The school hall has been quiet for a couple of weeks now. The grand hall of St. Chelsea of Stamford Bridge School for Bi-Polar Excellence has been bathed in an eerie silence since the end of term awards ceremony. All that’s been heard is the flicker of dusters on splendid busts and pews and the shuffling of brooms on the shiny parquet flooring, a choral background to the squeaking noise of the cleaners’ trainers as they go about their daily chores. Just occasionally the silence is pierced by the quarter-tipped brogue heel of the Principle, the Right Reverend Dr. Anthony Jockstrap Blueheart-Glover as he strode through the grand hall, wondering and anticipating just what the school’s governing body and benevolent owner had planned for the current and new intakes. He smiled at the raucous celebrations of that night as he sat, very much the school’s servant and watched those fine young men toast their achievements, watched as they laughed and joshed with each other even those whose future within that hallowed establishment might be in jeopardy. Boys to men he thought as the warm glow of the memories washed over him. Even the men in the group had matured this year. And that would serve them well. He sighed as he recalled the hope that came with success, the expectation levels of the sponsors, of the people who came week in, week out to support those young scamps representing the august institution that is the St. Chelsea of Stamford Bridge School for Bi-Polar Excellence.
He poured himself another cup of Earl Grey, and knowing no-one else was around he indulged himself in the rare but splendid treat of a finely turned Cuban cigar. The glass of port could wait; it was after all just turning eleven in the morning. He’d finished reading the daily newspapers, chuckling inside at the thought of some actually containing anything remotely approaching ‘news’. He was heartily sick of the idiotic stab in the dark rubbish speculation that passed as serious journalism these days. In his mind they just made it up loaded it into the combined press corps scattergun and fired a few shots off every day. And they got paid to do this?
His office was small but comfortable, and as expected rather untidy, letters and correspondence all over the place, several half read books, a computer screen on the desk and jumbles of cables intertwined behind it. The paperless office was merely a myth put forward by pinstriped marketing types working for faceless corporate IT giants desperate to pretend their companies had human characteristics. In his eyes, as useful as computers were all they’d really done was add wires to the paper further cluttering his much treasured little sanctuary. Still, as he always said to himself when reflecting on life’s ironies, worse things happen at sea… apparently.
He was just starting to ruminate over why the word inflammable meant the same as flammable and that if the Universe is expanding, what is it expanding into, to be followed swiftly by such mindbenders as what was the best thing before sliced bread and why is a pair of trousers referred to as a pair when there’s only one when like a lightning bolt he found the inspiration to dig out his own X-files. It had been some time since he’d been brave enough to cast his eye over the horror contained within that file, but he knew it needed updating, and every year he knew he was the one to do it. He’d run it past his colleagues of course, after all, they would have to agree with the content, and of course they’d have to try and agree on a consensus for the X-team or else lessons would not be learnt. How could the esteemed school move on if it never learned from the lessons of the past? It was a tough job but he knew he could rely on his learned friends and colleagues to add their worthy comments to this most secret, wretched but funniest of tomes.
He walked over to the locked cabinet and turned the key, opening the stiff door slowly, fearful of the plume of dust that usually coughed into his face. Really, just cover the damn file in a plastic cover; that might help! Although the thought had occurred that perhaps time spent scanning it into the computer might be time well spent. He leaned into the cabinet and reached for the lone dusty file that sat there, thin and faded like a prisoner who’s been in solitary confinement for a year with no daylight. The file could have been coughing and blinking as he exposed it to the shafts of midsummer light pouring into the ramshackle office. On the front it merely said these words… “The St. Chelsea X-file – Eyes Only”.
Another sigh as he sat at the desk, before a swig of his beloved Earl Grey and the satisfying pull on the Cuban finally made him sit up and take some action. He read the first page…
THIS DOCUMENT CONTAINS A LIST OF THE WORST EVER PUPILS WHO HAVE ATTENDED THE ST. CHELSEA OF STAMFORD BRIDGE SCHOOL FOR BI-POLAR EXCELLENCE – IT MUST BE UPDATED AFTER EACH END OF YEAR CEREMONY AND THE NAMES WITHIN WILL REMAIN FOREVER AS AN ARCHIVE OF THOSE PUPILS WHO MUST NOT BE FORGOTTEN BUT FOR THE WRONG REASONS.
WE WILL LEARN FROM OUR ERRORS!
The X-file was a simple document containing the worst pupils ever to attend the school, irrespective of their desire or work effort. It was based on the cold and calculating criteria of capability and capability alone.
Another deep draw on the Montecristo, the realisation that the port might well be necessary he turned the page…
Goalkeepers. Three entries: Les Fridge. Bob Iles. Dave Beasant.
Defenders. Numerous entries: Gary Chivers, Graham Wilkins, Darren Wood, Gareth Hall, Micky Nutton, John Sitton, Dale Jasper, David Stide, Winston Bogarde, Doug Rougvie, Keith Dublin, Khalid Bouhlarouz, Asier Del Horno, Vinnie Jones.
Midfielders. Numerous entries: Eamon Bannon, Ken Docherty, Kevin Hayles, Slavisa Jokanovic, Juan Sebastian Veron, Duncan Mackenzie, Phil Priest, John McNaught, Maniche.
Forwards/wingers. Numerous entries: David Hopkin, Darren Barnard, Lauren Charvet, Phil Driver, Mark Falco, Chris Sutton, Joe Allon, Alan Mayes, Trevor Aylott, Mateja Kezman, Robert Fleck, Gabriele Ambrosetti, Gordon Davies.
Managers: Danny Blanchflower, Avram Grant, John Hollins, Ken Shellito, Geoff Hurst.
A shudder ran down his spine as he looked at the next line, as if the horror of the names on the squad list wasn’t enough… the worst ever team selection from those on the squad list:
Wood Jasper Sitton Rougvie
Bannon Hayles Jokanovic
Charvet Fleck Ambrosetti
Subs from: Chivers, Jones, Bogarde, Kezman, Sutton, Mackenzie, Aylott, Veron
Underneath was the caveat “To be changed as deemed necessary”.
Heart stopping, spirit sinking stuff he thought. The worst ever Chelsea squad and the worst ever team all on one page. No justification, no reasoning other than they simply did not meet the necessary criteria of having sufficient capability – damning and chilling to the bone for any hardened lover of this great organisation. He looked over the detail of the awards ceremony and sighed. Young Malouda had seemed such a likely candidate but he’d pulled up his breeches and put his head down under the kind Mister Hiddink’s tutelage and showed he did not deserve a place in this Hall of Shame. He looked won the list, one or two slackers maybe but no-one immediately jumped out as deserving to be in this list… and then he saw the one name… the one person who had deliberately or unwittingly decided to show any capability bar a flash or two in the early stages. A tug of war took place in his mind as he battled with whether the name deserved to be on the list, until a memory of crowds baying and booing came flooding back, about underhanded comments made to the ragamuffins and urchins plying their dishonourable trade on the 4th estate. He winced at the sheer glee of those mindless hacks breaking virtual nibs to get the snide comments published. He picked up his Mont Blanc fountain pen, after all when one writes one has to have standards he thought, and slowly wrote the following words…
“To be added by club secretary… please update the file… in the midfield section please add the following name. Deco.”
One more glance at the page to check… he had truly considered adding Mr. Scolari’s name there but he knew deep down that he was capable but his intransigence and inflexibility had been the problem. After all it wasn’t like he’d been given the chance to get as far as relegation was it? The tea was finished, the port barely touched… he’d wait until midday had passed through before finishing that off. He closed the file and put it back in the cabinet, locking it back in its cell until the secretary could amend it. When it was done he would then garner opinion from his peers and colleagues. He smiled as he pictured Mr. PeteW, Mr. Bayou, Professor Kaiser, Lord Benfield, Sir Greenlight, Mister Be-Champions and of course young Squire Fiftee et al scratching their heads over the Deco decision. Still, as he’d once heard, he was there to protect democracy not practice it, so he’d let them all debate amongst themselves the merits of the list and its latest addition.
The cigar had some life left and he leant forward, touching the space bar on the key board lightly, as if he were gently stirring someone from their slumber. The screen fizzed into life and he saw the ‘new email’ message. It was from the owner, which was odd as it was usually his PA, that chap Kenyon who sent the emails. He opened the email and read the confirmation.
“New interns for next year confirmed. Yuri Zhirkov (useful left-sided player – see notes), Ross Turnbull (goalkeeper – Cech needs some competition) and Daniel Sturridge (bright prospect – see notes) – please add to list for next year’s evaluation process. More to follow? Just don’t believe the press! Yours RA”
A smile briefly travelled across his face, the thick fug of cigar smoke shrouding it in a faux mask of opaqueness. Peace and quiet are all very well, but normal service is heading down the runway very quickly.
And he couldn’t wait.
Servo puteulanus vexillum volatilis altus*
*Roughly translates to Keep the Blue Flag Flying High!