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And 'Pigs' might fly ...


Greasy Chip Butty

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MAY 3

5:26 am

Denver, Colorado

The bright display from my mobile phone lit up the room. Blearily, I turned over and fumbled with the bedside table besides me, my hand seeking out the phone half-heartedly, my brain willing it to stop ringing so I could drift back to sleep. The sound of John Denver’s voice singing ‘Annie’s Song’ might be one of my favourite sounds in the world but at half past five in the morning after a night on the town? Hell. Pure hell. Eventually I located my phone and jabbed at a button to make the sound stop. My brain seemed to pound against my skull as my body reacted to the excesses of the previous evening and rejecting the beer, the whiskies and the champagne that I had consumed in celebration. Amazingly, I had found the correct button to answer the person phoning.

“Hello? Whoisssit?” I croaked. Idly, I reached below the covers and scratched absent-mindedly as all men do. Registering that I needed a drink of water as soon as possible, I half-heartedly listened to the voice on the other end of the phone.

“You what?” I asked again failing to comprehend. The voice repeated the greeting as I blinked in the hazy morning sunshine starting to appear through the cracks in the curtains.

“Pull the other one,” I chuckled into the receiver. “Much as I enjoyed yesterday’s events, I need some sleep now! Go away, whoever you are!” The voice on the other end protested a little as I pulled the phone away from my ear. I gazed – squinting through sleepy eyes – at the display and noted the +44 on the start of the unknown number. Somebody from home. I pressed the ‘end call’ button to cut off their jabbering and held the OFF button down. As my phone screen went black, I threw my phone down towards a pile of clothes by the side of the bed before settling my head back down on the pillow. As I drifted back to a sleepy oblivion, I chuckled to myself. Somebody clearly thought that I was stupid enough to fall for that one. Imbecile.

Why would he want to phone me?

10.3 database used

Chris22’s Summer Update DB used with updated staff, transfers, league structures (as of July 23rd)

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MAY 3

2:31 pm

Denver, Colorado

It was mid-afternoon when I remembered that I had received a call from home in the middle of the night. I located my phone from the side of the bed and switched it on. Almost immediately, several messages were displayed. One of these was to collect new voicemail. I lazily typed a few replies out before calling my voicemail box to retrieve my message. As I pressed ‘1’ to listen, the same voice as I had briefly spoken to last night began talking in my ear.

”Hi Andy, I’m sorry I woke you up this morning. I didn’t realise that you’d be over in America at the moment. And much as you think this is a wind-up, I am definitely Lee Strafford calling from Sheffield Wednesday Football Club. Please call me back as soon as you can. The club’s number is 0871 995 1867. If I’m not here, the switchboard will forward you on. Thanks.”

Somebody was really trying hard with this joke. I’d spent most of yesterday laughing at this man and his club’s despair on the T.V. so the idea that he’d want to phone me was utterly ridiculous. All of my friends back home knew I would be hung-over. Somebody was clearly on the wind-up.

Let me introduce myself. My name is Chip Butty and I am a professional football manager. I had a decent career as a professional footballer in my homeland of England and I represented my hometown club, Sheffield United – bitter rivals of the afore mentioned Wednesday – over 400 times. I was quite popular with the fans of United – or the Blades as they are better known – due to my knack of scoring important goals. I hit 9 goals against Wednesday in my time at United as well as winning goals in Play Off Semi Finals, FA Cup Quarter Finals and promotion clinching games. A misjudged tackle at Middlesbrough in 1997 ended my career at the age of 29 and sent me spiralling out of control for a while before I re-grouped as a coach and then a manager in the USA. A spell as manager of West Coast side Kalamazoo Outrage had led to a more high-profile role at Major League Soccer side, Colorado Rapids, which is why I came to be in Denver at this point.

I logged onto the internet and fired up the S24SU Sheffield United forum. Multiple threads were celebrating the events of yesterday which I gleefully read with a smile on my face. For once, the Blades fans online were truly united about something – pardon the pun – as they usually spent most of their time arguing in a heap. Only a Wednesday relegation could cause this much agreement.

Ahhh, Wednesday. League 1 Sheffield Wednesday F.C. Relegated yesterday on the final day of the 2009/2010 season after they could only draw with relegation rivals, Crystal Palace. A football club with illusions of grandeur, the so-called big club in Sheffield despite spending all of the last ten years in the shadow of their so-called little cousins across the city. Or, as they are better known, simply the ‘Pigs’ from Hillsborough. ‘Pigs’ – the insult of choice for the footballing fans of Sheffield. United call it Wednesday due to their ground being built on a pig farm in the past; Wednesday call it United due to the red and white bacon pattern of our shirts. Childish, really.

I logged onto my e-mail account after a while reading about the glorious relegation of the porcine ones and watching YouTube videos of the Palace fans celebrating after the game. I had one e-mail of note.

And it was from my agent.

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MAY 4

10:54 am

Sheffield, UK

“Any news from ‘you-know-who’ yet, Lee?”

Howard Wilkinson peered through the door towards Lee Strafford, the chairman of Sheffield Wednesday. Wilkinson – or ‘Sergeant Wilko’ as he was known in the papers – was a major name in English football. A managerial career spanning over 30 years that had seen him restore Wednesday to the top flight in England, win the league title with Leeds United and manage England for a while as well as having successes elsewhere too. He was now a consultant to Strafford, a man that the Wednesday chairman could ask for advice on footballing matters.

“No, he hasn’t called,” Strafford replied. “He probably thinks it’s a wind-up still. I’m still not convinced about this idea, Howard. He sounded hung-over when I spoke to him and I can guess what he had been celebrating too.”

“Be that as it may, I’m confident that he is the best man out there for us right now. He wants to come home to England and manage here. He’s an incredibly talented manager but he’s in our price range. Try him again.”

“Are you sure?” Strafford asked, his face showing disgust. “The fans won’t like it at all.”

“I know but it’s the best footballing decision you could make. We need to make tough decisions for the future of this club, Lee.”

“I’ll try him again later then. He’ll be asleep again now.” Strafford picked up his bacon and mushroom sandwich again and took a huge bite. “Probably hung-over after more celebrations, too”

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MAY 4

5:26 am

Denver, Colorado

The early morning sunshine streamed through the window lighting up the bedroom. I was laid in bed, wide awake, staring up at the ceiling. My eyes ached with tiredness but my brain was deep in thought. The e-mail from my agent had given me so many things to consider.

Andy,

Get in touch as soon as you can. Interesting proposal coming in from England. Your home town club are looking for a new manager. Not United though, it’s Wednesday! Their chairman wants to talk to you as soon as possible.

Give me a call,

Mikey

I desperately wanted to return to England and manage in the Football League and had been touting my name around via my agent for months now. Whilst I was loving managing the Colorado Rapids, I was homesick. I missed my friends and family, I missed the local pub and the local chip shop ... Hell, I even missed the British weather. And most of all, I missed my football team, Sheffield United. I would manage just about any team in England to get home ...

But Wednesday? Sheffield Wednesday? That would need careful consideration to say the least.

For the record, I dislike Sheffield Wednesday with all my heart. I dislike their blue and white striped shirts, I dislike their crumbling wreck of a football stadium, I dislike their board, I dislike their players – or any player that’s ever played for them – and I dislike their deluded supporters. The best thing about Wednesday is their ability to give the red and white half of Sheffield a damn good laugh most Saturday afternoons.

As far as I know, the feeling is mutual. Wednesday fans hate me with a passion. They hate me for the goals I have scored against them – particularly the winners – and they hate me for my comments about their club. Over the years, I have never failed to wind up their supporters simply with truths or at least near-truths. The truffle-hunting snortbeasts never fail to react to a comment or two from United lads even when it is the truth.

Why on earth would they be considering me as their new manager?

It had to be Howard Wilkinson. When I completed my coaching badges, I had struck up a friendship with Wilko despite his affiliation for things blue and white. He’d helped me out with a few words of advice during my early management career at Kalamazoo – who later became an affiliated club with Wednesday – and, as far as I knew, was following my career in the Major League. Howard must have convinced the Wednesday board that I was the man to replace Brian Laws after Alan Irvine’s failure to keep them in the Championship. They must be ... desperate.

Why on earth would I even be considering becoming their new manager?

The reaction would be 100% negative from their fans. Members of my own family would probably dis-own me if I took the job. However, Sheffield is my home. It’s where I am from and it’s where I want to be. Granted, I’d prefer to be in Sheffield 2 at Bramall Lane rather than Sheffield 6 and Hillsborough but it would be much closer to home than Denver was. And much as I don’t like to admit it, Wednesday are a club where I would get noticed. A traditional club with a big fan-base and a big name. It would be a job that would suit me at this point in my career. I’m considering it. Does that make me ... desperate?

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MAY 7

11:04 am

Sheffield, UK

I parked my hire car in the space and switched off the engine. I looked out of the side window and up at the mass of blue sheet metal beside the car park. Shimmering in the spring sunshine, a white owl shape appeared to look down at me and I shuddered. What on earth was I doing here? I checked my phone again, desperately hoping for a message from my agent, to see if there was any sign of a rescue plan.

“You have no new messages. Please try again, later.”

I stuffed the phone back into my inside pocket and grabbed my bag from the passenger seat foot-well. Adjusting my sunglasses – I was desperate to not get recognised – I stepped out of the car and into the Sheffield sunshine. I straightened myself up, locked the car and began to walk underneath the main stand of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club. Head down, I walked towards the middle of the main stand towards the reception area, the walls of the stadium feeling close, voices lurking in the shadows whispering “Pig!” and “Judas!” ... Feeling uncomfortable, I reached the door marked ‘Main Entrance’ and I lifted my head and tried to look unflustered.

“Excuse me, mate,” a voice called out, piercing the menacing quiet. “Excuse me!”

I turned to face the source of the voice, a man in a Wednesday shirt with his young son traipsing after him. His son smiled as they reached me, clutching his autograph book.

“Can you sign my lad’s autograph book, Tommy?” he asked before realising that I was not who he had thought I was. “Oh, hang on, you’re not Tommy Spurr are you?” he continued, “It’s not Tommy, Matt, it’s somebody else.” I smiled to the small boy who looked disappointed.

“Which player is he then?” little Matt asked, expectantly. His dad turned to me with an apologetic look.

“Sorry about this mate, you wouldn’t mind signing his book would you? Keep him quiet?” he asked.

“Sure thing, no problem,” I answered. For a moment, I thought of making up a name there and then but then thought better of it. I took the autograph book from the boy and signed it.

Dear Matt. All the best. Chip Butty.

“Thanks,” the boy mumbled as I handed him the book and pen back, “That’s fourteen autographs now!”

However, his Dad was now reaching down to look at the book. I turned around and opened the door, strode in and looked around for the Reception area just as his Dad realised who I was.

“Here, hang on, what are you doing here?” he shouted through the closing door. I ignored his call and greeted the club receptionist at the front desk.

Minutes later, I was led up the stairs to the offices where I would meet the chairman of Sheffield Wednesday, Lee Strafford. I was met first by Howard who I shook hands with and then Strafford who seemed to be confused by the whole situation. He was, I concluded, having similar doubts to myself about this potential union.

“Nice to meet you, Lee,” I announced, “thanks for the invite.”

Strafford sat down and raised his eyebrows.

“Really? Are you really happy to be here?”

I thought for a moment. This was decision time. Would I suck up to the chairman and his club in search of a managerial job back in England? Or would I speak the truth?

“Honestly, Lee?” I asked. “No, I can’t say I’m thrilled about this situation. However, I am pragmatic. Forgetting the name of the club for a minute, this is the perfect opportunity for me. It’s a ...” I paused for a second, “... good club with a massive history. It’s a club with potential. It’s a club with all the building blocks – they just need putting in place. It’s just unfortunate for me – as a Blade – that it’s here at Hillsborough.”

Howard nodded in encouragement to me. He turned to Strafford who was still looking at me intently.

“There you go, Lee. I told you he’d say that. It’s not an ideal arrangement for one reason – a rivalry between two clubs. But everything else is perfect. For purely footballing reasons, this appointment would make so much sense.”

Strafford didn’t look convinced. “You’ve said a lot of things in the past about this football club, Chip. Whilst I understand Howard’s opinion, you’d have a lot of bridges to build with the supporters.”

I smiled at him. I was expecting him to ask me about this.

“The supporters’ opinion of me is set, Lee. They’re not going to change their mind about me just because I hold out an olive branch to them. If you appoint me as manager of this club, you’d be taking the risk that my abilities as manager would outweigh the negative feeling towards me from the supporters. But let’s face it: it wouldn’t be the first time that a football club had a manager that was hated by the fans in the beginning. I bet the Forest fans weren’t thrilled about Brian Clough’s appointment before their successes ...”

“But you’re not Brian Clough, Chip,” Strafford interrupted.

“No. But who’s to say that Wednesday wouldn’t have relative success under me? The fans would soon forget my roots. I understand the Wednesday fans, Lee, I understand them because ...” I paused, “... because they’re exactly the same as United fans. At the end of the day, they’re all Sheffield folk who want the best for their club. They’ll hate managers like Robson and Yorath that take them backwards and they’ll love managers like Warnock and Sturrock who take them forwards and up. They’ll appreciate hard-working football teams that give everything for the cause. They’re typical Sheffielders, typical Yorkshire folk.”

“Will you apologise to them if we appoint you?”

“No I won’t,” I replied instantly, “and I won’t build bridges. I won’t insult them by sucking up to them. I’ll call a spade a spade and I’ll manage the football team to the best of my ability. Simple as that, take it or leave it.”

Half an hour later, we had an agreement that we would meet again next week to discuss it further. Strafford remained unconvinced, as I was, but knew that the appointment made sense to both parties. The only decisions to be made were the final ones. Would they want me? And would I want them?

I marched out of the stadium and out into the under-pass below the main stand at Hillsborough. As I turned towards the car park, I noticed a scrunched up piece of paper on the floor. I picked it up and recognised my signature from earlier. Scribbled over the top of it were three simple words.

DIE PIGGY, DIE.

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Thanks Mark. Here's the next instalment but then I'm off on holiday so won't be posting for a while. Will do on return though. Thanks for reading.

MAY 7

4:52 pm

Barnsley, UK

“I might have some excellent news for you, Chip!” shouted the voice of my agent, Michael Jones, down the phone. “I might have saved you from Wednesday!”

I perked up immediately and muttered a response urging him to carry on.

“Rotherham United are looking for alternatives to appointing Ronnie Moore full time. I gave them a ring and told them what you’ve been doing for the last decade or so and they seem really interested.”

“That’s good news, Mikey, I’ll bear it in mind. Mind you, League 2 isn’t that appealing when I’ve got a League 1 promotion contender interested as well, is it?”

“But Chip, that ‘League 1 promotion contender,’” – I could almost hear him using his fingers to make the quotation marks – “is Sheffield Wednesday. Surely you’re not seriously starting to consider them over any other offers you get?”

I stayed quiet for a moment whilst I thought about his question. Seriously, my chat with Howard and Strafford earlier had cleared some issues in my mind. The Wednesday job would not mean I had to become a Wednesdayite or anything daft like that, I’d just have to refrain from insulting them in public. And whilst the autograph paper had worried me slightly at first, I wasn’t going to let the supporters stop me from having a career. Get in there, have success, get out to a better club. Maybe United? That would be sweet ...

“You are considering them, aren’t you? Well, I can’t say I’m upset – they’d pay better money so I’d get a bigger slice of the cake. Let me know what you want to do though, Chip, and in the meantime, I’ll keep circulating your name.”

“Cheers, Mikey. I’m going back next week when we’ve all had some time to think about it. Give me a call if you unearth anything.”

“Will do, Chip. By the way, check out the Wednesday messageboards. Word is out.”

Owlstalk – or Porktalk as I prefer to call it – was alive with hatred for all things United and all things Chip Butty. The first mention of me seemed to be posted by ‘Oinker Oinkalot’ – well, something like that – around mid-day. I think I’ve met the guy.

You’re not going to believe who I saw heading into Hillsborough earlier today. That ex-Blade ****, Chip Butty. He signed my kid’s autograph book and then went inside the Reception. He’s been managing in America recently. Strafford wouldn’t appoint him as our new manager would he?

UTO, FTB

Initially thought to be a hoax, many of the Wednesday fans had dismissed it until a respected poster had confirmed that his sister – who worked in the reception areas at Hillsborough – had indeed seen me at the club that day. From that point, the forum could only accurately be described as ‘Pigs in a Panic’ as all hell had let loose.

If they appoint him, I will send my season ticket back. He’s a ******* ****
We get relegated and then Strafford wants to ruin our week by appointing this ****. No way, it’ll never happen.
Remember back when LS sacked Laws before Xmas? He flirted with Warnock for a while then. Don’t count it out.
I’ve never forgiven him for his celebration in front of our Kop when he scored the winner back in 1995. I chucked my mobile phone at him and never got it back. He’s a right ******!

I think it was fair to say that they didn’t like me. Well, I have news for you lot. I don’t like you lot much either. *****!

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Sheffield Star Sport

Monday May 10th

UNITED LEGEND TO MANAGE OWLS?

Former Sheffield United player and current Colorado Rapid manager, Chip Butty, is the extraordinary new name in the frame to become the new Sheffield Wednesday manager, The Star can exclusively reveal this afternoon. The former United midfielder, who appeared for the Blades 439 times before injury ended his career in 1997, has spent the last four years managing in the Major League in the USA with Colorado Rapids but is reportedly eager to move home to England. Astonishingly, that move could be to the Blades’ arch-rivals at Hillsborough.

Whilst Paul Jewell, Glenn Roeder and Phil Brown remain in consideration, it is believed that Butty is the preferred choice of Wednesday consultant, Howard Wilkinson, who Butty worked with when gaining his coaching badges shortly after his career-ending injury. With Lee Strafford, the Wednesday chairman, happy to listen to the views of Wilkinson, the prospect of the former United ace – revered by the Bramall Lane faithful after scoring nine goals against the Owls in his career – becoming the new manager of Wednesday is looking increasingly likely. The Owls were relegated from the Coca-Cola Championship – to be sponsored by nPower from next season – on the final day of the season when they failed to beat Crystal Palace and are expected to challenge for instant promotion from nPower League 1 next season. With Wilkinson a big fan of Chip Butty, don’t be surprised if it is the former Blade who restores the Owls to the second tier next May.

Butty made his debut for United in 1986 as a 19-year old youngster in a 2-1 defeat at Hull City. Over the coming seasons, he was a bit-part player until the arrival of Dave Bassett who consistently used him as a left winger supplying the bullets for the likes of Brian Deane and Tony Agana as United achieved back to back promotions to return to the top flight of English football. After a remarkable first season survival – including the young Butty returning to the team as they went 14 games unbeaten – in 1990, Butty’s name went down in United folklore as he struck the first goals in both Sheffield derbies the following season and helped United to a Steel City double over their great rivals, Wednesday. It was the start of a stormy relationship with the Owls as the self-confessed Blade scored five more times over the next three seasons against Wednesday – including a winner at Hillsborough in 1994 that sparked fury after his mocking celebration in front of the Owls Kop – as well as repeatedly commenting on the Owls in the local media. After United’s relegation in 1994, he turned down a multi-million pound move to Premier League Coventry City to remain with his beloved Blades and scored the winner in the Play Off Semi Final in 1996 against Ipswich Town at Portman Road as well as two goals against the old enemy in the Sheffield Steel City Cup. Converted to a more central role by Nigel Spackman in 1997, the Blades midfielder suffered a broken leg at Middlesbrough in November that ended his professional career despite two attempted returns in the Blades’ reserves.

After his retirement, Chip still spent time winding up the Wednesday fans as their recent demise began before a move to the USA in 2002 to manage Kalamazoo Outrage. From there, he moved onto the Major League to manage Colorado Rapids in 2005 but is now looking for a return to England to continue his managerial career. Could it unthinkably be with his bitter rivals in Sheffield 6?

Lee Strafford and Sheffield Wednesday refused to comment on the speculation this morning.

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