13 March 2001
I had been playing for my local Sunday League team since 1998, Guiseley JFC they were called, a spin-off of the non-league side Guiseley AFC. We were a rough set of bastards, playing at Littlemoor High School on a crappy pitch week in, week out.
I played on the left-wing but my Georgian hero Georgi Kinkladze who was born in Tbilisi, a whole 430 kilometres away from my birthplace in Abkhazia, convinced me to move into a more central position through his admirable performances for Manchester City which I had seen through television here in England.
My coach, Owen had struck discipline into us like a lightning bolt, and did so with any new recruit. There was one time where he had literally made a kid, just arriving from America run off. He told the rest of the squad to 'get into him', and coach's orders, so we did. We didn't realise his mum was watching the whole training session and after about 45 minutes of brutality and teasing, the kid ran off to his mum. He never came back.
Although we were from Leeds and had an LS postcode, we had found ourselves in the Harrogate league because it was a much more peaceful event on the touchlines, with the coaches and parents constantly raising tensions in the Leeds leagues. Harrogate was a much posher place, with rich old people galore and young kids with parents buying them the world, there was nothing much to argue about in a football match for kids.
But today though we were playing Pannal Ash, a brilliant team, they had the technical and physical ability to go onto be unbeatable. We drew with them 4-4 today - the first time this season that Pannal Ash didn't take maximum points home with them. I was involved in three out of the four goals that we scored in this game, unaware of the man who would go onto change my life standing on the touchlines.
Owen had known that a scout from Leeds United academy had come down to watch, but to take the risk of ball-hogging and selfishness out of the game, he told none of the squad. In the first goal, about ten minutes into the match I had opened the scoring for either side.
I headed the ball away from the corner, with my 5'10" presence scaring off any challenge from the attacking side. The ball was volleyed straight back towards goal, which I gracefully took on my chest before drilling a pass into our right-winger, our only man up the pitch due to his height disadvantage. He held up the ball well before laying a pass into the path of my run. I raced between the two remaining defenders on the halfway line and was already one-on-one with the keeper as I was 35-yards out from goal. The 'keeper came off his line, giving me a perfect reason to chip it over his head, delicately bouncing over the line.
I didn't score for the rest of the match, although I assisted two other goals. One with a curling cross quite far away from the edge of the box, maintaining its height before dipping onto the thankful head of our striker who nodded it under the 'keeper's diving body. The second, however was just a simple chip over the head of the last defender, finding the run of our striker who lobbed it over the 'keeper's head with the side of his boot.
Such creativity received applause from both sets of parents from either side, as well as the anonymous scout, hiding between the fat and thin bodies standing on the touchline. What happened after the match, though, was about to change my life massively...
We're all awaiting it, now you have us intrigued!
I walked over to my mother, who had bought me a chocolate bar to eat after the game, especially if I had played well. "Thanks mum!" I chirped. She pointed over to a man, only a few millimetres away from being bald, but you just about could see his little gray spikes poking out from his head.
"That man over there in the big navy jacket wants to talk to you." She smiled at me before I walked over to the man, aged around the 45 years old mark.
He greeted me with a big, friendly "Hello!" before shaking my hand. It was the firmest handshake I had ever received. I almost felt embarrassed shaking his hand due to the sweat oozing from my warm hands.
"I'm Steve Brooker, I am the head of academy operations over at Leeds United Foundation. You must be Adam Chabukiani?" He asked, glancing at his notes to make sure he had the pronunciation of my last name perfectly.
"That's right." I replied.
"Pleased to meet you, now I-"
"You too." I interrupted, such was my nervousness for this encounter.
"Listen, we at Leeds United can find time for a player like you. What I saw on that field today from you was top quality.
"Thank you, Steve."
"I want you to come down to Thorp Arch on Thursday. Show us what you have got against some of the best your age."
I couldn't wipe the smile sweeping across my face. "Sure, I'll be there. Thursday?"
"Thorp Arch. 6pm until 8pm. Be there on time please." He demanded.
"Yes, of course!" I shouted in excitement.
I raced over to my mum who was stood talking to Owen, our coach. "Mum! Mum!" I shouted in glee.
"Yes Adam?" She asked.
"That man over there is Steve Brooker and he's from Leeds United and he wants me to train with their under 14's on Thursday!" I couldn't wait to tell her that.
My coach, Owen had heard me - I think the whole town of Guiseley could to be honest, I was that loud and excited about it.
"Well done Adam! I'm not surprised in the slightest after today, you were brilliant!" My mum congratulated me.
"Aye to that, Mrs Chabukiani! Well played today Adam, best of luck for Thursday buddy!" Owen said, hauling a big bag of footballs over his shoulder all the while.
"Thank you Owen!"
Was my life about to change? If I could impress on Thursday who knows what could happen next? Leeds United hey? Boasting the likes of Olivier Dacourt, Jon Woodgate, Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka, I could keep going. I smiled to myself. Jesus. This was big, this was really big.
19 November 2002
Adam flung his body across the turf to make the tackle. He had tracked the Blackburn midfielder all the way and, when the time was right, he'd made his move.
But Adam Chabukiani was not a defender and he never would be. Adam was the best attacking-midfielder in the whole of Yorkshire and maybe even beyond that. He had the pace and skill to beat any defender.
So why was Mr Brooker playing him at centre-back? And how could he do it in a game as important as the English Youth F.A. Cup Semi-Final?
It was stupid. Pointless, in fact.
Adam should have been Leeds' most dangerous weapon, not the one doing all of the defending. If they were going out of the F.A. Cup, they should at least go out and try win the game.
It was 0-0 and, with ten minutes left until half-time, Adam realised that the Blackburn keeper hadn't had to make a single save yet. It was actually embarrassing.
Adam looked at the crowd watching the game from the touchline. There were probably about a hundred people there. He dreaded to think what they were making of Leeds' long-ball tactics. There had been a few whispers that some scouts from the likes of Newcastle United and Manchester United coming to check Adam out today. But even if any of them had turned up, there was no way they could have been impressed by an attacking-midfielder who wasn't allowed to enter the opposition half.
It was as if Steve Brooker wanted him to play so deep that no one could spot his talent. Adam wiped his shirtsleeve across his forehead to soak up the sweat. He was waiting impatiently for Blackburn to take their throw-in. It was time for him to show what he could do.
He anticipated what was going to happen. He raced to intercept the Blackburn throw-in and won possession of the ball. If he was going to stick to Brooker's tactics, Adam now had to thump the ball into the channel for Ashish Khan to chase. But Adam didn't feel like sticking to plan. Adam pushed the ball a good ten yards in front of him so he could really open up his stride. As soon as he started running, his pace kicked in; he rocketed down the middle. The Blackburn right-back came into the middle to close him down but Adam simply flew past him.
He felt his marker try to clip his ankle and it would have been a free-kick, if Adam had gone down. But he didn't. He wasn't going to stop now; he just kept on running. Adam drove further and further forward, deep into the heart of Blackburn territory. As he approached the penalty area, the crowd on the touchline strained their necks to keep up with the action. Now they were about to see the real Adam Chabukiani.
One more defender - that's all Adam had to beat. "Yes! Play me!" shouted Ashish Khan. He was the only player who'd been quick enough to keep up with Adam. He was making a run across the box to the penalty spot. Adam looked up and shaped to cross it to Khan; that's exactly what everyone would be expecting him to do. But Adam wanted to do something a little more special than that. He wanted to do something for any scouts that might have been there. He wanted to go all the way himself.
Adam put his head down and dashed towards the last Blackburn defender. When he got close enough, he moved his left foot over the ball with a flourish to make it seem as though he was going to go on the outside. Then, just as the defender closed him down, he pushed the ball inside with his right foot to head straight for goal. It was a classic step-over. There was just one problem: the defender didn't buy it. He'd stayed on his feet and kept his eye on the ball. He tackled Adam just as he was on the brink of a brilliant individual goal.
Adam squeezed his eyes shut and threw his head up into the air. "AAAGHH!" he growled in anguish. He'd been so close. Why didn't his step-over work? All the best players were amazing at step-overs?!
"ADAM!!!" Brooker roared from the sidelines. "GET BACK!" Adam turned around to see that the defender that had tackled him was now leading a Blackburn counter attack. There was a huge gap down the middle - exactly where Adam should have been. With no one to mark him, the Blackburn player had been able to get all the way to the edge of the box, from where he delivered a delicious curling cross to the far post.
The ball sailed effortlessly over all of the Leeds defenders' heads, finding its target of the tall Blackburn striker. The attacker sprang high into the air and pulled his head back before jerking it forward again with power and precision to fire the ball across the goal towards the far corner of the net. Adam had only got back as far as the halfway line. He was still out of breath from his own run. As his lungs panted their exhaustion, he knew that Brooker would blame him for this goal. He could already hear the abuse coming his way.
But then Callum Foggarty, the Leeds goalkeeper, flew into the air, clawing towards the ball like an eagle swooping for its prey. He got the ends of his fingertips to it, and touched it around the post for the corner. He hadn't just saved a goal, he'd saved Adam too.
"ADAM!" Bellowed Brooker. He sounded like an army general than a football coach. "Get back and defend the corner! Play for the team, not for yourself!" Adam sprinted back towards his goal. If they wanted to see how fast he could run, he'd show them. Why couldn't he pick on someone else for a change?
It was boiling hot as Brooker pulled his team around him for the half-time team-talk. Adam could taste the salty sweat seeping into his mouth. He could feel the heat radiating off his forehead without having to touch it.
"OK. Apart from one or two certain individuals who seem to think they are too good to stick to the tactics, things are going to plan," said Brooker, staring right at Adam as he spoke. He had the same look on his face as if he'd just tasted some milk that had gone sour.
"Semi-Finals are all about seeing who cracks first. If we stick to my tactics, we'll keep a clean sheet and we'll win this game. I can promise you that.
"We protect what we've got and hit them on the counter. They are mentally frail. They will break. I can see it in their eyes!" With the sun reflecting off the top of Steve Brooker's head, it looked like a newly polished cue ball on a pool table.
"Is everybody clear on the tactics?" he asked
"Yes, Steve, the team answered robotically
"Good. Has anyone got anything they want to say?" he asked, looking at Dillon, who was the captain.
Sir, I have..." As his teammates looked at him in surprise, Adam realised that he was the one who was talking. His friend Ollie was shaking his head at Adam, trying to tell him not to carry on. But Adam had already started.
"If we can get it to my feet, I can get past their defenders easily," he said. "Can we play it on the ground a bit more?" Brooker stared at Adam as if he'd went into his house on Christmas Day and pissed on his kids.
"I'm sorry, Adam - for a second I thought I was the coach of this football team!" Brooker snarled. "You've already nearly cost us a goal through your selfishness and now you're telling me how to do my job-"
"But, Steve!" Adam said, feeling Ollie's elbow dig into his ribs. "All these long balls, we just keep giving the ball away. How can we score a goal if we haven't got the ball?"
"Fine," Brooker said in a much calmer voice than Adam had expected. "No problem at all, if you don't like my tactics, Adam, you don't have to use them. Walker, get warmed up, you're coming on."
Adam's mouth hung open, Brooker couldn't just take him off! Not Adam. And not in a match this big. He was committing football suicide!
You write well. This is a good piece. The only comments I have regarding it would sound pedantic so I'll keep them to myself and instead just enjoy what you're doing.
I like your time and effort placed into character work and back story. It helps us understand the character and that's very important to truly good writing. Keep it up!
It's all yours
I think I know what you are getting at and I appreciate that, cheers mate
1 December 2002
FA Youth Cup Final: Leeds United 1 - 2 Manchester United
After a mesmerising display of skill by Leeds' Adam Chabukiani after his introduction in the 71st minute as a substitute from Steve Brooker, he could only level the scoring in the 87th minute, before Manchester United went onto win the game in the 118th minute of the game.
The Manchester United players were draped in one of the big banners their supporters had brought. They were jumping up and down with the Cup, singing: "Chamionés! Championés! Olé Olé Olé!" In front of them, the photographer was snapping away.
"That's it, lads," he was saying. "Cheeky smiles. There's going to be a big splash for you boys tomorrow!" Adam couldn't help but think it should be Leeds' boys up there on the podium. He could almost see him lifting up the Cup and then running around the pitch with it. Leeds had come all this way. And now they were going away with nothing.
Instead of celebrating, Adam's teammates were silent; some of them were even in tears crying. It occurred to Adam that this was the way his dream was supposed to end. He'd had his piece of personal glory coming off the bench to score but, ultimately, his Leeds team hadn't been good enough to win the Cup Final.
Maybe this was the footballing gods giving him a little nudge. He was fifteen. If he didn't manage to play for England Schoolboys by now - and it hadn't happened for him today - it was never going to happen. Adam should enjoy playing for Leeds regularly but give up on his international ambition of following in the footsteps of his hero's.
The truth that the time had come and gone for him to be an international star and it was time he'd accept he was never going to be anything mor-
"Well played, Adam." He felt a hand rest on his shoulder.
"Hello? Who are you?" Adam asked. "Do I know you from anywhere?"
"Don't sweat it, Adam. I'm Liam Kavanagh - Head of England National Football Team's Youth Team functions." He replied calmly.
Adam began sweating. "Oh... Listen, I understand that you may have come to see me play today and I'm so-"
"Calm down, Adam - you were brilliant. I thought so anyway, and that's all that should matter to you." Liam interrupted.
"Oh my God!" said Adam. His eyes were practically popping out. He couldn't stop staring at Liam. Now he noticed the little England crest on his jacket. "I can't believe you're actually here - to watch me!"
Well, when a little birdie told me that there was a gifted attacking-midfielder playing today, I had to come down and take a look," said Liam. "We are looking for an attacking midfielder at the moment."
"I'm an attacking midfielder!" Adam exclaimed.
"I know," smiled Liam. You're the one I came to see."
Adam felt the golden sunlight warm his skin as he listened to Liam Kavanagh talk. He wanted to take in every word, hear every syllable that came out of his mouth. Liam Kavanagh was the most important man Adam had ever met.
"I have to admit," Steve was saying. "I was a bit surprised that you started on the bench, but then I suppose it was the way you were able to turn the match on its head in such a short space of time that really caught my eye.
"As a coach, sometimes you only need to see one piece of magic, one passage of play to convince you that there is something you can work with in a player. When I saw you do that step-over, Adam, I knew I'd seen something special. Something very special."
Adam swallowed hard. His mouth was dry. He could feel his head starting to judder with excitement. "Thanks." He just about managed to splutter.
"Adam," Liam continued, "I think you might have something. I don't know what it is exactly, but everyone can see it, and I'd like to find out. I'd like you to come and train with your age group for England."
Very discreetly Adam dug his nail as far as he could into his own skin. He had to check that it hurt. He had to check that this was actually real. He'd only believe it was if he saw blood coming out of his-
"Well?" said Liam. "Are you going to give me an answer?"
"Yes," said Adam, softly at first. "Yes! A thousand million yeses! I'd crawl all the way down the motorway to play for England!" Adam was bouncing around now, hugging Liam.
"Great," said Liam. "I'm glad. You'll move up and we'll put you in accommodation near us. Then, assuming you've done the business, you will be put in the team for trips to the USA to play the USA themselves as well as Brazil." The words seemed to fly like spirits in the air. They were too precious to touch, but he could hear them and understand what they meant.
Adam Chabukiani was going to become an international football player.
An Oasis fan and a young Leeds player. Someone has great taste
yes! some great writing! keep it up man!
Wow, sad to say I actually forgot about this. Have no idea how, It is brilliantly written! Keep it up man! Love it!
28 May 2003
The day of the Montaigu Tournament Final in France
Adam Chabukiani picked up his gleaming new football boot and kissed it for good luck. Then he slipped his right foot into it.
There were just ten minutes to go until the kick-off of the Montaigu Tournament Final and England's Under-16 Directer, Liam Kavanagh, had his young team gathered around him in the dressing room.
"Okay, lads, I'm going to keep this brief," he said, looking each one of the players in the eye as he talked. "I think you all know why I have brought you all the way to France to this tournament by now. We believe that each of you have something about you - as a footballer and a person - that marks you out as different. That marks you out as a future England player.
"Now the question is: can you bring those attributes, that talent, to the table when it matters most? It's all very well turning it on in training or beating a team in a friendly. But can you do it in a game like tonight - with a huge crowd, live on Sky Sports, with a proper trophy at stake?
"The truth is that probably only one or two of you will make it all the way into the English senior team when you're older. That's just the way football is. But don't forget, all the world's best clubs will be watching tonight. This is the biggest advertisement your talent will ever have.
"And I'm not going to lie to you either. We all know that England is a nation rich in ability. I could just go out there and pluck any player your age group I want. So why would I pick any of you for the next team I put out there? Why? I'll tell you why: because you are all special footballers." Liam was pacing back and forth along the dressing room floor in front of his players. Then he turned and stood perfectly still, his eyes shining with intent.
"There are three types of people in life," he said. "There are those who, for whatever reason, do not or cannot recognise an opportunity when it arises. There are those who do recognise an opportunity but find themselves unable to take it. And then there are those who see the opportunity and seize it with both hands.
"Tonight, it's time for you to go and show the world who you are and everything we have been working on. Now go and win that trophy!"
As the two teams walked out on to the pristine Grenoble pitch, the bright beam of the floodlights focused their glare on Adam Chabukiani - at fifteen the youngest player on either side. He felt a sudden chill of fear shiver up his spine towards his skull. There were lots of good reasons for him to be nervous tonight. This was the first live TV match he had ever played, and the referee had his whistle in his mouth and was about to get this crucial game underway any second now.
But the real reason Adam's body had become stiff with tension was that the big electronic screen had just shown that most of the Leeds United senior team, including the captain, Dominic Matteo, were all in the ground tonight. They had received a huge cheer from the crowd when they had come up on the screen. And, as if the players being there wasn't enough, Peter Reid, manager of Leeds United was also in the crowd. Tonight, he would be watching Adam Chabukiani, and judging him.
Almost immediately, England's game plan evaporated in front of them. Liam Kavanagh had specifically ordered his team not to give away any set pieces in the first fifteen minutes. So Adam couldn't believe it when they conceded a corner with only three minutes on the clock. Panic spread throughout the England defence; no one knew who to mark or who was to attack the ball. Then, when the corner came in, Robbie Walters, the England centre back and captain, made such a wild slash at his attempted clearance that the ball ended up spinning off the outside of his boot and spiralling into the roof of his own net.
It was a horrific own goal. England were already a goal down. The worst possible start for Adam and his teammates. Liam Kavanagh immediately came out of his technical area to try and urge a response from his team but, for some reason, on this, their big night, they just couldn't find their rhythm. Adam only had one chance to go on a run during the whole of the first half. And when he went around his marker so easily he knew he could take him any time he wanted, he just wasn't receiving the ball.
It was only Robbie Walters - making amends for his earlier own goal with a looping header just before half-time - that had got England back on level terms. And they were lucky to be there.
"Adam," Liam Kavanagh said in his team-talk. "Their midfield and defence is scared of you. Petrified. You only have to wiggle your hips and he falls over. Trust me. He wants to go home and cuddle his mum! He's had enough!" The team laughed but, as their chuckles subsided, Liam still focused his attention on Adam.
"So when you're one-on-one with them, take him on. Every time," he said, pacing steadily towards Adam. "Show them how good you are. Show everyone how good you are - including yourself.
"Just show him once - you'll destroy him." Liam smiled. "And lads - let me make this very simple for you: when we get the ball, we give it to Adam."
With fifty-five minutes on the clock, Adam did the simplest trick in the football book: he just knocked the ball down the line and chased it. Simple it may have been, but combined with Adam's pace it was also hugely effective. Adam won the race with the midfielder and prodded the ball forwards. However, the defender had already committed to the tackle, bringing Adam down with his sweeping leg.
"I'll smash one," suggested Anthony Wilkes, the six foot three striker said.
"I reckon I can bend one into the far corner," said Adam, eyeing up a gap to the keeper's left, before an ear-piercing whistle broke up the discussion. It was Liam Kavanagh. He was holding up two fingers on one hand and, behind them, one finger from another. The boys knew who he wanted to take it: the left-back Steven Kirby. Adam and Anthony were to stand directly in front of the ball, providing a protective shield so that no players in the wall could see how the ball was to be struck or, crucially, when.
The two stood tall, puffing out their chests, then a second before Steven was about to strike the ball, they peeled away in different directions, to leave the route to goal clear. Steven's striker was crisp, precise and brimming with power. Adam knew it was in as soon as Steven hit it. The ball arced and swung over the wall. It homed in on its target with laser-like accuracy. It swerved, dipped and fizzed, all while staying on course for the top-left hand corner of the goal. It was there! A Steven Kirby special!
England were motoring now. Adam's left foot swept the ball outwards and then back inside so swiftly the defender fell flat on his arse. Now Adam bore down on goal, just ten yards out. He pulled his right foot back as far as he could, clear that he was going to blast the ball. The keeper steadied himself for a missile of a shot, so he was shocked when Adam dug his right foot under the ball and, with simple grace, craftily chipped the ball high above him. It was a third goal, and this time it was Adam on the scoresheet.
As the whistle was about to go and England were about to clutch the glorious trophy, no one on the England team were aware of it, something very unusual was happening. Two people - two very important people - weren't even looking at the action. They were looking at the Georgian-born midfielder who had won Man of the Match today.
Way up in the stands, the Leeds United captain, Dom Matteo, had leaned across to his boss, Peter Reid, and whispered something in his ear. Some sort of question, or suggestion - Reid seemed to think for a second, taking in what Matteo had said. Then, slowly at first, he nodded his head. He had made a judgement.
Can't beat a bit of Oasis
Glad to see you back and enjoying my writing - cheers!
31 May 2003
Steve Brooker's team meeting
OK, firstly, well done to Adam for winning the Montaigu Tournament over in France for England. We're all very proud of you here at Thorp Arch," said Steve Brooker, clapping his hands together. He seemed in a particularly good mood today. "I've had a personal chat with the boss this morning--"
"Get a pay rise, did you, boss?" teased Aaron Lennon, earning a laugh from his teammates.
"Thank you for that, Aaron!" smiled Steve. "Anyway, Mr Reid has passed on his congratulations for our successful season of last. He said 'well done' and agrees you fully deserve your weekend off."
"YES!" The Leeds boys collectively responded.
"I'll assume that you'll all be wanting to catch up on some lost sleep because, correct me if I'm wrong, I believe I can detect a few bags under people's eyes this morning." Adam, Aaron and Shane Cansdell-Sherriff had had a 'busy' night in town last night. They looked at each other and grinned. It had been a good night.
"So let's get out there and loosen those muscles out," said Steve.
As the lads piled out onto the training pitch and started kicking balls around in different directions, Steve Brooker pulled Adam back by his collar. "Boss wants to see you," he said in a serious voice.
"Me?" said Adam. "Why?"
"He'll tell you himself." Adam closed his eyes. He knew the reason.
Adam prepared himself for a Peter Reid greeting as he knocked timidly on the door, which had Manager emblazoned on the outside.
"Come in," was the reply. Peter's lively voice was a famous sound in English football. Adam pushed the heavy door open. Reid was sat at his desk. He was on the phone and watching the scrolling headlines of Sky Sports News on the TV at the same time. He motioned Adam to sit on the couch. Adam nervously shuffled his way across the room. His back was to Reid, who was now shouting angrily down the phone.
"What?" he demanded. They can't suspend him for that! A fool could see that wasn't a deliberate elbow! What do these dickheads know about football anyway?! Tell them we'll be appealing!" and with that, he slammed the phone down so hard, Adam could feel himself flinch.
Adam looked around Reid's office. He imagined Reid signing big-name players for Leeds in this room, on this couch! "Do you know what I want to talk to you about, son?" asked Peter Reid, as he sat down opposite Adam. He was wearing training shorts, and Adam could see a blue vein throbbing in his calf. He'd been a midfielder when he used to play.
No, sir... Boss... Mr Reid?" Peter Reid stared at Adam. As the clock ticked in the corner of the room, Adam waited for his manager to break the silence.
And then Peter Reid smiled. "You better make that Final display happen again, son," he growled. "You were a different class on Wednesday night. I want you to train with the first-team today."
1 July 2003
Adam took in a deep gulp of air as Tommy Taylor opened the door to the first team dressing room. Adam had always wondered what lay behind a Premier League dressing room door. And now, as that door opened, a new world revealed itself to Adam.
The Leeds stars were all there - every single one of them. They were the Premier League elite. Every single one of these players was a multi-millionaire. And Adam was staring at them, open-mouthed, as if they were an exhibit in some kind of football museum.
Putting his arm around Adam, Tommy Taylor said: "Lads, this is Adam Chabukiani, the midfielder we all saw at the England youth match in France. He's with us today." Adam could feel his whole face burn with embarrassment. Not that any of the players noticed. In fact, none of the players had even looked up because, although Tommy Taylor was Reid's right-hand man, he didn't have the same authority as the manager. As far as anyone could tell, all Tommy Taylor did was agree with Reid and repeat what he had just said back to him.
The first teamers barely registered any reaction to Tommy and Adam's presence. They simply carried on with what they were doing, which was talking on the phone to their agents or their girlfriends. Adam couldn't believe the amount of bling there was in one dressing room. There was enough to open up a diamond shop!
"Well played in that game for England, mate," said Dominic Matteo, the Leeds United club captain, finally acknowledging Adam's existence. "Good to have you with us," he smiled, shaking Adam's hand firmly. "Enjoy it today."
Adam knew that the worst thing that he could do was think. If he thought too much, he'd start to realise that he was a fifteen-year-old training with the Leeds United first team. And if he realised that, then his game would go to pieces. Instead, he imagined that he was a South American superstar who had just signed for Leeds for a world-record transfer fee. That made him feel more confident.
In the game, Adam was up against the Leeds midfielder, Lee Bowyer. Bowyer was an average and athletic player who had made over two hundred appearances for the Whites. The first time he was one-on-one with Bowyer, Adam knocked the ball past him and took him on. Adam screamed past Bowyer. It was as if they were two different species. Adam's pace was frightening, only his miscontrol on the byline stopped him from getting in a cross. But he'd already shown what he could do.
"Watch yourself," Bowyer sniped into Adam's ear as they jogged back into position. Then Bowyer turned head to the side, covered one of his nostrils with his thumb and blew out a load of snot from his other nostril. The clear, phlegmy liquid landed on Adam's boot. Adam could have sworn Bowyer had done it on purpose. He stood and stared at Bowyer. What was his problem?
The next time Adam got the ball, he did a double step-over. His feet were lightning quick as they flashed over the ball. However, by now, Lee Bowyer had had enough. He swiped his foot violently through both Adam and the ball, leaving Adam in a crumpled heap on the ground. Adam's shin was racked with pain. He tried to get up, but he could only put his weight on one leg.
"Oi, Lee! He's only a kid!" shouted Dominic Matteo as he sprinted to stand between the feuding players.
"And the kid needs to learn some respect." snorted Bowyer, spitting out of his mouth now. This time he just missed Adam's face.
"Not my fault you're too slow!" Adam snapped as he got back on his feet. Bowyer pushed Matteo out of the way to stand face to face with Adam.
"Who do you think you are, coming onto our pitch and giving me your lip, you little runt?" he raged. "You're with the big boys now, do you know the pain I can cause you?"
Adam didn't care how famous or rich Lee Bowyer was; he was a bully, and if Adam had learned one thing, it was that you have to show bullies you're not scared of them. Even if it was pretending.
"Yeah," said Adam. "Shame you ain't quick enough to catch me then, init!" Then Adam jogged away. He could feel his body shaking, pumping adrenaline around his veins in case this turned into a real fight. He just hoped it wouldn't happen. It would be a terrible way to end his first training session with the Leeds United team.
"You'll get yours," Adam heard Lee say in a cold, threatening tone behind him. "Trust me, you'll get yours."
Out on the touchline, Tommy Taylor took the whistle out of his mouth and nodded to Peter Reid.
"The kids got guts, hasn't he gaffer?" he said
"Oh, he can stand up for himself alright, Tommy." Then an idea seemed to pop into Peter Reid's head.
"How old did you say he was again, Tommy?"
Adam was just leaving the first team dressing room when he heard his name being called out. "Adam!" yelled Dominic Matteo. "It's my birthday tonight. Fazenda. Eight-thirty. See you there."
Adam almost swallowed his own tongue. This was just getting better and better. First training, now they wanted him to go out with them!
"Cool," nodded Adam. "And happy birthday!"
Adam showing some lip, he won't give Lee Bowyer an inch! Good to see him standing up for himself, it's a good characteristic to have
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