Betsy’s Boys

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July 24, 2011 by markstani

This is the first part of my novel about a village football team. Comments valued.

“Shut your fucking gobs and fuck off!”

Big Bill Hill’s Superking-coated clarion call chugged across the crop fields like a misfiring Massey Ferguson tractor. Seagulls rose shrieking from the civic amenity site. We flicked V-signs from behind the goal nearest the gypsy camp.
Such a familiar refrain lingering on the late summer breeze might mistakenly provided the impression that it was just like any other normal Saturday afternoon in Thornton-le-Dale.
But from the moment Big Bill Hill tossed down his cigarette in the centre circle a matter of seconds before the first pre-season friendly kicked off, we knew things had never been so different.
To the gaggle of fourteen-year-old boys huddled a safe distance away from the player-manager’s frequent incendiary outpourings, Big Bill Hill’s remarkable gesture provided the first signs of a new-found attitude that was going to steer Thornton-le-Dale Football Club to a season of improbable glory.
Such displays of unfettered ambition were considered highly unusual, not to say distinctly unwelcome, in the rough-and-tumble world of the Screwfix Electrics Scarborough and District Football League Division Three.
Big Bill Hill may not have wholly appreciated our slightly sarcastic round of applause. But whether he liked it or not, we had no intention of shutting our fucking gobs and fucking off. At that moment, we set our hearts on quite the opposite: to be there to share every twist and turn of what promised to be a rollercoaster campaign. To share the missed penalties, the mass brawls, the smouldering tab ends we’d retrieved from the centre circle. To share that glory.

Moments earlier, they had trotted out in their brand new, shiny, all-blue sponsored kit. They had eased out of a summer of excess with a series of rigorous stretching exercises, then gathered eagerly in their own penalty box to discuss the possible deployment of the wing-back option.
Then Thornton-le-Dale had followed. Sprawling bellies forked awkwardly into shrunken, urine-yellow shirts, they wheezed out of the dressing rooms and loitered around the six-yard box finishing their fags. Big Bill Hill led by example. The others did not heed it, and by the time the last one had been extinguished, Thornton-le-Dale were already two-nil down.
Faced with the impending prospect of an embarrassing opening defeat to puncture the delicate bubble of pre-season optimism, our heroes responded in the only way they knew: they attacked.
Eyes were gouged, testicles were squeezed, ankles were bitten. The referee, a scatter-brained and doddery soul called Old George, whose previous sporadic appearances officiating at Thornton-le-Dale had all, without a single exception, coincided with similar scenes of wanton violence, simply gave up at half-time, flapping his arms in exasperation and heading for the car park. After ninety minutes of a bruising, blood-spattered and increasingly anarchic encounter, Thornton-le-Dale had comfortably ensured they had retrieved local bragging rights, if not a five goal deficit.

We sang,

We love you Dale, we do
We love you Dale, we do
We love you Dale, we do
Oh Dale we love you

It was going to be brilliant.

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