Sitting at the head of his 30-foot office table, situated near the top of London’s prestigious Shard, reclusive billionaire Ellis Short stares intently at three screens laid out in front of him. At the far end of the room, doors swish and a group of nondescript nonentities troop in.
“What do you guys want?” drawls Short, raising his eyes and tilting back his 1887 original leather Stetson. “Can’t you see I’m busy? I’m watching oil in Venezuela – bad – Trump’s latest press conference – bad – and, what do you know, the Houston Hoe-downs are 47 to 45 with the Delta Bay Dang-em-alls in the fourth period of the third quarter.”
“Sorry boss,” says lead nonentity, Martin Fail, “we’ve scheduled a briefing about your football business”.
“Football – oh yes – Sunderland, the black pumas, love em. So, how’s it going? Another great escape? The old one, two with Manchester City away. Love it. Tell you what, let’s get up there again, curries all round in the Fulwell Tandoori.”
“Not quite, there was no escape. Sunderland were relegated and it’s left us – you – with some financial problems.”
“Woow, no-one associates Ellis Short with failure. Sell them. Never liked going anyway.”
“That’s going to be tough and we have to take some decisions now about the new season. First, the manager. Moyes has left.”
“That miserable one – Jeeesss, couldn’t bear him”.
“So we’re recommending Simon Grayson.”
“Is he Italian?”
“Is he Dutch?”
“Ever been a fascist?”
“Not that we’re aware of”.
“Good choice. What’s Ellis’s next top business decision?”
“Well, we’ve followed your advice and sold our assets. Well, asset – Jordan Pickford. And we’ve done a stock take. The bad news is some of the players we thought were on loan are actually ours. The lad Lens asked to move abroad.”
“Where to – Italy? Greece?”
“No, he said he’d rather play in the Middle East than Sunderland so he’s been signed by FC Aleppo. We’re trying to move Khazri on too. He’s told us he doesn’t fancy Bury away on a Tuesday night. His exact words were “please, no, anywhere but here – North Korea, a country ending in Stan, even Teesside. And then there’s Darron Gibson”.
“Now, Fail, I did hear about this. Had one too many Phoenix Befuddlers down the Old Cock and Bottle, ha. But what he said was true – agreed with every word”.
“Yes boss, but the players were all given a script to use in the event of meeting a supporter. He was meant to say ‘We’re all pulling together behind the boss, it’s a tough league but we’re all up for the challenge’. We’ve thought of a good punishment. Firstly, we’ve said he’s still part of the manager’s plans, even though clearly he isn’t. Second, we’re going to subtly misspell his name on every club press release from now on. It will be torture for Gibsen.”
“God dammit Fail, is there no good news?”
“We’ve still got Adam Matthews. And we’re in a cup final”.
“Way to go! Loving it. FA?”
“Sort of – it’s the Dafabet. Big game coming up against Celtic. We’re expecting a great crowd, party atmosphere, and we should put the Scots in their places, especially as we’ve told Dafabet that Celtic must play a weakened team so we win”.
“I knew it, Fail, the good times are back. Rolling down the river. My Black Dogs will be kings of the league in no time.”
“First real match is against Derby, sir.”
“Kentucky Derby? I love a good race. Glad we’ve stopped talking about European soccer.”
The doors swish, and the nonentities shuffle away.