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Making a Comeback - In More Ways Than One...


MerseysideRed1

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Author's Note: My previous attempt at a story failed disastrously after entering another phase of writer's block. Here's to hoping that this won't suffer the same fate, possibly because of the bigger challenge.

Chapter 1: Rock-Bottom

“The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure.” - Sven Goran Eriksson

On any occasion, a failure wouldn't mean too much; in fact, it'd be a normal occurence in my life. I was so often found near the end of my own life, I'd be deemed as the West Brom of Life - constantly battling to stay alive after being promoted.

Normally I'd try to get back up on my feet. I'd find myself scouring for a new opportunity to test my skills elsewhere, considering I found myself to be a rather versatile creature, if I do says so myself. I'd eventually find something to do and try, in hope of finding that as a success point in my life.

Yet in the last, considerable, 20 years or so, I've tried my hand at a lot of things - from sales, to cooking, and most recently I'd been sacked from being a cleaner, after working there for about 5 months. Talk about failure. It's not that hard to be fired from being someone who walks around with a mop all day, but I'd been caught dozing off one too many times by my bosses that they'd had had enough. I did, however, feel good enough walking out that I didn't bother looking back.

I'd had a passion in sports since I was what, 10? It proved to be a love-hate relationship at times - my studies often took a back seat, much to the disdain of my ever nagging parents. I fell out of favour with teachers, principals, canteen staff, cleaners, and my studies ranged anywhere from a D to an F, and anything higher than a C- was considered a great achievement. So, now that I think about it, it was little wonder that I ended up as the roamer I am today.

My passion in football carried on through, sometimes also at the expense of relationships. I never knew how hard it was to find a woman as interested in sports, particularly football, as I was. In fact, there had to only be a handful of such women in the entire country, perhaps the world too. I'd gone through countless relationships that failed, with women who cared more for farming than football, and out the rejection door they went. So it was a miracle in my life when I finally met the love of my life, a rather adventurous woman who's job suited her style - a lawyer. Hence I had little financial trouble - in fact, it appeared I was set for life. I dare say that she's also a much more ardent supporter of football than I am, and the decibel level in my house would shoot through the roof anytime a referee made a bad call, or Liverpool - the team we both supported - scored. She'd complain about the managerial deficiencies the man (or men, in the case of how Liverpool've changed managers more times than my underwear's gone through the wash) in charge had, how he had no sense in placing a large fortune of wealth into a useless defender rather than a decent strike partner for Fernando Torres.

In a life more crazy than the graphs of the stock exchange, it's little wonder that my next job application came from absolutely nowhere.

What had happened was that my wife was defending a client who had some weird ties to Leeds United. And somehow the word came to her that they were considering a new manager, though nothing was confirmed yet - this after Leeds had remained in League One following a dismal 2-1 loss to Milwall on aggregate in the play-off final. He put my name up on the board, citing my passion for football, my alleged soft-spot for the club, and an overzealous, highly paid wife.

Something must have happened behind the scenes, but I'd rather stay out of it. The only time I knew about it was when my wife came out and prepared a spread, and in a rather exhilarated tone hinted that I'd been installed as the new manager of The Whites.

Next thing I knew, I picked up a ring from Ken Bates, asking me if I was keen on coming on board as the manager of the club - and claimed he would handle the press, and their wonders about why they hired a man who's sole playing experience came from the occasional Sunday League game.

I had a soft-spot for the team - in fact it wasn't alleged. It was quite true. I'd spent my life living the one that seemed akin to the way Leeds have performed in the last 2 decades - from the dizzying heights of the UEFA Champions League Finals all the way down to scrapping for mid-table places in League One. It seemed as if we were both on two paths that were destined to meet. For the closeness to my real-life drama, I had always looked at Leeds United games and hoped that they'd win, or be promoted - and possibly provide me a sign that my life was about to head on the up at that time. Case-in-point: When I got sacked from being a cleaner in May, Leeds had just lost their playoff final. Talk about coincidence.

The agreement took no less than 5 minutes. I walked in the door as an unemployed useless bug who lived off his wife's income, and out the door as the next manager of Leeds United. I couldn't care less about the money I'd make from the contract - all that mattered was that I'd had a job again. And now, more importantly than ever, one that I'd hope to keep for much longer than three-quarters of a year.

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Chapter 2: Day One - Great Expectations

“High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation.” - Charles F. Kettering

For a man like me, walking in to manage a football club for the first time in my entire life, it would be more than just fair to cut me a bit of slack in my first season here. The moment I walked into Elland Road, I was proven wrong...

Oh so wrong. Very wrong.

The first thing up for me was a quick meeting with Bates, and members of the board, just to discuss the direction we wanted to take the club, what was available to me, and finally introduce me to the members of my backroom staff team.

You know how in most teams, the backroom staff are normally quite extensive, and if not, at very best, had a decent number of people? Well imagine my surprise when, as Bates went around the room, I found I only had 1 full-on coach, 1 goalkeeping coach, 2 useless fitness coaches, 2 physios and 2 scouts? The only place that seemed worth noting was Youth Coaching, which had one more - 3. My backroom needed serious beefing. It seemed like I needed to promote some to be higher level coaches, and assist with taking the first team, along with Glynn Snodin.

Yet the board placed firm instructions on me that we can only have a maximum of 6 - which meant that I either fired 2 of my current staff members and brought in another coach, or kept it at the 7 already there - considering I'd already gone over the limit as stated by the Board.

So that was the first bombshell.

The second one came along in the form of expectations. Very simply, when I walked in, they asked me what I had in mind for the club. "Frankly speaking, with the team that we have, I think we can be competitive in the Championship and aim to be in the Premier League soon enough. However the squad will need some beefing up within the next season or so, so I'd target at promotion, probably, in two, three seasons, via the automatic way - gives us some time to build up the squad to a reasonable strength level to maintain a good form in the Championship."

Makes complete logical sense, right?

Well wrong.

Bates told me, "Well, frankly, we think the squad is good enough. Here's what we want you to do now. We're going to give you a transfer budget of £1 million to work with, and bring in whatever players you need, along with £91k/week for wages. And finally, with all that, you are expected to bring us up to the Championship next year - along with the League One trophy. Now, don't you have some work to do out on the pitch? I'll see you later."

Having been shown the door (thankfully, not for good), I walked out onto the training pitch and watched as the players went through their daily motions. I stared out into the distance after that.

God.

This was going to be tough.

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Chapter 3: The Media

“The media's the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that's power. Because they control the minds of the masses.” - Malcolm X

Since as far back in my 46 year old life as I can remember, I've never needed to handle any form of media. In fact, my only relation to the media was an attempt to be a photographer as part of my local newspaper, and like my previous assignments, this failed drastically.

So my first press conference is one that will always prove tricky. The PR officer was careful to brief me on the processes inside a press conference - the cameras flashing, the questions from various people in the audience, and the varying responses I might get. Now it wasn't just about me - it was about the club, and the players at the club. Anyone and everyone could stir up a fuss following my comments.

Putting on my best suit - which classified as a fake Dolce & Gabbana suit, I walked in, wearing a Leeds United tie along with a black jacket. I hoped to get one with the Leeds United logo on it soon enough, but something tells me that's not going to be too easy.

The press officer was a kind fellow - he informed me that if I had any doubts over a few questions I could pass it over without comment, and that if I had had enough I could leave at any point in time, informing him that I was not going to take any more questions.

"So let's start shall we? The first question, please."

The League Paper: You sit here as the new manager of Leeds. How do you feel?

Talk about straight to the point. I wasn't expecting this right off the bat...

Christian Featherwhite: I am absolutely delighted to work here, it's a dream come true for me, really. I thank Mr. Bates and all his staff for letting me have a chance to be a football manager.

Not exactly a lie, although it would not be unfair to say that I was just trying to kiss the a** of my boss who could sack me at any time he liked.

The League Paper: What is your overall approach to the tactical side of the game?

Jeez. I never actually thought about it. It's one of those things that I hadn't given thought to considering how I'd never been a football manager before, and that I hadn't really seen the players even play yet. Of course, my wife's lessons in speaking came to good use, along with the natural ability to bullshi* my way through most types of questions given to me...

Christian Featherwhite: We will always look to play successful, attractive attacking football. You've not heard the saying, "Attack is the Best form of defence?"

Talk about clichéd.

The League Paper: How involved do you intend to be in the day-to-day running of the club?

There's of course all the basic managerial things I'm supposed to do, so what exactly does this guy mean? I have no idea...

I inform the press officer I have no comment. Coldly he says, "Next Question please."

BBC Leeds: Would you agree with the assessment that you already have an idea of which players you like and which players you don't?

Bleugh. Another pin-point question. This time, however, I have an answer.

Christian Featherwhite: Well I disagree. It's only my second day at the club, I'm yet to really see anyone in practice yet, so everyone will have an opportunity to show me what they can do, and prove to me they are worth of staying here at the club.

Before even being given a chance to think...

BBC Leeds: Your response suggests you have confidence in your players. What do you consider the strongest area of your team?

No thought required..

Christian Featherwhite: The entire team is strong in itself. No need to question further about that.

I inform the press officer I will go no further than this. I think I've answered enough questions already.

"Thank you for coming, and have a nice day."

I walk out of the interview room, and I suddenly realise I'm sweating. Unbelievable.

But that place is like hell on earth. They ask you things you aren't prepared for, and it's a lot of thinking on your feet.

I think I know who to go to for coaching on that....

Yup, you guessed it - my dearest wife.

But for now, it's back on the training pitch. I've organised a friendly between my first team and my reserve team. Let's see how that goes...

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Chapter 4: Transfers and Trials

“Whoever said money can't buy happiness simply didn't know where to go shopping.” - Bo Derek

Digging my feet into the transfer market is going to start today. I have a £1m budget to spend on fringe players looking to get pushed out by other clubs, considering to them they have no future. Talk about second-hand items.

But of course, these players may be decent enough to rip League One teams apart, so why not. As I scour through the research compiled by my backroom staff, I'm eager to look in the younger direction. My backroom doesn't share the same view, but so be it. I'm now thumbing through the lists of players who have been dumped on the transfer list by the clubs who don't wish to have them anymore.

Considering my scouts are pretty much useless, I've to rely on guesswork to take this one. I read the overviews of several players, and decide that I'd send in bids for them. As of now I've put in 5 loan offers, and 4 transfer offers. I'm hoping to bring in extra defenders and strikers, and I've bids in now for Chris Basham of Bolton, Ritchie De Laet of Manchester United, Jay-Emanuel Thomas of Arsenal and Jonathan Cristaldo from Velez - all promising players. I'm hoping to grab Mathias Jorgensen, after hearing about him from the internet and his performances at FC Kobehavn. Fingers crossed but I doubt my chances.

As to transfers, I find a rather promising South Korean in his mid-20s who looks like a decent bet in central midfield, called Kim Jung Woo. I hope he is in no way related to the North Koreans. But to be fair, most Koreans have a 'Kim' in their name somewhere... Apparently all Seongnam is asking for is £220k, so in goes a bid. I deem it a rather expensive piece of business considering my budget, but considering his original value I don't mind it at all.

Then there's the Egyptian, Mohamed Barakat. He's capable and both right wing back and right midfield, and a versatile player would definitely be of benefit, for the simple reason that it cuts cost on buying another one in either role. Al-Ahly require £325k for him, and in goes a bid. I think I might get him. My secretary, Joanne, does, with her knowledge of football, remind me that I need to think about work permits. But that'll be another story for another day. Let's get through this first.

Next, I've found an Ivorian who plays in a myriad of positions, from central defence to central midfield. He looks too good to be true, but I'm hoping that he's not too bad. Sekou Outtara, his name is. Weird name, and plays in France, but he seems pretty decent for £450k.

In attack, I've searched out and found a young, promising striker in the Preston Reserves called Stephen Elliot. If I'm going to get into European competition at some stage more English blood won't hurt, and with his abilities I think he can do a lot of damage with Beckford, Becchio and the rest up front. If I can bring Cristaldo in, I have a lot of players to choose from.

That said injury crises do happen, and with my luck I could get hit by a bad one. So I rang up one of my scouts, who points me in the direction of Michael Mifsud. The 27-year old's been released by his former club, and looks like a decent bet for me, if I can grab him with a contract offer. Maybe my scouts aren't that useless after all.

There's also Steve Olfers, another unemployed central defender who can play in centre midfield as well. I send him a contract offer, hopefully he can come in. I'm looking to bolster my midfield, and possibly make money off him next season if he's too poor to kick a ball.

In this world, experience does, however, count for a lot. I've found that Ivan Helguera, the ex-Real Madrid and Valencia centre-back out unemployed, and I thought, why not. His ability might still be higher than that of a League One standard, and his experience would also help my relatively young backline, and actually the entire squad, with his tales of top-class Spanish football.

My scouts recommended Carl Robinson, a Welshman who plies his trade in Canada. He's a central midfielder, and I am well and truly hoping my scouts are right when they profiled him for me. Let's just see if they are as useless as I deemed them to be initially.

When I mentioned youth I wasn't kidding. I decided to try and grab Javan Vidal from Manchester City, before the oil sheiks there demand £10 million for him. He seems promising, according to my scouts as well, so there's another one for the transfer book.

To end a busy day at the office, I've found a young Peruvian striker who might solve the height problem I've been informed of in the team. Flavio Maestri is allegedly great in the air, and he's also been released by his former club. Hopefully he can come in.

I realise, I've never been one for economics. I'm that bad at math. I believe I need a calculator to figure out 7 times 8. I'm hoping I haven't burst my budget.

But I've placed Alan Martin, one of my 3 goalkeepers, and Tresor Kandol, a Trinidad and Tobago striker who seems more fit in a League Two side, on the transfer list. Fingers crossed that I can ship them out to provide me with an added wage and transfer budget to move on, and I do pray that Ken Bates can afford that extra penny out of his back pocket to offer me.

Now I know why I hate economics so bad.

And why I'll never become a banker either.

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Chapter 5: Staff and Scorelines

“Money won't buy happiness, but it will pay the salaries of a large research staff to study the problem” - Bill Vaughn

I've decided I'm going to invest in my scouting department as well. I plough straight into lists of staff in other teams - I've never been IT savvy despite my iPhone 4 jumping around in my pocket - and send offers to Gavin Tait, Ray Williams, Glen Letheren, Neal Ardley, John Murray and Martin Dobson. Most of them are scouts, so I'm hoping I can have a boost to my scouting staff, so to allow me a much wider range of views on players I'm tempted to go for in terms of transfer or loans. Sounds like a good deal.

Ray Williams was really quick to respond. In no time at all, he was now a member of my scouting team. Gavin Tait soon followed after, and I'm hoping the rest will jump onto the bandwagon. I need to beef up my backroom staff. Especially before the season starts. My scouts can help me bring it many more great players I need in a bid to bring us back to former Premier League glory.

But that being said, my job here is football, and I'm going to focus on that until another piece of admin work pops up in my email inbox, already flooded so badly that the function on my iPhone has crashed twice in the last 10 minutes. Switching off my phone, I walk out onto the training pitch and decide to take in the atmosphere here at Thorp Arch. This is really a new experience, and I decided I'd see what there is to see here.

In not too long my two teams will run out. Glynn has organised for me a wonderful reserve team of players to match up against the first team, and hopefully they'll show the regulars they had their work cut-out for them, or give my hope for the season a chance to run riot and show me all their striking prowess had to offer. In particular, I was scrutinising that of Jermaine Beckford, who, as I've heard, is a magical striker for the team. I'll need to pay close attention to that.

I turn back to head to the office, and pick up a copy of the paper on the way back. Some of the latest bits and pieces of news... Well for starters there's that little scrap about me saying how "I'm confident the entire team will manage" bit, but probably nobody but Leeds supporters read that. In other news, Roy Hodgson is the new Aston Villa manager, in a big high profile swap that ended with him changing from the colours of black and white to claret and blue. Meanwhile the oddly named Frank Lampard, who is no relation to his 31 year old namesake, has joined Bristol Rovers as Assistant Manager. A counterpart for the season, Andy Ritchie, is the new manager at Carrow Road, while ex-Tottenham manager Juande Ramos joins Manchester City, replacing Mark Hughes. Speaking of Tottenham, Dave Jones has also recently been introduced as the new manager of Spurs.

Back to business at hand, I have now confirmed the arrivals of Gavin Tait and John Murray onto my scouting team, so they'll be in control of the scouting that I require as the transfer window edges on.

I'm now in my car, on the way to Elland Road, and messaging Joanne and getting her to send Michael Ball a contract offer. As I went over my team sheet for the day I noticed we severely lacked in the defensive department - the right side was taken care of with half the people I was signing being right sided. In addition, a cousin from Australia brought up the name Joe Keenan of South Melbourne - he's only worth £10k but from the rave reviews I'm hearing it might be a bargain. I've asked to send in an offer of twice his valuation in, hoping for the best.

Meanwhile, my team for the Reserves match is in a 4-2-2-2 formation, with Casper Ankergren in goal, protected by a back four of Ben Parker, Lubor Michalik, Patrick Kisnorbo and Andy Hughes, and in front of them, Jonathan Howson and Neil Kilkenny. Loan signing from the previous regime Gary McSheffrey started on left flank, and Robert Snodgrass would start on the right. Up front, I left Jermaine Beckford alongside Luciano Becchio, and hopefully this would churn out the goals. Beckford's first touch, as I noted in training, left much to be desired but hopefully his pace and "skill" would help score for the team.

Walking into the dressing room for the first time, some of the players still seem to be trying to understand who I am, and I don't mind that - besides, I've never been a manager before in my entire life. Hopefully a few wins'll help get me on their side, and more importantly into the hearts of the fans. I have to, if I'm going to keep my job.

"Alright lads, I know this is a warm up, but expect the best and nothing but the best. If you don't, onto the bench you go, and if you give me any more of that in the next game I play you you're off to another club. But that being said, show the reserves why you guys are in the First Team and not them - and play to your strengths. I might give some of you a rest in the middle of the match, so don't come back b*tching about how I took you off. I thought I'd clear the air a little bit here, alright? See you all on the pitch then. It's an empty stadium today."

My first real team talk. Fingers crossed that it'd work...

Leeds Reserves win the toss, and they'll start. My youth team coach is their manager for the day, and I glance over to Neil Thompson and show him the thumbs-up. Here we go.

And in less than 30 seconds we've had our first chance of the match. The ball is sent straight back to the keeper off the start, and Howson wins the header. Knocks it down to Beckford, who plays a great ball to Becchio who just can't seem to beat the keeper. That said, rust is still in the squad and 20 seconds isn't enough time to clear it all off. Corner to us...

and another one. The ball sent in is cleared out for another corner.

Kisnorbo's cross is cleared to Hughes, who pings the ball to Howson, and he lobs it into the path of McSheffrey, who's a bit caught out by the bounce. He takes it and puts in a soft cross that's easily dealt with my defence. Disappointing.

That said, Kilkenny wins the ball back after a poor header, and he knocks it over to Howson. The ball then goes over to McSheffrey on the edge of the box. He lays off a great pass into the path of Beckford, who then proceeds to smash a powerful shot right past our reserve goalkeeper Ryan Jones and into the net! My first goal in charge - as much as nobody in the stands apart from the cleaners and security guards saw that, it was a great strike - and Beckford is proving to me why he should still be here at Elland Road. Great finish, and we're 1-0 up within the first 3 minutes of the game. GOAL TO LEEDS UNITED: 11.JERMAINE BECKFORD (02:42)

I've instructed my Leeds team to hassle our opposition abit, give them a bit of a run for their money, and push up at the same time, to attack more.

On 9 minutes Ben Parker wins us a throw-in on the left side. He knocks it in for Beckford, who tries a cross but it's cleared. The ball comes back to Parker, however, the ball finding Robert Snodgrass on the right who makes a daring run in, but it's so high over the bar it never looked like going in. Disappointment, but it's a nice, fresh start and looks promising.

Not too long after a pattern forms. The ball will come from Kilkenny, bounce over to Parker, who lays it to McSheffrey, who'll just play it back again. The pattern continues as we edge nearer to the box, and Parker lays in a great inswinging ball that Becchio heads over the bar from about 6 yards. Not too bad movement there, I like the build up. There's a bunch of things I see us doing in the season that'll get us all 3 points.

Then on 15 minutes, Howson takes the ball and finds McSheffrey, who's running riot for us up front. He controls it, dodges two defenders and lays it off to Becchio, who this time forces the keeper into a save, and out for a corner.

I'm getting a bit fed up with Kisnorbo's ineffective deliveries, but the ball now finds Beckford who's pass out back to Kisnorbo is left with much to be desired.

The resultant bad throw from the reserves provides us with an opportune moment to shine. Kisnorbo plays a great ball to Howson, who turns his marker and plays a nice ball to McSheffrey who just can't get a shot away. Parker, however, retrieving the ball, sends the ball in for Becchio, who tries to lay it back to Howson. Howson, facing the wrong way puts it back into our half, in the possession of Michalik. He finds Kilkenny, who finds Becchio, who gets one-on-one with the keeper but misses after deciding to shoot from just inside the area. It's out for another corner, and I grimace as Kisnorbo steps up to it again.

Becchio shakes Kisnorbo off the corner - to my relief - and plays a nice short cross to Michalik at the near-post. But Michalik was a bit too near and the ball bumbles into the side netting for another disappointing opportunity. I'm getting a bit frustrated by the lack of clinical finishing by the team.

Leeds' Reserves first attack goes high and wide, after one of them is forced to shoot from miles away. The resultant effort is also, likewise, miles away.

Another bad Leeds' Reserves throw in has found the ball at our feet. Two crosses into the box fail to provide any excitement, but McSheffrey's ball in the box nearly leads to one of the reserve defenders putting through his own goal. The resulting corner is, once again, wasted, and as Falkingham from the Reserves purges forward, despite carrying a slight limp, he puts it in the box - only for Michalik to clear out for a corner. Falkingham proceeds to retrieve the ball once more after the corner, and he does everything but finish. The ball rolls past the post. Ankergren looks, understandably, bored.

The half-time whistle goes. We're 1-0 ahead, but it could and should definitely have been more. I inform the lads that they need to buck up a little, but not get complacent either. As they run out for the second half I've instructed them to go more attacking. Much more attacking.

Right off the bat we start to control, passes coming back and forth along the defensive and midfield lines. Parker sprays a nice pass out to Kilkenny, who puts in a nice ball for McSheffrey who goes for glory... and misses by only a fraction of an inch. A nice try. I'm encouraged by the slightly more spirited display so far.

On 55 minutes, Parker wins a throw-in, and knocks it over to Beckford. A little off-guard, he heads it back to Parker who volleys a cross in. Becchio has clearly beaten the keeper if he makes the header, as he comes out to try and grab it - yet Becchio, with his luck still waning, hits the crossbar despite the close-range opportunity presented to him. He kicks at air, shakes his head, and runs off in the opposite direction, as the ball is cleared.

But in football, there is no time to cry over spilt milk. The ball finds Kilkenny once more, who lays off a nice pass to Howson. Howson, with superb vision, finds Parker, who's been running riot on the left flank. Deciding to cut in, he finds McSheffrey, and he lays it very nicely to Becchio. He tries once more, and this time Becchio's curve deceives the defence, and at the end of it all the goalkeeper! It's another goal, and after that string of misfortune Becchio's finally contributed for us with a nice goal. It was a while coming, but the man is visibly delighted with that effort. It's taken a lot of weight off his shoulders now. GOAL TO LEEDS UNITED: 10.LUCIANO BECCHIO (56:30)

I decide against calling on my substitutes, and with reason to do so. A poorly taken free kick has given us the ball back. Michalik, combining well with Kilkenny, finds Howson, who hits a brillaint through ball for McSheffrey. Dodging two defenders, the half-volley unfortunately is primed for the goalkeeper's hands and is pushed away. McSheffrey stands with his hands on his hips and stares, before resuming play on the left flank.

Michalik and Kisnorbo appear to have struck up a partnership, as on 66 minutes they find themselves with the ball. They team up and knock it over to Howson, who takes a few strides before hitting a nice through ball for Becchio. Now with only the keeper to beat, he needs to just side-foot it under him. Unfortunately, he opts for the lob, and it sails wide and oh so horribly left. Bad miss from him there.

I decide to take off a few tiring players and send on, in order, Leigh Bromby for Lubomir Michalik; Michael Doyle for Neil Kilkenny and Max Gradel for Gary McSheffrey. Hopefully they can show me what they've got - they might be the only lucky ones to have time to make an impact today.

An immediate impact is made, as Gradel finds Becchio, who plays it out to Beckford on the left flank - only God knows what he's doing there. Beckford sends it back in for Becchio, but the ball is played too high and is headed clear. Howson knocks it back in though, and Becchio's pass to Gradel has found his man, one-on-one with the keeper once more. And once more, it's straight at him and it's another simple, simple stop. Another disappointment there.

Not much more is of note within the next 10 minutes, other than Gradel proving wasteful as another attempt at goal is sent flying wide of the mark by a long, long way. Other than that, I note that Doyle, Hughes and Snodgrass appear to make a nice combination.

On 90 minutes, the ball now finds Birbeck of the Reserves, who lays it back to his teammate, before racing forward, retrieving the ball and now one-on-one with Ankergren. And in his first real act of the match, Ankergren palms it away to safety, and Parker clears.

The final whistle goes - a 2-0 win for us leaves much to be desired, but I've seen a lot of positives I can take from this game, but hope that my hopeful new signings can make a much bigger impact than I've initially hoped for.

FINAL SCORE: LEEDS UNITED 2 - 0 LEEDS UNITED RESERVES (BECKFORD 3', BECCHIO 57')

It's been a lot to take in, a lot to consider today, but now I'm off home to enjoy dinner with my loving wife and have a good night's rest.

Tomorrow promises another busy day.

In fact, everyday's a busy day for me.

And ones that are full of surprises.

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Thanks Satio for the comments :) Anything you think I need to improve on do raise here :)

Chapter 6: Perilous Papers

“We can lick gravity, but sometimes the paperwork is overwhelming.” - Werner Von Braun

It's been a busy few days of late. Little did I know, it was going to get oh so much worse.

My phone's been buzzing more than the bees in the hive right outside my little apartment on the edge of town. Message, email, message, phone call, email, email, email, phone call, message, repeatedly, over and over again. One day I just might throw my damn phone in the ocean.

But I won't. Yet. For it's a little too important for me. After bidding my wife goodbye, I travelled by taxi all the way to Thorpe Arch, and my office. Greeting Joanne with a smile, she stutters, before finally telling me, "Umm... Christian? I'm sorry to tell you this, and I know you're really tired and all, but there are... 31 messages for you, some in your email, and a stack of files on your desk. Do you... do you need any help going through them? I've made you a big mug of tea on your table, since I've heard about your distaste for coffee. Hope you like it."

"It's alright Joanne, thanks. I'll sort through it myself." I replied, smiling.

"Call me if you need anything, I'll be out here - not like I really have anywhere else to go anyway..."

What a nice little secretary I've got here. Ah well. The happiness turned to depression. She wasn't exaggerating when she mentioned the stack of letters and files sitting on my table in a giant clump. Obviously the mailman was in a rush - he didn't bother organising it in any way other than in one huge clump.

So I took the stack and dumped it on the floor. I poured myself a glass of tea, and got started.

In essence most of it were useless scout reports that I was never getting round to read anyway. I was about to give my garbage collecting man a job to do - emptying the bin would never be this hard again. I had 10 scout reports on my desk, and of them, 8 went in the bin. The ones I kept? Gavin Mahon, a 32 year old defensive midfielder who seemed to be better than anyone in my squad. Plus, I'd like to build my squad around having a defensive midfielder, with Jonathan Howson now on a retraining scheme to get him accustomed to a defensive midfield role, it'd give me more midfield options. I faxed over a bid to Queens Park Rangers - hopefully they'll accept.

The other one was of Paul Smith, a goalkeeper from Nottingham Forest who had a couple of good performances to his name. Since I wanted to get rid of Alan Martin, I offered him in exchange for Smith, being the cunning person I am, if I do say so myself. :D

Elsewhere, my offer for Javan Vidal has been accepted by Manchester City, and over went a contract offer for the 20 year old Englishman. Fingers crossed.

Meanwhile, Glan Letheren rejected my contract offer, and he's staying at Porstmouth. Ah well. Doesn't mean too much to me, because Martin Dobson signed on. Great news. Now I've got the opportunity to make use of my scouting team to find more players, while the others appear to stall on decisions - this is frustrating the daylights out of me. As my wife always reminds me not to be impatient, sometimes that's a bit hard. Particularly when attempting to manage a football club of this sort.

Moving on, Joe Keenan's club South Melbourne accepted my £22k offer for him - hopefully my offer is good enough to attract him to jump ship. Unfortunately, with the wage budget I'm holding onto right now, it's not very likely. Ah well.

At least I have a piece of good news to savour today. Patrick Van Aanholt decided that he'd turn down the offer from Crystal Palace to come work under me, which is a boost to my left defence department. In addition, Gavin Mahon was quick to respond, as I offered to him a contract not long after QPR accepted the offer.

The day was winding to a boring conclusion. I barely had the opportunity to go watch the lads today, because of the paperwork that had to be done. Just as I was about to leave, in comes Dave Harrison...

"Christian! I have a report here for you that you asked me to do - Simon Dawkins. I assure you, you'll love him. He looks like a promising prospect for us at the moment, and could be better than some that are in the team within the next 5 years - he's one you should consider going for. Even better - he's free!"

Yup, no cash. That's the mainline of the entire thing, that I had to pay nothing but his contract. Great news.

"Fine, thanks Dave. I'll see you tomorrow then."

I dump my bag in the corner and go back to my desk. Flipping through his report, I do see the potential, he's an ambitious character and could be as good as Jermaine Beckford. Which sounds like a good deal to me. I send to his agent the contract terms I'd like to offer him, and let's see what happens.

That's an end to another busy day at the office.

Back home to the loving wife, and to my lovely bed. I can't wait.....

....

Until I see the news.

"OI BEN. WHAT THE BLOODY F*** JUST HAPPENED?" I screamed over the phone. (By the way, Ben's that kind PR officer from the first conference.)

"I... I don't really know. Somehow it leaked out, nobody knows how and why. Possibly an overzealous parent?"

"I DON'T CARE. WHAT MATTERS IS THAT BATES COULD BE AFTER MY A** TOMORROW AFTER THIS. IF WE'RE GOING TO MAKE TRANSFER DEALS THEY'D BETTER BE PRIVATE. THE PRESS ARE GOING TO HAVE A FIELD DAY AND SO ARE OTHER TEAMS."

"Yes Christian, I understand that. You have to understand that we have taken all the precautions we can, and we are still unsure of the source of the leak. I do apologise for it though. We will see that the deal passes comfortably under no scrutiny whatsoever."

"Alright. Thanks Ben. Sorry about that. I'm just... stressed, y'know? It's a big job, and I've never really had a big job before."

"I get it Christian. Now you just get a good night's rest okay? We want you here to help us win the League and get us back in the Premier League in a few years."

"Cheers. Good night."

So it's 2am in the morning. 2 f***ing am in the morning. I get a message from Glynn saying, "Turn your TV on now. Sky. We have to talk. Thanks, Glynn."

I turn on the TV, much to the astonishment, and more importantly, disgust of my wife Merryl. She asks me what's wrong. I dismiss it as nothing and she goes back to bed, visibly upset by being awoken from her beauty sleep.

"Note to self: Women need beauty, money and sleep." I muttered to myself.

And that was when I noticed a news bulletin, the sports section obviously, describing how I've sent in a contract offer for Simon Dawkins. Everybody knows about it now. Great. Just what I needed. Just when I thought I might have found a gem nobody else could.

Talk about luck.

If this was good fortune, I'd hate to think what bad fortune would bring up.

But that being said, I'd cooled off after talking to Ben. I feel sorry for the guy, his job now on the line with this leak. I hope he stays on.

I turn off the TV and finally get back to sleep.

Yet rest will not come easy for me.

As I stare into the darkness, I tell myself:

Sometimes, this job is a dream.

Sometimes, however, this job is like a never-ending nightmare.

I don't know which.

And proceed to fall back into a deep sleep... but without sweet dreams. Rather a torrential nightmare that goes through my entire disappointing, failure of a life I have turned out to be...

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Chapter 7: Just Another Day At The Office... Not

“Managing is getting paid for home runs that someone else hits.” - Casey Stengel

Well then, after the early morning fiasco I've caught up on some sleep - and sought permission to show up for work a bit late today. Not part of my work ethic since I got onto this job, but figured it was the best I could manage, after being kicked out of bed at 2am in the morning to deal with press information.

Speaking of press, I've been hounded consistently by reporters from the likes of the Sun, to the Daily Mail and so on. I've turned them all down with a no comment, as advised by my lovely PR guy Ben. He definitely knows how to handle the press so I'm just following his lead. Until I get a grip on the job scope and everything else, that is.

I walk towards my office today, and Joanne sees me, smiles and shakes her head. Obviously not too good - true enough, there's still some paperwork to be done today. Frustrating.

Let's see - there's a newspaper cut out on my desk, along with a pre-evaluation of Patrick Van Aanholt, my new on loan left back. Let's see how he'll prove to turn out, as he's here for 12 months. How nice. It's mentioned that he relishes the first team opportunity he might get here - but first he'll have to Ben Parker out, considering Ben's stellar performance against the Reserves. He'll get the starting in St. Johnstone match on Sunday, but then I'll definitely give Van Aanholt an opportunity later on to show me his stuff. I'll meet up with him later on the training ground, if I have the time.

As I sort through stuff I make a note to contact the agent of Yann M'Vila and his club. I ended up watching French football last night, for no apparent reason whatsoever, and a friendly match between some weirdly name team and Rennes caught my eye, and I noticed M'Vila roaming the park. 19 years old, I'm hoping that Rennes can afford to give him a season of overseas experience. Ha. Fat chance.

But I've lived my entire life on the edge, taking risks when normally unnecessary. So we'll see what happens.

Alright, I've cleared most of my paperwork... wait... what's this?

"JOANNE!"

"Yes Christian?"

"Get me a car, fast. I'm going to be very VERY late."

"Ummm Christian? Mr. Bates has instructed me that he will come up to get you in about 5 minutes."

"Oh... okay then. Thanks Joanne."

Oh God.

I almost forgot about it.

The FA Cup First Round Draw. It's normally not a high profile event but I have to attend it as one of the club's representatives. I keep forgetting we're back in League One.

"Christian?"

"Yeah, come in."

"Are you ready to go? The car's waiting downstairs. We've gotta be in London in a couple of hours. We're heading to the Airport first and flying down to Heathrow - there an FA car's gonna pick us up. Quick. Get your suit on. We've gotta get a move on."

"Bloody hell, that's a long trip to make. Alright I'll be down in five."

I instruct Joanne to not come in, or let anyone else come in in particular. I throw my tracksuit off and into the wall and put on the suit I have in my office, the same fake suit I put on for the first press conference.

-------------

Next thing I know, we're here. We're in London. An hour, an hour 5 minutes. Felt like 10 minutes. I've never been so tired in my entire life, that I knocked out on the plane, or so says Ken Bates. We stepped off the chartered jet (I wonder where we got that from), and immediately we're ferried via buggy over to the VIP immigration and customs clearance. The press are everywhere, I see camera's flashing - I swear, the cameras gave flashed more than I ever saw as a bartender at a nightclub I used to work in.

Immediately we're escorted to the back exit of the airport, and are driven to our final destination in London. And it was going to be the same thing back again - except much later. I phoned my wife at work on the way to the draw venue - telling her I may be late for dinner. The usual "mm." reply was quite simply put, and that was that. I hung up, for phone bills were going up, just as we arrived outside the front doors of Soho Square.

FA CUP 1ST ROUND DRAW: SOHO SQUARE, LONDON [10-JULY-2009]

"The first team is... Scunthorpe. They will play at home to..."

My stomach lurched. Each time a match-up is announced my stomach jumps as I hope we get it easy.

"Morecambe."

Whew. Missed the first one.

"Next up, at home is... Barnsley."

Oh god. The FA Cup giant-killers that knocked out Chelsea and Liverpool...

"And they will play against... Chesterfield."

Another sigh of relief.

Then I proceed to ignore the rest of the draw, until Ken Bates nudges me. "Praying for an easy team?"

I note that our name's been drawn out of the hat; we are, thankfully, at home. I'd love the home advantage it'll bring, with the fans. I'm still unsure about numbers but I'll take what I've got.

"Leeds United will be at home against Bradford."

Alright, League Two team, we got away with it there. Fingers crossed, I hope my signings will come in by then, and I can have a decent enough sized squad to sufficiently dispatch of a team in the league beneath us. I now proceed to do a variety of things, from twiddling my thumbs to staring into blank space, without actually listening to the draw for much longer. All that mattered was that we'd been drawn up against a team that we should beat. And that if we don't, my team'll get such an earful from me it'll be embarrassing.

The last draw came out of the hat, Watford against Northampton. That concluded the draw, and Bates and I left Soho Square thanking our lucky stars that we didn't end up against any of the Championship sides in the draw. We had a stroke of good fortune - now to make the most of it. The matches will be played on 12th August 2009 - enough time to prepare the team in advance, but it might mean rotating the squad after our opening fixture against Exeter 4 days prior to that, in the League.

As I retired back to my office to change into much, much more comfortable clothes, and then left for home, I heaved a sigh of relief.

Yet it's another day for me without seeing the lads play - tomorrow'll be the last day before our next friendly, against St. Johnstone - and also the first time the fans will get to see the new Leeds United team in action. I'm a little nervous. But so be it.

As I jumped into bed, I prayed that there would be no more midnight messages and calls to kick me out of bed again....

----------------

FULL FA CUP 1ST ROUND DRAW

SCUNTHORPE CH vs MORECAMBE L2

BARNSLEY CH vs CHESTERFIELD L2

TRANMERE L1 vs PORT VALE L2

LEEDS UNITED L1 vs BRADFORD L2

NOTTINGHAM FOREST CH vs BURY L2

CARLISLE L1 vs LEICESTER CITY CH

DONCASTER CH vs CREWE ALEXANDRA L2

OLDHAM ATHLETIC L1 vs GRIMSBY TOWN L2

ACCRINGTON L2 vs HUDDERSFIELD TOWN L1

SHEFFIELD UNITED CH vs ROTHERHAM L2

BLACKPOOL CH vs MACCLESFIELD TOWN L2

SHREWSBURY L2 vs SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY CH

HARTLEPOOL L1 vs BURTON L2

NORWICH CITY L1 vs LINCOLN CITY L2

ROCHDALE L2 vs DERBY COUNTY CH

NOTTS COUNTY L2 vs PRESTON NORTH END CH

STOCKPORT TOWN L1 vs DARLINGTON L2

HEREFORD UNITED L2 vs COVENTRY CITY CH

BARNET L2 vs BRISTOL ROVERS L1

IPSWICH TOWN CH vs COLCHESTER UNITED L1

BRIGHTON AND HOVE ALBION L1 vs CRYSTAL PALACE CH

SWINDON TOWN L1 vs SOUTHEND UNITED L1

SOUTHAMPTON L1 vs YEOVIL TOWN L1

EXETER CITY L1 vs BRISTOL CITY CH

READING CH vs BRENTFORD L1

MILLWALL L1 vs BOURNEMOUTH L2

WALSALL L1 vs QUEENS PARK RANGERS CH

WYCOMBE WANDERERS L1 vs PETERBOROUGH UNITED CH

MILTON KEYNES DONS L1 vs CHELTENHAM TOWN L2

CHARLTON ATHLETIC L1 vs GILLINGHAM L1

DAGENHAM AND REDBRIDGE L2 vs WEST BROMWICH ALBION CH

CARDIFF CITY CH vs TORQUAY UNITED L2

LEYTON ORIENT L1 vs PLYMOUTH ARGYLE CH

SWANSEA CITY CH vs ALDERSHOT TOWN L2

WATFORD CH vs NORTHAMPTON TOWN L2

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Chapter 8: Stick My Neck Out, And Hope For The Best

“Fortune and misfortune are two buckets in the same well” - German Proverb

I knew sooner or later that 2am thing would come back and haunt me.

I believe I was that close, THAT close to sealing the deal with Simon Dawkins and getting him to come over - and at the last minute, Brighton and Hove Albion come in with a bid. How frustrating. It's just stupid, that.

Next, I'm being competed against to sign Steve Olfers. The central defender, defensive midfielder and midfielder has been offered contracts by FC Twente, PAOK and Roda JC. I do, still, however, believe that money would be the root of most contract signings - so I offered him an extra £1,000 per week. Fingers crossed. He could be extremely crucial to my side.

A piece of good news did come through my office this morning though - Carl Robinson has accepted my contract offer, and is now moving on a Bosman free transfer to us, from Toronto FC. Sounds like a good deal, and I'll have a new player when we make the turn into the new year. I'm praying we're not in too bad a state by the time the 1st of January 2010 comes around.

I'm about to head down to the training ground when my email buzzes me. Curse me and my stupid luck with emails. It's irritating I tell you. Each time I want to head out something pops up. Let's see...

Okay, I think my left-back problems have been resolved, for this season at least. Michael Ball accepted my contract offer! He seemed like a good option from the start - especially since he was a free agent - so that bolsters my defence. If only the strikers I want to buy will do the same...

Ah well. I get a message on my iPhone on the way down toward the training pitch that M'Vila's going nowhere - expected, so whatever, I'm not too bothered. Meanwhile Nottingham Forest are unsatisfied with my offer for their goalkeeper Paul Smith. I up the stakes - £100k in transfer fees PLUS Alan Martin. Fingers crossed. I think I need a better keeper than Ankergren if the goal gets busier than what our Reserves manage to accomplish.

I'm quite pleased with what I'm seeing in the team right now; Van Aanholt's putting in his fair share of work, and he's trying to push and challenge for that left back spot. That's a good sign. Meanwhile Ball will only come in tomorrow, so I might either try to push him straight in or leave him on the bench - we'll see what happens tomorrow morning, during training. I'll decide from there.

Suddenly my phone buzzes. Unknown number.

"Hello?"

"Hey is that Christian Featherwhite?"

"Yeah...?"

"Hi this is Middlesbrough manager Gordon Strachan."

"You're kidding."

"I'm not son. I'm just calling you right now, because I've been heavily involved with Leeds in the past - I admire your courage in taking on this task as well. It's really something to try and bring the club back up to its former glory."

"Thanks... But..."

"Yeah I know you have a lot of questions. Anyway I called to let you know that I love the piece of transfer business you did with Michael Ball there. He's a talent, that lad, he's just been unlucky with the teams he's played for. I can't wait to see him in action, really. I relish the prospect of him showing up on our turf, but at the end of the day it's definitely a step forward for you at this point in time. Good job son. Keep it up."

"Thanks very much Mr. Strachan."

"Drop the formalities, just call me Gordon the next time we meet, okay? Hope to see you around sometime. Cheers."

The phone line goes dead.

Wow, my first real piece of advice and comments from anyone else in the "circuit". Amazing. My head's in the clouds at the moment, considering the successes of Gordon Strachan at Celtic. And his playing career also involved Manchester United and Leeds United, and he's been a great success around. It feels quite... pleasing, for lack of a better word, to be able to get compliments from Leeds legends.

But my feet come back onto the ground, as I ask myself the question I failed to ask Gordon a while ago:

How the f*** did he get my number?!

Ah well.

I bid the lads a goodbye and head for home. I remind the players to come in early tomorrow - I'm announcing the lineup for the St. Johnstone match a litte after training tomorrow. And it's a 3pm kick-off. After that we've got to set off for Scotland - we face Stranraer away two days later, so we've got to leave by the night. I've told my wife that - she's taken a few days leave to join me up in Stranraer. I really count myself lucky to have such a great woman like her by my side, week in week out, 24/7. Amazing.

I pack my things, but I still have a lot of things on my mind.

Glynn just informed me that Arsenal await 4 days after.

Who the hell was the idiot that did up my fixture list?!

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Chapter 9: Moving Forward

“To get through the hardest journey we need take only one step at a time, but we must keep on stepping” - Chinese Proverb

The successful transfer of Michael Ball really put me in a great mood over the week - for the sheer fact that he was my first official signing of the transfer window - and for no cost at all - a success for me. In a milestone few weeks full of firsts - my first football job, my first victory, more importantly, my first transfer now in football, I anticipated the next milestone ahead of me - my first home victory in front of a crowd of fans.

Truth be told, St. Johnstone aren't a very big team to begin with. The Scottish team in the Clydesdale Bank Scottish Premier League are not a fair comparison to the teams that the English league boasts, whether Arsenal or Manchester United, or even Newcastle and Middlesbrough in the Championship. What I hoped for, nonetheless, was for my team to put in a stellar performance, irregardless of whether we walk out of Elland Road with a win or not. Early days, still early days.

I was tasked to show up at the latest press conference to unveil Ball's signing. An amazing day, I was definitely more eager this time to speak to the press, as Ben very carefully noted as we headed for the press room. I told him I'd take as many questions as possible today, as we assembled at the conference table. Most questions were, of course, directed at me, and here we go, to kick start the conference proper.

BBC Leeds: You sit here alongside new signing Michael Ball. Are you pleased to have got your man?

No-brainer.

Christian Featherwhite: I am delighted to be able to welcome Michael to the club.

Next?

BBC Leeds: What impact, if any, do you think this signing will have on the rest of the Leeds squad?

Another simple question.

Christian Featherwhite: I am confident that it will be a massive boost to the whole team.

I try to keep my answers short - I have other matters to attend to right now.

The League Paper: Part of an impact as a new signing is turning up at key moments during a season. Are you confident that Ball will produce in the big games?

Easy.

Christian Featherwhite: I certainly hope he can make a big contribution.

Come on, hurry it up a little people. I look at Ben and he informs the press to speed it up a little.

BBC Leeds: The acquisition of Ball is seen by many as something of a coup for the club. Is this a stance you agree with, given the relative status of the player and of Leeds?

Oh God. Wow. First hard question of the day. I ponder to think for a while, before continuing.

Christian Featherwhite: I think Michael is a magnificent capture for this club.

BBC Leeds: Matches can be won or lost in a single moment. Do you believe Ball to be someone who can be the difference between success and failure?

Of course. Duh. Wait, can't say that. Respect in a press room at all times. Agh.

Christian Featherwhite: I certainly hope he can make a big contribution.

Standard answers... I feel my phone buzzing. I don't really know what it is but I'm 100% sure it's both important and an email. But I'll keep to my word and stay for the entire conference.

The League Paper: What is the relationship between you and Ball, and why did he want to work under you?

Naturally, this question isn't for me to answer. But looks like the choice isn't mine.

Christian Featherwhite: I have a great friendship with Michael and it was ideal for him to come here.

Yup, definitely a whole load of bullshi* right there. Ha.

The League Paper: You caught many people off guard with the surprise nature of this signing. Was it hard to keep the deal under wraps?

Duh. I mean, remember Simon Dawkins?

Christan Featherwhite: At times it was a struggle to keep other teams from becoming interested.

Truth be told, I actually didn't fancy sticking around.

BBC Leeds: This signing signals your first foray into the transfer market during this window. Can we expect further activity over the coming weeks?

Well if the incessant vibration on my iPhone is to be believed, yes. But I shan't start up any extra rumours here. Plain and simple. I'm not Mourinho.

Christian Featherwhite: I think it's something the club needs to look at and press on with.

Next? And hopefully the last one too?

The League Paper: Since the transfer was confirmed, many fans have been praising you for picking up what they believe to be a bargain of a signing. Do you agree with their assessment?

Respect, Christian. Respect. It's not with the backroom staff.

Christian Featherwhite: I am delighted that we were able to get Michael relatively cheaply.

Nearly there buddy, nearly there. Crap. I can't ignore the vibration of my phone...

BBC Leeds: With fans drooling over the prospect of seeing Ball in a Leeds shirt, confidence around the club seems to be high. To what extent do you believe high morale will help a successful team on the pitch?

Let's hurry this up, my phone's buzzing too much. Sounds like Joanne trying to reach me. I pick a statement from the list of pre-arranged, regular ones on the piece of paper in front of me.

Christian Featherwhite: I think that a confident team will enjoy their football and play better as a result.

Oh thank God. Ben just announced that there is only time for one final question. After 10 questions, the 11th would at least end it. And I can finally go and check my iPhone for messages.

The League Paper: There was a lot of excitement amongst the club's fans following the signing of Michael Ball, with many people tipping him to have a massive impact. Do you think he will succeed at Leeds?

Yes. There we go. Simple question, simple answer. But no, the press don't take one word answers, do they.

Christian Featherwhite: I wouldn't have signed him if I wasn't confident in his ability to shine.

Ben now proclaims the conference to be over. I rush out and take out my phone. Wow that's a lot of emails for thirty minutes.

Wait, 30 minutes? It felt like 2 hours. Whew. Great. First message... Scouting report on St.Johnstone. Leave for later.

'Missed Calls: Joanne (2)'

"Hi Joanne, you tried to call? Sorry was in a press conference."

"Well it looks like you're going to need to organise another one. Mifsud's agent just rang up your office."

"And..?"

"You can't tell?"

"Post-Press Syndrome."

"I see. Well, put it to you simply, all we're waiting for is your approval stamp, and he'll be wearing a white shirt from now onwards."

"Fantastic news. Help me with that? I'll sign it when I get up to the office in a while."

Great news that is. I can't wait.

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Chapter 10: Helter-Skelter

“Large organization is loose organization. Nay, it would be almost as true to say that organization is always disorganization.” - G.K. Chesterton

Well Mifsud was certainly a much needed confidence booster. He was probably the brightest prospect of everyone I hoped to sign. The Maltese striker may be 28 but his scoring records make him seem 24. He didn't get the best of chances in the Championship with Barnsley, but his vast experience playing in so many different countries offered me an opportunity to find Beckford a new partner, or, if next season his head gets turned, a suitable replacement. So that's my second transfer of the new season. Let's hope for more than that then.

But I had to look ahead. Today's game was coming up and I actually still hadn't decided on the team list yet. On the bus to Thorpe Arch, while I'm normally chatting with the players, keeping relaxed, I'm now worried. Who am I going to pick? I wanted a strong team, but areas I still lacked in caused me a bit of a headache.

Relax, Christian... Relax....

*buzz buzz*

Damn it. Another new email or message. Damn it to hell, I'm trying to think here?!

"Hey Christian, it's Joanne - Mifsud's officially joined the club; he's going to be meeting you guys at the stadium itself - you might want to consider him for the squad. It's official now. The unveiling will only be tomorrow."

Sweet. Although I'm not sure about his fitness. I'll check when I get there. But the good news definitely let me slow things down a little, breathe a bit.

"Hey Christian, sorry to bother you again. Basham's loan deal from Bolton is good to go. You need me to help with the approval stamp?"

Great stuff that. Seems like my transfers are coming together, for once...

I reply a quick 'yes' and check the last message.

"Alright, this should be the last one from me. Kim Jung Woo's said yes to the contract. Now awaiting a work permit. Fingers crossed. He tells me to let you know he loved to come for the fact that Leeds is such an illustrious club."

Nice. I re-read the message again: Leeds = illustrious club? HA. Although compared to Seongnam it's definitely a big step up for him. Now if the stupid FA will finally budge a little and let him join us... I mean, South Korea's a Top 70 team, isn't it? If he plays more with us he could very well get the international appearances. I sense an appeal procedure is in order.

It's 7am in the bloody morning and my phone, once again, is buzzing more often than a beehive. I seriously need to consider throwing my iPhone in the River Aire someday. It could be worth the money, if it cuts me down on the emails I get. Maybe after I get removed from the post.... nah. Hopefully not this time.

Chris Basham and his agent have released a comment, relishing the first-team action. Like Van Aanholt, Basham is going to have to try and work his way into the squad as usual. Also, he'll be meeting us up at the ground, so that's a good sign. I'll get to see them go through their first training session, and hopefully they'll be fit enough to play the match.

We're nearly there now...

Okay something tells me this an important phone call now, from Joanne.

"Hey Joanne, this better be important."

"It is. Outtara's still not pleased. Unfortunately we have a bit of a problem. We're running out of wage budget."

"You're kidding."

"I'm not."

"God damn it... uhhh... alright give me a moment. Send me the list of our reserve players and the fringe players in the first team at the moment. I need to sort out who to throw out the club window."

"Alright, will get to it."

As if my headache wasn't bad enough?

-------------------

Alright, I've sorted through the lists. I'm going to make do with the compensation packages for now - but the following reserve players I've instructed to be released on frees:

Damien Ross - The English goalkeeper never really looked good enough anyway. I thought I'd hang onto him for a while more but he's reached the end of the line.

Liam Darville - Another English player, but I've got to let him go too. It's disappointing, but again, never really had a future here anyway.

Jonathan Webb - The most frustrating one of them all. ****ed off enough with me, he's gone on the record and said he's shocked by my decision to offer him a mutual termination. I was trying to be kind. Ah well. Out the door he goes then.

Meanwhile, I've offered Casper Ankergren, Alan Martin, Tresor Kandol and Lubomir Michalik to clubs. Unfortunately these are the fringe players near the bottom end of my squad, so as of now it looks like they could be the ones to go. Michalik could empty out a fair bit of my wage budget - but something tells me I'm going to have to pester ol' Bates not too long from now...

I've set about to editing my budgets - I've brought my wage budget up to £100k/week to compensate for Outtara, although considering work permit regulations I might not get him - so I have room to drop it back. I'm going to go about removing players as well as editing my budgets - all in the work of a businessman. Like I said, I'm not one. Which means this is going to be a long... long... long... long... journey.

Alright, now for the match. At last. At long last. I suddenly realise too, that the players are all standing at the door of the bus, staring at me - turns out we've been at the ground for over 20 minutes already, and I've just been sitting there staring at my phone.

What a joke.

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Chapter 11: Fitness

“If it wasn't for dogs, some people would never go for a walk.” - Anonymous

I've never been more surprised in my entire life. So many of the team that played last time around are tired to the ends of the Earth. Honestly, I'm shocked. It's unbelieveable. I've already set their training to being fairly light already, yet they're all not up to scratch at the moment. Something tells me I'm going to have to put them onto a rather heavy fitness schedule. Either that, or they're just plain lazy. Pigs.

I've set about changing my squad - and therefore my plans now involve having to play all my new signings, barring Michael Ball, who still has a little bit of a knock he picked up from God knows where. He should be fit in a few days, not to worry.

I've not changed the formation, but the make-up is now completely different. In goal, I've placed Shane Higgs, who will replace Ankergren between the posts today, considering I've just put him up for sale too. Hopefully revenue from there will go into that Nottingham Forest goalkeeper Smith.

In defence, Patrick Van Aanholt will get his first start. Let's see what he brings to the table. Alongside him in the centre are Chris Basham, loan signing from Bolton, and Leigh Bromby. On the right of defence I've placed Jason Crowe. Defence looks all set. The defenders from the Reserves game are on the bench.

In midfield I've put Michael Doyle alongside Bradley Johnson. Maybe the two'll work out a nice little partnership, I don't know. Out on the flanks, I've put my hopes into Max Gradel, who really has to put a few away and stop wasting the chances he did last time I played him. He's on the right side today, and on the left is Andy Robinson.

Up front, I've paired Michael Mifsud, the most fit player of the lot, with Mike Grella. Grella was supposedly one of my better strikers too - but if he fails to perform to standards he might be the next one out of the Elland Road doors either.

I've left it up to the last minute, and most of the other players are on the bench. I've made a mental note to myself, to always set a cap on the number of players in your team to around 30, or the wage budget will sky rocket. I might just send some youngsters out on loan just for the sake of it too, and for economics sake. Hm. Maybe I'm not as bad at math as I think I am.

Glynn notes to me that some players are concerned about me as a manager. Soon enough if they loudly complain out the door they go. If they aren't happy, they can jolly well take their arses and get out of the club, because they aren't fit for the team. I've decided on a strong stance for sure this time. Complacency will kick in but never mind. Blending in... it'll happen eventually. So I dismiss it as next to nothing and read that the match analyst predicts that we'll come out on top, but that it'll be close. I'm hoping it won't be close. I'm hoping we'll smash them to bits. I'm hoping I'm not wrong.

I tell the lads the same as last time - "Lads, I know it's pre-season, but I want a win all the same. Good form heading into the season will always be beneficial - plus we have to be beating Bradford in the FA Cup only a match after the season starts - so this period is crucial. Get over whatever differences you have - it's not me, it's not you. It's the club. It's Leeds United. And it's the fans. We want to go into every match looking for a win. Now go out there and show this Scottish team what we've got."

On the way out I stop Higgs, Crowe, Bromby and Robinson. "You guys don't seem too confident - well let me tell you this. I know you guys are good players. But I want to see that. Go out there and show me everything you've got - and why you deserve to stay here."

Out the players go, and I walk out of the dressing room, waving to the fans who applaud my entrance. It isn't the standing ovation I was hoping for (fat chance, that), but I'll take it. I resume my place in the dugout, but I won't be siting for very long, I bet.

We've won the toss, and opt to let our visitors start first, out of courtesy. Like all the other teams we've played against, they ping the ball back to the defence, who tries to pump a ball all the way to a non-existent striker. Van Aanholt passes over to Basham in a header, and Basham heads it to Higgs. Safe catch, and the ball is sent back out to Van Aanholt. Taking it with his feet, he runs forward, laying the ball off to Robinson, on the flank. He skips past one challenge, heading for the goal, and lays a nice ball to Mifsud, who runs a little more out wide than he should be. I don't doubt his ability - it's more than obvious - and he tricks his way around a defender, getting into the box, luring the keeper out. Grella's making a nice run into the six-yard box, in goes the low cross and it's a simple tap-in. GOAL! Great piece of work, and in less than 2 minutes we're 1-0 up. I love Mifsud's play - looks like I got a bargain right there. If this is a sign of things yet to come, I can't imagine him later on, playing better. GOAL TO LEEDS UNITED: 10.MIKE GRELLA (01:49)

5 minutes in and we're looking pretty good for our lead. Good ball play around the defence finds Johnson, who takes it forward. Knocking it over, to Gradel, he tries to swing it over to Mifsud. Unfortunately, he's found a St. Johnstone player, who pings the ball out to his winger, and the ball now lying in the centre of the park. We're at the mercy of the Scottish team, but their striker is too smart to try and out-run my defence. He tries a lob from 10 metres outside of the penalty box. Fat hope. It flies way, way over the crossbar.

We are controlling possession, and that's a good sign. A badly taken throw-in by St. Johnstone finds Robinson, who smashes it clear. Grella takes the ball and heads at the goal, out-running the defence. He's trying to get one-on-one with the goalkeeper, and is soon into the area. Unfortunately he's miscued the ball, and it flies high and wide. Good play from him though, I think I might have found a partnership that could work quite well. Things look bright.

On 20 minutes, we've just conceded a cheap corner to St. Johnstone. A ball to the edge of the area finds one of their players, who's unmarked, and takes a crack at the goal... but is just inches wide. We've got to improve - and we've got to keep our stranglehold on possession.

25 minutes gone and I realise that we're slowly starting to lose possession. Yet somehow we manage to get a hold on the ball, and it's found Gradel on the right flank. Since the start of this match, everytime Gradel gets the ball I get a bit worried - he's given it away one too many times so far. But this time his cross is accurate, and the ball very nicely finds Mifsud, who takes it and knocks it over to Robinson. Passing the ball between him, Doyle and Van Aanholt, we find a breakthrough as Doyle passes it over to Mifsud. He turns his marker, and then uses his pace to get one-on-one with the keeper. In pure clinical poacher style, he slides it underneath the goal keeper and into the back of the net! We're two up, it's his first game and he's scored his first goal. He's delighted, I'm delighted, the fans are delighted. Great stuff. We're 2-0 up after 27 minutes - the analyst was obviously rather wrong. But now's not the time for complacency... GOAL TO LEEDS UNITED: 11.MICHAEL MIFSUD (27:22)

2 minutes later, and another cheap, cheap corner is given away. The ball this time floats over to the back post, and the ball is then... headed over the crossbar. We can't keep this up. We have to keep the ball. But somehow there's that little something missing that I think the previous set had. Either that or St. Johnstone are just a better team than my reserves. I think I'll stick to that explanation.

As we begin to hold possession a little more, Gradel's inability to control the ball is beginning to worry me. He takes the ball and then let's it run a lot, and has to chase it down to win it back, only for a defender to get in and smash it clear. On 37 minutes he's let it happen again, and is made to pay. The ball finds a St. Johnstone player on the left flank, who curls in a really, really nice ball for his striker to retrieve, and he turns. Following a bit of scrappy tackling the ball finds one of their strikers who takes a pot shot at goal - it's a bit sudden for Higgs, and as the ball takes a slight deflection he's already beaten. The desperate lunge is useless - St. Johnstone have pulled a goal back. I'm furious with Gradel, and I might just take him off at half-time. He looks to be the next one on the shopping list. GOAL TO ST. JOHNSTONE: 8.MURRAY DAVIDSON (38:31)

We are trying to keep the ball a bit more - it's becoming increasingly important for us that we do so. After intercepting two long balls into the Leeds half, we've managed to get it out to Grella. Mifsud plays to him a short pass, expecting a one-two. Grella doesn't and goes for glory; only to watch the ball fly way past the post. Teamwork lads, teamwork. That's extremely important.

Bradley Johnson appears to have picked up a knock - I'll probably take him off at the break. Not right now though, not right now.

The half-time break comes and I take this opportunity to remind the lads not to get complacent. The visibly exhausted and limping Johnson I've informed will be taken off - Neil Kilkenny will take his place. I get Kilkenny to push up a little more, and instruct Doyle to drop back and try to win the ball a bit more often. They agree, and I send them back out again. But not before I lay into Gradel about his performance so far. I'm hoping he'll take it positively.

We kick-start the second half and immediately we've got the ball back. Kilkenny takes the ball and passes it to Doyle - who promptly gives it back. Disappointing stuff. I'm disgusted, and I'm about to be even more furious as the ball now finds a St. Johnstone striker on the edge of our area. He takes a shot, but Higgs is up to it. Yet the ball floats right back in, but after being headed out, a pass that should have been cut out is missed by Basham - his first real test of the afternoon, and he's failed it - and as the ball winds up with a St. Johnstone player he's lobbed it over the goalkeeper. All the Scottish fans think 'goal'. I think 'goal'. The ball's in the net...

But it's disallowed. For offisde. Not the most fair way to prevent ourselves from being back on level terms, but I'll take it. I've now instructed the lads to push more. I want another goal.

They've taken that instruction as a means to attack, and moments later Grella finds the ball at his feet. His shot is blocked, and the ball cleared. But Mifsud is on it, and he repays the favour to Grella for the first half - he tries a shot instead of passing, and he's also a little bit closer this time. He's only just grazed the top of the crossbar, but right now something tells me this partnership may not work as well as I first thought.

I've had had enough of Gradel - off he comes. I'm bringing on Robert Snodgrass to replace him. Meanwhile the clearly tired Robinson will make way for Gary McSheffrey. Now all the loan signings that are in the team are on the pitch. Let's see how they work.

Not too long after we've got a throw-in. Kilkenny passes the ball to an on-running Bromby, who dodges one defender and unleashes a not-so-ferocious shot at the goal that's missed it by a country mile, both left and high. Nice idea, but I'd have liked a bit more passing. "Lads! Work the ball around a little more, would 'ya?"

****. Van Aanholt's picked up a strain. I'm going to have to bring him off. Hopefully Parker is fit by the game on Tuesday - I'm going to need him if Ball isn't fit in time.

That being said, our Chelsea loanee is still okay enough to pass the ball to Kilkenny. The awkardly bouncing the ball is rocketed forward for Mfisud, who makes a daring run at the goal. He chases it down, and puts pressure on the last defender to play it back to the keeper. The ball, still bouncing in any direction possible, looks to miss the goal - the goalkeeper doesn't seem especially worried about corners - only for the ball to take an awkward bounce and bumble in! It's an own goal, and we're 3-1 up! The added pressure's paid off. It's never nice to see an own goal, but what the heck, I'll take it. GOAL TO LEEDS UNITED: N/A.MICHAEL DUBERRY OWN GOAL (58:44)

About 5 minutes after, St. Johnstone attempt to push forward, but a great challenge by Crowe wins the ball back, and he passes it over to Snodgrass, who's right in front of him. Turning, he spots Mifsud down the flank. I point over there - the St. Johnstone players think I'm pointing to their manager and cast a confused stare. Snodgrass launches a magnificent ball - a little bit left - but Mifsud's pace takes him to it before the startled defender originally about to get the ball could react. Mifsud finds McSheffrey on the flank, and launches for a great run into the box. McSheffrey spots the open area, and lobs a through ball right into the box. Controlling it once, he's found himself in acres of space and with only the keeper to beat. The finish is the easy bit for him - it's curled in very nicely, and he's scored his brace. That own-goal definitely gave us a bit more confidence, but now I have a great new fan favourite I believe in place. Michael Mifsud. I'm pleased with myself, and I sit back down into the dugout, smiling. GOAL TO LEEDS UNITED: 11.MICHAEL MIFSUD (64:06)

I decide to take off Van Aanholt - he's tiring a bit too quick. I decide I'm going to throw on Andy Hughes instead, because Parker doesn't look fit enough to me. Maybe a bit later.

But talk about immediate response.

Right off the kick-off, St. Johnstone boot the ball up towards their striker. Basham, missing yet ANOTHER interception, leaves one of their strikers in acres of space - and he proceeds to smash it into the top corner. 4-2. Talk about a thriller. But I feel comfortable enough not to break out into a frenzy. We still have a two goal cushion. I still have substitutes left. GOAL TO ST. JOHNSTONE: 16.CHRIS MILLAR (65:48)

I have resolved to giving Beckford as much playing time as possible. I take off Grella and bring on Beckford. Mayb a Mifsud-Beckford partnership will be a much better combination?

And it appears Beckford seems to have made a nice impact. A cleared corner finds the St. Johnstone defence out of place again, and Beckford takes the ball, skips past two defenders, and is now one-on-one. He normally scores these - but today he puts it slightly wide in a bid to keep the ball from flying over the bar - one of the most embarrassing ways to miss these opportunities. So the scoreline will stay at 4-2. Hopefully we'll score one more soon.

I refuse to push the team further up into an Overload mode - considering how St. Johnstone can still score on the counter I don't want to risk anything, especially from a winning position. I'm surprised at myself - I'm normally a risk taker, why the conservativeness?

I decide my captain for today's had a long game - Crowe will come off after his stellar defending, and I give in. On comes Ben Parker, who will swap sides with Andy Hughes and move over to the left side for the rest of the match. This should be my last substitution of the day. Michael Doyle will also take the armband now.

We give away a cheap free kick 25 yards out. Naturally I'm worried. We're so disorganised from there it's pathetic. And I'm proven right. St. Johnstone pull themselves to one goal behind now - a cracker of a finish, it has to be said. It takes 1 out of 20 shots to score that, and he did. Full credit to the St. Johnstone player. GOAL TO ST. JOHNSTONE: 24.MARTIN HARDIE (76:12)

I've now relented as well. All-out attack this time. Maybe we'll be able to press them into their own half so badly we'll actually score more this time.

Bad choice.

We're caught late on the counter-attack, and the ball is passed forward, through my defence, and St. Johnstone score. I'm furious. God. What the hell was that. GOAL TO ST. JOHNSTONE: 17.PETER MACDONALD (82:00)

We've got to score another one. I've reverted back to our familiar style but getting them to shoot on sight instead. Hopefully barraging the goal works better than loading everybody in.

And a minute later Kilkenny sees a free-kick wide. Sigh.

Moments later Kilkenny has a crack, and it's blocked. Hughes offers him another chance. It's wide. Another big sigh.

And that's the end.

I'm ****ed off. I'm frustrated. I'm cursing myself.

Why the hell did I let that slip? Stupid decision that was. God. It sucks. We went from a winning position twice to ending up with a draw.

Something tells me I need to work on my defence, and fast. Basham was disappointing as well. The bright spot was Van Aanholt, who played well till he picked up a knock. Everyone else, mostly poor. I'm puzzled. Time to go scouring for more loanee defenders from other countries.....

FINAL SCORE: LEEDS UNITED 4 - 4 ST. JOHNSTONE (GRELLA 2', MIFSUD 27', 64', DUBERRY 59' (OG) / DAVIDSON 39', MILLAR 66', HARDIE 76', MACDONALD 82'

I'm frustrated - and I believe the fans are too. They have every reason to be as well. We were in a great position, at 4-1. Then we let 3 goals in. I think I need a new goalkeeper as well. Maybe a total revamp.

Or maybe another job.

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Chapter 12: Disappointment

“Ones best success comes after their greatest disappointments.” - Henry Ward Beecher

I really gave the lads a shelling after the whistle. I picked out numerous players and furiously told them about their poor work rate, and poor performance. There were a lot of them. I told the lads that it wasn't good enough and walked out. Everybody was silent. I did tell Grella and Mifsud they did well, however, so credit to them. I left the dressing room, and, as Glynn tells me, everyone knew that we shouldn't have drawn the game. We shouldn't even have let them back into it. Now we hope they can perform better in the next game - the one in Scotland in two days.

I don't talk to anyone on the bus, as I head home to grab a bite, pick up my wife and my bags and head for the airport for the flight over. I've just been put into a foul mood, because of this - my wife knows to get out of my way when I'm furious - not the first time.

I sit on the plane and think about the memoirs of my life, what I've gone through, everything that's happened so far, as I drift off into a deep sleep I'm so often capable of, while sitting on the plane, awaiting our departure and our arrival.

I'm now 13 years old, and I'm one of the best players on the school team. Or at least, that's what my mom says. But what else is she supposed to say? She's my mom.

I'm the star striker of the team. I've netted 3 goals in 5 games so far, and everyone is pleased to note that we are top of the Junior League table with 2 games to go, and a 2 point lead. The parents have confidence in our ability to win the league, since we're in the driving seat.

Only for us to draw the second last game, to leave us with only a 1 point lead, and a vastly inferior goal difference due to a leaky defence. We need a win and nothing less if we were going to 100% win the title.

What happens next is a blur. All I know is I lunged into a challenge for the ball - I believe it's a clean one but everyone stares at me in shock. The referee shows a red card. I'm stunned, but I'm pushed off the field by infuriated opponents, as well as team-mates. My parents shake their heads and bury their heads in their hands. It's silent on the ride home. Nobody breathes a word. I still don't understand what happened.

Later I realise that I broke the guy's leg in at least 3 places with that challenge - so much so that's a difficulty for him to learn how to walk again. His leg will heal, but in 6 months or so - and his chances of playing professional football are now down the drain.

I'm never given an appearance for the school team again. In fact, I've been told to stop coming for trainings and find something else to do with my time, for I'm far too dangerous for the people around me.

I'm then caught by the police, a while later, for destroying public property - all I do is kick a trash can over and smash a traffic cone to bits, out of frustration. I'm reported by one of them locals who's unhappy with me - possibly a parent from the rival team - I'm thankfully let off with a warning.

I'm being ignored by my school mates regularly - I'm called nothing but the Beast now, a name I don't take too well. Soon enough everybody calls me that behind my back, and nobody talks to me in particular. My grades slip and I may as well drop out of school. But my parents wouldn't allow it. They never would have anyway.

Fast forward a few years. I'm now 24, it's time for me to get out and work on my own. I have few qualifications - only an 'A' Levels to my name. It's, thankfully, 1987, when you don't need university qualifications to get a job. I take one up as a concierge employee at one of the 4-star hotels downtown, and that's where I stay for the longest job I've had - for a year and half.

But an unruly customer who refuses to believe that he only booked a single room, not a deluxe room. I got furious with him and told him off, instructing him to either take it or leave it. He complains, and then gets me kicked off my job.

That's number one.

I pick up a job next as a security guard at a bank. I stare as all the bankers are able to sit there with their calculators, typing frantically away at their computers and send data over to God knows where. I quit 6 months after getting the job, citing boredom.

I turn into a housing agent next, but get sacked from that one for a trivial reason - I decided to stay in a home I particularly liked for a day, since I didn't have money to afford the rent of an apartment I loaned out, and my ego didn't allow me to go back and live with my parents. This job lasted longer, about 9 months.

I then end up working as a bouncer at a nightclub for about 2 months. I leave for the simple fact that I didn't think that it was the right job for me. I could have been right - later on a whole group of people there are arrested for drug trafficking in the club.

Now as a roamer, I end up in a desk job at a law firm. It happens to be the same law firm my wife worked, and still works at. I'm in charge of the information desk, and I watch as my wife walks in and out of the office, day in day out. A courteous woman, she smiles at me and says hi every morning. After a few days I decide to ask her out to breakfast. I notice her reading the sport section - and only the sports section - while drinking her morning coffee. We immediately start getting into a discussion about football - about how we miss Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley. It was fantastic. It becomes a new morning ritual for us, and we sit down and talk regularly. I'll share a cab with her on the way back, as my receptionist job allows me just live with sharing an apartment with a hobo who doesn't care for hygiene very much.

She understands my position, and doesn't understand why such a charming man like me has to live the way I do. She invites me to stay with her - in her guest room of course - and I gladly accept. I pay the last month of my rent and move out, and live in a lifestyle completely different from what I was used to - one that was slightly more expensive that I thought.

I never took advantage of her kindness - or at least I tried not to, and eventually after a few months of staying together I managed to save up enough money and build up enough courage to take her out to dinner at some romantic restaurant that's now been closed down. It's there that I propose to her - with flowers, no ring - and she accepts, laughing and smiling. It's the happiest moment of my life.

I'm forced to leave my receptionist job as my presence at her office may affect her working abilities - I say okay, as I'm now engaged to a highly successful woman. I stay as a house-husband for a while, before finally picking myself up and, with her encouragement, take up cooking classes.

It's not my cup of tea, but I went along with it, and found a job at a small joint downtown. But after a couple of poor salads and one bad meat, the owner felt he'd had enough, and promptly asked me to leave, with immediate effect. Money was no object.

I started getting bored around the house, but the only job opening I found was one as a cleaner at the local shopping mall. My wife, obviously displeased at the stature the job brought, was happy that I'd found something for myself to do - she didn't appreciate the lounging around as a couch potato habit I'd built up.

Unfortunately the lazy pig of me was still there. Eventually, as I mentioned before, I'm sacked from this job, for being the worst cleaner in the history of cleaners, and the only one who is capable of falling asleep in a janitor's closet.

And now I'm where I am, as I look back at my life. I see myself as an old, 80 year old man, still living with my wife, but again, with no job, and no kids. I cry over how sad my life has become...

I wake up on the plane, in a cold sweat. The players and my wife are all staring at me intently. Apparently I sleep talk, and the players break out into huge laughter.

If I can't be a good manager, at least I can be a good entertainer.

Now why didn't I think of that as a job option instead?!

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Chapter 13: Hope For Better Times

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” - Oscar Wilde

We arrived very nicely in Stranraer, everybody still a bit disappointed after the 4-4 draw but hoping this game would give us a much needed confidence boosting win over other opposition. The League One matches did promise to be less of a tough job, but at the end of the day it would be hard to say if there are teams that could match up to St. Johnstone or not.

Whatever the case, defence needed tremendous sorting out. And fast.

So it was quite helpful that I got an email coming in, mentioning that Jay-Emanuel Thomas's loan from Arsenal had been approved, and that he'd most likely be on the next flight over to join us. Emanuel Thomas was hoping to gain first-team experience, and he'll get it - most likely in place of the disappointment Chris Basham brought yesterday - depending on fitness I'll give him one more chance - but other than that he may not feature at all - in fact, I might even send him back home to Bolton.

Next piece of good news? Stephen Elliot made his decision to come and join us at Leeds United, after feeling rather unwanted back at Preston. I'm hoping he can partner nicely with Mifsud to really break up all the defences in League One - by which time my defence would have nothing to do but take balls from the goalkeeper and smash them up field.

Another addition to my strike force was 36-year old Flavio Maestri. The Peruvian strikers is deemed to be a great talent despite being my oldest player, and the fans were apparently over the moon with his signing. I've beefed up my strike force to a decent level, although unbeknown to a lot of the fans, I planned on keeping him for only about a year, or two at the most before getting rid of him a year before his retirement. Or so I'd hoped. This could very well be his last year too. But considering I got him for nothing at all, even losing him to retirement wouldn't really matter at all.

Preston have got to be hating me now though. A message just came in reading about how Preston fans were "angered" by the loss of Stephen Elliot. I can only laugh. Angered? Then explain why he was on the bloody transfer list!

I shan't swear at this guy, but come on, Jonathan Cristaldo turned down a move to the beloved Whites to go join Estudiantes in some South American league halfway around the world. Come on. It's Leeds United. What better opportunities can you get? Ha. :D

I've indicated to the board that I'd like more parent and feeder clubs. I think a club of our stature should require these two - a parent so we can grab talent from there, and a feeder, so I can throw some players over there for the fun of it if I need to clear a wage bill.

Meanwhile Bates is getting ****ed. I need money, and fast, but apparently he doesn't have the time to listen to my persistent requests, so I'm getting the denial message time and time again. It's frustrating - mostly because my transfer for Vidal is still hanging in the balance, and so are several other transfers as well. Something tells me it's going to be loan signings for this window, mostly. I'll just wait and see.

But at the end of the day, money is all that matters.

As I settle down in the hotel the club has picked out for us, I do believe that we have hope yet, for something special. And that I might just win the title this season with Leeds - my first real success with football - or anything in particular, for that matter.

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Author's Note: Apparently i've induced the competition of another person who's using Leeds as well! Haha. 100 views already, and I still haven't hit a rough patch. :D Hope all the other 80+ people following this are enjoying the story... As with 10-3's advice of asking for comments... well... yeah. This is a very direct request for comments on the story :D

The Pressing Press, Perilous Players and Problematic Pitches/B]

“It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.” - Douglas Adams

The customary press conference meant that I had to drop by the press tent and take questions fielded by, as I've realised, mostly BBC Leeds and The League Paper. It was beginning to become a boring ritual. But anyway, here we go again...

BBC Leeds: You sit here alongside your new signings. You must feel a sense of excitement and pride on days like these?

Again. Boring.

Christian Featherwhite: I am delighted to be able to welcome them to the club.

Next?

BBC Leeds: Will this signing (Stephen Elliot) see you change the tactics you employ?

No way am I going to tell anyone else in this entire world what my plans are. In fact I don't have any plans to begin with! Hmmm...

Christian Featherwhite: I don't wish to reveal any tactical decisions in public.

BBC Leeds: Luciano Becchio is someone in your squad who does speak Spanish. Are you going to look at the likes of him to help Maestri settle more comfortably?

Bleugh. I actually... never realised. I picked yet another stereotypical answer.

Christan Featherwhite: I have reservations over whether that's the right approach to take and I doubt we'll rely on just one measure.

Yup. Moving on.. I think I'll stop today's interview half-way instead.

The League Paper: Given that Maestri is rather susceptible to injury, do you agree with those who believe the deal is a risk and the player might see more of the physio's room than the pitch?

Nope. Not at all.

Christian Featherwhite: I have confidence that the worst is being Flavio and that everything will work out well.

I'm going to just take that one more question....

The League Paper: Do you believe that the signing (apparently of Stephen Elliot) will benefit the team in the long run?

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. All the same.

Christian Featherwhite: I think what we want to do here will serve the club well going forward.

Alright, that'll be the last one. I'm off now, I've got yet another match to prepare for and a few injuries to deal with.

I walk out, still with the blinking headache I walked into the room with. I'm now a £170/week over my budget - not an impossible task to overcome if I sell the 4 players I want to, but soon enough I'm going to have to clear alot more than just 4. Especially if the 25 registered players rule takes effect next season. I've got to watch who I buy from now on, but I expect next summer will be a selling spree for myself.

As I walk back to the car, my phone rings. It's Joanne. Again. "Another conference boss?"

"Yeah. Same as always. Boring."

"Well you've got to get used to these. You may have another transfer coming through soon. But more importantly, Ritchie De Laet threw out the Watford proposal to come here, so there's another loan signing for you."

"Great stuff, thanks. I'll head on up and let them know it's great he's on his way."

So the Belgian defender will be ours for a season, which sounds like terrific news. Absolutely terrific. Now if he can just meet us in Stranraer...

Which he will, considering the match is tomorrow. I think, at the rate I'm buying defenders, I can start shipping a few more players out in a couple of weeks - I'm just waiting for the other teams to snap up the 4 players I'm looking to sell first, before I move on. If nobody wants to buy them... then I guess I've made my last foray into the transfer market for the season. And I could also get sacked, or have us put in Administration. Now that's bad.

And just my luck. As I reach back to the hotel my email is flooded with messages about offers from various clubs. Looks like I can finally begin to ship people out - I'm now searching for a new goalkeeper to loan as well. I've sent scouts out on Tom Heaton, Ron-Robert Zieler and Ben Alnwick, all for loan signings, since the prospect of getting them on loan sounds like a much better deal.

Elsewhere Gavin Mahon's transfer has been put through - but I need money first. Hopefully the sales of Kandol and Ankergren will assist with these transfers, as they'll get for me at least £200k. Adding on is the loaning out of Alan Martin, most likely, with the plethora of loan bids for him, while finally the £120k bid from Ascoli for Lubomir Michalik looks likely to see the Serbian move to Italy within a week or two.

I've been invited to attend the England Trial Day on the 17th - I'm attending it with Glynn to take a look at future prospects I can grab on Youth contracts, which is worth a lot less than the full contracts. I don't necessarily mind that. There are 40 players there, so hopefully I can find one or two bright young talents to bring in before anyone else does - and sell them for a very, very nice profit. :)

But moving on, we face Stranraer today. It's our first and our last overseas away game of the pre-season, and probably for the rest of the season too. I'm going to be sending out a different team from the one that disappointed at St. Johnstone, or at least, one that looks slightly changed from the outfit that conceded 3 goals in consecutive embarrassing fashion.

In goal I've kept Higgs, for the sheer fact that Ankergren may be a little bit unhappy too. Higgs hopefully'll perform better today, or I might be forced to sell him and keep Casper instead. In the same formation as last time, with Shane Higgs between the posts, ahead of him I've granted Ritchie De Laet his debut over on the left side of defence, while Andy Hughes will take the place on the right. Down the middle I've kept Chris Basham, who'll play beside Patrick Kisnorbo for today. In midfield, Jay Emanuel-Thomas will partner Jonathan Howson, for the sheer fact that I realise my midfield seems incapable of lasting a full 90 minutes. On the flanks are Gary McSheffrey and Max Gradel. Like Basham, I'm giving Gradel one last chance, or I'm sending him out on loan. My assistant manager reports that Gradel is rather promising for the future, so I'll grant him that and ship him over to Serbia for a year. Or maybe Guatemala? Up front I've paired new signings Stephen Elliot and Flavio Maestri, simply because they seem fitter than everyone else.

I've instructed Joanne to set the team's training schedules such that they get rest for a week. Looks like I need to rest them for a while before playing them again, since they look less fit than my ageing mother at the moment. Speaking of my mother, I think I might need to get round to calling her sometime...

I tell the lads, "Same as last time. Don't concede soft goals, keep up the pressure, and let's rip into them today. I still expect a win. We need one too, or the fans'll be after us." Short and sweet. The lads don't need the Gettysburg Address.

I tell Higgs, Kisnorbo and Emanuel-Thomas to show me what they've got, to show me if they deserve a place in the first team or not, before heading on out to the field for the match.

As the match started, rain drops started to fall from the sky. It was poor weather, it had to be said, and unfortunately it was taking a toll on our abilities. All our matches have been played under bright, rather sunny skies - this is our first time on a muddy pitch, on foreign soil and in the rain. What a match this would turn out to be.

And unfortunately for us our game was mainlined for keeping the ball on the ground. The impact the rain had on the mud on the ground meant the ball bobbled around like crazy and refused to roll in the right direction, hence we weren't making good on possession. Stranraer were knocking high balls into the sky like they were airport runways, the ball being the plane. Landing with another one of their wingers, he attempts to trick his way around Andy Hughes but Hughes is up to it - it heads out for a corner.

I instruct the lads to do a myriad of things - to retain possession, to not worry about dirtying their clean, pristine white shirts, and to push up. The following things, I'd hoped, would bring us a much greater opportunity to push forward and score as many as we could.

The resultant corner was headed clear by Gradel, and I dare say that's the furthest header I've ever seen. Elliot, latching onto the loose ball, slips the ball between his dumbfounded opponent's legs, and then continues to make a run for it.

Yet he disappoints. He's given free rein to run straight into the box, but yet he stumbles, the ball is cleared out for a throw-in. And Maestri was free in the middle too.

We've began to settle into a rhythm, and we begin to hold possession a bit more now. We lapsed into our comfort zone a few times, but the players did remain sharp. I was relatively pleased. A throw-in from Hughes found Elliot, who held the ball up, for Howson, who nicks the ball from a defender, runs forward and lashes a strike from the edge of the area that wasn't too far off going in. We had chances - now it's just converting them.

A free-kick is conceded; Stranraer try for the cross into the far post, but my defenders are on it. Kisnorbo rises and heads out for a corner. The cross in takes a wicked bounce of the ground, hitting a very confused attacker, who has the ball hit him in the hip and bounce off. Higgs easily collects but with the resultant panic in the box it could have resulted in something much, much different.

Moments later it was our turn to win a corner - the cross from Kisnorbo was cleared, but to Hughes. The subsequent one-two with Gradel then found Elliot, who turned his marker, ran into the box but just couldn't finish. The ball was palmed away before the referee blew for a foul, by Gary McSheffrey. Another chance, wasted. We'd already gone through half of the first half, the scoreline still 0-0. I'm becoming increasingly frustrated by our lack of clinical finishing.

We watch the ball bounce around on the ground a lot, as the ball is played back and forth between De Laet and the goalkeeper. Launching an attack, the ball finds Howson, who lays a pass over to McSheffrey. Playing the ball to Maestri, he passes a cheeky low ball under a defender's legs, and picks out Elliot. Holding the ball up, Elliot takes the ball and is only just dispossessed as Maestri shows up and lashes a shot out of nowhere that missed the crossbar by not more than an inch. So close from the Peruvian.

I've been forced to call upon Higgs much more today, as the partnership of Basham and Kisnorbo is not working. They constantly let the ball slip, as an oddly named player called 'One', as my assistant tells me, befuddles both of them and let's a shot fly that is palmed wide by Higgs for a corner.

The poorly dealt with corner, however, allows Stranraer to keep their stranglehold on the ball, but not before De Laet's interception launches a counter-attack on our part. The balls arrives at Gradel's feet, who remains out wide before lobbing the ball in. A poor decision, as the ball is headed clear. Despite attempts by Emmanuel-Thomas, we lose the ball and De Laet is forced to tackle to knock the ball out. The players on the substitutes bench laugh as the ball only just misses flooring and destroying my face, as it ricochets off the back of the dugout.

The half-time whistle goes, and I walk into the dressing room not in the best of spirits. Neither are the players really - the weather's taking a toll on moods right now. "I won't lie to you guys. I'm disappointed. Not only are we dominating, we've had a plentiful number of shots at their goal. Do you guys mind converting one, for a change? Higgs, we're going to need you right now considering we're still at the mercy of their attack, whereas for De Laet, Kisnorbo, Basham, Emmanuel-Thomas, Gradel, McSheffrey and Elliot, I want to see a hell lot more from you out there, or we're going to lose. And you might be seeing the last of the club, too."

I walk out, the players in tow, as we ready to begin the second half. Hopefully it'll be an improvement. I'm also getting a little bored.

As we kick-start the second half, we win a throw-in near the edge of the area. The poorly taken throw by Hughes, however, allows Stranraer to grab the ball and pounce. Unfortunately, we've started to get better at dealing with high balls, as De Laet manages to win a header. Hughes makes up for his earlier mistake, pumping the ball to Elliot. Knocking it back to Howson, as he's surrounded by defenders, Howson plays a brilliant through ball to Maestri, who keeps alert despite being old enough to have an excuse to take an afternoon nap. He turns his marker, grabs the ball, runs a little more to open up more of the goal, and slides it home for our first goal of the afternoon. The wet, soggy day looks to now bring us a much brighter result today, 1-0, thanks to a 36-year old man on a free transfer from South America. GOAL TO LEEDS UNITED: 11.FLAVIO MAESTRI (46:17)

Nothing much of note happens - except that the goal has now made Stranraer even more determined to score against us today. 1-0 down, with an entire half left to play - it's promising. They can work the ball all the way up to the box but can't seem to score, as Higgs' safe hands are contrary to that of Fabien Barthez sometime ago, as we maintain our clean sheet. We earn a free kick moments after for an offisde decision, and we get to relax for a little bit.

We're still holding the possession of the ball, which is good. The players appear to be trying to run rings around the defence, as the counter attack continues. The ball lands at Elliot's feet, but unfortunately he seems more adept at daydreaming than passing. Despite Maestri getting into great positions a lot of the time, the ball rarely reaches his feet - the two seem unable to work together - and as Howson finds the ball and a lot of time, he lays off a through ball that somehow finds Max Gradel, who tries a shot and, in regular fashion, misses it by another long, long way.

I've had had enough. Substitution time. I remove Stephen Elliot and bring on Jermaine Beckford - I give Elliot the benefit of the doubt when I say he's just trying to blend in, but a few more matches from now and he's not going to be given the same chances again. I bring off the ineffective McSheffrey and bring on Robert Snodgrass as well, in hope that we could find somemore inspiration from the normally active left flank.

Unfortunately nothing seems to work right now, as we concede a cheap throw-in in the Stranraer half. The well taken high, and I do mean high, throw-in leaves us confused as the Stranraer team decide to attack more. The ball is played over to their striker named One (I still can't get over that name of his) who tries an audacious strike from the edge of the area that is only inches away from going in, if not for Higgs. I think I might need to take off a defender.

I'm still worrying about delivery. A poorly taken corner ends up with Hughes, who plays it nicely to Gradel. With his pace, he outmuscles one defender and finds himself in acres of space on the right flank. Beckford and Maestri are running in - Maestri especially doing a good job of leaving his marker - yet the delivery that comes in is disappointing, to say the least, as it caroms off a defender and back into Stranraer possession. I just might loan this guy out.

After one reckless challenge too many, I've hauled off Chris Basham once again. I can see why Bolton wanted him out - hopefully I can tame him in his time here, or he'll be complaining more than my grandmother about how cluttered my fridge is.

I bring on Ben Parker, the man who was orchestrating moves the last time he played. I put De Laet in partnership with Kisnorbo instead, to see how it goes. De Laet's aerial presence will also provide us with some extra cover at the back while Parker pushes forward with Hughes.

And my substitutions pay off, big time. The ball from Stranraer floats in, but the alert Kisnorbo is quick to ensure that One is offside. He's then hauled off, as Higgs proceeds to take the free kick. Smashing the ball all the way up towards the edge of the area, he finds Snodgrass on the left. Despite losing the header, Kisnorbo is quick once again to head it back towards Flavio Maestri, who's name I keep pronouncing like it's 'Master'. But he can't take away the claim of being a masterful striker. His vision is superb when he catches Beckford straying on the edge of the defensive line, pushing in a fantastic through ball that picks Beckford out. One touch, one shot, and the ball's in. Fantastic. Great play, and I think I may have just found a partnership that works.... Better not speak too soon. Whatever the case, we've doubled our advantage over Stranraer who, for all their hard work, have not been rewarded. I couldn't care less though. GOAL TO LEEDS UNITED: 23.JERMAINE BECKFORD (72:54)

With the clock winding down, Glynn advises me to take care of my players fitness levels. I do, and proceed to make two more substitutions. Off comes the tiring and partially ineffectual Max Gradel, and I send on Andy Robinson to take over the role of right winger. In addition, I take Jay Emmanuel-Thomas off - his performance having picked up in the second half had an adverse affect on his condition, and sent on Neil Kilkenny in his place. So with that I pretty much concluded my substitutions for the match. Or so I hoped.

Meanwhile, we've struck up a great bit of teamwork, as Parker and Hughes combine effectively to take the ball forward into the Stranraer half. Passing the ball around in midfield, they find Maestri, who hits a great ball cross-field to Gradel, who, at this time, has yet to be taken off. He whips in his first decent cross of the afternoon, finding Maestri who heads past the already-beaten company, but agonizingly just over the top. So close, yet so far for the Peruvian.

Moments later a Stranraer free kick falls to Hughes, who hits a hopeful ball forward that Beckford chases down like a dog, as much as the label may seem offensive to some. Taking it out to the flank, he turns his marker, takes an extra touch before curling a cross in that finds Snodgrass, but once again, just goes over the bar, despite having the keeper wrong footed and completely beaten. So close, yet so far for us once more.

The clock winds down and when the final whistle is blown, I am feeling fairly pleased with the performance today. Certain players have yet to meet my expectations so far - but I feel pleased to note that the Beckford-Maestri partnership appears to be something of a stroke of genius.

Although right now, what matters is that we can leave Scotland knowing we got all 3 points.

And that I remain unbeaten as the new manager of Leeds United, after 3 games...

Now for Arsenal.... suddenly I'm not so confident... I wonder why...

FINAL SCORE: STRANRAER 0 - 2 LEEDS UNITED (MAESTRI 46, BECKFORD 73')

Finally, we can get out of this place and head home. Home, sweet home. Time to fall asleep on the plane again...

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Apologies to those who are still following this... was typing up a post the other day but had to rush off to do something, left it on, by the time I can came back the post timed out, I pressed the back button but eventually lost the entire chapter.. and unfortunately because I haven't gone to typing it on a word document, it's all gone.

Rest assured I'll update this with another chapter within the next 2 days - I'll type everything out in a word document and copy and paste it this time. :D

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  • 2 weeks later...

Chapter 15: That's Just Not What I Expected...

“Our brightest blazes of gladness are commonly kindled by unexpected sparks.” - Samuel Johnson

Life has a way of just providing you with the worst of misfortune at any point in time – whenever, wherever. And I know that fact all too well. Too well.

So it comes as no surprise that as I entered the office, Joanne just gave me a nod, and the kind of apologetic look that I’ve come to love and hate at times – and that has become all too familiar.

I step onto the desk and see the stack of paperwork – but that was only the simple bit. And the nicest bit. Because as I looked through the entire stack, everything was bad – nothing positive of not there. People always ask, “Do you want the good news or the bad news first?” The last time I heard that, it was me getting fired from an old job. This time, thankfully, there was no note of having to pack up my things and the get the hell out.

Or perhaps I was wrong – there was a little bit of good news – that being that Lubonik Michalik finally showed himself the door. He’s heading on his flight over to Italy tomorrow, and I wasn’t giving him a good-bye hug at all. His attitude stank worse than my dirty socks, plus the idea of him really being around was an eyesore already. Of course, he couldn’t run out with a final say – speaking to the press from his home, he claimed our relationship had broken down, and he couldn’t work under me. Good riddance. I let that slide and threw that in the bin.

Next was that today would be Ankergren’s last day. I was sad about it, honestly, because he was such a great figure around the club. Unfortunately he wasn’t getting any younger and I thought he’d like a much bigger opportunity, at another club. He got that chance – Championship side West Brom came in and out went our Scandinavian goalkeeper. As he drove out, the two of us smiled at each other. Rolling down the window, he tells me, “Christian, I thank you for the few weeks that I’ve had the pleasure of working under you – unfortunately I relish the chance to lift my game to the next level, and I think this would be the right time to make a move.”

“I understand.”

“Thanks for the opportunity, and I wish you all the best in the coming seasons. Hope to see you in the Premier League or Championship soon enough.”

And then he was gone. Two players – one I longed to see the back of, and one I never really wanted to see go. But the income definitely aided my ability to make further forays into the transfer market – not that I was really looking at doing anything in particular.

I say that because the rest of it was bad news – the following players joined the list of shortlisted players that rejected the move down to Elland Road: Steve Olfers, Ivan Helguera, Sekou Outtara and finally Simon Dawkins – and I assure you I will kill the person who leaked the story out to the press. Because of him, Brighton got in the picture and off he went to a place where I don’t think he would get as many chances as he would here. But so be it.

I prepared to leave as I get an email informing me that Alan Martin’s headed off to Wrexham. By far one of the least proficient players in my squad, I was pleased to see him, and for a nice little sum of 14k. So I wasn’t in too bad a mood for the day.

But let’s be fair – the entire day seemed to drag on, and on, and on.

Little would I know the bombshell to hit me when I got home.

************************

I unlocked to door, with my keys, and the house is dark. Pitch-dark. I’m thinking, okay, nobody’s at home. Merryl could have gone out. She likes to do that sometimes, get a bunch of groceries, or treat herself to something once in awhile.

I dumped my bag onto the couch and walked over to the kitchen. I needed a drink.

Wait… candles lit? Table’s been set up?

“Merryl?”

“What is Christian? There’s no need to yell. It’s just me.”

You do not want to know all the thoughts that were running through my head at that time.

“What’s the occasion, hon? Looks like a big spread.”

“Oh you’ll find out… I’m making your favourite.”

“Sounds great. Need any help?”

“It’s alright I’m almost done.”

Mmm. My wife sure knows how to cook. Particularly my favourite – grilled lamb chops with mashed potatoes

and fries. Wonder how long it took her to make this spread. Ah well. Definitely a surprise though, and I’m still puzzled. What could be so surprising that she makes such a big spread and turns off all the lights, along with a candlelit dinner?

Oh crap. Did I forget our anniversary?

No, that’s not it.

“Dinner’s ready!”

“Thanks dear. So, what’s the news?”

“Well I actually wanted to wait until after dinner but… I’m so excited…”

“What, we’re moving?”

“No!” She continues, laughing.

“I forgot your birthday?”

“That’s not till December, Christian.”

“Oh. Then what?”

“I’m pregnant.”

*SILENCE*

“Wow that’s great news dear! Umm… wow. This is… sudden. But still, great news. Always imagined a little Featherwhite in this family. Girl or Boy?”

“Too early to say – still only about what, 3 months pregnant. He or she’s due in January though.”

“New Year’s Day baby?” I joked.

And as I dig into the lamb chops, I’m originally really excited, and more importantly elated.

But then I stop. There goes my appetite for a short moment.

My wife’s pregnant. I’m about to have a son or daughter. I’m about to be a father.

Wait… WHAT?!

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