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Rebirth of a Drunken Manager

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A Drunk Amongst the Brewers


(Or: The Mothership Calls Him Home)

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Chapter 1



Wet, Jon Carlson thought to himself.

Pain, he also thought to himself.

These are not unusual thoughts for Jon Carlson, even for a Tuesday. Not that Jon would know that it’s a Tuesday, but still, not unusual. It was also not unusual for Jon to wake up noting that he had pissed himself as well as in an alarming amount of pain. Jon rubbed his eyes, and found himself on a pitch, with the sprinklers going. The ground was stunning, but not overly grand - just a great little place to see a game. He blinked a few more times, and reckoned from the sun’s position in the sky that it was late morning.

Again, not unusual for Jon to find himself waking up from a night of drinking in a staggering amount of pain, with wet drawers on, in the middle of a football pitch.

But it was a pitch that he didn’t recognize. Now that was unusual.

What was more unusual, though, was what happened in the previous year.

What was even more unusual than the previous year was what had happened in just the last three months. Those three months were what led Jon Carlson, a celebrated player noted for his propensity for playing whilst legally drunk, down the path of destruction. Not that this what of his own making. Far, far from it, in fact.

About a year ago to the day, Jon Carlson became Head Coach of Boston United. His proclivity was matched, tolerated and supported by his Chairman, Mr. Newton, his sadly depressing Assistant Coach, Paul Hursh, and his über-hot girlfriend Heather - whose bartending skills paled in comparison to both her tactical understanding of a traditional 4-4-2 formation and her sexual prowess. She also was Mr. Newton’s daughter.

So what led Jon to this unfamiliar pitch in a very familiar way and in an equally familiar state? That was the last three months. And Jon would like to forget it all.

But he couldn’t.

Even all the beer in England could make him forget. Why does that sound faintly familiar? “All the beer in England,” Must have been something I said at the pub last night.

But it never came to him right away.



***

It was, to go back a ways, a brilliant season. Jon got the lads ready, produced some magic, and got the lads promoted. Along the way, he fell in love, gave his best and only friend Paul Hursh the beginnings of his confidence back, and planned on marrying Heather.

But things happened.

Terrible things.

Things that should never have happened to the people and the club he loved.


***

First there was Heather, and the sudden shock of her passing. On her way to a meeting with Jon, Paul, and her father to discuss her taking on a new position with the club, namely that of Director of Football Operations, she was killed by a freak lightning strike while changing out a flat tire on the side of the road. Jon was crushed, the love of his life gone in an instant. The clubhouse would never feel the same again. Jon didn’t want to carry on coaching, and wanted to slip into an alcoholic oblivion. But both Paul and Mr. Newton carried Jon forward, telling him that things would be alright, that to honor her by carrying on her work was the best way forward.

They were wrong. Seriously, seriously wrong.

Paul took it upon himself to make himself more confident and self-assured. Buoyed by Jon’s faith in him (he forced Paul to give the half-time pep talk in the biggest game of the year), Paul found it within himself to start a new life. A life filled with purposeful decisions arrived that through careful deliberations. To live a life filled with confidence and willed into being by his new-found understanding of the world. He decided to attend a conference in Brighton given by one of those self-help gurus. The drive would do him wonders, and it would be a good thing to get out on the road with his promotion bonus from Mr. Newton - a 1981 Alfa Romero with only 180,000km’s on it. He pulled the top down and set off to enjoy the sunshine.

Sadly, building codes are a bit lax in Brighton. It was the wiring, That’s what the news said. That, and the rickety doors on the conference hall where the meeting was held. Should have been replaced. But they were not replaced. The fire that started during the “Get Up and Run Towards Your Destiny” speech spread quickly. Only a handful got out alive, including the Guest Speaker, who had propped open a door behind the stage so he could sneak out to his car and take a few pulls from his bottle. A hundred thirty-four people died in the fire, shoving on a rickety door that wouldn’t open, the last words that they had heard ofver the speaker was “Run, for God’s sake, run to your destiny”

Paul didn’t make it.

Jon was gutted, his best and only friend killed a few days after he buried the love of his life. He staggered down to the social club, with the intent that nothing would be left in it by morning. Fortunately, Mr. Newton was there to stop him from taking what was an understandably drunk state and making it a life-threatening binge that would make a Russian proud. Mr. Newton talked him through the night, giving Jon the space to talk comfortably and without any fear of judgment. He convinced Jon that he needed a holiday, and to let the club sit for a few days after a team meeting in the morning to explain it to the lads. Mr. Newton gave Jon the keys to a lodge in Northumbria, a small estate that Mr. Newton never parted with during the lean times for his family and his club.

Jon left the following day, around noon. The players and Mr. Newton were going to hang around in the Social Club to knock a few back. But Jon couldn’t. He needed to get away.

And that was when it all happened. Everything changed in the next two hours.

As things tend to do, this happened by chance. But Jon would never, never believe that.

Driving through the country, in the same Alfa Romero that Paul had borrowed, Jon heard over the BBC that improbably, it appeared that a satellite came crashing down to earth. In fact, it hit the stadium that Boston United play at. Jon pulled over, but didn’t get out of the car for fear that his legs wouldn’t work. He knew, he just knew.

Later, as Jon pulled himself together and turned around to head back to the stadium, to his office, to his home, his hide-away bed in his office, next to the Social Club that was attached to the stadium - he heard the updates.

It appears the building was hit. Thankfully, they speculated, no one was there at the time due it being the summer break.

Then it comes out that in fact there were many people there, and that rescue crews are on the scene trying to find survivors.

Nothing more is said about finding anyone alive. The broadcaster asked an “expert” from King’s College, Cambridge, on the odds of a satellite falling from earth and hitting a building. “Not bloody likely, I’m glad to say. A billion-to-one shot, I’d suppose. But things don’t fall from the sky. Especially satellites. I’m curious to understand how this happened as much as the next man,” said the expert.

Now the reports were becoming more somber. The death tool started to mount. At least 20 bodies have been seen in the wreckage, with no survivors. Not one person made it out alive. Only thing they found was a piece of the satellite saying “Made in England”.

Jon began to shake. He knew at that moment that there was nothing left for him. Nothing at all. He knew that the Fates had made it so that he could never have the life that he saw for himself - a respectable job, a woman that loved him, a career. The Empire itself had conspired against him. First, the incident with his short-lived run with the National side, and now a fucking satellite took out everything that he had left.

Well, not everything, exactly.

There was the bottle to go back to, and he decided to sift through the charred remains of the stadium to find that bottle.

He arrived as news crews were still shooting a live feed, and they focused their cameras on him, digging furiously through the rubble and ashes. There was a sense of pity as the reporters identified him as Jon Carlson, Head Coach of the club, and the nation wept with him, for him, as he dug through the ashes and soot and concrete looking for his player, or his coaches, or his bosses.

Then it happened.

Jon found a bottle, unbroken in a damaged case that survived the mayhem around it. And he started drinking. On live television. And he hasn’t stopped since.

That was two months ago.


***

Which brings us to now. Jon, reeking of piss and vomit on his lucky pink Pink Floyd shirt, staggering onto one knee on this pitch that was unfamiliar to him. He rubbed his eyes some more, hoping that he could pick something up to tell him where he was, at least a town. But he couldn’t see anything, as his vision was still blurry.

“Mr. Carlson, it’s good to see you up and about, sir” said a voice that Jon could not see the body from which it came.

“Yeah, well, you know. Got to get up at some time, right?”

The voice laughed, and as the laugh came over Jon, the sun was suddenly blocked out by a man, silhouetted by the bright light of the sun. The silhouette offered Jon a hand up, which, with some reluctance due to a fear of trusting those he cannot see, he finally accepted. Most likely due to the fact that he could probably not get himself up alone.

“Well, it’s good to have you here,” said the voice.

“I’d like to say it’s good to be here, but I’m not sure where here is”

“Mr. Carlson - Coach. You’re finally home,”

“Yes, and, erm, where is that, exactly?”

And again, another laugh, a deep but gentle laugh - the kind that is almost paternal in nature, but also that of a true friend.

“You know, coach, we have had this same conversation for the last two months. Every day we have, in fact,”

Confusion set in on Jon’s mind like a sack of bricks being swung about. “Is that so,” Jon ventured tentatively.

“You bet, as you Americans say. It’s understandable though, given what you have been through,"

The Bricks stopped swinging, and Jon remembered every feeling of suffering, grief, sadness and loss of losing everything in a week. A week that started out with so much promise - the week after gaining promotion for a club that no longer exists. Jon started to cry.

“You’ve done that too. Every morning, in fact. I’ve gotten quite used to this, Coach,” the man said as he handed him a silk handkerchief from the breast pocket of his suit.

Jon cried himself out in just under ten minutes.

“Must say, the wife is getting used to washing and ironing my handkerchiefs every day. Says it's a good thing I'm doing, and isn't moaning about the added burden of laundry. Also, the crying time is getting shorter, that’s a good sign. You know, here’s normally the part when I hand you a bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label and let you get to it, but I am afraid that those days are over.”

“Those were the good old days,” Jon mused without remembering any of them.

“You have any questions for me? Normally, you see, we spend about an hour going through the events that happened after that unfortunate accident with the satellite at your old club. But there is no longer time for that. We have work to do, and I need you both alert and sober today,” the man said. The dug into the back pocket of his suit, and pulled out a sheet of paper with some stuff typed on it, and handed it to Jon. “This is everything that happened in the last two months. It’s a condensed list of events, but this way, when you wake up tomorrow, I’ll just refer you to the sheet. It is a time saver, mostly. Until you just remember things on your own. So, any questions?”

Jon took the paper, folded it up slowly, but not carefully, and tucked it in his jeans. He didn’t look at it. Vision still wasn’t that good.

“Where am I?”

“Centre of the pitch, Pirelli Staduim, in Burton-on-Trent”

“Who are you?”

“I’m Ben Robinson, Chairman of Burton Albion Football Club,”

“How did I get here?”

“It’s in the note, but let’s just say that you were a wreck after the Satellite took out your old club, and after you finished drinking the bottle in full in under one minute, you preceded to demand more. Someone came to grab you out of the wreckage, That someone was the only player not at the meeting, his name is Mark Newsham,”

The little-shit-striker-that-couldn’t.

“He pulled you out, gave you a few hundred pounds and told you to never come back, that you were not welcome. Seemed a bit of a prick to me, but he did just loose his step-father and his teammates in the same accident, so who am I to judge?”

“You’re the Chairman of Burton Albion,”

“Indeed I am, Coach. Turns out that you went to a pub in town, and they refused to serve you, being as drunk as you were. You were claiming that in fact you were not drunk, that all the beer in England couldn’t get you drunk. Someone there told you that Burton-on-Trent is where the beer is, and you somehow made your way to town. I found you the next morning passed out on my pitch. Well, one of our groundsmen did. Came and got me, as he recognized you from the television the night before, standing in the wreckage. I came out, took one look at you, and decided that you would fill our vacancy as Head Coach, just as soon as you were sober enough to do the job. Sound’s crazy, right?”

“Nah - it sounds like a Wednesday, or maybe a Tuesday sort-of-thing, really,”

Ben laughed, slapped Jon on the shoulder, and walked with him off of the pitch. Taking a bit of Jon’s weight along the way.

“I remember that you told me once that you lived in your office. I thought you were saying how dedicated you were towards your job. Didn’t take it seriously until I talked with a few of our backroom staff that knew you from your time at Boston United last season. They confirmed that you lived in your office - so, you’ll do the same here. Got a hide-a-way bed in it for you, a coffee maker, and an electric stove,”

“Sounds like home to me,” Jon said in agreement.

“So, Coach. You ready to start today?”

“Can I drink during this?”

“No. But you can when the work is done for the day. We’ll ease you into this,” Ben said, as he laughed out the tail end of that sentence.

“No, Mr. Robinson - you won’t,” Jon said in as ram-rod of a voice as he could command while still being legally drunk the night previous.

“What do you mean, no?”

“Am I the Coach of Burton Albion?”

“Yes,”

"Am I the Head Coach of Burton Albion?”

“Yes, yes you are,”

“Then, no, frankly. You will not ease me into this. A Coach’s job is never done, therefore, no more booze.”

Ben smiled. “It’s good to have you on board, Jon,”

Jon smiled back, “It’s good to be here, Ben,”

Jon tilted his head back, patted Mr. Robinson on the shoulder, and let out a good, hearty laugh, which was short lived. As at that moment, Jon started to vomit, and was slightly choking on it until he turned to his left, and proceeded to get the last of last night out of his system.

After he emptied the contents of his stomach on the pitch, he turn his head to Ben, wiped his mouth with the back of his arm. “I’m Burton Albion for life, Ben. Burton Albion for life.”

 

 

EDIT:  I originally posted this almost two years ago.  As a few of you may know, some big things have happened to me in those two years, and I took a break from playing and from writing this up. Well guess what? I've played my usual slow-ass style, and have some catching up to do on this.  Buckle up, Coach Jon is ripped and stumbling and ready to tell a tale that you won't believe...

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Chapter II

 

Jon, along with Ben Robinson, the Chairman of Burton Albion, walked into the overly swank offices at Pirelli Stadium.  Jon’s jaw dropped at the luxurious environs, the leather club chairs, potted plants that were taller then him.  Along the route, Ben was introducing Jon to the secretaries, office managers, and other employees of Burton Albion.  At the same time, Ben was reintroducing Jon to these same people.  They did the same thing every day, pretending to have never met Jon before, as per Ben’s instructions.  It was a caring act by all of those involved, and one that instilled a great sense of loyalty amongst the staff.  Even if it meant that they reintroduced themselves to a man whose had worn the same, puke-stained faded pink Pink Floyd t-shirt for the last 58 days straight.

 

But everyone there today, that re-met the new Head Coach, could tell that something was different.

 

Ben was a solid man, and taking this raging drunk of a Head Coach under his wing was nothing out of the ordinary.  Burton Albion was a part time side not more than 10 years ago.  It’s ascendancy to the heady heights of the Football League was quick, and due in part to Sir Alex Ferguson.  The legendary Manchester United took an away draw against the lowly part-timers in an FA Cup draw back on January 8th, 2006.  Burton, to the shock of everyone, held a 0-0 draw going into the half-time talk against a side that featured mostly backups.  But everyone knew what to expect afterwards, when Sir Alex would bring out the big guns, including Rooney.  But nobody was ready for what was next.

 

Burton comes out on fire - created some chances, almost took a goal, but were stopped by the post.  Manchester United came back with a blistering, 20 minute long salvo.  But Burton held on, boosted by a goalkeeper playing out of his mind.  After 20 minutes of solid defending and several saves that would make the highlight reel for saves of the decade, Burton looked up and saw a 0-0 draw flashing on the scoreboard.  And Ben Robinson, owner of the little part-time club, would get a payday of just over half a million pounds.

 

He invested wisely, building the new stadium in conjunction with England’s U-19 side in mind, and would serve as the national base for the youth program - bringing a certain level of class, quality and refinement to a lowly club at the 6th tier of English football.  Money well spent on quality, Ben invested and had faith in his club’s side.  He converted the best players into full-time contracted players, and built a successful club in a fiscally responsible way.  And now that club was playing in the Football League.

 

And Jon Carlson, legendary drunk, was it’s Head Coach.

 

Ben walked Jon to his office.  Ben’s heels clicked on the marble flooring, the echo of each “ka-kuck” reverberating down the hallway, sending faint chills up Jon’s spine.  They reached a door at the end, a wide, walnut, double-door entrance.  Ben stopped in front of it.

 

“Coach, here’s the keys to your new home and office.  Use them well,”  Then Ben handed him the keys, literally, to the club.  “Let’s go in, shall we?”

 

Jon put the keys in the lock, which didn’t make a sound.  They just opened the door.  Must be new, Jon thought to himself.  He swung open the doors, and it revealed an office that was more the size of small indoor auto dealership than a football manager’s office.

 

The light from the windows came in, bathing it in a surreal glow of all-natural lighting.  The office was, in a word, stunning.  Leather chairs, a large, massive desk befitting a CEO of a major multi-national corporation than a League 2 football club.  There was also some potted plants, again taller than Jon by several feet, and they still didn’t touch the ceiling.  There was dark wood everywhere, a massive Persian rug that had to be touched to confirm it’s actual existence, and a fancy Googlating machine on the desk that Jon didn’t really know how to turn on, much less use.

 

And in a corner, there was a long 1970’s couch, with the hide-away bed pulled out, next to a mini-fridge and small stove.  The counter that ran along the wall had an American style coffee maker, and a microwave.  There was a wafting smell of fresh brewed coffee coming from it.

 

Jon’s eyes misted over, as this was the best thing that happened to him in some time.  Not the office/home, but he spotted a small, full service mini-bar in the corner, fully stocked.  Jon was overcome with joy.  He hugged Ben.

 

“Well, Coach, I wasn't expecting that response,” said a smiling Ben.

 

“Well, Ben, I wasn't expecting an office with a fully stocked bar,”

 

Ben smiled. And so did Jon.

 

“Coach, today is the day that everything starts here.  Your leadership of this club is for life.  There’s a copy of your contract on your desk next to the laptop.  Look at it.  It runs through 2046.  You signed it the first day you were here.  I know that you were drunk, but you demanded one, and I wrote it up myself.  We agreed that this is your home, and I’ll keep you on for the length that you want.  No questions asked,”

 

Jon staggered over to the desk under his own power, and grabbed the small, one-page form.  It said 2046, it had his signature on it, as well as Ben’s.  Jon smiled.

 

“Coach, I wanted you to be a part of this family, everyone here has one.  All the staff, groundskeepers, everyone - they all have a contract for the next 43 years.  Now, naturally, I will assume that you want to bring in some of your own coaches in time, but give the staff here a shot first.  They are good guys, and have been with us for some time,”

 

Jon thought about the backroom staff that he wanted, but remembered what happened to them, and considered Ben’s words.

 

“Ben,” Jon sputtered out, choking back the waffling in his voice.

 

“Yes coach?”

 

“What happened to the old head coach?  I mean if it’s such a good gig, why did he leave?”

 

“Well, our coach had the same contract as you, a 40-plus year deal, but sadly he passed a few months back.  Actually a week or two before your old club got hit by that satellite.  He had a heart attack,”

 

“Sorry about that, Ben,” Jon said, squared and as upright as an American looks like in the movies.

 

“Me too,” said Ben, and he meant it.

 

***

 

There was a pause, a quiet moment.  They both felt the weight of the conversation.  The Chairman, Ben Robinson, felt the shift in Jon.  That this day was different than the past 58.  He knew that tomorrow, he'd wake Jon up in his office instead of the pitch.  Something happened today that was different, and he started to see in Jon the coach that was somehow able to take Boston United up without so much as a single pound spent.  Ben was starting to think that maybe Burton could stay up under this coach.

 

Jon walked over to the plush club chairs, where Ben joined him in talking a load off.

 

“So, Ben.  How’s this club doing?”

 

“Gained promotion two years back. Last season was our first in League 2, and stayed up with an 18th place finish.  Most of the lads are still here, especially the core group of players,”

 

“That’s good to hear.  Fiscally, where do we stand?”

 

“Not that well, I’m afraid.  Don’t let the plush lifestyle of Burton get to your head. That was paid for by the FA due to us sharing this fine facility with the England Under-19 side.  We were playing in the 7th tier six years ago.  And at that point, the 7th tier was as high as Burton Albion had ever been.   Now, we’re a Football League side.  Hell, I bought the club for 100,000 pounds.  I’m not a rich man, and we need to be wise with the cash, as everything that I have is in this club,”

 

“Compared to other clubs, where do we stand?”

 

“If you are asking cash-wise, we are dead last in the league.  Most Blue Square Premier leagues clubs have more cash and wage budget than we do, to be honest.  We’re just trying to stay up as long as possible to get the good money and use that to rebuild,”  Ben said, looking slightly ashamed of the state of affairs within his club.

 

“But, Coach, If we can stay up, that should get us enough to get the ball rolling again next year.  Just got to stay up this season, is all,

 

“Ben, if I may be so bold - we can stay up.  I don’t even know who plays here.  But I promise you that we will stay up,” Jon stated with conviction.

 

“That’s why I brought you into the family, Jon.  You are a pig-headed son-of-a-bitch American who is crazy enough to actually think that this little club can compete with the big dogs of League 2,”

 

“We’ll compete, Ben, no doubt about that,"

 

“Good,”  Ben smiled from ear to ear.  “I had your assistant set some things up for you today - first is a little meeting with the backroom staff, and then it’s your players returning from vacation tomorrow to get ready for the season.  Geoff, your assistant, will fill you in on the details.  I’m off to try to secure us a few sponsorships.  Oh, we don’t have a sponsor, by the way.  No one, not even businesses, want anything to do with us,”  Ben laughed as he said this, got up, and walked towards the door.  When he reached it, he turned to Coach Jon one last time.

 

“I just want you to know one thing, Coach.  Between you and me, mind,”

 

“Of course, Ben,”

 

“If we don’t stay up, the club folds.  There’s not enough cash, and we will be broke to the point where the bank would own us.  Don’t let that happen, Coach.”

 

Jon looked sympathetically at Ben Robinson, the kindest man he’d met, well, today.  “Ben, I…”

 

“Coach, you met the people who work here.  They get paid a wage to live off of.  They, like you, all had troubles in their background.  We took them in.  Same as we took you in.  Please remember that a lot of things, more things than you know, ride on the course of this season’s fiscal stability.  We must stay up, not just for me, but for everyone here.  Yourself included, Coach,”

 

And with that, Ben turned and left.  Jon watched Ben’s sharp, grey pinstriped suit turn and walk out the door, noticing that the suit was pressed and well maintained, but there was a bit of fraying on the back of the cuffs.

 

We are going to do right by this man, Jon thought to himself. We are not only going to stay up, we’re going to gain promotion.  Jon looked around his office, stripped his lucky pink pig Pink Floyd t-shirt off, and poured himself a glass of cranberry juice.

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I vote that the first wage packet be spent on a new Pink Floyd t-shirt! :P

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I vote whore house! :P

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Chapter III

****

 

Just kidding, I got nothing for this story anymore.

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