Adam Marshall, coach of youth team Vale Park, had mixed feelings watching his young team celebrating their second league title in a row, joy at what he and his players had achieved throughout the season, but also sadness at the fact that this was the last time he would coach the team. Unbeknownst to his young team, Adam had in fact already agreed to take the vacant managers position at financially stricken premier league club Kelvindale F.C.
Adam had been a student at the local university, working hard to gain his much sought after degree, for this course had proved popular. Like so many graduates before him he had struggled to get a job, he had been plodding along working in a supermarket, slowly, but surely getting stuck in a rut. However, believe it or not, it was during a night in the pub with one of his friends Ian that an opportunity for change presented itself. Ians younger brother, Matt played with a youth team, Vale Park, who just like Adam had been plodding along without much success. Ian mentioned that their coach was leaving to work abroad, and promptly told him to get his backside in gear and apply for this post. Ian had been a good friend to Adam over the years, he was the kind of guy who could make you feel ten feet tall, case in point, During a night in playing the PlayStation Adam had been dithering as to whether he should apply for the sports coaching course he so often went on about, Ian paused their game, muttered something unrepeatable under his breath and said:
"listen mate, you have been banging on about this course for months, you have top marks in P.E which will be enough to get in, add to that your inhuman stamina levels, this makes you a certainty, you will be awesome, I have faith in you, so do me a favour and get off your lazy ass and apply for the bloody course"
Adam had indeed went to apply for the post, it would turn out to be the easiest job interview he would ever have.
He met Neil Bishop, the man in charge of the youth club around 6.30 after a long day in work, where he seemed to do more paper work than actual coaching.
"Ah, you must be Adam, Ian told me you were coming down tonight"
"Yeah that's me, pleased to meet you, Mr Bishop"
"what's all this 'Mr Bishop' about son? call me Neil, Ian speaks very highly of you, you are a lecturer at the local uni are you not?"
"that's right, i've been working there for three years now, I have experience at coaching many different age groups I feel that I could
"no disrespect son, but it doesn't bother me about your experience, you see you are the only person who has shown any interest in this team, let me ask you three simple questions, number one - can you kick a ball?"
"can you motivate a team under achievers?"
"can you take a bit of verbal abuse from cheeky little up-starts who think they can just show up and please themselves?"
"ehh...yeah I think so"
"hmm okay Son jobs yours, you still want it?"
"yeah, absolutely when do I start?"
Neil laughed and looked this young, naive boy in the face before simply saying "don't be in too much of a rush to start" with that he was gone.
All excitement he had about this job when he entered the school sports hall, he was greeted by silence and no fewer than a dozen sets of eyes on him, judging him, judging this new entity in their lives, in their sports hall.
"right you lot, my name is Adam, I am your new coach, before we start I want you all to warm up and give me five laps of this hall, chop chop"
suffice to say this did not go down well, the boys had, by in large, a free reign over what they did in training, which was generally very little.
Eventually they did as they were told.
Never had he seen such a lazy and unfit team, only two of them completed the five laps and they looked like they were going to pass out.
"that was awful, what kind of a team are you?"
"a football team, you know the sort of team that actually gets to kick a ball" cue some sniggering by his team mates
"he's right" claimed a small, yet well built boy "we are used to just kicking a ball about, what's the point of this crap anyway?"
"tell me something where are you in the league?" retorted Adam, still somewhat shocked at this display of insubordination
a stony silence followed before a brave young lad piped up "ninth"
"out of how many teams?"
Adam spotted an opportunity to get the team onside, so to speak. "tell you what, we have two training sessions a week, what say we do a bit of fitness work followed by a five-a-side game on Tuesday, then on Thursday we can concentrate on ball work, practicing ball control, passing, shooting, how does that sound?"
The mood had changed quickly in this big sports hall.
"yeah okay, that sounds good" said Simon the boy who had made the original comment earlier on.
"agreed, could take us awhile to get into shape though!"
And so true to his word Adam alternated between fitness and ball work. Performances had improved slightly, the boys were still a bit sluggish but they found they could last that wee bit longer with each passing match.
Results had also improved dramatically, indeed the team went on a six match unbeaten run, racking up fourteen points in the process, and moving from ninth to fifth.
"well done lads, tremendous performance today, more of the same please"
"no worries boss"
"six- one what a result" beamed Joe Kennedy the teams main striker, who had hid an impressive hat-trick and was walking back to the dressing room with the ball tucked up his shirt.
back in the changing room Adam could help but smile at the smiles of the players, the change in attitude was incredible.
"right fella's next Saturday we host the league leaders, we may be fifth but we are only seven points behind the leaders, what do you say....shall we go all out for the league?"
"damn right boss, we can do it!" shouted David Griffin, the tricky wee winger.
"too right, we are the form team, we are invincible!" said Alan Hewitt a no nonsense centre half, much to the delight of the rest of his team mates.
Saturday came along in what seemed like a blink of an eye. This was it, time to show people what the team was all about.
"so, how many shall we win by, any predictions" said Andy Blake, the team joker
"hmm, hows about six again" said Striker James Fotheringham or 'fozzy' as he had been dubbed by his team mates
"how about we just win the game" interjected Adam
"spoil sport" said Andy with his trademark ear-to-ear grin
The game started with both teams very cagey, neither had the nerve to properly attack. It was league leaders Brockburn who scored with the first attack of the game. A long ball caught Alan and Andy napping and allowed their striker to slot the ball beyond the goalkeepers reach.
This changed the game entirely, the leaders sensed victory and once they made it two on the stroke of half time the game looked over.
"right lads, what was that? you are letting them bully you"
"dont worry we will take them in the second half"
"buck up your ideas guys, no more messing about, keep tight at the back"
The second half started well enough, skipper Simon Connolly let fly with a trademark vicious shot which their keeper spilled, it fell to winger David Griffin who beat one defender, then two, tried to beat him again but was dispossessed much to the annoyance of his furious team mates. David was a terrific player who had skill was far too greedy and selfish.
On the touchline Adam was screaming himself hoarse
"c'mon guys keep going, your still in this game"
they were not in the game three minutes later when an audacious lob caught out the keeper and landed in the back of the net.
Vale Park had no response. The final whistle went, and their season was over
"that was dreadful, too many mistakes, we allowed them to bully us. If you want to be successful you have to be professional and start working as a team"
The rest of the season was fairly uneventful, two wins , a draw and a defeat left them fourth.
"you have two months to prepare for next season, I want a big improvement, you have to prove you are worthy title contenders, you are all capable of becoming quality players, and winning this league"
"we will be better next season" claimed Fozzy
"yeah, he's right, I want the league next season!" stated Joe confidently
"in the meantime what say we all go back to mine, I have an empty, so we can wire into my dads booze cupboard" Andy said this matter of factly, failing to realize that he had just stated that a group of underage guys should spend the night drinking alcohol in front of his gaffer
"no chance Andy" said Adam attempting to hide his grin
"aww, you always ruin things boss"
"I agree that you should all go out though, could be good to build team spirit"
"that is so lame" said David
"so's your face Davo" replied Andy making a rude gesture towards his best pal.
"quit calling me Davo, so where do you suggest then?"
"laser quest" Alan
"how about we just do all of them eh?" as always when Simon spoke everybody listened, and usually agreed
"good shout skip" said Andy
"you up for this gaffer" asked Joe
"me?" Adam was shocked that he had been asked
"yeah of course didnt think we would leave you out did you?" said David tipping a wink to Andy
"yeah ok, at least it will let me keep an eye on you lot"
"you tryig to say you dont trust us" said Andy trying to act hurt
"no, only you Andy" after much laughing and joking the team made their way out.
The night had been a success in terms of team building. Everybody got on so well, taking turns to wind each other up.
After winning the bowling Andy had started a conga which the boys happily joined, making their way through the Bowling complex and right up to the entrance to the laser quest.
As the new season began, Adam had managed to find a temporary job at Vale Park Academy as P.E teacher, he will be teaching a lot of the team during the day as well as coaching twice a week, a prospect that the boys always reminded him of.
The early part of the season did not go to plan, the team were rapidly becoming draw specialists, worse than that, they were already four five points behind Brockburn at the top.
As Christmas approached the boys were getting anxious about how their season was going.
"what are we doing wrong boss?" said Joe
"you are playing well. you just need to be more gutsy, start working for each other, pass and move, exploit spaces made by intelligent running. we can work on this tomorrow night at training, try watching how the pro's do it"
Thursdays training session went very well, everybody worked hard, closing each other down, the defenders were trying to limit the spaces in behind them, while the strikers and midfielders were trying to create spaces to exploit.
"that was much better guys, well done"
"now i see why you had us doing all that fitness work" said Simon
"tonight has made a big difference, this was what we needed to improve" stated fozzy
"do what you did tonight on saturday and you will do well"
He was right, from the start Vale Park were on top, with Simon switching the ball wide to David who beat his man with ease, looked up, seen Joe in the area and swung in a delightful cross which Joe expertly headed into the back of the net.
"some ball wee man, more of the same"
This made David feel even more confident, he was playing with confidence, cutting inside on numerous occasions to drag defenders about. On one such occasion he cut inside before back heeling the ball into the path of Andy who crossed for Joe to double their advantage.
"what team we make" said Andy as he and best mate David high fived each other.
Vale added two more goals, with David and Alan getting on the scoresheet.
"thats more like it" said Adam not making any attempt to hide his delight. "keep it up"
"three wins in a row boys, keep it up your doing great" beamed Adam after another convincing win.
"third top now" said Joe
"we are closing the gap on the top two now, let's keep going, we can win this league" shouted Simon over the all the celebrating
And keep going they did. A 7-0 drubbing was handed out to struggling Newton.
Two goals each for Joe and Fozzy, one from Simon, David and centre mid Daniel Austin sealed the win.
The league table was pinned to the dressing room on Tuesday nights training session. it read:
Vale Park 30
"the gap is closing now" observed David
"we are in striking distance now" said Andy
"there is no reason why we can't close it even more" stated Adam calmly. "we have proved that we are getting better, keep it going"
"have you guys seen this weeks fixtures" asked Joe
"nope. who are we playing?"
"Summerton. they are fourth, just one point behind us"
"that game is vital, we have to put daylight between us and them" said Simon
"yeah, theres no point in talking about going for the title if we can't beat teams who are behind us" mused Alan
"I think we should get into them from the start, dont let them build any momentum, they are very good at home" said fozzy
"guess what guys?" said Joe, still looking at the fixture list, grinning widely "Brockburn are playing Netercourt on Saturday, wouldn't it be great if they drew!"
"absolutely, however, forget about that we have a big game to prepare for" said Simon
Adam had been quietly watching and listening to this conversation, deeply proud at how mature these boys had become, they had organised themselves on and off the park, now they were discussing strategies for big games. maybe they could win the league after all.
"Easy! easy! easy!" chanted the home support as Vale Park ran out 4-0 winners
goals from Alan, Joe and a double from Fozzy had wrapped up another crucial 3 points in their quest for the title.
As the players celebrated their win, Andy suddenly shouted out "oi lads shut it! listen to this, my mate has just text me, he was at the Brockburn v Nethercourt game it ended 3-3, how sweet is that"
"Ya beauty" yelled Alan " its all opening up for us now"
"what's the difference now?" asked Joe
after a brief pause Simon broke the silence with the answer " 5 points in it now"
The room erupted with the noise of their shouting and singing. Only to be broken by Adams stark warning.
"it is still 5 points, they are a good side who very rarely drop points, we have to keep winning, every week, performances need to continue as they have been lately. We are still Third, let's not forget Nethercourt are a good side too"
That warning clearly worked as Vale Parks excellent form continued, 4 wins and a draw had seen them climb into second, after the draw with Netehrcourt, the team came in despondant.
"how much did Brockburn win by today?" asked David
"is that it back to seven points now?" said Andy, unusually quiet
"its no longer five points in it guys" Said Adam gravely
"I knew it, we've blown it, after all that hard work and talk of winning the league we've bl
"David, zip it, the gap is not seven anymore, its four. Brockburn got beat 3-1 by Summerton"
"what? they actually got beat?!" said Fozzy bewildered
"are you being serious?" asked Joe, stunned by the news
"yeah, the gap is now four, oh and you guys play Brockburn next week"
A mixture of excitement and nerves swept over the team in the week that followed.
As Saturday arrived, the teams took to the field. Vale were given a boost before the game, learning that Brockburns top scorer was injured, and their midfield dynamo was suspended.
Brockburn made the better start, forcing the team to retreat into their own half for much of the first half. As is often the case in these situations, the defending team took the lead against the run of play. Andy launched a long ball up the park, catching out the defence, Fozzy had taken advantage of this, running onto the loose ball, rounding the onrushing keeper before slotting the ball calmly into the back of the net.
The second half saw both teams attacking, chances were aplenty, but the next goal went o Vale Park. Good work on the left by David gave him time to cross, instead he cut the ball back to the incoming Simon who struck the ball low and hard into the bottom corner, Vale should have wrapped things up when Fozzy passed the ball into the path of Joe who completely missed his kick, and the chance was gone.
This proved crucial as Brockburn scored a beauty from a free kick, cutting the deficit in half. Nerves had crept into Vales performance Alan misjudged a headed back pass, he could only watch as the ball hit the post and fell into the keepers hands.
After a few nervy moments the final whistle finally blew.
"Thank God that's over" said Fozzy
"I thought the ref was never going to blow for full time" laughed Alan
"You were the match winner Fozzy" David said as he walked with them off the park.
"great performance guys" was the greeting from their delighted manager
" keep this up and you may well end the season as champions"
Keep it up they did, four wins and a draw were enough to clinch their first league title.
The league had went down to the wire and ended as a three horse race.
Vale Park 64
Celebrations went on all night, and into the wee hours.
The team had achieved what only six months previously had seemed impossible, their new found winning mentality and hard work had payed off, making them a force to be reckoned with
The next season started the way the previous one had ended, with Vale Park dominant.
Win after win, the team had a seven point lead at Christmas, and that only seemed like it would increase.
Defeat to rivals Brockburn did threaten to halt the run they were on though.
Meanwhile, across the city, Premier League club Kelvindale F.C had just confirmed to the mass of press, not to mention the thousands of anxious supporters gathered at the clubs stadium, that the club was indeed in financial crisis. Chairman Archie Green had gone bankrupt, whilst the clubs directors had left the club, citing a lack of trust at Archie as the main reason for their departure. The bad news continued as it was stated by club spokeswoman Laura Orton that "due to this unforeseen financial situation the club regret to announce that we have no other option but to terminate several contracts of first team players"
"who is going to be leaving the club?" asked chief sports writer at the Glasgow Times
"it is too early to say at the moment, we will talk with the players in the coming days"
"so, where's Archie then, why is he not here to face the public?" asked Tim Merchant, a journalist who had made a name for himself as somebody who didn't mind exaggerating the facts for the sake of a better story.
"he was unable to make it due to other commitments" Laura, just like everybody else gathered knew this was a lie, truth is Archie was too ashamed to face anybody, after all, he is the reason this once proud and successful club were on the verge of liquidation.
As it turned out, Archie had an unexpected phone call that night, he had become very apprehensive when it came to answering the phone nowadays, it usually meant bad news, not this time though.
"hello" said Archie nervously
"hello am I speaking with Archie Green?" came a gentle voice on the other end of line
"yes, who is this?" again the nerves were evident in his tone
"don't worry Archie, it's nothing bad, my name is Edward O'Hara, I am a big fan of your club, and would very much like to meet you to discuss a proposition, what do you say?"
"proposition? what kind of proposition" the nerves were turning into intrigue now
"I would like to discuss the possibility of buying your club"
There was a silence for a short while before it finally clicked, this was Edward O'Hara who had made a fortune over the last few years, through his chain of grocery stores.
"okay Mr O'Hara, when are you free?"
"tomorrow. 12 o'clock. my office is 201 High Street. that ok?"
"yeah that's fine, look forward to meeting you"
as he hung up a smile crossed his face for the first time in as long as he could remember, maybe, just maybe his prayers had been answered.
Early spring brought about a turn in fortunes for Vale Park, but not a good turn. It started when top scorer James Fotheringham pulled up in training with an ankle injury.
Things went from bad to worse, when both Alan and David were ruled out through injury too. Adam had to replace quality players with young boys who had not long joined the team.
On the pitch their luck wasnt any better, only one win in four games had tied them on points with Brockburn.
Edward sat in his luxurious, spacious office in the west end of the city, reading about the latest goings on at Kelvindale F.C in the morning paper.
His train of thought was disrupted by his secretary telling him that Archie Green was here.
"send him in Mary"
When Archie entered the room Edward could not help but notice how old he now looked, the pressure and stress of the situation had clearly aged him about ten years!
"hello Archie, please, take a seat"
Archie sat down opposite Edward, the office boasted a stunning view of Glasgow in all its glory.
"how's it all going then?"
"I think you know fine well how its going, terribly. the club is finished"
"I see, have you had any offers for the club yet?"
"nope, not one"
"out of interest, how much have you valued the club at?"
"what?!" exclaimed Edward, genuinely shocked at this "the club has never been worth that"
"I beg to differ, we have won twenty six league titles, twenty nine cup wins not to mention numerous ventures into Europe, i'm sure you remember five years ago when we got to the semi-finals of the European Cup? Archie said this with a smug, self satisfactory smile on his face
"this is true, however look at the state of the club, it's on its knees. you will never get that for the club"
"well, we'll see"
"time is running out, the Association have only given you until the end of the month to get a buyer or the club will cease to exist, you have already been relegated to the Third Division, it ain't exactly looking good, however, I can help you there.
Sadly he was right, he had no room to negotiate. "how much are you offering?"
"well, I am a fair man, so I am offering 10 million for full control of the club, I will also wipe out the remaining debt the club still has. what do you say?"
"I dont exactly have much choice do I?" Said Archie, raising his voice to display his obvious annoyance at the whole situation.
"Great, it's a deal then"
As the two men concluded the deal, across the city at Kelvindales stadium. the clubs remaining players were preparing to leave after a long, stressful morning thrashing out new terms to their contracts. Whilst this is usually a happy moment for a footballer, the circumstances surrounding these negotiations were not exactly happy ones. Out of the whole first team squad only five players had chosen to stay. these players were:
Steven Delgado, team captain. Steven is a tough tackling centre midfielder, who is happy to sit in the centre of the park and dictate the game, with a range of passing that is almost unrivalled by any player in the league. With 17 caps for Scotland he is undoubtedly the most experienced player at the club. Steven wanted to stay at the club as the club had stuck by him when he had a serious knee injury two seasons ago, they even offered him a new contract.
Jamie Oster is a skillfull winger, who can beat his marker with relative ease. Jamie built a reputation as perhaps one of the finest crossers of the ball in the game, m any of Kelvingrove's goals could well be attributed to Jamie's crosses and set pieces. A product of the clubs youth academy, he has represented the club at all levels. The downside to Jamies game is his inconsistency, a world beater in one game, non-existent in the next game. Jamie wanted to stay at the club as he is a fan as well as a player, he wanted to become a legend at this club.
Michael Buchanan signed for the club from First Division club Craigbank two seasons ago, however he has spent the lion's share of his time at the club on the bench, making only nine appearances for the club. Michael is a big, commanding goalkeeper who is very vocal with the players around him. Michael wanted to stay to finally gain some first team football.
Amdy Obodo came to the country with his family from Nigeria, Amdy was a youth international with a reputation as a future star. Amdy build his reputation as a footballing centre half, somebody who can start an attack with a 30 yard pass from defence.
Amdy made it clear to everybody at the club that he would stay, even with a cut in wages. Proving that there is still loyal players left in the game.
Ricky Porter joined the club after playing in England for nearly ten years. With forty two caps for England Ricky was somewhat of a veteran of the game. Reliable, dependable and consistant. A full back by trade, who, despite his advancing years, still ventures forward as often as possible. Ricky had proved on numerous occasions that he is a versatile player, often slotting into centre half to, or holding midfield. Ricky had played with five different clubs, he had come to Scotland to settle down and retire with Kelvingrove, and that is exactly what he planned o doing.
"What a sorry state of affairs this is" moaned Jamie
"Tell me about it, having to cut our wages just because of that useless idiot of an owner" seethed Michael
"Settle down fella's what's done is done, time to get on with it" said Ricky in his broad Geordie accent.
"He's right" agreed Steven "we all knew what we were letting ourselves in for when we decided to stay"
"I can't believe we are going to be in the bottom Division next season though" said Michael frustrated "the whole thing is a mess"
"Listen, let's not forget, we are still playing for one of the best clubs in the world, everybody will be keeping an eye out for us next season to see if we can bounce back, let's show them what this club is all about!" Amdy was annoyed as he said this, some of these guys didn't realise how lucky they actually were.
Silence followed this little outburst as the players headed home for some much needed rest.
Vale finally had reason to celebrate with a crucial win against third place Netherton, the young boys had handled the pressure well, and looked like good prospects for the future.
The good news was that Alan and Fozzy were fit again, ready for the next match
"We don't need you anymore Fozzy" joked strike partner Joe
"We'll see, just wait 'til i'm back next week!"
Vales season was back on track, two straight wins, coupled with a Brockburn defeat had seen them open up a four point gap on second place.
Throughout the season more and more scouts had been coming to their games, their individual and collective performances had not gone unnoticed by scouts within the game.
When Steven went to bed that night he was plagued by nightmares, these nightmares were in fact scenes from Kelvingroves final home game of the season. The stadium was full of banners showing the fans disgust at the whole situation, the performance hardly helped matters, a lame performance in which relegation threatened Torberton had ran out comfortable winners.
The boo's at the end of the game were deafening, sounds and images that would haunt this young man for the rest of his days.
And so the run had continued, with the exception of an abysmal performance against mid table Summerton in which they were beaten 3-2, even Brockburn were swept aside. Joe and Fozzy had led the scoring charts all season, Fozzy had hit thirty two goals, while Joe had hit an impressive twenty seven.
It wasn't just the players who were being scouted. In the crowd on the penultimate game of the season was a certain Mr Edward O'Hara.
After the match, in which Vale had run out comfortable 4-0 winner, Adam was, as always last to leave. He was making his way to home for some much-needed rest when He was approached by the mysterious stranger.
"Mr Marshall, so nice to meet you, my name is Edward O'Hara, how are you?"
"Fine" was all Adam could think to say. Who was this stranger, and more to the point how did he know who he was?
"Mr Marshall, or May I call you Adam?" Edward never waited for a response before continuing "I realise you may not know me, but I certainly know you, in fact I have been following you and your team for several months now, and I am very impressed. I would very much like for you to come to my office and discuss a proposition, what do you say?
To say Adam was flabbergasted would be an understatement. Adam said, with caution
"What sort of Proposition, why have you been following me and my team?"
"'cos your successful thats why, would you be free or not?"
"Okay, when and where?"
"Tomorrow at midday, my office. Here's my card"
Edward handed his business card to Adam
As midday approached, Adam made his way into reception, with more than a little trepidation. After all he still never knew who is man actually was. Still the word proposition had certainly lured him in.
"Go on in, Mr O'Hara is expecting you" said the receptionist sounding as if Adams presence was an inconvenience to her.
"Ah Adam good to see you again, please take a seat"
"Thanks you Mr O'Hara"
"No need for formalities Adam, call me Edward, now down to business. I don't know if you are aware but I have just recently purchased Kelvingrove Football Club"
"Yes of course, I read about it in the one of the papers yesterday" it had clicked to Adam who Edward was now, he knew the name sounded familiar.
"Are you aware that the club are now in the Third Division?"
"Are you also aware that we currently have only five professional players in our squad?"
"Are you aware that I want you as my manager next season?
"ye...What??" said Adam stunned
"That's right, you are exactly the kind of person I want at the helm. A leader and a motivator. Just what the club needs"
"But I have never even coached at that level far less managed"
"You have to start somewhere"
"What will the players have to say about this? They are used to having experienced managers"
"They will just have to adjust then won't they?"
Adam could not think of what else to say. The whole situation seemed like a dream
"Adam this is your chance to make it to the big time, you may never get another chance"
Adam looked into Edwards eyes, he was not kidding, nor was he crazy or eccentric, he genuinely wanted him to be manager.
"Okay, I'll do it"
"Great, what say we celebrate. Champagne?"
"Sounds good to me"
It was slowly beginning to sink in now, he was going to be the manager of one of the most successful clubs in the history of Scottish football