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Roy of the Rovers Total Football

Part 3

Melchester Rovers win 3-1 over Boston


Braves as it happened

Braves fall in International Champions Cup exhibition match

Marco De Loon scores first goal in Melchester Rovers uniform

Jake Cheetham, Alex Lees add goals for Premier League power

De Loon on the
Melchester Rovers mission on this warm Massachusetts evening was to reach for the gamefluidity they require come the opening day of the Premier League against Castleton, a quest
that was kick-started in Fridays 1-0 victory over New York Hammers in Queens. For Boston
Braves, Johan Seegrun sent out the same XI that started then in an identical 4-2-3-1 shape
despite his plan to operate a 3-4-3 in the fresh campaign.
In front of the watching Roy Race, Rovers controlled the opening against a Major League
Soccer outfit who had lost 5-2 a few days ago against Shaun Royces California Canaries in a
contest billed as the East vs West Derby.
Marco De Loon produced the first bright moment as the 21-year-old took the ball and
dribbled at the home defence in a show of strength. The shot he hit at Dan Brighton was
fierce enough for the goalkeeper to spill, though Richie Lyons could not make him pay on the
follow-up.
As Rovers asserted themselves more chances were created. Two of these had Seegruns men
ahead before half-time. In the first, Drew Powell passed to Jake Cheetham, who was

hovering to the left of the area. The No9 hit a cross-shot towards De Loon but with the
Dutchman failing to get a touch on it despite his best efforts, Cheetham claimed the opening
strike as the ball passed Brighton into the back of the net.
This was just after the half hour and within minutes Rovers had doubled their advantage.
This time, there were no doubts that De Loon was the scorer of this one. A dodgy back-pass
from Gianluca Piagini aimed at Brighton left the keeper stranded. De Loon nipped in and
slotted a cool finish past the home No1. Two-nil to the visitors.
Rovers were coasting so what happened next will have infuriated Seegrun. As Julio
approached Nathan Daniels goal, he ghosted past Danny Luik too easily and from near the
byline the midfielder found Faisal Alade who beat the Rovers goalkeeper from close range.
That was about it for the opening stanza, though Lucas Cleary made one dashing run at the
Braves before the referee, John Matthews, blew for the break. As the teams wandered off
against the panoramic backdrop of Chestnut Hill, the manager may have been preparing a
few stern words for Luik. Whether this XI had made any progress in the search for that allimportant rhythm was arguable. To have scored one more goal than in NYC was the only
clear and obvious improvement.
As expected Seegrun sent out the same second half outfield side that took on the Hammers at
the weekend. The big loser here was Declan McKaffree. Seegrun has said the Irishmans
failure to sign a reduced deal means he wants to look at other players ahead of the new term.
So McKaffree was reduced again to watching as Rovers kicked off for their final half of preseason. This time they attacked the open end of the Braves Stadium, which is graced by an
outdoor bar thought to be the worlds longest.
The awful free-kick Alex Lees offered up suggested the teenager had been drinking there. The
youngster tried a clever sideways pass but found only Michel Compteur. From here Rovers
were spun on their heels as the Braves raced downfield but the threat fizzled out and Lees
escaped serious embarrassment.
Redemption, though, was soon his. From the right Jamie Marshall swept over a delivery and
Lees thumped a header home and that was 3-1 to Rovers. Despite the clearly visible empty
seats the attendance was given as a capacity 18,000. At the same time down in New York
80,226 were crowding into Giants Stadium to witness Real Varagosa take on Brooklyn
Dynamos. The discrepancy would have been considerably less if Seegrun had not switched
this contest from Boston Memorial Stadium last month to cut down on the travel he dreads
so much.

He will not care less. What should exercise him is the strategy for the opening Premier
League matches. The outings against Castleton on Saturday and Everpool the week after will
show whether Seegrun remains true to his promise to bring Total Football to Mel Park.
Seegruns second stanza XI were no better than the first. Towards the end Nick Batty hit an
aimless pass and then hung his head. The evening proved this kind of exercise: at the
moment Rovers are rather far away from the slick and quick football machine Seegrun
wants. To ensure they are not seriously under-cooked for the Castleton game the Dutchman
should surely field his best XI as a unit in the behind closed doors friendly versus Tynefield
City on Tuesday in the hope it will click and convince.
Melchester Rovers first half (4-2-3-1): Daniels, Page, Burgess, Piedra, Cleary; Luik,
Powell; De Loon, Cheetham, Marshall; Lyons
Melchester Rovers second half (4-2-3-1): McDermott, Carpenter, Fletcher, Carruthers,
Small; Batty, Stein; Jordan, Lees, Jacobs; Dickson
Boston Braves (4-3-3): Brighton; Victory, Branco, Classen, Potter; Alade, Piagini, Julio;
Doga, Appiah, Gonzalez
Attendance: 18,000
***
The mountain village of Salares was surrounded by some of the best hiking
routes in Southern Spain. John Rogers had only recently begun to explore the
countryside, yet was quickly falling in love with the aromatic hillsides, scattered
with lone olive trees, ruined farm buildings and the odd mountain goat. Although
late-August was cooler than June and July, the temperature still exceeded a
comfortable level for the Englishman. He tried to stay out of the sun until early
evening, but in spite of his efforts now sported a deep tan and sun-kissed golden
patches contrasted with the grey in his predominantly dark hair and beard. He
now dressed like Paco, the owner of the only bar in town; loose white shirt,
sleeves rolled up, shorts today for his walk, but usually dark trousers and
sandals. He hoped to appear like a typical local to the few English tourists who
passed through the village, only his poor Spanish would betray his nationality.
John crossed the neat Roman bridge at the foot of town, which traversed a long
dried up stream. He wanted to stop in Pacos for a beer. A long walk always
deserved a reward, hed have a couple of beers in the bar and then a gin and
tonic (or three) indoors, before feeding his cats. He started the struggle up the
steep slope into town, passing ramshackle sheds full of chickens and the large
goat shed that somehow did not give off any disturbing odour. Neat vegetable
patches added flair to dusty red yards; peppers, onions, broad beans, sweet
potatoes, and caned beans and tomatoes, he counted. Perhaps he should make

the effort to clear the backyards of Colins other properties and grow some of his
own vegetables.
Sound carried in odd ways along the narrow streets of Salares and as John
neared the top of the slope feeling his limp, which always played up on such
gradients, he heard a familiar yet out of place sound. It was the cackling drawl of
a Midlander, one loud male voice, two or three quieter men and a woman. He
listened intently trying to confirm the accent. He had been largely successful in
avoiding the English, but now would have no choice. Outside Pacos, the family
were spread out across the street; kids kicking a ball about, dads drinking beer
from pint glasses, mums supping sangria and smoking. The ball rolled towards
John, who chipped it back to the boy.
Then panic struck; Johns pass was perfectly controlled on the chest by the
youngster, a chest sporting the red and yellow hoops of Melchester Rovers.
Thanks mister, great pass! the boy said, John tried to put on a spurt, but
knackered from his long walk and cramping leg, he could barely break into a
hobble. The largest man in the group also wore a Melchester shirt. John scanned
the rest of the group, Rovers shorts on the other. He could feel their eyes upon
him, surely hed be recognised, he could not wait to see. He dived into the
tavern, squeezed past two regulars and up to the bar. A quick glance over his
shoulder; Paco was busy clearing the tables, the bar was dark, no-one outside
would be able to see inside. So he dived behind the bar and hid between two
metal beer barrels.
The Melchester fans were in discussion, but this time quietly, It was him wasnt
it? said one, It had to be, look how he panicked and then disappeared. The
women joined in, Who are you talking about? Who have you seen? John sat
tightly waiting to hear his name, sweat pouring from every gland, knees
knocking together, fingers twitching. He leapt to his feet as his right leg cramped
up, holding in a cry of pain, John darted into the kitchen and barged through a
back door onto the dusty back track that ran parallel with the high street.
It was over, he had heard his name; the Englishmen would be posting their
discovery on Twitter or Facebook right now. John was soon at his front door, noone had followed, that was clear; the village was a maze of narrow alleys and
lanes so no visitor could ever find a quick route to his house on the hill. He
collapsed into the sofa, chest pounding, it was time to think clearly. What can I
do? He thought, nothing really. Who would arrive in Salares first, a friend, a
colleague, a journalist, or the police? Hed check social media, his sighting would
be big news, probably trending on Twitter. Online newspaper articles would soon
follow, those would give an indication of whether the police were interested, if
comments were disabled they would already be on their way.
John poured a large gin over ice and filled the glass with tonic water. He changed
shirt and donned an oversized sunhat and shades, taking his drink with him to
the roof terrace. The terrace offered a view across town, he could not see the
bar, but he could spot the gravel patch on the edge of the village which was used
by visitors as a car park. There were two compact cars, both silver, both with
large bright yellow car hire stickers on the rear window, they obviously belonged
to the Melchester supporting group. Hed camp up here and watch until they
moved on. He cursed the drone of a cement mixer that drowned out any chance
of hearing conversation.

Was there any way he could retrieve the situation? Johns criminal mind switched
on; neither the women nor children were playing on phones or tablets, chances
are they had not bought roaming data. That meant there was a significant
probability of nothing yet being posted online. All five adults were drinking, there
were empties and sangria is potent, they would all be well over the drink drive
limit of one unit. There were four young children and a baby, that added up to
two overloaded cars. Rogers knew what he had to do; those two cars must not
complete the return journey. The children may be innocent casualties, but the
situation was desperate, he had killed before and was willing to kill again.
***
The futuristic new development that lined Melchester Shipping Canal gleamed in
the summer sunlight. A dozen or so press photographers were gathered dockside
for the official unveiling of the new 2015/16 Melchester Rovers kits. Captain Jake
Cheetham, the photographic Drew Powell and goalkeeper Nathan Daniels were
on duty, in full kit posing in fresh adidas strips. David Roth was on hand to field
any questions, but it was a relatively low-key event and the press seemed quite
happy to snap away. One of the few remaining old warehouses provided the
backdrop for the gritty urban style Rovers were using to promote the club.
As Cheetham and Powell played keepy-uppy, Roth explained the mega-bucks
new sponsorship deal with Orbital Sport. It was the biggest deal in Premier
League history, worth 45million a year, the terms only agreed in the previous
week. Johan Seegrun was salivating at the possibility of being granted another a
bumper transfer kitty to spend before the close of the summer transfer window.
Orbital Sport had just signed the most spectacular television rights contract with
the Premier League, breaking BIG Sports monopoly of professional English
football. Every top-flight club stands to benefit enormously and it was this
incentive that had tempted the Basranians to reinvest in Melchester Rovers.
They could now realistically aim to run the club without significant losses and
with Champions League qualification turn a profit. But for now the attention was
on the Rovers stars and their shiny new hooped adidas strip. Roth addressed the
crowd, This seasons kit reminds us of the early 80s. In hoops Melchester Rovers
won an F.A. Cup, the Cup Winners Cup and a League Cup. We all hope that in
this classic design Rovers can add another piece of silverware to our collection.

David Roth called time on the launch and the players slipped into the back of a
club minibus to get changed. Jake Cheetham had been concerned with the
teams pre-season form, Nathan, what do you reckon of this Total Football? The
big goalkeeper was experienced enough now to pass accurate and insightful
judgements from his position at the back where he could scan the field, It
makes me nervous; when we pass the ball along the backline and those short
balls into midfield, Im on my toes ready to rush out. Its too risky for the Premier
League. Powell nodded in agreement, he had been asked to play as the holding
midfielder, the link man between defence and attack, the pivot as Seegrun called
the position, I dont like it either, boyo. I dont like to play with my back to my
opponent, especially that deep. I cant see whats going on until its too late.
Against Tynefield I kept getting robbed, the systems making me look rubbish!
Come on then captain, tell us what you think!
The skipper was a long-term fan of Johan Seegrun and his philosophy, but even
he had his doubts, For me, we were so lucky that the Tynefield match was at the
training ground and our fans and the media werent there to see it. We were a
shambles! As we build up slowly, I look around and see bunches of our players
under each others feet, then the next second the same players are isolated. Its
nuts, we dont know what were doing! Powell pulled on his jeans, You need to
speak with the boss. If he goes with Total Football against Castleton on Saturday
we could be humiliated! If we get beaten by a newly promoted side, at home,
playing rubbish, I dont like to think what could happen to us. We need a good
start fellas and I dont think well get one with the 3-4-3!

Now fully dressed the footballers made their way home; Nathan Daniels had
driven his new Ferrari to the docks and sped off to the exclusive suburb on the
east of town where he resided in a huge eight bedroom Florida-style villa,
complete with indoor and outdoor pools, cinema room and every mod-con the
modern footballer needed or wanted. Cheetham and Powell lived together in
more modest surroundings, although the penthouse apartment they shared in
downtown Melchester would be the envy of the vast majority of the residents of
the Midlands city.
As captain of the biggest club in Europe, Jake rarely paid for anything. He drove a
Range Rover, the Melchester franchise gave him the new model every year, the
small sticker in the back window identifying the dealer was enough payment and
publicity. Drew was captain of Wales, he too had many sponsorship deals, he had
a Ferrari too, in Wales and Rovers red, but today the boys rode in Cheethams
truck. Jake was still uneasy about Seegruns tactics, Drew, mate, what am I
going to do? The boss is counting on me to support his ideas. Castleton will be
his first real game in charge, how bad would it look if I told him that none of us
want to play his way?
It was only a short drive to the town centre, about ten minutes in light traffic.
Jake drove slowly into the underground garage beneath the residential tower
where he and Drew owned the top floor. His mobile buzzed on the dashboard,
Read that Drew, whats it say? The Welshman did as he was told, Its from
Johan, a text, Need to see you before training tomorrow- Total Football is of.
Well Ill be; thats a surprise! Cheetham backed the car into his designated
space alongside Powells Ferrari. He was yet to say anything in response to
Seegruns text message. But he was relieved, the 3-4-3 system was a struggle,
the only player who looked comfortable was new signing Marco De Loon and he
had grown up with it. The phone went off again, the message was clear, 4-3-3
Daniels, Piedra, Carruthers, Burgess, Cleary, Powell, Luik, Cheetham, De Loon,
Lyons, Jacobs? The question mark intrigued Jake, The boss has sent me a lineup, he wants to know if I approve. He handed Drew the phone, I like the look of
that! Looks like a Melchester Rovers side to me none of this fancy Dutch stuff!
The star midfield pair laughed together, perhaps the Castleton match would not
be such a worry after all.
***
The flash of blue lights reflecting off the whitewashed walls of John Rogers
bedroom woke the Englishman from a light sleep. The sun had yet to rise, he
guessed the time to be three or four oclock. He would wait until breakfast then
head down to the scene of the accident. He put his head down and in what felt
like seconds later awoke as the sun shone through the open curtains onto his
face. Rogers quickly got dressed and put on a simple disguise, baseball cap,
sunglasses and 2008 England football shirt. He would ride on the quad-bike along
the road to the next village. The sirens still sounded, the accident had happened
no more than two kilometres out of town, exactly as planned.
A stern looking officer of the Guardia Civil waved calmly as Rogers approached,
signally him to slow down. The road was blocked, four Guardia jeeps were parked
on the far side of the barricade. Rogers turned his bike around and parked out of
sight beneath the canopy of a copse of eucalyptus. He climbed the hillside,
hiding behind the ancient olive trees until he had a clear view over the road. A
huge pool of blood stained the tarmac, the horse carcass Rogers had placed in

the road had been dragged into the gutter. There was no sign of the two silver
cars; however tyre marks were clearly visible, skewed off to the outside of the
bend. The crash barrier was broken, bent over the edge, dangling over the valley
below. Rogers walked on, up higher to get a better angle. He could see a crane
approaching from the south, driving slowly along the road, escorted by two local
police motorcycles. An ambulance was on the scene, but neither its lights nor
sirens were on, this told John that any survivors had already been taken away.
Rogers sat on a smooth rock under an almond tree, watching and waiting. The
crane approached the accident. John cracked a few almonds with a stone, placing
the nuts in a groove in the rock. He had to be patient and wait for the cars to be
retrieved from the gully. The rescue or retrieval team worked remarkably quickly,
within ten minutes the first car was hoisted clear and placed carefully on the
road. It was a crumpled mess, in Johns opinion nobody could have survived such
an impact. It appeared he was right, as minutes later luminous clad men hauled
four stretchers into view. The bright red plastic boards were not carrying living
beings; the bodies had been concealed in bags, zipped up tight. Rogers
scratched four marks into the soil, symbolic of the four adult sized body bags
that the paramedics were loading into a van.
One more and Ive done it, thought Rogers, awkwardly proud of himself. The
second car was now swinging above the road, the fifth adult clear to see, still in
the drivers seat, bloodied and certainly dead. John stood and took a deep
breath, snuck back to his bike and made his way home. Blackie, Racey and Tubby
were waiting, it was their breakfast time. John gave them each a tickle before
entering the house and going upstairs. He reached into the cupboard above the
bathroom sink and took out his pills. He needed these again, perhaps if he had
continued on his prescribed course last night may never have happened. But
John was weary of becoming reliant on drugs, it was only on days like these that
he would recognise that they were an essential part of his life. In a way it helped
justify his deranged actions, it was as if someone else had committed the crime.
Now he needed the control the drugs offered, he had to think rationally about the
next step.
Storky Knight
NEXT 2015/16 Premier League Action!