Upon arrival at Lennoxtown, I was startled by a giant life-sized cardboard cut out of a naked and oiled up Johan posing in a traditional Greco-Roman wrestling stance. Intimidated, my eyes were drawn to the bottom of the cut-out, where plastered just below Johan’s larger than life package were the words – “To my greatest pupil Georgios, your friend and mentor Johan.”
A sudden moment of poignancy piqued and caught in my throat, could it be that despite the naked wrestling sessions (which no other squad member was ever made to compete in and I never got to win, he always pinned me on my belly and breathed heavily into my ear), the catapult throws and the out and out attempts to assassinate me, Johan was actually doing it all because he cared, because he wanted to toughen me up for the times he wouldn’t be there? Had I gotten it all wrong? A solitary tear fell from my eye and the world at once seemed a more sullen and sad place.
I trudged onto the training pitch, my head hanging low, hair over my face to hide the shame of my tears from my team-mates. I had been downhearted anyway that I was now headed for south Africa to star in the “Greatest Show on Earth”, le Coup De Monde (as the French say) and that some of my peers and pals would be staying behind in Glasgow, however it transpired that none of them seemed particularly bothered about it all.
In the centre of the training pitch, a large inflatable bouncy castle was wobbling like a huge plate of jelly. Loud music was blaring from an ‘80’s style ghetto blaster which was sat on top of Keano’s DeLorean time machine. The music, by the awesome ‘80s band Hall and Oates, was “Man Eater”, a perennial favourite round Casa de Samaras. Just as the chorus kicked in a small body was jettisoned from the front of the bouncy castle. Wee Shaun flew past me, a large smile stretched across his wee face. “Hiya Georgy Porgy, weeeeee…” A crash bang and wallop later, Shaun ploughed straight into a table which supported a platter of individual trifles, jelly cups, bowls of smarties, packets of tomato flavour Highlander crisps and ten pence mixtures. He lay there giggling caked in green Jelly and smarties.
What the heck was going on in there? I ran to the front of the bouncy castle and was aghast at what I saw. Most of the first team squad were sat down watching Lenny and Scott Brown bouncing around on the bouncy castle like a couple of ten year olds that have overdosed on sherbet.
I turned to Lee Naylor who was sat, as usual, with his arm around the new female physiotherapist.
“Nayls, what in the name of Zeus are they doing?”
“Well old chap, it appears you got here a little late. Today’s training session was a bouncing competition, where last one standing gets a special mystery prize, which was kindly donated by our mysterious benefactor Dermot. I myself didn’t take part, as I was too tired after a little afternoon delight with Miss Physio here.”
“So…how long have they been going then?”
“Well, we started at 8am and let’s see…what time is it now, well it’s quarter past twelve, so just over four hours. Most of us gave up after five minutes but you know the Boss, he never gives anything up and Broonie, well…let’s say he shouldn’t be allowed to put red-bull on his Rice Crispies in the mornings…”
Just then, Lenny couldn’t take anymore and with a cry of “ya fecker!” collapsed exhausted, shaking and convulsing. It was over, the red-bull charged Broonie had overcome the boss. “Yipee, ah’v won, like, ” yelled Scott.
His celebrations were cut short by the sound of a helicopter coming in to land. With the wind from the rotors knocking over wee Sean, who was just getting to his feet again, the doors opened and we all had to avert our eyes. The light that shone forth from the figure that stepped from the Helicopter was blinding. “He must use Daz,” I thought to myself. Like Christ himself, ‘The Desmond’ appeared before us. We all knelt in reverence before him. He didn’t so much walk as float over to where we knelt. A booming voice, that filled our ears and hearts and souls greeted us.
“Arise Scott Brown, Champion of Celtic Football Club and receive your prize.”
I could see out the corner of my eye that Scott had forced himself from his kneeling position and scurried over towards this golden, shining, god-like figure. Into his hands were placed two prizes, of what kind I could not see. He came scurrying back before the booming voice once again addressed us.
“Robbie, my son, it is time to ascend.”
“Later Bhoys, it was nice knowing yeez, only wished I could have scored against that manky mob. Here Georgios, “ he said tossing me his car keys, “it’s yours to use as you will, but please, treat the space-time continuum with respect, will you? There’s a good man. Hey Dermot, got any birds on that flying machine?”
Before any of us could believe it, ‘The Desmond’ and Keano ascended into the sky and were gone. Scott Brown stood looking upwards in reverence with a cheap bottle of ASDA wine and a Milky Way in his hands. Some of the squad grumbled that they wished ‘The Desmond’ had taken Broonie with him as well.
“Oh well lads, “ said Lenny, “that’s the season done. Let’s have a packet of Highlander and some Irn-Bru. Paddy, hit the music.” Paddy McCourt went to press the play button on the ghetto blaster, but missed and pulled a muscle in his back. “Argh, me back, it’s fecked!” he screamed as he fell, but he fell in such a way that it deceived us all and nobody could figure out a way to catch him before he hit the deck. Then we partied like it was 1859, I did the robot, Broonie continued jumping and Paddy lay on the ground waving his arms in the air.
After the party was finished and everyone had gone home for the holidays, I stayed around and slowly wandered the corridors of Lennoxtown. I’d miss this place during my trip. Who knows, If I play well, I may never see the inside of such a place again? I may end up in some foreign land, with new team-mates. I felt a pang of regret and sadness then. I knew I’d miss this place…I already missed the adulation and love of the celtic fans and the season was only finished by a day.
With sobs building within me, I left. I turned out the lights and locked the door behind me. As I reached my car, the cardboard cut-out of Johan folded up and placed lovingly in the boot, I turned and took the view of Lennoxtown in for perhaps the last time, before getting in and starting the engine.
It wasn’t until I’d put the car in gear and took off the hand-brake that I noticed the naked, hulking figure in the back seat. With a whimper I knew that he’d tricked me, that the news of his campaign to invade America was a ploy to get me to relax and let my guard down. He hadn’t left. Here he was, finally here to kill me.
“Hello ya Pansy. Ready to wrestle?”