27 February 2014

Pulis rings up Shawcross

It was a slow Thursday, and Ryan was scrolling idly through twitter, checking for hashtags #supportshawcross or #potternation but, getting irritated at how many #supportaaronramsey results he was getting, slid his thumb over to the power button. A tell-tale buzz made him pause. Ryan glanced at the screen. "PULIS, T" screamed out silently. Urgently.
Ryan swallowed hard before answering. "Coach!" A little forced, Ryan thought to himself, but coach always wanted enthusiasm.
"Rye-guy! How ya doing? 'member yer ol' pal Tony? Tony P?"
Bridling a bit at the accent, the nickname, the pleading, almost needy undercurrent, Ryan managed a polite if awkward reply. "Of course, coach! How could I forget?"

"Good, good; right, right, well, I suppose you miss me 'round the Brittania, eh? Am I right? Eh?"
"Um, of course! Sure, coach, it's..um, it's just not the same without you here. We're all always talking about how different things are without you. Uh, different in abad way, I mean."
"Cheers for that, kid ,but let's not live in the past, I always say. I'm supposin' you know already what with all the headlines that I'm in the big city now. London. Big Ben, Parliament. The big time. Sorry to leave you boys in the lurch and all, but it was time for me to move on up in the world. No hard feelings, eh?"
"What—oh, um, no, coach. We all, uh, miss you and all, but we understand. Time for a bigger club, wasn't it?"
"You know it, and the name says it all. I mean 'Palace', it just has a ring to it, dontcha know? Not just a Palace but a Crystal one. It reeks with class. I tell ya, Tony Pulis is coming up in the world. I'm having to learn a bit more o' the London ways, you know, so I hired this man Higgins to coach me up a bit.  He's a bit of a nancy, but he 's makin' sure I don't put my foot in it an' all. London ain't Stoke-on-Trent!"
"Uh, sure. You said it, coach. Listen, I, uh—"
"Hey, speakin' o' London, there are Gunners everywhere. I tell ya, Rye-guy, if we was still together, we could knock some heads like we use ta. Show 'em how it's done. I'm trying to get these Palace boys to see it like that, try to put those wankers in their place with a little of the ol' do-re-mi like you use ta to be so good at."
"Oh, um, thanks, coach."
"By God, did we knock some heads back then, eh? Let those feckin' ballerinas have what-for? Say, the Gunners are comin' out there to play you, aren't they?"
"Um, yeah. Did you...uh...want a ticket or something, sir?"
"What? Ha ha, I wouldn't be caught dead at—I mean, you're too kind, Ryan. Truth told, I'm a bit busy in the big city, what with fightin' the ol' relegation battle. You know how it is, scrappin' away, nickin' a point here and there, puttin' a scare into the big clubs from time to time and all. I've got Palace all the way up to 16th, two whole points above the drop-zone. How ya like them apples? Say, how's Stoke doing? Bet you've stumbled a bit without your best coach around to keep you up. Eh? Eh?"
Ryan paused, the moment verging on too long, too significant.
"Rye? You there? These blasted mobile phones. Maybe if I press this button here? Now what did that bloke at the shop say to do..."
"Coach? I'm here. I was just, uh, I had a sneeze. Um...ah-choo! There it is. You were saying?"
"Erm? Oh, yeh. How's Stoke? Probably already relegated now that I'm gone. Am I right?"
"Well, coach, actually...Mr. Hughes has us up a bit. We're, uh, not in the drop-zone. In fact, if we can beat the Gunners, we could go to 10th place. 10th! There's a new spirit here, coach! It's—I mean, um, it's just a lucky streak we're riding. As I was saying, it's just not the same without you. I, um, miss the relegation fight, sir. Honest." It was Ryan's turn to wonder at the silence that now greeted him. "Coach?"
"Well, that's just grand."
"Thanks, coach."
"Well, keep it up, I suppose. Hate to see you boys get relegated after all those years I spent keeping you up only to for those board-room bastards with their fancy suits tell me—hey, but never mind me. The Gunners, eh? 16th if you win? Why not? Hey, will Ramsey feature? I heard he was injured. Figures. He might be Welsh on the outside but you and I know he ain't down-and-dirty Welsh. Never enough of a rugger, was he?"
"I think he'll be out, sir."
"More's the pity. Now, I'm not saying anything should happen to the boy, you know how we always use ta talk before the games. No injuries, mind, but just a bit of the Barney Rubble. Get in their heads a bit."
"Actually, sir, Mr. Hughes has other ideas. He says we don't have to clatter players all the time. He says it's okay to—how did he put it—play proper football, I think it was."
"He what? That poof! I oughta take his..."
Ryan had to hold the phone away from his ear to avoid having to hear the roiling river of bile that spewed from the ear-piece. After a minute or so, he ventured a closer listen.
"...and when I'm finished, he'll be tasting my shoe-leather for a week. That's how hard I'll kick his arse. Am I right, Rye-guy?"
"Um, yeah. I guess."
"Ryan. Rye. He hasn't gotten to you, has he? Made you soft? You still play the Pulis way. Tell me you do."
"Oh...yeah."
"That's my boy. I always particular towards ya, not in that way, I'm no fairy, don't get me wrong. What I means is that I know you get it, how to play, I mean. Don't ever forget what I taughtcha. Promise me that, eh?"
"Uh, okay, coach."
"Good, good. Hey, I'll be watching the old crew on Saturday. Make Tony proud!"
"Right."
"Thanks, Rye. Say, you don't have Asmir's number, do you? I tried callin' him but it just keeps goin' to voicemail after one ring. What's that about?"
"Dunno, coach, but I'll, uh, tell him to give you a ring. I, uh, gotta go. I think I left the oven on or something. Thanks for the call!"
There was a click, and Tony looked at his phone, puzzled but pleased at the same time, imagining his minions tackling and clattering Gunners all over the pitch on Saturday. "Good lad, that Ryan. Follows orders. Wish we had a bit more o' that 'round here..."