So, along with my new ‘best mates’, I went off to spend some hours at the local pub down the road. We covered such a great deal of conversational ground over the drinks, to a soundtrack of passable German chart music. Our ‘who is the worst football commentator/pundit on television?’ debate sparked some interesting observations. I dared to put my neck on the line and defend Andy Townsend, as well as arguing that Michael Owen, Alan Shearer and Jermaine Jenas could all strongly contest the aforementioned accolade.
And then, a few drinks turns into several, conversations flow and evolve more easily, those ‘new best mates’ become probable ‘very good mates’. We were all in agreement on how dreary and meaningless the lecture had been, and whether it was even relevant to the 8-month placements that would subsequently follow. We just wanted to get on the training pitches and into the classrooms, and impart our in-depth football knowledge on whichever young boys happened to be attending the sports institution we were ‘posted to’. Special delivery, on its way – good-looking 20-year-old from the nation that invented football, determined to make his name as a top coach in a more successful football nation, use his knowledge of German and have some fun along the way. Estimated time of arrival of first trophy: 2 months. Return to sender: not until end of contract, please. ParcelForce: not needed, I can make my own way there (incidentally, I reckon MarcelForce would be a good name for my lessons in defending, based in part on the great skills of two Marcel(l)s: Desailly and Jansen, who was actually better than people tend to remember).
The last pub we went to booted us out at 2am, and it was apparent that the final whistle had been blown on this surprisingly enjoyable night. I hadn’t expected much, but it pleased me without being too breath-taking – a bit like an above-average Europa League group match! Back we went to the Hockenberg, through the quiet streets in fairly mild October temperatures. Despite the effect of all the alcohol we had consumed, Morley Mean Time states that I can still hold my own after 2am, provided the conditions are right.
But these conditions were becoming adverse. First of all, we had to climb over the fence to re-enter the main building, as the press-button-to-activate-opening-of-gate system wasn’t in operation, and no-one was manning the entrance. Now, this fence was built in a pretty sturdy fashion, to keep out intruders, in the same way that a solid 5-4-1 formation is designed to deter opposition attackers. So, we decided to play through the lines to circumvent this defence, moving in a jump-get a footing-then launch into a downwards leap- formation. I’m sure prolific burglars are well-accustomed to this strategy. I managed to sustain a minor knee injury during the final stage of this motion; were I a player, it would not exactly be season-threatening but it would provide a credible excuse to get out of a pointless international friendly.
When we got back inside, it soon dawned on us that there were not enough beds after all, so Esther Rantzen lookalike wasn’t being honest with me earlier! We managed to quietly scamper around and search through some cupboards upstairs (not as easy as it sounds when you’re four-fifths of the way to total inebriation), finding some old mattresses and a pillow that looked so faded it wouldn’t even get onto a price.drop.tv rummage sale. The other boys agreed that I could have the pillow, as long as I slept in the caretaker’s store room!!! They took the mattresses out into the corridor, inadvertently waking up at least 4 people. The store room was cold and the surface onto which I placed the pillow was so hard it could have been a central defender in the 1970s. Christ, I thought. I didn’t expect this when I left for Germany. Getting any sleep at all now would be about as likely as Sol Campbell managing Spurs…