As the lads troop in after training, I knock on for Goolam Allie, the club Chairman.
“Franjo!” He exclaims as he opens his office door. “How’s the reaction?” He asks this after every post-defeat training session. It’s a very good question to ask to be fair. I can tell that he actually cares about the team, which is sadly a sought after trait among Chairmen nowadays.
“Not bad”, I answer in a non-committal kind of way as I follow him to the large ornate desk at the far end of the room. “But we’ve got a problem.”
“Oh?” Allie raises his eyebrows. “What kind of problem?”
“A big, long term kind of problem.” He gestures for me to go on. “This squad, generally speaking, has a losing mentality. There’s barely any determination at all in that dressing room.” Allie raises his eyebrows even further. “Look at our matches so far”, I continue, “If we can keep the game goalless, we have a good chance of snatching a goal in the second half.” He nods in agreement. “But on the other hand, if we go behind in the first half, it’s not just that we can’t get back into the game, it’s that we stop playing altogether. This squad, with the exception of the Highland Park match, cannot cope with going a goal down and that’s a big problem.”
He leans forward, resting on the desk. “So what do you suggest?”
“We need to bring in players that will fight back after going behind.”
Goolam gives me a knowing smile. “Franjo, we aren’t a club that throws money at our problems, that’s why we’re so financially solid…”
“I know, I know, but I’ve found a lad”, I interject. “Not only is he the kind of player that we need to stop the club going backwards, but he would arguably be our best player at 19 years old! 19!” There’s a pleading tone in my voice that I don’t really like, but I really am convinced that this signing is a crucial one. “His name’s Joseph Ekwalla. He’s a central midfielder. Clifford spotted him playing in Cameroon…”
“Well there you go”, laughs Allie, “How many times has he played for Cameroon?”
“He’s played for the Under 20’s…”
“Zero.” Says Allie, with a rather more stern tone now. “So it’s a non-issue. He’ll never get a permit anyway.”
“We can try and get him in as an exceptional talent, he’s brilliant!” I retort, feeling myself becoming more and more frustrated. “Joseph’s the future of this club. Him and players like him.”
I can tell my persistence has won his attention now. I’ve not really asked him for anything since arriving in Lansdowne and I’m hoping that goes in my favour now. “How exceptional a talent is he?” He asks.
I play him the DVD that our scout Clifford Maphutha made for me. A highlight reel showing Joseph’s touch, his skill, his attitude, passing range and fitness. When it ends, Goolam smiles at me, genuinely this time. “How much do you need?”
“We can get him for free but his agent wants £5k”, I reply. “Non negotiable.”
“Fucking agents”, he sighs. I shrug and nod.
“You’ve got your £5k”, he smiles, holding out a hand. I shake it and beam back at him. “Go and sign that lad before somebody else does.”