Things not looking great but I'm sure you can make the best of it
We'll do the best we can. The finance chart is looking pretty grim.
It seemed odd, but that was life in the modern game. The club appeared to be hemorrhaging money yet everyone at Partick Thistle just loved what Roy was doing.
Roy and Kate had had a laugh about that on their way home from the ground when discussing their meeting with the big wigs.
“As long as you win, they’ll be happy,” Kate observed in a bit of a “Captain Obvious” moment.
“Then they won’t be able to afford me,” he joked, and she reached for his free hand as he drove.
“Well, I think this has the chance to be a half-decent group,” he added. “Of course, I need the board onside so they don’t start selling players on me if they can’t turn a few more quid.”
“Aren’t board members supposed to help fund the club?” she asked. It was a profound observation.
“Yes,” Roy said. “Bill Shankly once said that at a football club there’s a holy trinity – players, managers and supporters. Directors don’t come into it – they are only there to sign the cheques.”
“He didn’t really believe that,” Kate marveled.
“I wouldn’t have liked to tell Bill Shankly what he did and didn’t think,” Roy smiled. “Anyhow, yes, he did believe that, and he managed like that.”
Roy paused and finally squeezed his wife’s hand. “I believe that too,” he said. “But the difference between us is that Bill Shankly had managed Liverpool for about ten years when he said that. I’ve managed Thistle for what, nine weeks? One of us will get away with saying that, while the other will get the sack.”
Kate looked at him. “Don’t tell me that frightens you,” she said. “That isn’t the Roy I know.”
Just then, they reached home. Roy pulled into the driveway and shut down the car’s engine. He looked at his wife.
“There will never be a day when any board member or any chairman tells me what I can and cannot say and gets away with it,” he said. “If it means that I sacrifice my job to keep my integrity, well, then that’s what it means.”
Gone was the quiet, loving Roy Kate was used to seeing around her. Unknowingly, she had managed to tap into her husband’s inner competitor – the driving force behind everything he had managed to build in his life.
Question that drive, and he wasn’t likely to react well. Kate was the only person in
the world who could talk to him this way now that his parents were gone, and it was a gift she didn’t utilize often.
Finally, after an awkward silence, she spoke again. “I’m sorry, Roy,” she offered. “I didn’t mean to…”
“…of course you didn’t,” Roy replied, his pleasant demeanor starting to return. “You just want to make sure I’m the same old Roy.”
“I didn’t doubt it,” she said, opening the door to head into the house. “I can honestly say that in all the years I’ve known you, I’ve never doubted that even once.”
He chuckled. No self-made man likes to be challenged, and he felt she had done. But he simply took her hand.
“Sometimes it’s good for you to remind me,” he said. “And I have to be man enough to take it. Let’s go inside and get the babysitter paid.”
# # #
Postponements due to weather were next on the cards and as a result, the Jags had eleven luxurious days between matches at the start of September.
The break was even longer for the first-team players, who were held out of the trip to SuperSeal Stadium in the IRN-BRU Cup so the colt team could have a chance. For them, it was two weeks between matches.
As a reward for playing so well out of the chute, Roy gave the first team three entire days away from the training ground with the proviso that if any of them wound up on a police blotter he was going to rip up contracts.
He said it with a smile, though, and the players accepted Roy’s warning as the friendly reminder it was. He had a good squad, a dedicated squad, and had no worries about their conduct away from the club.
This meant family time for Roy and he was delighted. The girls had just started school and for now, things were going well on that front.
Maybe it was because the Jags were playing so well. Despite not having lost, they still trailed Ross County in the table. Second wasn’t horrible but Roy wasn’t going to rest until he had erased that deficit.
He did also worry about the affect his job would have on his girls. Too young for most public schools, his hope was that the kids around them would play nicely in the sandbox. Generally, kids have to grow up in age before they grow up or down in temperament, but he was keeping a sharp eye out for anyone who might seek to hurt them.
Roy, of course, worked from home during that time, watching video and helping around the house. For example, taking Kate to the Tesco was fun in itself because it gave them a chance to let their hair down. Being alone with his wife for the first time since the children were born when they were away at school wasn’t so darned bad either.
But then it was back to work. Hamilton awaited and Roy enjoyed working with Barmby and the younglings to prepare them for an away cup tie.
SuperSeal Stadium awaited them, as did a young Accies team. Sort of a glorified youth cup event, Roy supposed, as the match kicked off.
Immediately, the baby Jags dominated play, knocking the ball around the park with aplomb, flair and verve, and every other adjective Roy could think of to say they did everything but score.
Quitongo, who had been good in the first round, wasn’t as good in this one. That was a bit unfortunate since in Roy’s quest for an all-youth team he wasn’t required to field, he had only three substitutes he would consider for selection.
One of them, Jamie Stevenson, was the spare goalkeeper. The others were Penrice and prospect Andrew McCarthy.
So, one defender and one midfielder. Keown, Spittal, Bannigan and Coulibaly came along for the trip but had been told that barring pestilence, none would get onto the pitch.
It took 43 minutes before the breakthrough game and then it was Aidan Fitzpatrick who did the deed. He found room on the right, cut that direction, and squeezed a shot between Reegan Campbell’s outstretched arm and his near post.
The kids had played well and deserved their lead, and Roy was gentle on them in the changing room at halftime. “This is the kind of football we expect to see,” he told his team. “You’re leading away. Now it’s down to you to finish the deal.”
Forced to open up slightly due to chasing the game, Accies left a space just big enough for Shea Gordon to get into early in the second half and the loanee didn’t miss from twenty yards, arrowing a top-corner drive home in 58 minutes that made it 2-0.
But then the Jaglets let down their guards and the home team roared back into the match. A rather sad lack of communication between centerbacks Dan Jeffries and Ruaridh McIntyre led to Steven Boyd finding himself in an embarrassing amount of open space only two minutes later, and Sneddon was left with no chance.
That gave Roy the chance to get off the bench and, shall we say, educate his center halves.
“Just a thought,” he yelled. “Maybe next time the striker stands in front of goal, one of you might consider marking him.”
It was good for a laugh, but Roy needed to address the issue anyway the next time he handled youth training. It had been a schoolboy error – they were supposed to be in a zonal marking scheme and neither player had remembered what zone he was in, so they chose neither.
However, Gordon bailed out his teammates with a superbly taken strike only four minutes later, for a 3-1 lead in 64 minutes.
Then he was there again, heading home Fitzpatrick’s perfect cross only three minutes after that to complete his second-half hat trick in a blistering span of nine minutes.
Ronan Hughes scored off a set piece in 72 minutes, meaning the teams had scored five combined goals in only fourteen minutes, but the end result was fair.
The baby Jags had 21 attempts at goal away from home and scored four times. It was hard to be anything but happy about that.
IRN-BRU Cup Second Round – Hamilton Reserves 2-4 Partick Thistle
# # #
A very good win, onto the next one
Time away from football is important for everyone, so it's nice to read that Roy had allowed himself some time with the family, as well as letting the players do the same.
The result in the cup is fantastic and the faith put in the young players should help them progress over the course of the season. Hopefully you can return to league football and get another positive result from the senior players, after a short break.
I am buzzing to have found this story and to see that you are still writing tenthree! As soon as I seen your name I remembered it from another website although I'm not too sure which one, The Dugout or FM Base or something? Anyway, I had to google your username as I could instantly remember loving an old story of yours and upon googling I recognized American Calcio straight away! I never actually got to finish that story so not only do I have to catch up on five more pages of this I think I'll have to go give that a read too!
Hi, Chris...yes, I am a moderator on the official SEGA forums where I post under the same name. Thanks for the shoutout -- I've been on a bit of a break because work got out of hand but am now ready to start posting again. I appreciate the hello!
The win was nice but the undercurrent that followed? Not so much.
The prize money for the IRN-BRU was negligible – in fact it cost as much to send the team to the match as the club earned from winning the tie. And it wouldn’t get any better in the next round.
For the Third Round, the Jags were drawn away to Welsh side TNS. Once called Total Network Solutions after their sponsor for nearly ten years, the club earned the scorn of Sky’s Jeff Stellings, who routinely said after home victories that “they’ll be dancing in the streets of Total Network Solutions tonight!”
Yet the club, which is officially named The New Saints of Oswestry Town and Llantsantffraid Football Club, kept finding ways to make Champions League qualifiers by winning the Welsh Premier League.
And now under the rules of the competition, they were entitled to entry into the Third Round of the newly-international IRN-BRU Cup.
So now was there not only another road trip for the Baby Jags, it was to Wales, which was a bit of a jaunt.
The kids loved it, of course, and were more or less cock-a-hoop at having knocked off Accies for a few days after the match. And why not? They had scored four goals away and looked very good going forward.
It also gave Roy a decision to make about Gordon, who had vaulted into some truly fine form over the last few matches and now deserved consideration for the senior XI.
Managers will never tell you this, but they do like being forced to make a decision once in awhile. The best managers are able to use runs of form and strong play to incentivize others (to use the corporate phrase) to play better or lose their places.
As such, one player who wanted to speak with Roy was Andrea Mutombo.
The forward wanted to play more. There were a few problems with that.
The first problem was named Storey, who was the club’s leading scorer. The second was named Coulibaly, who was hot on his heels. The third was the fact that Mutombo’s preferred position was as an attacking midfielder, a position not found in Roy’s 4-4-2.
He could play striker, he could be a passable a target man, and he could also pass for an advanced forward – but none of those were his area of specialty.
So in effect, what he was asking was for Roy to let him play, and oh, do you mind changing your tactic to do it?
For Roy, the answer was, in the words of Buckaroo Banzai, “yes on one and no on two.”
He hated to see players wasting away. That was plain in the way he treated them in training. He wanted everyone to excel so they could play, and the hardest part of the job was to tell someone they hadn’t done enough.
And with the team still alive in all the cup competitions, there was enough extra football for Roy to be able to say yes, I’ll play you more often. So he left the office happy, and left Roy with a dilemma he was only too happy to have.
# # #
Glad to see you both posting once again. I have missed this story a lot! Hopefully Mutombo will take the opportunity Roy has presented him with - else it could force him the gaffer to give him his marching orders!
A good dilemma to have, especially when you have such a long trip in the cup to look forward to.
It sure is. This team will need cup runs because the squad is too darned large.
Mutombo’s problems aside, the team was playing really well. It was playing so well, that Litmanen made a joke to Roy at the first training session after the Jaglets had triumphed.
“You know you’ve worn exactly the same clothes in every match you’ve bossed?” he asked.
“No, but hum a few bars and I’ll fake the rest,” Roy had replied.
“I’m serious,” Litmanen had said. “Are you superstitious?”
That was a question every footballer answered differently.
Some people Roy had played with wouldn’t step onto the pitch unless they had tied their shoes the same way, put on in the same order, and had performed their personal pre-match ritual. Others just showed up and played.
Roy was a creature of habit, but Litmanen’s question had made him think.
“It’s warm now,” he finally said. “When it gets cold, should I sacrifice my health?”
“You’re an optimist,” Litmanen laughed. “But I’m curious.”
Roy thought it through. “Sometimes I am,” he finally said. “On the coach, of course everyone has their same seats. But when I get to the ground, I guess I’m pretty well locked in to what I need to do.”
Then he smiled. “I had never thought about clothes,” he added.
“Think about clothes,” Litmanen advised. “There are laws to deal with people who don’t.”
“Very funny,” Roy said, cracking a sideways smile.
But the damage had been done, in Roy’s mind.
He drove home to find Kate waiting for him, the girls waiting for him, and takeout on the table.
“I must really rate,” he said. “All my best girls and even food!”
Kate smiled as Roy removed his team jacket.
“Be careful with that, you’re going to wear through the elbows,” she said. Roy looked down and saw that his new jacket, which he wore everywhere and especially on the touchline, was already starting to show signs of wear.
“I’d better be careful,” he said, hugging his daughters tight as he entered the kitchen. “This jacket is the reason we’re winning.”
# # #
I think it's more common to have these superstitions than not, personally. Roy best not forget that jacket any time soon!
Also, happy one-hundredth reply!
Superstition is something which, for more than most, becomes an involuntary reflex. It appears to be the same for Roy, or at least until Jari pointed it out. Curious, strange, different. Winning.
Thanks, fellows! Glad the story is well-received. As for superstitions, I like to try to generate arcs that are outside the game yet deal with some things that might be of interest to folks. Looks like this was a good one.
“Okay, you did this to me,” Roy laughed as he removed his track top in the coaches’ changing room after the match.
Litmanen just smiled.
“I guess I am superstitious,” Roy admitted. “I was going to leave this on the coach and wear a warmer coat but you left me no choice.”
It had been a raw, windy day and Roy was chilled. He sat down and picked up a cup of hot coffee from a beverage tray.
“We’re going to have to get you something else to wear,” Litmanen said. “We can’t have the boss catching cold.”
It was a joke – Roy thought so, anyway – but there were players who were also starting to get into habits they weren’t willing to break as long as the team was playing well.
It was a long trip home and that gave Roy a chance to warm up as he thought ahead.
Next up was a winnable match at home against Queen of the South in a week’s time, but following that was a matchup people were starting to look forward to – the Betfred Cup quarterfinal against Dundee United.
The team was off to the good start everyone craved – thirteen points from fifteen had the Jags level on points with Ross County at the top of the table – but the prospect of a return matchup against the Terrors was one that had set imaginations going.
Kate had sent Roy a video of the girls listening to the match on Jags Radio – they were in their kit and jumped all over the sitting room after Adrianinho had scored – and it made him smile. He missed all his best girls and he was glad to be going home.
“Don’t forget to bring that lucky jacket,” Kate had teased. Roy wasn’t about to leave it behind.
It was early evening by the time the team coach pulled back into Glasgow and Roy sent the players home with the following day off as a victory day.
Then it was time for him to return as the conquering hero. Whether he had won or lost, the reaction was always the same.
That was the best part – in the eyes of his girls, Daddy always won whether or not the score had been favorable.
So he scooped up the kids, gave them hugs, and advanced to his wife, who was sitting at the dinner table.
“I have a great idea,” she said, rising to greet her husband. “How about we get a sitter and you take me out to celebrate?”
“You’re so old-fashioned,” Roy teased. “Expecting me to look after you.”
“Tell me you wouldn’t,” she said, taking his arm as they headed for the sitting room.
“Okay, okay, you win,” he smiled. “Let me get my phone and you pick the place.”
# # #
As long as the habits don't turn into something alcoholic, we're good
A great read so far! Hopefully Roy's superstitions are able to continue winning form!
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