhaps the players were struggling at the end of a long and competitive tournament, whatever the reason, not much of note happened in the remainder of the first half. 

As the players made way for halftime I became aware of the man who looked like my father staring at me in a peculiar concerned fashion, then when he noticed I had noticed, he winked at me. In that moment the unease washed back over me again, for the first time since the Germany goal, no longer distracted I could once more feel the small rubics cube slowly but steadily turning in my pant pocket. I couldn't hold the older mans gaze and I looked away desperately surfing the crowd with my vision looking for distraction. 

"I'm telling ya, We are gonna win!" Not only did the man look like my father, he sounded like him as well, the familiar tones of his voice cut through the other crowd noise as though he was talking to me. 

"If you're so confident, you might put your money where your mouth is!" Whoever he was talking to suggested, possibly as a way to shut the other man up.

"Why certainly," Even just listening to the man, I could tell he was grinning from ear to ear. "What would you wager for England to win 4-2, with Geoff Hurst scoring a hat trick, and the game going to extra time?" Apparently I wasn't the only person who had been listening to the conversation, as at the description of his terms, a whole gaggle of voices sprung up attempting to get in on the action. My mind phased them out just as the players returned to the pitch for the second half.

His terms....

Geoff Hurst did score a hat trick, England did win 4-2 and the match did go to extra time, as this dawned on me, I  turned once more to look at the spitting image of my father. He was in the middle of a circle of people who had formed around him, he was writing in a small notebook, probably names and amounts. As I looked at him, he felt the weight of my gaze upon him and looked up from the notebook, he smiled, and winked once more. This time I couldn't look away, a connection of sorts bridged the gap between us, I felt it, I didn't understand it but I felt that understanding was within my reach. 

Seconds dragged on, nothing came,

The whistle sounded for the start of the second half.

The crowd swelled once more to produce a sea of noise.

The moment vanished, smashed to pieces and whirled away by the sound of the crowd

Edited by Mandy42
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Just caught up with this, having somehow missed it previously. Brilliant stuff, gripping from the start

 

Fantastic read 👍

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22 hours ago, sherm said:

Just caught up with this, having somehow missed it previously. Brilliant stuff, gripping from the start

 

Fantastic read 👍

Thanks, I am slowly finding my way back to a state of mind where I can relax and not let work get in the way of picking this up again! 

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I know what you are thinking.

You're thinking that, while this current trip down memory lane to the 1966 World Cup Final is all well and good, I had started this whole business with the revelation that my father was the biggest football fraud of all time, and my outer body experience in the bathtub in Stockholm, isn't really getting us any closer to the details I promised.

I get it.

However, you are just going to have to trust me, we are getting there, it will all make sense.

Ok, maybe I will rephrase that last bit, it is all connected, because, even having lived through it, I'm not sure I can say with a straight face, that it all makes sense.

So, Wembley, second half, we all know what happens, and after that almost light bulb moment wondering how my fathers doppelganger could know the details of the game, I couldn't really focus much on the game, so it's a good job I know what happened anyway.

It was all even until 77 minutes, until Geoff Hurst's shot from a corner, is deflected to Martin Peters and he finishes to put the England fans into raptures with only 13 minutes to go.

With 12 of those 13 minutes played, Jack Charlton concedes a free kick, after a few frantic seconds of pinball, the ball is in the back of the English net and it is 2-2, the ball having struck the wall, and then a follow up shot hitting Karl-Heinz Schnellinger (who I would so nickname the Schnellanator, but anyway). If you are English, the ball hits the Schnellanator's hand before Wolfgang Weber scores, if your German it hit him on the back.

Extra time happens, England hit the post, and then, if your English, they hit the underside of the bar and score, if your German, they hit the underside of the bar and the ball is cleared off the line. I will hold my hand up and say that, the first time I saw it, I couldn't tell either way.

Then 1 minute before the end of play, with Germany throwing their players forward like women at a Beatles concert, Geoff Hurst receives a ball from Bobby Moore and with only onrushing spectators to beat, makes it 4-2 to England.

England win 4-2

The games goes to extra time

Geoff Hurst scores a hat trick.

In a daze I turn to look for the man who looks like my father, I can't see him, the crowd is in uproar, the whole place is going wild, jumping up and down, hugging, cheering, chanting, in that moment you couldn't help but believe in the positive force of football, all these people, well those on the winning side, haven't a care in the world. Speaking of positive force, a boisterous crowd member jostles me in the back, I pitch forward losing my balance.

Everything goes black.

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Posted (edited)

You guessed it, I'm back in the bathtub.

Did I ever leave the bathtub! Now that is the question.

Unfortunately, my head is banging like a pair of wilder beast on heat, my skull is full to the brim with pain, there is no room for anything else. After a few minutes the pain dials back to a point where I am simply wishing to shove a needle into the side of my head in order to try release the pressure. My senses slowly come back to me, the numb sensation is due to me being laid naked in a cold bathtub, the ringing in my ears and searing white light are simply my body trying to process external stimulus while being in such pain. 

I feel stiff, tired and in no way capable of pretty much anything, I wish to sit up in order to achieve something, however my brain doesn't think any form of movement is a good idea, it simply wants to curl up in the fetal position and sleep, which peculiarly enough seems to be what got me into this position in the first place. Finally, after much psyching up, i sit up, there is resistance, some grunting, and a few choice four letter words, however once movement has begun I have no interest in stopping and slipping back down into the tub. I clamber out, not even half halfheartedly attempt to find a towel to wrap around myself, figure that the bed is a much better place to pass out in, and with that, stagger out of the bathroom.

Or at least that was the plan, I reach the bathroom door, pull it back, step through, meet some form of resistance, and SEARING PAIN! My nakedness is no longer comfortably numb, but SEARING BURNING PAIN. In a moment of pure adrenaline I reverse course, dash back across the bathroom, dive into the shower and turn it on, diverting the freezing cold spray towards my belly button, and, erm, lower man parts. The adrenaline subsides, replaced by the dragged awake feeling only an ice cold shower can provide. Now I really need a towel, not in a half arsed way, or any other half body part either, I am cold, wet, pissed off and need a towel. 

That is when I see it, I see it, but I don't understand it, there is an arm, the thing I encountered that stopped me leaving the bathroom, there is an arm, held horizontal across the doorway. Draped over the arm, like an old butler in Downton Abbey, there is a towel, in the hand, attached to the arm, is a cup of what my lower body can only presume is some steaming hot liquid refreshment.

"What the actual.....****"

"If you come through here sir, all will be explained.... in due time." I think there comes a time when the brain becomes apathetic to a single piece of extra crazy, like it is full to the brim with the weird stuff that has been going on, so when the next piece of random occurs, it just shrugs it's shoulders in a "What you gonna do," fashion and accepts it before moving on. Which is why, instead of wondering, why in the name of Ghandi's left slipper, Tiberius Clark was in my hotel room, offering me a towel and a hot beverage, I simply climbed dripping out of the shower, shuffled across the bathroom and accepted both items without question. I retreated to the bathroom to dry myself off, downed what turned out to be coffee in one go, and then made a beeline for the bed and crawled under the covers for comfort.  

Edited by Mandy42
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When he sees that I am comfortable, or as comfortable as I am going to get, Tiberius makes me decidedly uncomfortable by joining me on the bed. He brings with him another cup of coffee for me, and his laptop, open and pointing at us, which I find strange, though I am struggling to find anything about this that isn't strange.

"Your father regrets that he cannot be here in person." Tiberius states matter of factly, which is definitely in the strange category, because we both know my father is dead. I have nothing really to say to that, I nod my head slowly and take a swig of my coffee, leaning in slightly to look at the laptop to see if I can discern any reason he has put it on the bed in front of me. The savoring of the coffee turns to me struggling not to choke on it, as my eyes find the time and date in the bottom right hand corner.

It reads 17/10/2067, which is Monday, as in the day after Sunday, the day after my father's funeral. The last thing I remember is coming back to the hotel room slightly fresher than I would like on Thursday evening after the football match, the next thing is waking up in the bathtub naked, how in the world did I lose three whole flaming days! 

I get the coughing under control, and turn to look at Tiberius, if I didn't know the man was completely incapable I would be calling him on setting up an elaborate practical joke, though the man wouldn't know funny if someone rammed it up his backside alongside the stick he kept up there.   "I can assure you, the date and time are quite accurate," It is a good job Tiberius can read my mind, as currently, my mind is doing it's best impression of a fish flopping about hopelessly as it struggles to determine where the water went and which way it needs to flop to get back there. I feel like I'm about to be sick, casting my vision around looking for some nearby receptacle in which to hurl, all the while rocking back and forth ever so slightly in the bed. "Trust me sir, you are not going to be ill, just take some deep breathes, it will pass in a few moments." Tiberius really does seem to be in my head, although whether him telling me is enough, or I was going to start feeling better anyway, after a few deep breathes, the feeling does indeed seem to be passing.

"What the actual F*CK?!?!" eloquent as ever, I do however manage to completely encapsulate what I am thinking. Strangely, Tiberius simply smiles, leans in and presses a button on the laptop in order to wake it up. While maintaining what little of my personal space remains he quite deftly navigates to his personal e-mail account before sliding the laptop almost reverently towards me. I look at him, raise my eyebrows, he nods, before adding,

"This is the way your father insisted it had to happen." I am far too disorientated and hungover to give this response to proper surge of anger it deserves, my initial thought of, my dad can go suck a bag of scabby c*cks, subsides as I rather numbly lean in and survey what the screen is showing me.

The e-mail account has one unread e-mail, I would say new e-mail, but this particular message was sent 4 years ago.

It is titled The Perils of Alcohol and Time Travel, and there is a video clip attachment.

This is doing my sense of disorientation no good whatsoever, yet I reach and pull the laptop closer, actually onto my lap and navigate with the built in mousepad to click and open the mail. At what point he actually left I have no idea, but some point during my attention being drawn by the laptop, Tiberius excused himself, I didn't even hear the latch on my hotel door click shut. The e-mail had a lot of text in it, what looked like instructions, and they appeared to be from my late Father. While I was not in completely control of my functions, I was able to get angry enough to have very little interest in anything remotely like an instruction from anyone, let alone him. Thus I skipped straight to the video.

And had my mind blown.

The video plays, it's a still frame of a bed, from off screen, comes the unmistakable acoustic sound of someone shouting from inside a bathroom.

"What the actual..... ****" Still off screen a reply from a lot closer to microphone recording this.

"If you come through here sir, all will be explained.... in due time."

There is a few minutes of noise and shuffling off screen, before the noise comes considerably closer. I come into shot, not very well wrapped in a towel and clamber onto the bed, building myself a sit in duvet fort. The picture moves as the laptop comes closer, an arm extends to hand me a cup of coffee.

"Your father regrets that he cannot be here in person."

I nod, I lean forward, I cough, and cough and cough, until I stop. On a side not, I do not suggest watching footage of yourself coughing if you can avoid it, it isn't a very pretty sight.

"I can assure you, the date and time are quite accurate." And then shortly after, "Trust me sir, you are not going to be ill, just take some deep breathes, it will pass in a few moments." A few moments later

"What the actual F*CK?!?!" With that, an arm came down across the screen, the hand at the end of the arm pressed a button on the keyboard and the video stopped.

In short, the last few minutes of my life, recorded a few minutes ago, yet delivered by e-mail to this laptop, 4 years ago.

I blinked repeatedly, stared off into space for some time.

Then I reopened the e-mail and began to read the instructions.  

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Why did it have to be Germany.

This has nothing to do with my recent experience at the 1966 World Cup Final, but more to do with the general Germany geographical landscape.

Where as my home town of Leeds, is situated in the County of West Yorkshire, a fairly simple division of country, county, city. Germany has layers and layers of division, (before we go any further that is in no way meant to be as political a statement as it could sound out of context!) 

Anyway, in comparison, Hoffenheim, where my father finished his management career and won his 100th trophy, is at the end of a much longer list. Although TSG 1899 Hoffenheim played in the Bundesliga from as early as as 2008, the village they take their name from has a population of only 5,000 people. That village is a municipality of the town of Sinsheim, which is in the Rhine Neckar Area of the state of Baden-Wurttemberg. Or a much simpler way, it's in the south west corner of Germany, nestled between the French border on it's left, and the Swiss border below it.

Add into this the fact that my father's mansion (it's too big to be considered a house) is in the town of Waldbrunn, of which there are two of in Germany! And you might begin to understand my general grumpiness at having to find my way here.

Actually, I am just whining at my general situation, seen as there was no finding of any sort, the instructions had been written down for me in the 4 year old e-mail,on the laptop along with the video that makes me dizzy every time I think about it.

When you are ready, go downstairs and check out, the hotel room is taken care of, a car will be waiting for you outside.

My mind can't cope with trying to work out, how the car will know to be outside at the precise moment I have decided I am ready and have packed my sh*t up and left.

The car will take you to the airport, there you will find a private jet waiting to take you to your destination.

Very mysterious, however it worked as advertised, there wasn't even any checking of documents or security, which normally would have struck me as strange, but my capacity for strange is full at the moment, please call back later.

I was served food and drink by two lovely women who didn't say a word to me the entire flight. I make a special effort to be considerate of cabin crew, seen as that was my mother's chosen profession, however just over 2 hours of silent service, mixed with my mood, stretched even my capacity for consideration.

A car will be waiting for you on the tarmac and will take you to your destination.

Not so mysterious when the pilot announces we are landing at Mannheim airport, which is all of a skip and a jump from Hoffenheim. From there it is all of a moment for me to remember my father's mansion in Waldbrunn. Don't get me wrong I can't point to it on a map, however I do remember what it was called!

I couldn't help feeling decidedly dodgy, no documents or security check leaving Sweden, none entering Germany, also, if I had been in my right mind I probably would have wondered how safe I was, following electronic instructions on another person's laptop, days after my father's funeral. Could this all be an elaborate attempt to get me out of the way while the will was being read? Luckily for all parties concerned I wasn't even in my left mind, never mind my right.

A car did collect me, still no words were spoken and we set off in (I guessed) the general direction of my father's mansion.

The car will leave you at the gate, the gate is locked, the security code is 12102067.

The code was indeed 12102067, the gate slid back, on a well maintained and silent hinge, allowing both me and my check in baggage access to the grounds. By now the car had turned about and was making it's way back down into the village of Waldbrunn. I would describe the grounds to you, but my head is a shed as I shuffle up to the impressive oak double front door. The instructions have me in a perpetual state of almost panic, completely under their control, I have no idea what I will do if one of the steps is in some way wrong. I no longer know which I desire more, for this all to be some crazy dream and me wake up somewhere else and none of this has happened, or it all be real, and the instructions deliver me safely to the other side.

Though the house looks rustic and old fashioned, it is completely state of the art. To the left of the double door, under the entry porch is an access panel. The panel is programmed to reveal itself when it detects your approach.

As I reach the entry porch, there is an almost unnoticeable click, and a very expensive, very quiet whoosh, as one of the exterior wood panels to the left of the double door (previously indistinguishable from those around it) slides back to reveal an electronic panel and keyboard.

The keyboard activates the alarm and is there completely to fool any would be burglars that there is indeed a pass code to enter. Place your face level with the panel and a retina scan will allow entry.

I highly doubted it, this was the point where I assumed, as I positioned myself in a less than attractive half squat position, that a scream of SURPRISE! would ring out, and the entire rest of the family would appear from out of nowhere. I mean, that plant pot over there by the step was clearly a fake, it was probably some form of elaborate head gear one of the Top four was using to blend in. But no, even scarier than that, a red beam played over my face and the door clicked open.

"Welcome Michael Mcneil, You are expected"

Very 2001.... not scary at all!   

 

 

Edited by Mandy42
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  • 2 weeks later...

That door click seemed to echo in my mind, like the shot from the grassy knoll in Dealey Plaza, the noise spreading, dissipating, but it can never be unheard it's consequences undone. If the door hadn't opened, I would have been vindicated in my notion that this was all some elaborate prank, or a mistake. Now however, with that simple click, the responsibility was firmly back on my shoulders, if I turned and ran, never to return, then I would have to spend the rest of my life knowing I decided not to go into the house. Likewise, if I pressed on, me crossing the threshold, was passing a point of no return, admitting that on some level I wanted to know what was in there. I hesitated, there on the porch, frozen, an internal whirlwind of thought and emotion.

Then, I snapped, yanked my travel bag off my shoulder and flung it. I don't think I purposefully threw it through the open door, but that is where it ended up. Which meant, unless I abandoned my bag, with not only my clothes but wallet and phone etc inside, I would have to go into the house anyway. Hindsight like that is a wonderful thing, but in the midst of that emotional outburst it seems that my aim was working against me. With a sigh, and some stomping of feet, I crossed the doorway into the house to go and retrieve my bag.

Once inside, multiple things happened simultaneously, the door I had come through swung smoothly shut behind me, lights came on in the large hallway in which I found myself, and off to the left a door under the stairway clicked open, it's door frame outlined in a slowly flashing blue. 

Once inside, your way will be indicated by flashing blue markers. The houses automated systems will direct you from here.

It felt not unlike starting a computer game for the 1st time, the tutorial teaching you the basics, giving you a helping hand to get started before you got fed up with it and strove off in your own direction. Once more my thoughts began to whirl, I contemplated rebelling, ignoring the gentle flashing light and wandering around the house for a while to waste some time. I wondered whether the external door I had just come through was simply closed or closed and locked. I came to the conclusion that I didn't want to know, that potentially being locked in added another level of emotional tension that I really didn't desire. That also brought me to the conclusion that I might as well get this over with, if my resolve for leaving was defeated by a simple closed door then the time for delay and procrastination was over, rip off the plaster, take the pain, maybe swear a few times, then it is done. Armed with that questionable wisdom I stepped through the door under the stairs.

The door led to a 90 degree turn, which opened out into a single flight of stairs descending into the bowels of the house. The runner on each side of the stairs was lit in the same blue as the doorway. I moved onward, on autopilot, resigned to the fact I had made this choice, but in no way hurrying to see it through. The stairs never deviated, they continued down at manageable but steep angle for what I guessed equated to three stories in height. They ended as they had begun, in a 90 degree right angle turn, a rather serious reinforced door lay around the corner, open and against the wall, it's door frame flashing blue. I shuffled through, the general darkness punctuated by the blue strobe light beginning to feel oppressive, I wanted this over, I was down the rabbit hole and had no interest in the walking tour, just the details. It was fortunate then that this was the end of the line, you might notice not the end of my journey, that was just beginning. 

The room I had entered was a decent sized rectangular space, on the left the first home comforts I had really seen in the house, sofa, bean bags, an entertainment system, corner bar and what looked like a sleeping area with a walk in shower right in the corner. On the right was a more business like space, tables and white boards before a door in the wall which had a large sign Records Room above it. Yet these sights earned only fleeting moments of attention, the real show was directly ahead. On the opposite wall another reinforced door, the kind that wouldn't look out of place in a post apocalyptic bunker stood open, from beyond it wasn't simply a flashing blue light beckoning me forward, but a blazing blue fire that caught the eye and demanded attention. I deviated just enough to drop my bag on the sofa, then walked into the far room and closed the door.

 

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Posted (edited)

I'm pretty sure I have told you that my dad's inspiration for becoming a football manager was Sir Alfred Ramsey. For a man whose idol, hero, whatever descriptor you wish to use, died when my father was only 7 years old, and a whopping 48 years before I was born, it is easy to see why the majority of my life I've spent looking in the past. 

To that end, when I walked through the bunker door, letting the blazing blue fire wash over me, it wasn't a recent comparison that my mind jumped to once my eyes had adjusted enough to the light to be able to make out the object that was making it. Firstly, the thing floated, just above head height about six feet off the ground, it bobbed around, like that training remote in Star Wars IV, but without the humming of a lightsabre, or the tsk, tsk, noise it made as it moved. Although it wasn't a sphere, it was a cube, glowing blue, like the Tesseract from the Marvel cinematic universe, the thing you first see when Red Skull appropriates it during the war. Which I might add is another example of Hugo Weaving being able to star in a movie without you spending most of your time watching it waiting for him to say "Mr Anderson." Just one of the many many things I had trouble with in the New Zealand fantasy film trilogy loosely based on The Lord of the Rings, but I am rambling now....

This floating blue cube was looking at me, which, as it had no facial features of any kind, was quite an impressive feat. For all I know the thing could read my mind and was waiting for me to stop discussing historic cinema references in my head and pay it the attention it deserved. Once I was looking at it, feeling the pressure of it's "gaze" on me, it noticed and smoothly slid through the air to another part of the room. When my eyes caught up with it, it was hovering over a rectangular table that I hadn't noticed when I had walked in, probably on account of my eyes adjusting to being full of blazing blue fire.

The cube began circling the boundary of the table in a long flat oval, some form of interpretive dance for, you've come all this way, what you want to look at is within the boundaries of this infinite oval I am traversing, don't mind me, I have all day. After a few more moments, and one more oval, I walked over. As I grew closer, the glow from the cube grew stronger, for a panicked second my brain switched back to movie mode, something bad was going to happen to me! This killer cube thing was powering up. Then I noticed the rectangular table had a glass top to it, which the light from the cube was reflecting off, crisis averted! However with the cube in such close proximity looking at what was underneath the glass was neigh on impossible,. squinting as hard as I could enabled me to make out something rectangular and crumbled beneath the glass.

Almost as though it sensed my predicament the cube rotated around the table until it was directly behind me, a me shaped shadow falling across the table allowing me to finally make out what I was looking at. A front page of a newspaper, the Times newspaper. It was yellow and faded, quite difficult to make out what I might be looking for, but well versed in the start in the top left corner, methodology of reading the English language I began to search closer for clues. My breath caught for a moment when I found the date, no wonder the page was so difficult to discern, it was from the 31st of July 1966, making it over 100 years old. That date... caught in my mind and stopped me from going off on a tangent about how old the paper was. If this was related to my dad, which I was sure it was, then it would be about football, and even the most relaxed English football fan knows what 1966 stands for. This new information helped me decipher some more of the information on the page, the grainy black and white image in the center of the spread, under the headline began to clarify into something that looked like jubilant people all crammed together in an enclosed space. I leaned in to study the image closer...

The cube moved with me, it gave the impression of peering over my shoulder, sharing the experience with me, but also, something else. It was back to looking at me again, not with the same intensity as the first time, this time more of a sideways glance every now and then. As though we were looking at one of those old internet images with the text underneath it that said When you see it, you'll lose your sh*t, and it was waiting for me to notice what it knew was there. I restudied the image with increased intensity, then I saw it, I froze, the cube regarded me in a way that suggested I couldn't hide the fact I had seen something from it.

I slid my left hand over the glass top of the table, with almost reverent care I brought it down, touching the cool smooth surface with a single finger pointing at a person in the image.

My father, the cube took in my action, and performed some form of rotation that my overloaded mind translated firstly as a back flip and then as some form of affirmation. My right hand performed the same process, till one of it's digits was resting against another person in the image, not next to, but close to that of my father.

It was me, the cube performed another back flip, my stomach decided to join in, time seemed to stretch, the glass under my fingers went from cold to red hot, I couldn't take my gaze off the image, nor pull my fingers off the glass. The blue fire blazed around me and the image seemed to seer itself into my very brain. Finally, panting and sweating I lurched back, staggering wildly as the room spun around me. I attempted to make for the bunker door to get out of the room.

I had seen.

Now I was losing my sh*t     

Edited by Mandy42
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  • 1 month later...

I managed to stagger as far as the sofa, not really sure what my plan was, or whether I had a plan at all, I just felt a compelling need not to be vertical right at that moment and with no further discussion or resistance I swerved the sofa in order to not squash my bag and collapsed with all the grace of a breeze block, into the welcoming embrace of one of the bean bags. Other than a slight musty smell I could have no complaints, the bag was amazingly, surprisingly comfortable. I nuzzled in, curling into a fetal position partly to ensure all of me fit within the confines of the bag, but also likely due to some requirement to feel safe and comfortable, withdrawn from external forces and responsibility, However I wasn't going to get much of a chance of that today.

"Search your feelings... You know it to be true!" Not what I had expected to hear... and while you know that it's James Earl Jones' voice, which is part of what makes Coming to America such a hilarious movie, you can't help picturing Darth Vader standing with his hand outstretched in the bowels of Cloud City. Well as I unnuzzled myself from my bean bag I didn't need any help picturing it, standing the other side of the sofa hand outstretched was a slightly blue outlined Darth Vader. Not what I had expected to see, which might be why it jolted me out of my daze and had me up on my feet a second of two later.

It was a strain to not reply with "That's not possible," for numerous reasons, some of them rather geeky indeed, however the most pertinent being the presence of a seemingly authentic photograph of me attending a World Cup Final, years before I was even born, that seemed to create a whole new definition regarding what was and was not possible. Though now upright, staring across the sofa at the image before me, I did manage to say,

"You can read my mind...." Darth tilted his head in a very un Darth manner before responding.

"I can yes." He replied simply. I stood there, staring at him a moment stretched between us before he added, "Very well, your meal will be ready in approximately 45 minutes, please make yourself comfortable and it will be brought to you down here." With that, he simply vanished.

True to his word, 45 minutes later a steak, hasselback potatoes, cauliflower cheese and a bottle of red wine arrived in the basement, delivered by a robot butler, think Johnny 5 but with quite a few upgrades. Much like the front door sensors had been connected to the light strips leading me down to the basement, whatever Darth was, had to have been connected to the entire house. My apartment back in England had some basic technical connectivity, but I couldn't afford the high end stuff, nor did I feel the need to invest in it. It seems my father had no such qualms, the house was definitely warmer now than when I had arrived, meaning that it could sense my presence and was adjusting the climate controls accordingly. For now I had too much on my plate, both figuratively and actually, to be bothered about tinkering with the automated systems, so I settled in to eat nice food, savour nice wine, recharge the batteries before the next revelation.

As far as I could tell, Darth kept his word, although, when he returned he was simply the floating blue cube... with James Earl Jones' voice. He had provided me with everything I had asked for, food, privacy and time to try and enjoy both, thus I took him at his word that he would fulfil my final request and knock off the mind reading abilities. Which is probably why when the floating cube reappeared, it waited for me to speak.

"Show me one thing, that is most likely to shine a light on this so it makes some kind of sense." The cube spun a few times in the air, which I took to mean deep thought, but then that made me think of the number 42 and tyrannical mice so I skipped past that mental image quite quickly.

"There unfortunately isn't such a thing, anything I show you at this stage will inevitably generate more questions than it alone answers," I glared at the cube for a few seconds, until it made the floating blue equivalent of a shrugging of it's shoulders and continued. "Though the records room would not be the worst place to start." With that I picked up my wine glass and half empty wine bottle and headed for the records room.

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The records room turned out to be more of a records cupboard. Three glass display cases standing in the middle of a rectangular room with just enough space to walk all the way around them. Plain white spot lights lit the room from above, refracted light from the glass cabinets made the room seem brighter than the lights themselves. Looking closer, each cabinet was just over shoulder width wide and a good six feet tall. Inside each one were stacks of shelves containing aged box files. The labels on the edge of the boxes were faded and brown, but in the brighter light they were just about readable.

Each cabinet contained boxes with all the same names. Peter Triphorn was on the left. Timothy Duncan in the middle and Ander Antonio on the right. I had a geek moment which made me chuckle to myself. Of course Ander was on the right, he had hugged that right touchline like a first born child. That amusement led me to tentatively open the right case first. The door opened with a slight click, tiny magnets parting to allow the door to swing free. I don't know what I expected to happen, but there was no whoosh of stale air, no smell of any kind to indicate the age of the items on display. They certainly looked ancient, so it was with a trembling hand that I reached up to the top left hand box and slowly withdrew it from the case. 

Now, because I am my father's son the three names listed on these files need no introduction to me. Probably die hard fans of my father, and Guisley AFC fans will have no trouble knowing who they were, but to the wider world some explanation would probably be required. These were the first three players my father signed in his first season at Guisley. It was the start of his 10th season in management, and if history had gone differently, it could well have been his last. Obviously I hadn't been born, but the family paint a picture of him having had enough with losing, being embarrassed at being a failure, on the verge of throwing in the towel. Then he signed these three, and all that changed and he never looked back. 

I looked at the box file in one hand, the wine glass and bottle in the other. I could sit down on the floor right there in the cupboard but it didn't look that comfortable, and to tell the truth the bright light was beginning to annoy me. I turned and retraced my steps to the table, the Darth cube followed me bobbing along behind at a respectful distance. The detritus of my meal had been cleared away, the table surface wiped clean. As I sat down I placed the wine and glass at one end, and the box file at the other, the sheer decrepit look of the thing forcing me to treat it with respect. I took a long slow sip from the glass, replaced it the maximum distance from the box and then with a deep breath I opened it.

They say looks can be deceiving. Yet again I had no idea what exactly I was expecting, but page after page of hand written words and figures would not have made my list. Different sets of pages seemed to have been written by separate people, however the coloured annotation system was the same on every page. Each set of pages depicted a statistical breakdown of the entire 2027/28 season, focusing completely on Ander Antonio. The confusing part was, that each different set recorded the same span of time, however the entries were different. It didn't make any sense, regardless of how great a player Ander had been, how much of an influence he had held over that team, he could only have played any given season once!

The cube hummed closer, circling the table like a vulture might circle a wounded creature far below.

"It doesn't make sense does it?" The Darth cube intoned, to break the silence.

"Not to me it doesn't, it just raises more questions, but then you told me that would be the case. Why don't you shed some light on what this means!" I looked up at the cube, telling myself I had pinned it in place with my less than impressed stare, though I doubt that was why. 

"Very well, let me show you, just don't jump." That second part confused me for all of a second, until the papers I had taken such great care over erupted out of the box file like a firework and began to swirl around the table. "There are 1,000 versions of that season in this file." Darth indicated, as the papers gathered together into piles, a couple of them settling on the table before me for reference, the rest floating about the room providing a scale to the mass of information on display. I looked down at the papers that had settled before me. The same information:

Games Played

Goals Scored

Assists

Cross Completion Percentage

Various defensive stats including tackles and interceptions.

Bookings

Injuries

As the papers  continued to sort themselves above me, I began to notice a pattern. In each of the seasons depicted Ander had played in most if not all of the games, had chipped in with a few goals, recorded a ridiculous number of assists and spent little to no time suspended or injured. This thought fixed in my mind, I once more looked at the cube. "Have you ever heard of a football player called Hank Williams?" The cube asked as I looked at it.

"No, should I have?" In way of reply, a new set of papers appeared out of thin air, bordered faintly with blue light. They descended towards me and I plucked them out of the air. Again, statistics for the same season, this time for a player called Hank Williams. The difference was instantly clear, Hank wasn't a bad player, but he was no Ander Antonio, he spent a much higher proportion of his time injured, had a considerably worse disciplinary record. When he did play he created goals for the team and probably would have been somewhere close to Ander's numbers if he could have played a comparable number of games. But these pages indicated that would never be the case. Having digested this latest nugget of information I once more looked at the cube.

"Hank Williams is the player who your father was looking at for the right back position at the same time as he looked at Ander Antonio. He used the information here to decide which player would have been the best signing." That made sense, the more data available the more informed a decision could be. However, that didn't address the elephant in the room. Decisions on which player to sign would have to be made on historical data, however the 1,000 seasons of data on Ander Antonio were all from his debut season at Guisley.

"How is this possible?" If I didn't know better I would have said the cube smiled when I asked that question.

"Now you are asking the right questions, might I suggest you refill your glass before I answer them." 

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