Testing Times - Day 1

Believe it or not, Jimi was still at it one week later. As the sun soaked them in
glorious June warmth, Jimi, his sleeves rolled up, his face a picture of concentration,
‘I’m singing, in the rain,
Just, singing, in the rain…
What a glorious feeling…
I’m happy…again!’
‘I’m glad he is’, remarked Wil, as he tied his laces, ‘last week was terrible!’
‘Yes, but he’s found his place now,’ replied his brother, ‘official team mascot,
singer, guitarist, songwriter, and motivator!’
‘Well, he doesn’t motivate me!’ said Clara.
‘He’s good fun to have around, though, isn’t he?’
‘I suppose so’, replied Clara grudgingly.
As they trained in the warm sunshine, preparing for the weekend’s
tournament, again the two strange figures were standing in the distance looking on.
Just staring really. Except when Michael had the ball. Then they became animated,
talking quickly to each other, heads inclined, clipboards at the ready. Busy scribbling.
Their scribbling seemed to intensify the more Michael played. If Michael did a couple
of stepovers, they scribbled something on their clipboards. If Michael did some
keepy-uppies, the scribbled some more. When Michael did one of those things where
you keep the ball up, circle your foot around the ball, and then keep it up again before
the ball drops, they scribbled so fast it was as if smoke was rising from their pens.
Finally Mr Andrews had had enough.
‘I’ve had enough!’ he croaked. ‘Get yourselves a drink, I’m going to talk to
them!’ He took a swig from his own flask, coughed twice, and tottered over to the far
‘Who are they anyway?’ said Clara.
‘They look like they’re from another club’, replied Wil.
‘They look like they’re from another planet!’ said Hardy.

‘Certainly another country’, Freddy muttered, ‘and they seem to be
interested in Michael’.
‘What do you mean, interested?’ said Clara.
‘Well, look, every time Michael gets the ball, they write something down and
start chattering away in a foreign language. Did you see when he scored the penalty?
They were hopping up and down, laughing, almost singing…anyway, Mr Andrews will sort
them out!’
In the distance, Mr Andrews was sorting them out. He had marched over to
them at a fine pace (for him), and started off by wagging his finger at them. Then he
had pointed his finger right at them. Then he had sort of jabbed his finger into one of
their faces. And then the other one. After that, he had put his hands by his sides. He
had then inclined his head to one side, as if listening carefully. Then he had started
nodding his head.
Freddy looked over again.
Mr Andrews was now nodding his head vigorously up and down, and…what was
that…he was actually smiling at the two men, who were laughing back at him. Mr
Azalea laughed too, then grabbing each of their hands in turn, shook hands with them
warmly. One of the men then handed him a pen, and he appeared to sign something
quickly on a piece of paper. Freddy actually saw him look over guiltily at the team
before writing.
What was going on? Who were these guys? Why was Mr Andrews so pleased
with himself? Mr Andrews staggered back across the pitch.
‘Amazing…amazing!’ he said, smiling and shaking his head, as if in disbelief,
before adding…’quite irregular of course…very irregular…oh yes…yes…we won’t be
seeing them again!’
The two men continued standing beside the pitch. Clipboards poised. One of
them bent down and pulled two small packages out of the bag at his feet.
Training came to a close with Michael doing one of those backheel thingies,
where he flipped it up high with his heel and the ball came down in front of him, from
where he crossed the ball in a high arc towards the penalty spot. Flying in from the
edge of the area, Clara of all people was there to power in a diving header into the top

Frantic scribbling from the men who were supposed to have gone. Wreckless
writing from the swarthy strangers. Desperate drawing from the dudes who should
have disappeared. And devious jotting down from the fearsome foreigners.
‘Hey, Michael, can we talk to you a minute, please?’
Michael looked shocked at the call from across the pitch. He turned away.
‘We do NOT talk to strangers! Go away!’ yelled Clara, stepping two paces
towards the strangers.
‘She’s right! Go away!’ added Hardy, stepping two paces back.
‘It’s OK,’ said Mr Andrews, ‘I’ll deal with this, you stay here’.
Mr Andrews walked across and met the two men mid-pitch. There was more
hand-shaking, and laughing, and nodding of heads. The two packages were handed
over. A final handshake.
Mr Andrews returned to the Lancaster Road team.
He handed one of the packages to Michael.

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