The room filled with blue light, flashing through the long glass windows of the Chairman’s office. Resigned to my fate, I drew long and hard on the cigar I had taken from the heavy, hand-carved wooden box that was still lying on the floor. A splash of the boss’ blood shone brightly with every turn of the blue siren of the patrol car. Was it a patrol car? Just the one or has an army come from me? I didn’t care anymore. I knew he’d call them even as he promised otherwise. Another lie.  The door cracked once behind me, then again before it finally gave way. Third time lucky I smiled and I raised my hands.

Back Home

The wind was whipping down the high street as the grannies and unemployed scuttled about looking for shelter. I liked the cold for two reasons. It made me feel and it was free. It was about the only thing left that did. The street felt the same even though the shops had changed since I was last here as a child. At least I don’t remember so many 99p stores. The elephants are still there. The memory of happier times bolted through me. I instinctively rubbed my back where the taser burn marks served as a constant reminder of my actions. The doctor said it would be scarred for life. He laughed when I asked about compensation. They weren’t laughing when the judge awarded me the pay out and a more lenient sentence. The wind whipped again. I hoped this wasn’t a portent for this interview. Jeez. This would be the first time since the incident that I’ve stepped into football ground let alone a chairman’s office. I was nervous as hell.

Nearly Man

It was all a big misunderstanding. I heard myself say it and stopped myself flinching at the ridiculousness of it all. How can braining someone with a cigar box be a ‘misunderstanding’? Nope it was desperate. It was anger; rage even; frustration. It was brought on by that lying wee turd telling me Hockaday is gone. You’ll get the job. At my own birthday party and Redfearn there to witness it too. No no no. It was me. It was my fault. I take full responsibility for my own actions. It was wrong to react as I did. Violence never solved anything.

Leeds and Leeds and Leeds

I remember you being on the front of the Gazette when you signed your s-forms. Do you? It was a while ago. I respond politely trying to end that particular stream of conversation. I remember it all too well myself. I have never been prouder than the day I signed for Leeds United. Perhaps had my career followed a more illustrious path, I would have had better memories and I might not be sat here. Who did I play with? Oh you know some great guys there at the time: Speed, Kewell, Batty, Radebe, Big Carlton, Wee Gary Kelly. If you only count training matches, i thought. Eighteen years there and I never got a sniff of the first team. Its a shame about your injuries. Yes, but i spent that time getting my badges. I put on that brave face that I learnt so well. 18 years of football was spent as 18 years of alcohol but I am not going to tell him that. I do want this job after all.

The Presser

I used to jump the fence there. And we’d use those trees as goals there. I pointed out random memories to John Shoe, Chief (and only) Sports Writer of the erstwhile Carluke & Lanark Gazette as we strolled around Loch Park Stadium. As we approached the main stand I hoped he’d not read the obscenity recently glossed over but still visible on the back wall. I wondered if he’d appreciate the tale of me taking a jobby on the other side of it. I look at the journalist – he was young and keen to leave his mark. Good luck to you mate. I was just glad only one journo turned up for this presser. I might just get away with this I thought to myself but not quite believing it.

Band Meeting

Hey McGinty – you still here after all these years! Martin was a good lad. Not a bad player himself in the day. He’d barely changed too. Great to see you boss. The Rovers needs a boost. The bear hug I expected, the double kiss less so. You just back from France, Marty? Sorry boss. Right lets get the lads together so i can speak to them but first I’d like to speak with the staff. Where are they? McGinty looked sheepish. This is it boss. I went to speak but could only manage the one syllable. Oh.  And the lads are all away on holiday. They all jumped on the bus to Blackpool. As long as it wasn’t a David Urqhuart blue rinse special. Martin didn’t get my joke so we we walked up to Dixies instead to talk tactics stopping in at the job centre to place a couple of Volunteers Wanted ads.

Squad Depth and Tactics

Dixie Deans must have been raging. Why? I asked Martin. Well he was a no bad wee striker for The Well and Celtic but he was never going to match Dixie Dean for scoring was he? His name wasn’t Dixie though, it was John. Dixie was his nickname. The blank look McGinty gave me said it all. This tactical master plan was going to have to be a solo project.  We were sat in the corner of The Railway Inn – formerly owned by Dixie Deans and still called Dixie’s. Well it was by me at least. I had a notepad and pen that I found in the kitchen at my Dad’s that morning. Ok Martin lay it on the line to me. I need to visualise these guys. I need to be able to picture what their strengths and weaknesses are across all aspects of being a footballer. I’d like you to go through every player in the squad and rate them for say 36 attributes. If you can use some form of consistent scale – lets go with 20 being best, 1 being worst. Oh and don’t forget I need to know about any traits they have and a run down of their height, weight and personality. Ok? Right M&M, hit me with it.

League Comparison and Player Recruitment

That’s mental mate. Are you sure you have got that right? Six? So now I knew. According to McGinty’s Scale the average value across our league was 6. It didn’t matter in what position or what attribute you like, if you scored higher than 6 according to my Assistant you were good. With wingers in our squad we are more suited to a 4-4-2 shape or one of its derivatives. But the way I feel I am more inclined to keep it tighter at the back with a 4-1-4-1. We’re a long, long way from Bielsa here boys. Either way we are still short on bodies and quality. Fine Martin, get on to the league secretary and the players union and get the list of any footballer out of contract. Phone them all and if you think they sound determined get them in for a trial. I am going to speak to clubs about potential loans in.  Don’t mention this to any of the lads yet – let them enjoy their holiday without worrying about the bullet.

Financial Disaster Zone

What we lack in squad depth and quality, we also lack in money. We have little money in the bank so wages are a big no. So too are transfer fees. This is going to be about the love of the game. By christ I hope we get a cup run. The Chairman’s projections are one thing but it will take a few months of incomes and outgoings until I am convinced I can spend that £145 per week in wages.

The important thing about rock bottom?
Everything good starts with a solid foundation and there is nothing as solid as rock.

Welcome to Carluke Rovers and my redemption.

This is obviously a work of fiction, created in a fictional landscape based upon Football Manager 2018 game. I play using a reconstructed Scottish Leagues database created by FM Samo. Ask him for it via twitter or join us on FM Slack.

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