“Is everyone here?” Kenny asked, his glorious teeth glinting in the harsh dressing room light. He had no time to take pride in that though. He knew this was going to be difficult.
“No sign of Jordan.” Waggy replied.
“He’s seven to ten days away!” Joey exclaimed with childlike glee.
“Is that a unit of distance or time?” Wes asked.
“Nobody fucking cares.” Kenny sighed, putting an end to that nonsense. He rubbed his temples with his thumb and index finger of his right hand, full in the knowledge that he could show few signs of weakness. The Rage, however, was in danger of breaking free. He couldn’t kill them all yet, they still had four league games to play.
“Right lads, Ped is raging and won’t come in here. He’s sharpening his sword as we speak, talking about using Michael as a sacrifice to the Gods, and JJ is trying to calm him down with a Finnish lullaby. What the actual fuck was that?”
There was a silence.
“They were good, we were shite”, Danny said, to try and break the tension.
“Aye, we know that Captain Obvious. You keep defending like that and you’ll need to start selling hotels”. Kenny realised he had to keep it simple.
“Let’s break it down. Myles, what were you thinking for that penalty?”
“Nobody was talking to me!,” Myles sulked. “You all think I’m just a daft kid, so I decided to act like one!”
“No Xbox tonight Myles. I mean that!”
“But Pops, we’re playing Zombies tonight!”
“You’ve already been told about that as well. Don’t make me repeat it.”
Myles hung his head and took a picture of his feet, one boot discarded. He received 15 Snapchats in response before Kenny could speak again.
“Emo, that attempt at a tackle – talk me through that?”
“Well Pops, I was wary of the coverage in my middle field zone,” Emo began, “and I knew that if I attacked the ball with too much force, I’d expose the central DEFENCE! DEFENCE! DEFENCE!. I misjudged the velocity I was travelling at. I’ll do better next time.”
There won’t be a next time, Kenny thought. He knew now that the Rage could be subsided later in the week, when no one was around. Emo won’t be seen again.
“Right, fine. Desperate Dan, that chin of yours should block everything, what happened?”
“Only so much I can do Pops”, Wes responded. Kenny knew that feeling well.
“See when I was training with Chelsea, I got told….oooooh, a lollipop!”. Keeping Gilmour occupied was pretty easy.
“Where’s Holty?” Kenny asked, then instantly regretted it.
“You’ll have to find him!” Joey exclaimed with childlike glee.
“No way. That’s five hours of my life I’m not getting back,” Kenny said with chagrin. “Right, the goal by that hobbit of theirs – they strolled through us! Grandpa, Danny, what the hell?”
“No one had given Grandpa his half-time Werthers, Pops,” Danny responded. “His leg felt heavy. As for me, I just couldn’t be bothered by then.”
Must. Control. The Rage.
“Christ, we let Boyata score. Boyata!”
“Waggy, put down the protein shake and talk us through that header.”
“Sorry Pops,” Waggy mumbled through a mouthful of carbs, protein and peanut butter. “I flexed as I was hitting it and my forehead muscle sent it the wrong way.”
“Aye, well, that’s hardly a surprise I suppose. Josh, aside from your glorious hair, what did you offer today?”
“There was that time I played in Tav…”
“No no, that was the last time we played them.”
“Oh yeah, so it was!” Josh said in slow realisation. “Erm, I don’t know then.”
Kenny sighed again. “Next time, when you’re chasing someone, just imagine you’re a dog and they’re a car, ok?”
“Yes Pops!” Josh replied, his tongue lolling in anticipation. “Will my hair do that thing?”
“It totally will.” Kenny lied. You couldn’t help but love that big daft sod, in truth.
There was a whimpering from the corner of the dressing room. At first, Kenny wondered if a dying fox had found it’s way in, but he quickly realised where it originated from.
“Someone give Harry a mirror, quickly.”
It was time to speak to Joey. This was never easy.
“Joey – no no, I’m over here, that’s it – Joey, why were you laughing and joking with Broony?”
“The new Star Wars film is out soon!” Joey exclaimed with childlike glee. “New Lego sets!”
Kenny put his face into his hands in sheer exasperation. He heard a chuckle from behind him, and knew it was that fucker McKay. Just because he wouldn’t have to deal with this shit next season…
“Fuck it, I’m done. Let’s get changed and get out of here. Dodoo, Tav – it’s your turn to wash and dress Grandpa. No, I’m not listening, get it done!”
Kenny took off his sweat-stained top and threw it aside, in much the same way as he intended to do with the memory of the last couple of hours. Surely, surely, things won’t be this bad ever again?