Under Lights - Part 1

Just announced on the radio.  

Jackie didn’t know what to think.  

He gripped the Toon Army mug (a Christmas gift from Isa) that bit tighter, the steam from a strong brew clawing its way up his nostrils.  Three sugars, just like every other day.  No one would be coming out this way unless they had to, so he treated himself to a cigarette.

Fucking cold.

As he drew on the cigarette he tried to process it.  Not the best news, and Jackie was nothing if not superstitious.  Comes with the territory don’t it? Somehow, galactically maybe, he knew this was potentially disastrous as far as Tuesday night was concerned.  As if they didn’t already have the red carpet out for their much-maligned friends from Manchester.  All they were missing was the white flag.  

And now for the news.  

He had always fancied him, always rated him. “Rebel Rebel” was crackling through the analogue stereo, the uplifting opening riff felt like a mazy run down the left wing  in front of 60,000 mad Geordies.  His internal video reel kicked in and it was Gillespie in ’96 all over again.

Instead, the view from the greasy window was a sprawl of overhead wires and sleepers underfoot as far as the shadow of Newcastle Central Station. A combination of the dense Tyne fog and the cigarette smoke now filling the shed meant there may as well have been nothing beyond that.

Always thought he’d have made a decent centre forward.  All elbows and gangly like a heron, but capable of displaying the grace of a swan in flight all the same. The arrogance, no – the confidence, was certainly there.  Sheer brilliance, madness, the ultimate eccentric.  

Maybe he was wrong all along; himself and Pavel the Geordie were practically separated at birth.  Yep, definitely a ‘keeper, no doubt.  Those outrageous kits would’ve gone well with all the Ziggy make-up too.  The prospect of the two of them exchanging notes on defending corners brought a wry smile to Jackie’s face.  Funny old world all the same.  The Blackstar and the Black & White Star.

Snap – one-way ticket back to reality please.

The fee for Henri Saivet is believed to be in the region of four-and-a-half million pounds, while Steve McClaren has stated his intent to further bolster the ranks of his under-pressure squad.

The name meant nothing to him – only one thing to do – so he switched off the radio and picked up the battered telephone from his worktop, quickly dialling for Accounts in the main office.  With any luck Robby Shields, one-time St. James’ Park ballboy and more recently errand-boy for the Head Office, would be in. Finger on the pulse that kid.

- Accounts – Robert…Oi! That Twix is mine! Ahem, Robert speaking.

- Drop the fuckin’ Twix Robbie and tell me who the fuck is this new signing?  

A sharp intake of breath before the synopsis.  He practically read it out from a ticker-tape.

- Henri Saivet, born 26th October 1990, signed for a reported fee of five million pounds, plays anywhere across the midfield, five-and-a-half year contract, 27 games for Bordeaux already this season, what else do you want?

- I want to know if he’s any bloody good! Or if he’d struggle to make the Central Station XI!

A noisy slurp of tea from the other side.  Followed by what sounded like a gorilla attacking a chocolate bar.  The reply came mid-mouthful.

- Certainly a good prospect, Arsenal end up signing him for thirty-five million on my Football Manager, great stats and they don’t often get it wrong.  Scored a hat-trick in the Champions League – this is 2018 mind – against Fiorentina.  Remember Batistuta? Ol’ Batigol was manager!

Jackie shook his head in despair, momentarily dropping the receiver to his chest and allowing himself a muttered “Jesus Christ!” under his breath.  Sometimes, it seemed that was how they were signing players in the first place, how else could Sylvain Marveaux be explained? Jackie quickly made his excuses and got back to his brew in peace.    

Tuesday night came and went – mostly a blur as a city that had suffered enough through the club was given another injection of hope.  Much like the adrenaline that soared through the bloodstreams of the Gallowgate End had so often become soured by another false dawn, so another surge of optimism braced itself for the painful comedown.  Saivet the Saviour, Jonjo the Great Redeemer, it would take more than that.  

Jackie ignored the elements, scarf raised as if in defiance.  He stole a glance at the rafter-framed sky and heard a familiar refrain, “And the stars look very different today…” Not for the first time his superstitions were unfounded, and somewhere in the mystic Bowie and Pavel were organising a five-a-side.