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A Man of a Few More Words - by Swan Morrison

Rivermarsh United

George Jenkins called to order the one hundred and twenty-fifth annual general meeting of Rivermarsh United Football Club. ‘I’ll begin this meeting with my report as chairman,’ he said, ‘and then move to the matter of the sale of the Club.’

‘Last season,’ George continued, ‘the “Marshes” finished last in the Southern Hampshire Sub-regional Football League for the eighteenth consecutive year. Once again we failed to score any goals. There was, however, encouraging improvement from last year in that just five hundred and twenty goals were scored against us in the twenty-five games we played.’

‘That was despite being hit by sickness and injury,’ enthused Eric Henderson, Club Coach. ‘If more than two of our players had turned up for the game against Winchester, their team would never have scored in treble figures.’

‘Nevertheless,’ George pointed out, ‘we continue to have the poorest record in English football.’ He glanced at the meeting agenda. ‘I will now move to our second item which relates to the potential sale of the Club. Can I ask our Treasurer to explain?’

Henry Baker, Club Treasurer, lifted a letter from the table. ‘We’ve had correspondence from the Russian billionaire, Vladimir Gangstervitch,’ said Henry. ‘He’s offered two hundred thousand pounds for Rivermarsh United.’

‘That’s loads more than it’s worth,’ noted Eric. What does he want with the “Marshes”?’

‘Wealthy foreigners have bought Premier League clubs,’ answered Henry, ‘and then paid millions for the finest players. I gather Mr G wants to invest forty billion pounds to create the most successful team on the planet. He wants an established team with a long history, but I believe he also thinks it would be amusing to transform the country’s least successful club into the world’s best.’

Eric looked worried. ‘He’d want to get involved with team selection, then?’

‘He intends to field the greatest international players.’

‘So he wouldn’t want Nobby in goal anymore?’

‘Probably not alongside Rooney and Ronaldo.’

‘But Nobby’s been playing in goal for forty years. Now he’s in his eighties, getting out of the old folks’ home on Saturdays to play for the “Marshes” is all he lives for. It’d break his heart to be dropped.’

‘It’s likely the whole team would change,’ confirmed Henry.

‘Even Stanley?’

Henry reflected nostalgically, ‘I remember when we got special permission from the FA for Stanley’s guide dog to join him on the pitch, but Mr G may want someone who isn’t blind in the centre forward position.’

‘It’s not just Nobby and Stanley,’ pleaded Eric. ‘There’s Bert with his arthritis and Walter with his Alzheimer’s…’

‘And there’s also the ladies of the village who do the refreshments,’ interrupted Mildred, George’s wife. ‘We can manage tea, sandwiches and cakes for thirty people, but I doubt we could cope with a hundred thousand seater stadium.’

‘The village would never be the same again,’ concluded Henry.

‘Perhaps we should put this matter to the vote,’ said George. ‘Those in favour of selling Rivermarsh United Football Club to Mr Gangstervitch, please raise your hands.

No hands were raised.

‘Those against?’ continued George.

All hands rose.

‘Can you write to Mr Gangstervitch, Henry,’ said George, ‘politely declining his generous offer.’

George consulted the sheet in front of him. ‘Now for item three on the agenda, preferred fillings for after-match sandwiches…’