I sit alone in an empty bar just around the corner from Rome Ciampino Airport, idly rocking the tumbler in my hand from side to side as my eyes half-focus on the swirling liquid within. With a weary sigh, I drain it.
“Talk about football coming home…” A familiar voice from behind me breaks into mournful song.
“… And then one night in Rome…” I continue, trying to keep my voice steady.
“… We were strong. We had grown… Fuck Rome.” Sighs the voice, abandoning the melody. I turn my head to see Eddie Howe walking up and taking the stool next to me. I smile weakly at him. “2 English managers in the Euros… It was bound to go wrong, wasn’t it?” I nod, unsure how else to respond. “Unlucky.” He adds, gesturing to the TV on the wall above the bar. Sky Sports News’ scrolling ticker shows the headline Franjo sacked as France manager. Howe orders us both a drink.
“Ditto”, I reply dryly, as the ticker reveals the next headline: Howe sacked as England manager. Eddie smirks and shrugs. The bartender places our glasses on the bar and we take a drink in silence.
“It’s a results business”, he says, in a mock-serious voice, before adding “What a load of shit.” I nod in agreement. There’s a moment of uncomfortable silence. “They’ll be coming after you, you know, the FA.” He swirls his glass absent-mindedly.
“Really? How do you know?” I turn to face him, suddenly half confused, half monumentally excited. Eddie grins and gestures back towards the telly.
FA set to approach Franjo over England position
“Oh.” Another silence follows, more awkward than the last.
“It’s fine.” He eventually reassures me. “You’ll do well. They’re a brilliant group of lads and they can achieve a lot. If I were you, I’d go for it.” We take another drink in silence.
“What about you?” I ask.
“Well, I’ll take over France obviously.” He smirks again. “From the rumours I’ve heard, you’re leaving Auxerre. Maybe put in a good word for me.”
“Well, nothing’s set in stone.” I reply cautiously. Eddie nods and winks.
“Of course. Well whatever you do, I want to see that World Cup in your hands in 2 years.” He finishes his drink and I follow suit.
“You’re a class act you know, Eddie Howe.” I say, replacing my tumbler on the bar and signalling to the bartender for 2 more.
“I know, son.” He nods. “You want to come do a line?”
“A line. Cocaine.”
“No, I’m… I’m alright.”
“Suit yourself.” And with that, Eddie heads for the toilet.