Posted: June 24th, 2021
Our team were in the away changing room and my ears were hurting as the manager’s voice went straight through me whilst he shouted at us for the dreadful performance we just gave. Then he threw a bottle towards Marcel the goalkeeper who safely caught it. ” Oh now you stop it fool!” he shouted sarcastically at him.
The room was stuffy because of all the sweat and heat coming off the players. We just got beat two nil by the Newcastle United under twenty ones and our main striker Carlton Wallace the team captain was under pressure. His last season performance was superb, he got top scorer with twenty-one goals and most of them goals were from his heading ability as he was very tall so he had a lot depending on him this season by Leeds United Football Club, because he is on the brink of entering the senior squad. So far during the season he hasn’t scored for the first five games and the team are worried about him.
The next day he turned up late for training and the Manager Tony Forbes went over to Carlton as he stepped out of his brand new Mercedes Benz SLK and he started shouting and being intolerant at him, Carlton then got straight back in the car and drove off in a rush. As Tony came back the players just pretended that it never happened and carried on with training, except one, that was Andrew Moyes who was the joker amongst the group and he thought he knew what had happened. He asked Tony in a bigheaded way “what was that all about then gaffer?” Tony replied, “Just forget it its nothing to do with you.” And Andrew put his hands up towards his chin as if he were holding a handbag and went “oooooo”. But Tony reacted badly and shouted at him “you’re dropped from the team on Saturday for that remark, you sicken me!” then some players started to smirk, but lucky for them Tony didn’t notice.
As we were going in Andrew stated, “I think Carlton’s got problems.” So I replied, ” what makes you think that?” I asked and Andrew replied, ” his behaviour just lately is weird, don’t you think?” ” He has been a bit strange but nothing too serious I hope.” I stated. But we thought nothing of it and carried on getting towards the changing rooms with the rest of the team.
We were entering the changing rooms as the assistant was writing Saturday’s team out for the match against Middlesbrough, so everyone was gathered around the board to see their name on it and Carlton was dropped for Alan Smith and everyone was amazed because last season they beat Middlesborough four nil and Carlton got three goals, so I went to see the gaffer but he had left early.
As I was getting changed Jamie our key defender asked me, “Do you want to come for a drink with us?” I replied “No I’ve got to shoot off sorry.” So I went to the secretary and asked her where Tony had gone and she said he’d gone to Carlton’s to sort something out, immediately I rushed out to the car park and dodged all the journalists who were bombarding me with questions about Carlton’s future, so I could get into my car and go.
Luckily no police seen me speeding on my way to Carlton’s but as I slowly approached his house I saw Tony getting out of his car on the driveway, he stepped up to the door, knocked on it and looked around to see if anyone was watching. Carlton opened the door and poked his head around to see who it was, then he looked around outside for people, but luckily he didn’t see me. Then he invited Tony in to his house.
Seeing this I got out the car and went round the side of his house making sure I wasn’t seen and the window was open so I tried and listen in on the conversation. I heard Carlton talking about when he went to the doctors and got told that if he continues to head a football it will affect his brain because of all the pressure be exerted on to the skull, but last year nearly every goal was a header so that might explain why he hasn’t been on form this season. After hearing that I ran back to the car and drove straight to The Bottle of Sack, our local pub where the lads were and darted inside to break the news. As soon as I entered they kept offering drinks and asking things so I couldn’t a word in.
But then I seen Jamie going to the toilet so I followed him in and Explained to him the situation and he went straight back out and gathered the team round. After he told them they and started to think of what to do and Andrew said “let’s help him through it.” “You don’t say, ” Marcel replied sarcastically “But how?” asked Jamie and Andrew bellowed “let’s sign a new player to replace him.” And everyone gave him a dirty look, then Martin his striking partner said, ” well instead of him heading the ball he could bicycle kick then his goals would be spectacular.” So Jamie replied, ” it’s stupid but it might just work.” “But that’s a difficult skill to perform day in day out.” I added, so Marcel our goalkeeper announced above all the noise of the players in his French accent “lets train him to do it then, its what teamwork’s all about isn’t it?” so everybody started planning out what to do in Thursday’s training session.
It was Thursday and we all waited in the changing room for Tony to enter to tell him Martin’s idea. So as he entered Jamie called him over and asked, “can I have a word outside gaffer?” “No” he replied “but it’s important gaffer” Jamie added, they both went out. A minute later we heard Tony shout out “brilliant.” Then he burst back in and said “Lads Jamie here has just come up with a solution to Carlton’s problem.” And Jamie butted in and said, “Well actually it was Martin’s idea gaffer.” “Who cares?” he exclaimed, so he carried on telling us “we shall make him do over head or bicycle kicks instead of heading the ball. But you will have to put in effort to help him, agreed?” “Yes gaffer.” We all replied simultaneously. He then queried, “How did you know about this problem?” Then suddenly Carlton the changing room so everyone greeted him and luckily for me Tony never found out how we knew.
After he got changed Tony told us to go on to field and he would meet us down there except Carlton, because he wanted to talk to Carlton about Martin’s idea. I was last out of the changing room and I decided to stay outside the door and listen in on the conversation. At first Tony said “well Carlton you know about yesterdays talk at yours?” “Yes.” He replied, “well I was thinking about your problem and why don’t you bicycle kick the ball instead?” asked Tony and Carlton replied ” well it’s a bit hard to do that gaffer, because I’m not that good at it you see. Also it’s quite difficult to perform unless every cross is perfect” “But we’ll do training on it every session starting today, the lads will help and have to do it as well.” Said Tony, so Carlton agreed “yes”. I quickly dashed on to field so they did not see me as they came out.
As I got near Andrew said “were have you been?” but I was out of breath because I had to run so Tony didn’t know I was listening.
When Tony arrived with Carlton Tony shouted out “come on do the warm up procedure.” So all the players did stretching and jogging on the spot and the usual things, but Carlton and the Tony were talking about something and then Tony called the Marcel over and me. He explained to us “well Marcel get in goal and Mark put some crosses in for Carlton so he can practice those overhead kicks. So I went over and crossed a ball in but Carlton could not reach so Tony shouted “a bit lower.” So I tried again and he just missed it. We tried again and again but he couldn’t do it. Tony shouted over to me ” a few more” so I crossed it in and he connected to it perfectly and Tony shouted “superb lads!” keep it up we did it another two times and he just kept on doing it. The Tony told us to stop and told us ” don’t get too carried away, save it for the weekend”
On the way to the changing room I asked Tony “why don’t you put Carlton into the first team instead of Alan?” but he just said, “I might, I don’t know yet.”
After I got changed I went to the car park and got in my car and drove off home so I could rest for tomorrow’s game against Middlesbrough.
The next morning on the way to Ellend road, which was our home ground, I was all ready for the game today. I pulled into the ground and parked the car. I then got out with my kit bag and went through reception and into changing room and noticed Carlton sitting there all changed ready for the game, and I asked, “Are you all right?” and he replied, “yes I’m ecstatic.” “Why?” I asked he said “the gaffer has put me in the squad for today because he was amazed by training yesterday with them over head kicks.” “Brilliant Carlton, well done.” I greeted. “But I couldn’t of done it with out you mate.” He replied
Then the gaffer came in and said, “I don’t want any scrappy football today lads last week was dreadful, so come on show me what you’ve got.” As the bell went to go out all the players shouted “come on!” stood up clapped, the room was vibrating from the players passion. We then we made our way on to the pitch.
It was midway through the first half and the crowd was roaring with excitement, I got the ball passed through to me down the right hand side; I skipped past one defender and crossed the ball in towards Carlton who was waiting in the area. He jumped up and to do a bicycle kick, the time slowed dramatically as if it were a movie. Then Carlton went to kick it, he missed the ball and there was a big gasp from the crowd of over thirty thousand fans. He landed on his back with a massive cry of pain and everyone froze. It didn’t look good.
Every team gathered round even some Middlesbrough players to look at him then the physio dashed onto the pitch to see what the problem was he shouted “move away give him room” then he called for a stretcher. He was taken off on the stretcher and was immediately to on his way to hospital in an ambulance. Tony told Chris to get ready so he could replace Carlton. The crowd went silent and we heard the siren of the ambulance as it hurried off to hospital. There was no enthusiasm for the rest of the half and the match was boring now
The half time whistle blew and everyone went back to changing room. Tony didn’t say anything; he was in shock after the incident with Carlton. The bell rang for us to go out again but this time there was no roar of passion from the players as they strolled out towards the field.
The second half was boring because Carlton wasn’t playing and the players had no strategy anymore. The game just dragged on back and forth until eventually Tony used his last substitute, which was Alan, he came on for Jamie who had a quiet game. There was only two minutes left on the clock and our goalie had just made a fantastic save to keep us level, he kicked the ball out to Andrew who controlled it brilliantly and then slotted a through ball up to Alan who chased it with all the strength he had, their goalkeeper rushed towards the ball to try and smother it, it was one on one and Alan got there first and skipped around the goalie and passed it into the net.
The crowd were roaring with delight as there was only one minute left, but you couldn’t hear anything because of the noise from the fans, it was deafening. Tony was running up and down the touchline jumping for joy. The team were cheering as well, running up the pitch to congratulate Alan. The ground felt like it would collapse from the noise and excitement.
Then we heard the final whistle blow as the game concluded, and the fans were going wild due to Alan’s goal, but everyone forgot about Carlton, except me. So I quickly ran into the dressing room and got changed and dashed to the hospital to check how he was.
When I got there I asked the receptionist “were is Carlton Wallace please?”
She replied, “Ward seven room two.” I walked quickly towards it, eventually finding him lying in a bed in pain. The doctor was standing next to his bed and asked me “excuse me are do know this person?”
I replied, “Yes we play for the same football club, will he be able to play again?” “He’s damaged ligaments in his lower back, so it doesn’t look very promising” he replied. I just stood there and stared at Carlton with hope. “I’m afraid your going to have to leave now because visiting times are over, also we need to plan the operation for tomorrow.” The doctor told me
“What operation!” I exclaimed
“We need to operate on his lower back quickly or he may never play again” he replied
Then I asked “is it risky?”
“Of course it is, every operation is risky,” he told me. You’d better go now he needs his rest for tomorrow. So I left with a bad feeling that this operation may go wrong, but how was I going to explain it to the lads, that will be even harder.
I got to my car in the car park and whilst I was opening the door I told myself that I wasn’t going to the lads and let them find out for themselves, so I carried on home to spend the night and have a think.
The next day I was tired because I hadn’t had much sleep because I was up all night thinking about Carlton’s back operation. I had to get over it and go and see him at hospital.
When I arrived at hospital I went to ward seven to see him and his parents were there crying, the doctor was there again so I went up to him and asked how he was he explained “the operation was successful we repaired the ligaments but he will have to give up football for a while”
“Whys that” I asked
“His back isn’t capable of all that running and exercise that footballers do day in day out.” I ran out of the hospital got in my car and sped off home because I realised that he won’t recover from this and will have to retire. I had a lot of different feelings inside me like anger, disappointment, confusion of why this happened. I then remembered it was Martins idea to make him do overhead kicks and I knew he lived across the road, so I went over and started banging on the door until he opened it.
As I seen him open the door I burst in with rage and started beating him up shouting out “this is for Carlton” “its your fault he’s having to retire”. I realised I got a carried away as I stopped hitting him because he’d stopped breathing and was just lying there on the floor, I didn’t know what to do. I got up and ran over to my house then just crumbled down to the floor and started crying.
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