PSST, Psst, come closer. Now listen. What I'm about to tell you, good reader, is a secret. Please keep it under your hat.
When I moved to my village, I thought to myself, what better way to meet locals than play on the village football team? I thought, you know, meet the lads, get to know a few people, enjoy communal beers with like-minded folk. After discovering training times at the local parish council office, I set off with football boots in hand and loads of enthusiasm. Everything went swimmingly. My partner was very proud of me, and I was duly rewarded with brownie points. It didn't take the team long to realise I was English, and after three sessions, I was asked to coach.
I should explain something: I can't even get my dog or children organised. So what chance did I have of organising a football team? Well, after several beers, I accepted the position of manager.
The next morning, when I set off to work, people I didn't know greeted me. When I boarded the bus, people offered me their seats. This is rather unusual, I thought.
Around lunchtime, my mobile rang. At the other end was a young man who explained the village team would be present that day for their first training with their new English manager. After nearly dropping the phone, I asked if he wasn't making a serious mistake. After all, I had accepted the position after several beers and quite a few borovička's.
"No, No," he insisted. I said I would be there. I hung up the phone and panic set in. What was I doing? What would I do? I thought about phoning Slovak airlines, but escaping by flight meant a trip back to the village for my passport. After getting a hold of myself, I searched the internet for football tactics and training methods. Two hours later, my fears were gone. My thoughts turned to winning the European cup, the league, and the Slovak FA Cup. Yes, I thought, we can do this. My first game ended in a draw, two - two, away from home. It was a sweet draw. I was applauded for my tactics. The village was proud. Over the next four games, the team and I enjoyed a steep learning curve.
Not long ago we were hammered, slaughtered, destroyed, annihilated, truly beaten, 12 - 0 (yes, you read it correctly, 12 - 0). That is why this column is a secret, good reader. The embarrassment of that defeat, even though much water has flowed under the bridge since then, is too much to bear.
I changed tactics in the next match and we were comfortably beaten 5 - 0. After that, I was reluctant to be seen in public, for fear of being put in the local stocks. To my surprise, the village and the team stood behind me, saying it would take a while for me to bed in, as they put it. What do you know? They were dead right. With my tactics starting to sink in, we recently took on the top team. We, at the bottom of the standings, beat them 2 - 0.
Now I believe in my team, and my team believes in me. The league is ours for the taking. I expect the odd hiccup, of course. But come July, we will, to borrow a lyric from M People, be "moving on up".
6. Dec 2004 at 0:00 | Bryan Reynolds