Waking up that day was like coming too after a car accident. It was the best approach to lie still and see if there was any pain or obvious injury before trying to move any limbs. The room was quiet, but it stank of stale bodies, beer, cigarettes and what I thought was sweaty horses! I would have opened my eyes but the grimace as I fought against the pain in my head – like a blunt drill working through my temples – kept them firmly closed. I thought there was someone or something next to me, although I couldn’t be sure. I held my breath to see if I could hear them breathing, but nothing. Either I was alone, or in bed with a corpse. Strangely, the latter seemed more likely, and also more appealing!
What the hell had happened? Had my dubious past caught up with me? Was that ugly woman really a witch? Had I been beaten senseless by a squad of dwarf hookers? Could you put heroin in turnips? One thing was certain; I had been through a trauma, with or without a corpse beside me. I gently moved my hand. There was certainly something in the bed; a cold hard lump. I gently applied pressure. It didn’t feel human. The smell of horses rolled back into my nostrils, and the wave of panic washing over me jerked me awake. I sat upright and whipped the sheet back, my stomach knotted and fighting back the wave of hot acrid puke that was about to spurt over the decaying feline cadaver. Luckily, the puke never came, because oddly enough, it wasn’t a dead horse, but a pile of football programmes. In fact, it was a pile of programmes that didn’t sell from the opening game of the season. In my haste, I had run off 6,000 copies expecting a full house.
The cover pictures haunted me; on some there was Boris, with a grin that made him look like an imbecile who was so stupid all the other imbeciles noticed. He was shaking hands with The Turd. The Turd – or Zoran Djurdjevic – was a new signing, made just before the start of the season. The Turd was a gamble and a half. In fact, he was more of a gamble than meeting a 6 foot tall, 250 pound miner called Brian the Bastard and betting he was a poof. He came from non-league Car Konstantin and was a left winger. Boris was looking for cover for Horvat, who he had intended to sell before the transfer deadline. Car Konstantin had screwed Novi Sad out of £90,000, and Vasa Orlovic had cautioned against the purchase. Unless he came up trumps, Boris Krakov was screwed, which probably meant Vasa would take over as manager. Then he would probably screw me and leave my body in the turnip fields. The best laid plans, as they say, had well and truly come off the tracks. Horvat hadn’t been sold because Boris priced him too highly, and the club was well and truly in the red. I think the Serbian word for the situation was “bollocksed”. When I mentioned this to Boris, and he just farted and walked away. On other programmes was a picture of The Chancer holding a plastic onion the size of his head.
In the programme was the first interview with Boris, introducing him to the fans. He referred to tactics constantly with his dodgy ugly wife scenario. He described players as wild boys with beating hearts and a passion for physical exertion. They were actually a bunch of lazy freaks from what I could see. He also called the Deterlinari stadium: “the womb from which a new footballing Jerusalem would be induced”. Some fans had made it clear that they doubted whether he had a grip on reality.
A few days before the opening game, the draw had been made for the Serbia and Montenegro Cup Qualifying Round Vojvodina region semi-final. They weren’t going to chant that in a hurry. We received an away draw against Radnicki Novi Beograd from Belgrade. We also played them in the league two days later, again away. This was followed by an away league game at Proleter Zrenjanin – at least that let me off writing programmes for a bit.
I tried to let sleep wash back over me. I still felt sick, although more relieved that I was sharing a bed with waste paper rather than a stiff. Perhaps later I would get up, wash, dress and go into town for a few beers. Perhaps I would bump into a few of the locals, chat about the team and …
NB. As I said before, this is not my own work. It is Vic Flange’s. The original work can be found on TheDugout, right here. TheDugout is dying, so I’m rescuing the story and giving it the attention it deserves.