A Dream Realised
The Rise of Oscar Hayes
My mobile phone ringtone was always a regular noise before the weekend. Thursday, Friday-Hell even early Saturday mornings welcomed the sound of my ringtone. Being a player-manager of a non league side is probably a lot more hassle than most would think and it’s certainly closer to Sunday league than professional football. That’s my humble opinion, anyway. Some managers will tell you they take it very seriously and would almost be offended by the Sunday league comparison. These managers are usually t**ts.
A glance at my phone screen revealed it was my good friend Billy Fathers. He was a very well off man, having inherited a large sum of money from the passing of his father and also inherited the family business. I hadn’t spoken with Billy for quite some time, as business had the capacity to remain rather busy for extended periods of time. The last time we spoke, which would probably have been a few months ago, Billy had mentioned that he had something ‘f****ng massive’ coming up and he couldn’t tell me much more than that. He sounded very excited and very stressed all at once.
“You gonna answer that?” Eleanor, my girlfriend, asked. I shook myself from my daydream and picked up my mobile, sinking back into the sofa as I did so.
“Oscar my son,” Billy said with real enthusiasm. Something had perked him up, “I’ve bloody done it.” I waited, frowning slightly, expecting him to continue. He didn’t.
“What’s that then, Bill?” I asked,
“I have done the unthinkable,” he laughed loudly down the phone, prompting a quizzical look from Eleanor. I shrugged, mouthing ‘Bill being Bill
’. She scoffed, “I have expanded the business somewhat, Oscar, and I’m now an owner of something else. The Fathers empire has grown!” Bill let out a long sigh after his brief proclamation of power and then deeply inhaled. He was absolutely giddy with excitement.
“Oh yeah? How have you done that then?” I replied. I almost regretted asking, but there must have been a proper good reason why Billy was so excited,
“I’ve only gone and bought a football club.” My jaw dropped open slightly and my brow furrowed. He’d bought a football club?
“You’ve bought a football team? You mad b****rd, who’s that, then? Some non league outfit? They better not play in my divis-”
“League 1,” Bill stopped me dead with that reply. He’d bought a League 1 football club? A professional
football club? How had he managed to do that? What on earth had made him do that? “You there, Oscar?”
“Yeah sorry, mate. I just can’t believe my ears.” Bill laughed loudly again,
“Ah I can barely believe it either. I’m on the second bottle of champagne-I’d save you a glass but, to be honest, I’m gonna be an alcoholic tonight.” I chuckled at the response but the news still hadn’t sunk in.
Bill was always a bit of a daring businessman. He’d taken several risks that hadn’t paid off (at least not to the profit margins he’d have liked) but this took the absolute biscuit. Maybe Bill’s finally cracked and gone mad. He had always been an investor since the sad passing of his dad, finally having the cash to make big leaps into the business world. This was about a decade ago and clearly it paid off. Big time.
“What’s the team, then?” I finally asked,
“Burton Albion, they’re a nice little midtable outfit, flirt with the playoffs every year-got promoted to the Championship back in uh-” Bill sounded like he was rustling something about, “-2016. Got to the semi’s of the League Cup last year-Man City battered ‘em 10-0 on aggregate, but what can ya do?”
“What can ya do?” I sighed in response, “Right, well, next time I see you Bill you’re taking me for a pint, not often I get to do social engagements with the owner of a football club.” I chuckled at my own half joke, but Bill didn’t grace me with his booming laughter.
“Owner of a football club?” Eleanor gasped, suddenly taking an interest in the conversation. I nodded to her before Bill’s voice finally crackled over the phone’s speaker.
“Oscar my pal there’s more to it than that. I didn’t just call you to break the news-very good news, really.” My heart sank a little. He wasn’t about to tell me his wife was dying, was he?
“Nothing’s wrong with Caitlin, is there? I know she had that scare-”
“Eh?” Bill sounded shocked, “Oh, that-no, no Caitlin’s good. Just excess tissue, or something. No, what I wanted to say to you...well, ask you, I suppose, would you come in for an interview for the head coach’s position sometime this week?” My mind went totally blank. Butterflies suddenly started swirling round my stomach. I could hear my heart beating through my chest.
“Is it Caitlin, babe?” My girlfriend asked. I think that’s what she asked anyway. My ears had started to ring slightly,
“Yeah, just excess tissue, or something.” My reply was barely more than a murmur,
“What’s that, Oscar? You need a tissue?” Bill half laughed down the phone,
“You’re having a laugh, aren’t you? Is this a wind up?” I became a bit suspicious of Bill. I bet he hadn’t even bought the bloody club,
“Why would it be a wind up? Oscar you’re the manager I know who has the best record, credentials and all that jazz. Well, the manager I know personally
, anyway, but I don’t think I can lure Pep or Klopp to the Pirelli Stadium at this moment in time. Say, if you can get us on the map, mate, I’ll sack you for one of them.” Billy laughed and I found myself nervously giggling. S**t, what if he was being serious? And why was I giggling
“Swear on your life you’re being serious, Bill.” I noticed the telly had been muted and Eleanor had reached out her hand to me. She didn’t have a clue what was going on. I put my hand in hers to comfort her and to try and calm myself down. Poor girl was holding the sweatiest hand in existance.
“I swear on Caitlin’s life-” I heard a loud ‘oi!’ in the background, “-I want you to be interviewed for the position of manager. Mate, you’ve won how many leagues?”
“Seven, but they’re all non league-”
“How many of those undefeated?”
“Three, but Bill-”
“Oi, don’t undermine yourself because it’s ‘only non league’ or whatever. I don’t care. When we played together, I saw how good you were and I think I was one of about three people who understood
how good a manager you were. There’s a reason why we flew up the footballing pyramid. And even after all the boys left, you kept going. What level of the pyramid are you at currently?” The praise from Bill was very welcomed. It calmed my nerves slightly. The situation was still surreal,
“The seventh tier.” I answered. There was a brief silence, which was also very welcomed, as Bill racked his brain,
“That’s two below the National League and three below League 2. You’re three levels away from professional football...blimey,” Bill sounded surprised as he realised how close my side was to professional football, “Well then, even more reason for you to come along to the interview. How does Wednesday sound? We can sort a time in the next few days.”
“Absolutely fine.” I had spoken before I had even thought about what I was doing Wednesday. Auditioning to be manager of a professional club, it seemed. A League 1 club,
“Smashing. Great, brilliant. Right then, Oscar, I shall leave you to your evening. I’ll make sure I’m free to meet you Wednesday.”
“Sounds good to me, Bill. I’ll see you then, mate.”
“See you then, pal. Go and have a beer.” We both laughed as we hung up the phone. I could really do with a beer all of a sudden.
“What was that all about, then?” Eleanor asked. I looked at her, a dumb grin on my face,
“You’ll never guess what.”