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Roy of the Rovers Total Football

Grandad! Ive got them, Ive got De Loon and Luik in my sticker book! Look! Are
they any good Grandad? Roy lent over his grandson, the youngest Roy in the
Race family and examined the stickers. I dont really know, they must be though
if Johan Seegrun has signed them for the Rovers! Why dont you ask Uncle Dec, I
bet hes played against them! The youngster sped off across the garden to the
patio area where his Uncle Declan McKaffree and Aunt Diana were sat as Roy
tended the barbecue. So Uncle Dec, have you? Have you played against De
Loon and Luik? They are good players arent they? Declan nodded, Yep, Luik is
a defensive midfielder, but he can also play at left-back. Hes really good, dont
you remember him, he scored in the World Cup, we watched it together? Marco
De Loon is a forward, he plays in my position. Young Roy was confused, But if
he plays in your position, he wont get to play, because youre the best!

What Declan and Roy had not told the boy was that it was not De Loon who
would not play it would be the Irishman. McKaffree had not received an offer to
extend his contract, which had expired on the 1 st July, over a week ago. The club
had told him that he would have to wait and talk with Johan Seegrun himself
when the Dutchman arrived and took control. But no meeting had taken place
yet, Seegrun had arrived a week later than promised, his wife had been ill and
not up to moving, this left Declan in limbo. His agent had received half a dozen
or so enquiries, from some decent clubs too, Walford, Weston Villa, and all three
newly promoted sides Redstoke, Rotherton and Castleton, as well as new MLS
team Brooklyn Dynamos. But, Dec wanted to wait and see the new manager,
gauge his chances, financially it made sense to stay at Rovers, he already owned
a large house in the nearby countryside and a flat in the same development in
the old Melchester Docks as his father-in-law. To keep up the high standard of
living that Diana was used to could end up costing him more than a new
contract, especially in London or New York. Diana would not consider moving
anywhere else, she had hated Scotland and had her heart set on moving to a
glamorous city, where she could enjoy the celebrity social scene, fine-dining and
fashion to which she wanted to become accustomed to.
Declan was still training with Rovers, which had confused young Roy, who he had
taken in to meet the players at the start of pre-season training. It would break his
heart and possibly destroy his love of Melchester Rovers if he knew the truth. So
Roy had advised Dec to keep quiet for now and hope that Seegrun would see fit
to offer a year extension, that was all he was hoping for. For now, Diana seemed
happy enough in Melchester, the city had undergone major gentrification in the
last decade and the former Docklands area was now the most desirable place to

live in the Midlands. It has three Michelin-starred restaurants, a handful of 5-star


hotels and a casino.
Rocky was still in Baltimore, so she did not see much of her annoying big brother,
which pleased her immensely. He was alright in small doses, but after more than
a couple of days, he really began to grate. Declan had also leased a small shop
in the town centre where she could show off her high street fashion designs. It
was her passion and Dec supported it, but he knew that she would never break
the fashion market, he could afford to humour her in Melchester, but in London,
there was no chance, she would be laughed out of town.
Roy called out from the barbecue, Roy, burgers up! Bring the buns and salad
over here! The youngster, sped off into the kitchen and came running back with
a bowl of salad under one arm and the package of rolls under the other. He ran
everywhere, he was at that age, but Roy was still impressed with his stamina. He
could not help but find football links in everything he witnessed, especially
concerning his grandson. Wheres the sauce? the great man said, again the
boy was off, We want red and yellow! Melchester Rovers colours!
One day, the young Roy would be the next great Race to don the Melchester
Rovers number nine shirt. It was his destiny.
***
The press lounge in Mel Park was buzzing with anticipation, the footballing great
of the 1970s, Johan Seegrun, was to be unveiled as the new manager of
Melchester Rovers. It was no secret, Rovers Basranian owners had reached an
agreement with the Dutchman months previously, but it was only now with his
responsibilities to the Dutch national side over that Seegrun would take control
of the biggest club in England.
Even into his sixties, with long blonde locks still flowing, Seegrun looked no older
than the man who captained the great Dutch side of the mid-70s and Alkhoven
to multiple European Cup success. He was flanked by chairman David Roth and
chief-executive Doctor Mahmud of Basranian Central Investment Fund, then
outside of the two moneymen were Melchester Rovers two new signings, both
internationals stars, both costing big money and both Dutch.
Seegrun had already seen off probing questions on his footballing philosophy,
how would his famous Total Football suit the hustle and bustle of the English
Premier League? Would he stick to his stock 3-4-3 formation? How does it feel to
replace his great friend Roy Race? The pressmen were impressed, Johan spoke
with a deep and obvious passion, a great defence of his tactical approach and its
suitability to the modern game. Seegrun has great belief in himself and in Total
Football, he would bring that to Melchester and Melchester Rovers would play his
way and that way would work, he was sure.
BCIF had backed Seegrun in the transfer market. Since the now failed community
takeover of 2013, the Basranians had taken a back seat, financing the essentials,
but allowing the team of Roth and the still AWOL Trevor Brinsden control over
football matters. The promising finish of Vernon Eliots side in 2013/14 had
reignited the interest of the Basranians, with the realistic aim of Champions
League qualification and all the associated riches, the disappearance of Brinsden

meant BCIF could wrestle control back. The latest mega-bucks television deal
meant Premier League football was a place where money could be made, not just
a playground for the rich and their toy clubs. Melchester Rovers were still the
most marketable club on the planet and BCIF were determined to turn a massive
profit.
So followed the two Dutch internationals; Danny Luik captain of Alkhoven, a
versatile defensive player, expert in either midfield or defence, and Marco de
Loon an adaptable attacking player; a winger, number ten or speedy centre
forward. The two men were perfect for Seegruns Total Football plan and had
served him well in the national team. Both spoke of their delight at signing for
Rovers, of their respect for the club and eagerness to perform well. It would not
be long before the Rovers fans could see them in action, the club would embark
on a pre-season tour of the United States in a couple of days. Matches in New
York against NY Hammers and Boston versus the Braves had sold out months
ago. But first would be a real test against the MLS Champions, Rocky Races
Baltimore Bullets.
***
The stifling July heat of Southern Spain was making life very uncomfortable for
the bearded Englishman propping up the bar of the small tavern in the mountain
village of Salares. Uno mas? asked the owner, a typically stumpy gentleman in
open necked white shirt and slacks, the man known locally as John mumbled a
reply and nodded as the Spaniard snatched and refilled the glass. This was real
Spain, so close to the Costa but a million miles away from the tidal wave of
English and German tourists now flooding the nearby resorts. The Englishman
took his beer, span on the stool and limped slowly outside onto the near
deserted and dusty alleyway that in this part of the world was classed as the
high street. It was shady, the narrow streets perfectly built to offer relief from the
incandescent sun. John lit a cigarette and leant against a whitewashed wall,
puffing and gulping cold lager.
John Rogers, former Eastgate striker, had arrived in the town some three months
ago, a year after he had left the home country. The original plan was to travel to
the Caribbean, but that proved impossible, so he took the traditional passage to
the Costa Del Crime, joining the world of faux gangsters and wannabes in the
English bars of Monbella. Despite the fact that very few of those on the run on
the Costa were wanted or criminals, the faade provided more than enough
shelter for someone wishing to disappear.
But Rogers quickly became a face about town, he flashed the cash, he did not
know any other way, he had had too much money for much too long. The ex-pats
loved his stories, he was a former footballer, he had many to tell. Nobody ever
asked why he was there, where he had come from, or what his plans were, that
was part of the gangsters code; there were no questions. Yes, the men would
ask about football, but that was not a problem, many were from the East End, so
Eastgate fans and John Rogers was a hero to them, anything he said was treated
as the gospel truth.
Rogers finished off his beer, gave Paco, the bar owner, a wink and set off up the
steep steps beside the bar towards the house where he intended to spend
another year or two waiting eagerly for the perfect opportunity to return to

England. One of the scores of stray cats that populated Salares, meowed and
rolled over in the dust, Hop it Blackie! whispered John to the skinny black cat
beneath his feet, Go and play with Racey and Tubby! he said louder, pointing in
the direction of an unusually blond cat and his much fatter companion.
The house was basic but comfortable, whitewashed, as the whole village was;
two rooms downstairs, a sitting room at the front and kitchen at the rear and a
small sun terrace on the roof. The two bedrooms and the bathroom were
upstairs, the toilet in an extension in the enclosed yard accessed through the
kitchen. It belonged, as did the entire block to an Englishman, an Eastgate fan,
who John had befriended in Jennys Bar, in Monbella old town. He was delighted
when John offered to house-sit and maintain his collection of unwise investments
in a near ghost town.
Things were getting too risky on the Costa, he had been recognised at a New
Years party in town. With his cover possibly blown and two big men pointing in
his direction, he had fled the restaurant in a panic and slept on the floor of a
friends pub rather than take the chance of being followed to his rented flat. A
couple of days later, before sunrise, John returned and packed his bags. The
evening before, he had overheard his drinking buddy Colin complaining about his
four uninhabitable townhouses in a mountain village, how his bargain had turned
into nightmare as roofs leaked and floors subsided. Theres only one shop and
one bar, I wish Id known that before I bought em. I thought the village was shut
for lunch, but theres bugger all there! Colin briefed John, No-one will ever buy
em off me, or even rent one for a holiday. Therell be squatters or chuffing
chickens in em, or the ruddy roof will fall in! Thats when John volunteered to
act as caretaker; the sleepy mountain village would be the perfect place to hide.
Colin offered him the use of a quad-bike, which was perfect for the steep roads
and unmade tracks that surrounded the village and even set up a satellite dish
and broadband in the one complete property.
The ninety kilometre journey to Salares to the East of Lacona, from Monbella,
took over two hours. This frustrated Colin, but John was relieved at just how
remote the village was; in fact the road itself ran out at Salares continuing on as
a dusty track into the hills above. Population of less than seven hundred now,
John boy. Used to have over three thousand, not ten years ago. These Spaniards
dont wanna live in the pueblo no more. Not me mate, Id love it up ere, but the
wife, she wont eat Spanish grub and she aint ever gonna cook nothing!
The houses were at the top of the village, backing onto the herb covered slopes
that eventually merged into the great range of the Sierra Nevada. No-one would
ever think of looking for me here, thought John as he looked from the roof terrace
down upon the village; dozens of deserted properties, with holes in their roofs,
just as Colin had promised. He felt a great relief as his friend drove off back to
civilisation, the trail was broken and as Colin too was part of the Great Secrets
Act of the Costa Del Crime, he would never mention Johns agreement to anyone
other than his wife.
John Rogers, former Eastgate striker, could relax. He switched on the television, a
small HD set, that still seemed to fill the cosy living room. Being alone in a
foreign country could be the most lonely of experiences, but being honest with
himself, he was loving it.

The three cats were now yowling pitifully; Blackie sat on the sill of the open
window, only the fitted mosquito netting preventing him and his pals from joining
John on the sofa. Whats the time? John asked the cat, as his looked at his
watch, Okay then, supper time! He reached to the yellow box of cat biscuits
and gave it a shake. The yowling intensified as Racey, Tubby and Blackie
wrestled for pole position at the front door. Biscuits poured into three neat piles
and water dish replenished, John had done his duty and returned to the
television, his only link to his old way of life.
Colin had provided all the sports channels, knowing that as a former-footballer he
would not be able to live without live professional sports. Although it was July,
football still dominated the schedule, youth tournaments, South American
leagues, the MLS and of course pre-season friendlies. John went to the fridge and
took out a brown bottle of San Miguel, he popped the top, Blimey! he said,
flicking through the TV guide, Baltimore Bullets versus Melchester Rovers, its a
late one, but I guess Ive got to watch it!
Storky Knight
NEXT Can Rockys Bullets shoot down the Rovers?