Most Sundays the Montezuma Road Landfill Casuals only just managed to field a full team. The lads from the garage on the corner and the fat wheezy bloke who ran the newsagents made a regular appearance and formed the enthusiastic if slightly shambolic defence/mid-field combination.
A couple of accountants and a quantity surveyor from the new estate usually managed at least one week in three to play up front, while the young lad, Team, (who played centre forward and thought he was the new Sensible Soccer) turned up every week without fail.
This week was different, though. This week the talent scout from AMIGA POWER was in the 'crowd' (two girlfriends, an old bloke with a dog and the fat wheezy bloke's mum) and he was looking for new blood for the AP All-Stars. This week there was a full team, six potential subs and a ball boy with a broken ankle. It was an important game.
They gave their all for 90 muddy minutes. They ran, dived, kicked, headed, sweated and, in the case of the fat wheezy bloke from the newsagents, groaned, gasped for breath and got carried off by an old couple from the St John's Ambulance. The Dog And Trouser Press Second XI B-Team Reserves beat them 16-nil.
The Dog and Trouser Press
It was an appalling performance and everyone knew they'd blown their chances of ever playing for a big team. Everyone, that is, except Team. As the scout climbed into his gleaming sports car, Team ran up to him and said, "Well, what did you think then?"
His mates tried to call him back, to stop him from making even more of a fool of himself, but he just stood there, glaring at the scout, waiting for an answer. The scout unlocked the car door and started to climb in.
"Sorry, son," he said.
"What do you mean, 'Sorry, son?'I'm bloody great,me. I'm the best football game ever."
The scout sighed, He'd seen it a million times before - the keen-eyed youngster with no chance at all who knew he was going to be a big star. He knew he should let the lad down gently, offer him some friendly encouragement and tell him there was always next year, but he was tired, it was raining, it was a long way home and the lad was, to be thoroughly frank, crap at football and an annoying little git to boot.
"I mean, 'sorry son, you'll never make it to the big league because you're rubbish."
"But I'm the best football game ever."
"Says who?" asked the AP scout, trying hard not to laugh.
My mum. Look, she's written it here on my colourful box."
"Ah yes, your box. I wasn't going to mention that, but since you brought it up... Is that crayon you've used for your title?"
"No, Team said, defiantly, "it's coloured pencil. My mum got a set from Mrs Jenkins at the art shop in the village. They're very good ones. Top artists use them."
"I see. Still, having someone write on your box that you're the best football game ever doesn't mean you are. Even if they did use really good coloured pencils."
"But I look just like Sensible Soccer.
"You might look like Sensible Soccer but you don't play like it."
"You're slow to react to changes in direction. You can't keep control of the ball. In fact it's nigh-on impossible to keep possession of the damn ball. There's never anyone in position for a pass. Everyone runs at the same speed no matter who they are or whether they've got the ball, and that makes it impossible to chase someone and use your limited arsenal of defensive tactics, namely the sliding tackle. A tackle which, I should add, almost always results in a free kick which isn't what I'm looking for."
"You automatically control the player nearest the ball no matter what else is going on so that if you're running at the player with the ball and he hoofs it away, you'll make your new player run in completely the wrong direction when you unexpectedly take control of him. There's no radar. There's only a limited view of the pitch. Most of the time you can't really see what's going on and it's not that interesting even when you can."
Team was beginning to sniffle a little and look at his feet. "But," he said, trying to control his cracking voice, "what about my league options?"
"What about them?"
"You can choose 22 teams and play a full season."
"Oh yes," said the scout, "I wanted to ask you about that. I can choose 22 teams from a list of 22, can't I? Why is that fun?"
"You can make your own custom teams, stupid,and put them in your league. You can have custom strips, custom names, custom hair and skin colour - everything. And when you play the league you can even watch the games that you're not playing in if you want."
"And why would I want?"
"I don't know. I've got action replay."
"I have a new three piece suite. And I want to go home and sit on it. Can I go now, please?"
I have a new three piece suite
The scout began to climb into his car again.
"You can make substitutions and change player's positions on the field. I've got variable weather and pitch condition."
"Look son," said the scout, clambering once more out of his car, "all that's true. You have got action replay and you can make substitutions and perform limited management tasks during play. But those things are the minimum requirements these days. You're going out into a tough, competitive marketplace. The big boys have been playing out there for years and they know a thing or two.
If you want to get anywhere, you've got to beat the best, and the best is still Sensible Soccer. It's obvious from the way you've dressed yourself up that you see yourself as a rival for Sensible but you just haven't got what it takes. You look like an amateur, son. You don't have that world class flair, the style, the grace. You're just a Sunday league plodder. You look like one. You play like on. You sound like one."
"You've got to give me another chance, I know I can make it if you just give me one more chance. Oh go on. Please?"
The scout climbed into his car for the last time, started the engine and would down his window.
"Take it form me son, you're never going to make it. Go home, have a cup of tea, put your feet up and watch the telly. You're simply not good enough."
With that he put the car in gear, dropped the clutch and sprayed mud all over Team's hard-drawn box as he fishtailed out of the car park.
"Useless cretin," he muttered to himself.
"Miserable bastard," said Team as he shambled off to the changing room.