“It’s a bit different, but I had fun writing it.” says Dave “Scoop” Morton
You are Eddie Jones, and you coach a rugby team. But it’s not England 2019, it’s North Manchester High School under 15s, circa 1980. It is 9.30 on a damp and cold Saturday morning, three-quarters of an hour to kick off, when you arrive. The team – most of them anyway – are sitting, waiting to be told what to do. You do a quick head count. Fourteen, you think, and there are a couple of obvious absentees.
“Where’s Maro?” you ask.
“Oh, he fell off his skateboard last night and his arm’s in plaster. He said he’ll be along. Can run the line for you, if you want.”
“Great. And where’s Mako?”
“Oh yes, he asked me to tell you. He swore at his little sister and his dad’s grounded him. He says he’s sorry.”
“Okay, we’ll work something out. Manu, you’ve played prop before, haven’t you?”
“Yes, when I was like twelve.”
“You’ll be fine. We’ll play one short in the backs, wingers can cover full-back between them. Come on, get changed, get out there and do your warm up. Have you got the shirts, Kyle?”
“Yeah, I’ve got them, sir, but they’re not washed. My mum said they’d clog the washing machine.”
“You could have taken them to the laundrette.”
“And paid with what, exactly?”
“Okay, see you all out there, fifteen minutes, tops. Take out the corner flags and post-protectors,” at which point your stand-off throws up all over the changing room floor.
“You okay, George?”
“I’ll be fine, sir. Party last night, got a bit pissed. Nothing I can’t handle.”
So, Eddie, you can go in to get changed yourself, once you’ve collected the valuables. You are referee this morning, as well as manager and sole coach. Your team is playing some Cheshire grammar school, who will all be tall and fit and organised. But the North Manchester lads will smash them off the park, just you wait and see.
And, of course, they do.
Here’s to you, kids: Vic Langfield, big Steve Earnshaw and Wriggler Renwick; Longmire and Shortmire; Donbavand and Alcock; and all those other North Manchester lads who played with such distinction for Sedgley back in the old amateur years. They’re the reason I came to the club myself, originally, to watch them play for John Pepworth’s Colts. So long ago.
Happy days. And when we played away, Eddie, sometimes our bus turned up late, too.