First of July (Episode 18.5.5: A Lincoln Legend)

I need to put my money where my mouth is.

The first of July signals the beginning of a whole new season. The transfer window opens, pre-season matches get underway. It’s a great time to be a football fan as after a couple months of football deprived heat, it all comes flooding back. But as a football manager, it’s a different feeling. The butterflies in your stomach feel more like tubs of actual butter bouncing around your insides. The thrill of transfer rumours feel like everybody is talking behind your back. It’s scary.

On the first of July, Bob Dorrian wants a one-to-one meeting to see in the new season. It’s a pretty standard affair. He acknowledges that we’ve been overachieving and doesn’t expect any miracles. In fact, his exact words are “Just don’t get relegated.” He always had a way with words.

When I dare to bring up the topic of spending power following our promotion, Bob surprises me. We’ve actually got a decent size budget to spend on players with around £3-3.5 million pounds in the kitty for the summer.

One thing about Bob is he is erratic. While he tries to sell you every choice he makes as extremely tactical and well thought out, the way he presents it conveys the opposite. So when he tells me we’ve partnered with the A-League’s Newcastle Jets, I’m not sure what he wants. Do I go and watch some games, do I go and cut a ribbon, do I go buy a crate of Fosters to celebrate? Bob’s not so crazy that he’d subject anyone to drinking a can of that Aussie piss.

Youth. Youth is the way forward. Bob wants us to bring through some Australian talent with the help of the Newcastle Jets. It’s actually a clever move from Bob as he’s played on my love of Newcastle and combined it with worldwide advertisement. And while the real thing has retired, who’s to say we won’t find the next Tim Cahill over there? We agree that George Kelly can go on a well earned holiday for the season as a job/thank you for Esposito’s discovery. As he stands up to leave, he spits out one more sentence upon his departure.

“I signed us a new scout. Swedish bloke, really good. It’s out the transfer budget so just take a million out of it.”

“A MILLION QUID?” I shout out the office door. “No fucking scout is worth a million quid, what a fucking jo…” You know those moments when you’re talking about someone and they’re right behind them? I didn’t. Until right then. An awkward smiling silence is broken by the Swede.

“Stefan Axelsson. It’s um, nice to meet you. Boss.” Kill me. Kill me now. I reluctantly sit down and brief Stefan on his assignment. Republic of Ireland is his location for the season. I wouldn’t blame the bloke if he just took the money and went on a nine month piss up in Belfast but he seems professional. If Bob gives him a third of our transfer budget, he fucking better be.

In what’s probably the best hour of the day, we officially welcome our four new signings: Erhun Oztumer, Curtis Nelson, Sam Walker and Brennan Dickenson. The local press is all over it and it’s hard to argue why. Two League One players and two high quality League Two players all joining together. It could backfire completely, the lads could hate them. But just standing Erhun next to Sam Walker would make anyone love them. How can you not love a 5’3 to 6’6 comparison?

They all claim shirt numbers that are now vacant. Nelson and Dickenson will sport the number 2 and number 6 retrospectively while Oztumer takes the number 11. Walker had his heart set on the number 1 jersey but that has went to our number 1 keeper. For the time being at least. Sam has to settle for the number 20.

As the players are signing shirts and completing interviews, I catch a blond haired man hobbling to the passenger side of a Range Rover in the corner of my eye. I sprint over to stop him from opening the door.

“Danny mate, where are you going? You’re still injured, you shouldn’t be walking about” I plead. “Come on, get yourself back inside.”

He pulls his arm out of my grasp and chuckles sympathetically. “Gaffer, you’re not my gaffer anymore.” I knew it but it hurts to hear it out loud. “I’ve got to go back, plus my ankle’s very nearly sorted I just need to avoid too much pressure on it.” I want to hug him and never let go. I give him my best puppy eyes and quiver my bottom lip but he just laughs.

“If you want me to back here for the start of the season, you’ll have to have a word with someone. I mean after the season I’ve had, you’ll need to empty your pockets!” Rowe says in a completely sarcastic manner but he’s right. I need to put my money where my mouth is.

“I promise you mate, the next time I see you will be sporting a red and white shirt. Not a blue one.” He gives me a small smile.

“Blue was never my colour anyways.”

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