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Celebrity Manager by Roddy Doyle

Last update - Saturday, June 1, 2013, 10:51 By Roddy Doyle

Chapter Eight

Joe tried to keep his Mourinho hair intact for Tuesday. He stayed in out of the wind all day Monday. He looked at himself in the mirror more than he had for the previous twenty years. He spoke to his reflection.

–You are the Special One, he said.

The man staring back out at Joe didn’t seem convinced. Tuesday’s training was at seven. Joe had a good view of the pitch as he walked up to the gates, but it was empty. No sign of a child or a parent.

He found them inside, in the dressing room, with Mick.

–Whazzup, Dog Man, said the black kid, Sunday.

–Lads, said Mick. –A bit of respect, please. Love the hair, Joe. Did you buy it local?

He clapped his hands, once.

–Okay, he said. –You’ve the seen Celebrity Banaisteoir before, Joe, yeah?


–No? said Mick. –No problem. Well anyway, there’s always a bit – a scene, like – in the dressing room. Before the match or at half-time.


Joe noticed two women in a corner, kind of hiding behind a bunch of jerseys. They waved. He guessed they were the make-up department. He waved back.

–So, said Mick. –It’s half-time, say, and we’re losing. Unlikely, I know, but anyway. You’re giving the lads a – what? A bollocking or a morale booster?

–Booster, said Joe.

–Good man, said Mick. –That’s sound psychology. So –


–Off you go, said Mick. –In character now, lads. You’re losing.

Sunday pretended to cry. He was bawling.

–Don’t overdo it, Sunday, said Mick.

–Lads, said Joe.

That was it.

–Good start, said Mick.

Joe couldn’t think of anything else to say. He didn’t watch much football; he didn’t have a television in the flat. He’d read something in the paper about Paulo Di Canio getting the Sunderland job, but he didn’t think giving a fascist salute to these kids here would be a good idea. Their parents would be outraged, but the kids would probably copy him. A team of multi-ethnic, Gaelic playing children goose-stepping out to the pitch with their right arms held out in a fascist salute; Joe reckoned the irony would be lost on most viewers. So –

–Lads, he said again. –I’ve never felt prouder.

They stared at him, suddenly fascinated.

–You were magnificent out there, said Joe; he’d no idea where this stuff was coming from. –I’ve never seen you play better.

The kids were still staring at him. So was Mick.

–The only thing missing was luck, said Joe. –The other lads had all the luck, that’s all.

–It’s true, said Mick.

–So, said Joe. –Let’s go out there now and take some of the luck back off him. Grab it, lads, grab it. Mark your man, grab his luck.


–What do we do, lads? said Joe. –We mark our man and…?

–Grab his luck! the kids shouted.


–Our man!


–Grab his luck!

–Out you go, said Joe.

The kids charged out of the dressing room.

–Was that alright? Joe asked Mick.

–I was nearly running out with them, said Mick. –Come over and meet the girls.

For the second time in a few days, Joe sat while women walked around him with despairing expressions and spray.

–What moisturiser do you use? asked one of them, Jen.

–Eh –

–A lot of men like this one, said Jen.

She handed Joe a tube. He took it nervously. Clinique. He tried to read the details but he didn’t have his reading glasses with him.

–Does that say ‘Skin suicides’?, he asked.

–‘Supplies’, said Jen.

–Oh, said Joe. –Grand.

–Two or three times a day, said Jen, and her colleague nodded vigorously.

–My face? said Joe.

–That’s right, said Jen. –And here.

Joe felt her fingers touch the front of his head, where his hair was supposed to be.


–And exfoliate as well.

–Grand, said Joe.

He’d text one of the daughters, ask her what that involved.

–What about my hair? he asked.

–We’ll think of something, said Jen.

Her colleague nodded again, as if to reassure herself that no one was going to die.

Joe and Mick found the team huddled like orphaned calves around a goalpost.

Joe picked up one of the balls. He remembered his back only after he’d stood up again.

–Right, lads, he said. –Into pairs.

The kids were glad to be moving, happy to do what they’d been told.

–Now, said Joe. –Aaron.

Little Aaron had paired himself with Sunday.

Joe held up the ball.

–This is your luck, Joe told Aaron.

He threw the ball to Sunday, who caught it.

–But he has it, Aaron, said Joe. –And it’s yours. So what’re you going to do?

They watched as Aaron charged head-first into Sunday.

–Jesus, Joe, said Mick. –That’s genius.


© Roddy Doyle 2013



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