Joyful Christmas, everyone. For me, it’s much more enjoyable than normal, since the heroes of Peterhead and Montrose decided to move the Boxing Day game to the 22nd so that we can all spend time on Christmas Day with our loved ones.
I took their advice and I spent the whole day with my two loved ones – drinking bourbon and red wine – after my two sons finished unpacking their apples and oranges.
After years of playing soccer full-time, where I had to watch everyone else “go crazy” while I sat outside the back door polishing the fake Puma Kings my mom bought me for Christmas in preparation for the next day’s game, I feel like I deserve this so much.
I know I sound like a ******* moaning about being paid to play soccer on Boxing Day for a living, but when it comes to wasting Christmas Day, having to cheer with a bottle of Lucozade Sport at the dinner table is on par with Cliff Richard and Mrs. Brown’s Boys.
We had a boss who despised the Christmas season (see if you can guess who). He hated it so much that, an hour before the Boxing Day game, he told us in his team meeting that his daughter called him on Boxing Day to wish him Merry Christmas and told her to fuck off as he prepared for Torqwaaay the next day (to you and me that means Torquay, but this guy had a funny way of pronouncing the opponent, with MK Dons sounding like a festive McDonalds range in “Macdons”, a personal favorite of mine).
We still practiced early on Christmas morning so that when they woke up we could get home to see the families. He wasn’t, as I said, a major fan of this particular day. He would rush us to shift and go to the training ground so that before we got to strategy, he could address the community and everyone would get roasted like a hot potato for not being in place during team formation.
I wasn’t expecting a version of “Silent Night,” by Andrea Botelli, but what came out of his mouth would stick with me for the rest of my life. “F**K merry Christmas guys, today is Christmas Day for the rest of the world, for us it’s just Wednesday morning, we travel to Torqwaaay tomorrow to play a Champions League final.”
I don’t know if any of you have played in Torquay, but if they ever play a final in the Champions League, I’m going to give Rudolph back his big red nose that I’ve been wearing for the past 32 years, and he’s going to be able to get on with Santa and the other reindeer leading the way.
We were then warned not to touch alcohol and eat pasta for dinner at all! Normally, I would take that kind of advice from a boss the same way I would take my Christmas dinner (with a sprinkle of salt) and have a glass of red wine with my overcooked meal just to trick my family into believing I was having a nice time. However, he had a different influence on me, and since I did not trust him to be on the team bus with a breathalyzer in hand the next day, I opened the Lucozades four-pack while I ate my Jonny Hayes spaghetti.
Of course, two plates of Christmas dinner and a slice of cheesecake accompanied the pasta, and I went to bed with my belly fuller than Santa’s sack. Then I went to Torquay and played like I was towing his sleigh when at halftime we trailed 1-0, his team talk being more funny than any joke I’d pulled out of the crackers the day before.
I KNEW IT Boys, I KNEW YOU WOULD HAVE YOUR SANTA HEADS ON TODAY!”I KNEW IT GUYS, I KNEW YOU WOULD HAVE YOUR SANTA HEADS ON TODAY!” Then he advised us that we should just boot it out of play when we get the ball, because it’s safer there than it’s at our feet, and Matt Ritchie said we should just take it out for a goal kick if we pull off a miracle and get a corner.
We lost the 2-0 game and figured it was going to be a real Boxing Day with the gaffer beating up someone on his way back to the dressing room. He stayed cool, however, and told us to enjoy our leftover pasta and tap water for the rest of the day and we went back to Swindon, just like Santa after the night shift…. In the boot, with nothing.