Here’s a fun thought: I’d better not fuck this job up. If I manage to take Angrense down I may find that even the tiny English clubs don’t want me. I may have to turn to…the Scottish Premier League. I shudder involuntarily, then shake it off. There can be no room for that kind of thinking today. Today is the day we put down a marker: Franjo has arrived in the Portugese Championship. I’ve come here to sign FC Höllviken players and win football matches. And I’m all out of willing Höllviken players.
Our Relegation stage saga kicks off against Carapinheirense, who finished dead last in their First Phase group and will start on 3 points, which puts them 7th, but joint last, in our group. We are 3rd with 6 points so we really should be starting with a win here.
I head down to Estádio Municipal de Angra do Heroismo early and sit high in the main stand. The Carapinheirense match won’t kick off for a good 6 hours. I imagine the players, in formation ready for kick off. I imagine the fans, filling the stands and singing their hearts out. I imagine myself, stood on the touchline: watching, waiting, studying.
The smell of freshly cut grass cuts through the fantasy. I look down to see that the groundsman has started to give the grass a final trim before the match. He spots me looking down at him. I smile and nod. “It’s looking good” I call out. Without really acknowledging me he turns back around and continues cutting the grass. He must not have heard me, I’m quite far away up here.
I go down to the pitch to properly introduce myself. I want to be a Manager of the people. The truly great Managers know their clubs inside and out. They know the groundsmen, the tea ladies, everybody. That’s how you build a team beyond a team.
“Olá” I say enthusiastically once I’m in earshot. He looks up from his mower to stare blankly at me. He’s an odd looking man up close, with thin grey hair only covering parts of his head. He has an incredibly elongated, droopy face, like all of his features are struggling under twice as much gravity as everyone else, and his skin has the look of bad fake leather. I get the feeling he’s either very very old or he’s spent his entire life baking in the hot Terceira sun. Or both I suppose. He lowers his head and continues to mow.
“O-Olá?” I stammer, far less confidently than before. His head stays down but I get a grunt for my trouble. “FRAN-JO” I say loudly and slowly, in that incredibly disrespectful way that we English talk to the rest of the World. “NAME… OF… YOU?” I catch myself that time and feel a pang of shame, I sound like Steve bloody McClaren. He looks up at me cautiously wearing a grimace, as if he doesn’t like my smell.
“Nuno” he grunts in a low, gravelly voice. I smile and nod. Manager of the people. “Manager?” He enquires.
“Yes” I mumble, suddenly doubly ashamed now that I know he speaks at least some English. He begins to laugh as he looks back down to his mower.
“Um gerente Inglês!” He cries. “Eles contratou um gerente Inglês!” His laugh builds momentum as he and the mower trundle away across the pitch and their sound fades.
What a strange bloke. I really could do with a phrase book. I’ve picked up “Olá” but after that I’m pretty stuck for Portugese. And I can’t keeping talking in brolly-wally, I’ll be laughed out of every job I get.
I can feel that it’s starting to rain. I turn up the collar on my trusty grey coat and head back down the tunnel. It’s time to get ready for our first match.
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