Who are you today, Sir? Liverpool?

13th January 2006 at 00:00
Mr Sugden took off his tracksuit. Underneath he was wearing a crisp red football shirt with white cuffs. A big number 9 filled most of the back. He folded his tracksuit neatly on the ground and walked onto the pitch carrying the ball like a plum pudding on the tray of his hand.

"Who are you today, Sir? Liverpool?" asked Tibbut.

"Rubbish, lad! Don't you know your club colours yet?"

"Liverpool are red, aren't they, Sir?"

"Yes, but they're all red: shirts, shorts and stockings. These are Manchester United's colours."

"Course they are, Sir. I forgot. What position are you playing?"

Mr Sugden turned his back to show him the number 9.

"Bobby Charlton? I thought you were usually Denis Law when you were Manchester United."

"It's too cold to play as striker today. I'm scheming this morning, all over the field like Charlton."

"Law plays all over, Sir. He's not only a striker."

"He doesn't link like Charlton."

"Better player, though, Sir."

Sugden shook his head. "No. he's been badly off form recently."

"Makes no odds, he's still a better player. He can settle a game in two minutes."

"Are you trying to tell me about football, Tibbut?"

"No, Sir."

"Well shut up, then. Anyway, Law's in the wash this week."

Adapted from 'A Kestrel for a Knave' by Barry Hines (Penguin Books)

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