Friday Night Blues or A Team Manager's Lot is Not a Happy One Print
Written by Anon   
Monday, 30 August 2004 09:43

Friday Night Blues or A Team Manager?s lot is not a happy one

The telephone rings.

?Hi,Bert,this is Alphonse,how are you??(Alphonse is polite,if nothing else).

?FIne,thanks?(well,he was until Alphonse ?phoned).

?Look,I?m afraid I can?t make it tomorrow,something?s come up?.

Alphonse is trying not to have to give a reason,but Bert is still pretty resilient at 7.15pm and probes - and immediately wishes he hadn?t.

?Well,actually,I?ve got a slow puncture and I need to take the car in for a service and the ?fridge is empty and Effie says.....?

?OK,thanks for ?phoning,see you around?.

Bert terminates the call fairly politely and crosses Alphonse off his team sheet,though he smiles wanly since it?s a foregone conclusion that Alphonse?s name is crossed of - he?s dropped out of every match in modern history.

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Briiiing,briiiing!!

?Hello,Battersea Dogs Home ....Sorry,just a joke,Bert speaking?.

?Evening,Bert,Candide here?

This throws Bert for a moment,since Candide does not appear on his list.However,his photographic memory of club members? appendages homes in on the student girlfriend of new French hurdler,Patrice Lemonde.

?Bon soir? says Bert in his strangulated but endearing continental accent, ?common savva??

Bert thought it was best to humour Candide - and himself,beacuse he knew a European Common Market excuse was formulating. And he also knew that if he adopted the ?you frogs are all the same? tone,Candide would get all flustered and blurt out that the said Patrice was lounging on the only chaise in her flat.

?Bert,Patrice ?as joost call-ed to say ?is playner ?as been diverted to Stockholm and ?e cannot ?urdle demain. I yam soo sorry?.

Bert says his au revoirs with increasingly pursed lips,and replaces the handset slightly irritatedly.

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The ?phone rings almost instantaneously,causing Bert to choke on his rabbit stew - and his wife to look up to the ceiling,which is a precursor to more severe reactions,come 10 pm.

?Bon soir?,says Bert,feigning a little resignation in the hope that the caller might feel a trifle embarrassed. A forlorn hope,thinks Bert,while he momentarily considers whom he might next be crossing off his list.

?Hello,Bert,it?s Cedric?.

Bert?s heart beats faster - Cedric is the club?s best middle distance runner,but also the club?s worst competitor. Give him the chance to run 175 miles a week,or 25 times 800 in a track session,and he?s the first to volunteer,but ask him,or even select him,for a 5k in a League match and you are duty bound to reach for the anti-depressant pills.

?Bert,I?ve had a really fab week?s training.Monday I did 20 on the road and in the park and it was easy-peasy. Tuesday,Frank(his coach) reckoned something faster would set me up for tomorrow and I did 50 times 200 and I was flying. Wednesday I was off work and managed three sessions of 5 miles.Thursday I was fresh as a daisy for my weight sessions,so I thought I would go out for a brief spin. I?d only gone a few hundred yards when this dog ran out,tripped me up and I?ve twisted both ankles,so I?ll have to miss tomorrow. I?m really sorry?.

?Ok,thanks for ringing,keep taking the tablets,Cedric!?.

Bert secretly harboured serious thoughts of twisting Cedric permanently - well,not quite so secretly,since his wife had to endure another Friday night tirade.

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Just to stem the tide,Bert grabbed the ?phone before it rang again and dialled Frisbee,his fellow team manager for the second team. Not that Frisbee wasn?t going through the same rigmarole,but Bert felt inclined to dish it out,instead of having it all land on him.Bert was,of course,in the advantageous position of being able to call on the few athletes actually selected by Frisbee and Frisbee was in the disadvantageous position of knowing for sure he was always in for a double dose of Friday Night Blues.

Bert was never certain who enjoyed Friday nights the least.

?Watcha,Frisbee,it?s Bert?,a singularly absurd revelation,since Frisbee had been checking his watch every second since 6 pm,expecting the dreaded call.

?I?m afraid I?m going to have to take.................?

And so on and so forth,the only outcome being that,for sure,Bert would have to cover the hammer,the 400 hurdles and the steeplechase at least and that Frisbee - and his remaining 5 cohorts would have to do seven or eight events each - as usual.

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Ring,ring,ring.

?Good evening,Russian Embassy?,answered Bert - another feeble joke,but surprisingly appropriate.

?Alexei Kostalotov here - they?re trying to deport me!(This is,apparently,a feeble Soviet expatriate joke,too).Actually,Bert,I?ve got a problem about tomorrow(no,mused Bert,it?s me who?s got the problem,and you?re it). Aunt Celeste died this week and I?m under a lot of family pressure to go and sort out her affairs and her flat in Llanfairpwllgogogoch. I was really looking forward to a few races but I am very sorry,I just have to go north?.

Bert thinks about calling his bluff,shouting the odds,telling him he?s letting the team and himself down,threatening retribution from on high,warning him that he?ll never run in the team again but,deep down,he knows Alexei,on his day,will win a lot for the club and any castigation will be self-destructive,so he meekly commiserates with Alexei and morosely puts down the ?phone - after managing magnanimously to wish Alexei a safe journey and to extend the Club?s sympathies - and his own. In truth,Alexei has now lost,conveniently,seven aunts,fourteen uncles,three grandmothers(well,his father married six times) and innumerable budgerigars - and all on Fridays.

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These are only a smattering of the calls Bert receives but,perversely,his last call,before compulsory shutdown at 10pm,is from the team?s stalwart. The club has many guys who have been around for a while and who answer the ?OK for pole vault and triple,oh,and a steeple and possibly a 4 x 4? siren call at the drop of a hat,but Aloysius is a youngster who had already won representative vests at lower levels,is mustard keen,mustard willing so much so that Bert has great difficulty restraining himself from rendering William Blake?s Jerusalem every time Aloysius wants to compete - and that?s always! A compromise is engineered to ensure common sense prevails. After putting down the ?phone from Aloysius,all trials and tribulations dissipate into the night and Bert prides himself yet again on making the very best of an onerous task. It?ll be all right on the day! It?s what it?s all about.

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Author?s Notes -

1 All names have been changed to protect the innocent.

2 Lest,dear reader,you think this is sexist,remember Hortense,the women?s team manager,Ziggy,the young athletes? supremo for the girls (as well as Philo,the young mens? leader)also have matches this weekend and they have been through exactly the same torture. And the latter two?s match is a joint one on the Sunday,so they still have the Saturday evening to survive!

Colonel Chinstrap