Guest author Ben a.k.a. Rien102 continues his story in the latest part of The Prodigal Daughter Returns.
Birmingham, Penny Stiles’ house, Sunday 2 May 2038
Penny has gotten five calls for interviews in the last two weeks. The end of the campaign in the Premier League was two weeks away and she’s got calls from four of the league’s teams. Despite the season only ending in a month, she also got calls from two German teams in the Bundesliga. After taking a careful look at the teams, she’s decided to accept interviews with three: Manchester City, Arsenal and Bayern. Darren Crow, her agent, has asked her to postpone the decision by a few more weeks because he strongly suspected that Real Madrid and Inter would fire their managers in the coming days but she just wanted to get on with it.
As she was plugging her kettle, the doorbell rang. Come in Max, it’s open! she screamed at the top of her lungs. The analyst instantly opened the door. Dropping his jacket on the balustrade, he proceeded up the stairs. There was no ceremony. For two years now, he was coming to her house to work; he was living only three doors away. Since she was living alone, she had set up three giant screens and the FA had rigged a good network in the place; they’ve been watching every conceivable game to make tactical analysis and player evaluations.
Hey Penny, I wasn’t supposed to work today… Got some more games sent? Max said as he arrived at the top of the stairs. She usually would let him have Sundays off.
Nothing like that. Come to the island, the water will be ready soon she answered.
She was in a pensive mood Max noticed, which wasn’t unusual, but it seemed to be different today he thought. He put his backpack by the kitchen wall and went to sit at one of the island’s stool. She had put cookies on a plate to accompany the tea. He almost laughed. She saw that the man was holding his laughter; she showed him a middle finger. She put her phone between them and selected Jon’s contact icon. She made the call and selected the freehand button at once. It rang three times before he picked up. Hey Penny! said, Jon.
Hi Jon, I’m with Max right now.
Hi Jon! said, Max. Congrats for coming back in Premiere!
F*** you! The three of them laughed… but it was hollow.
Only two years after Penny left for the Three Lions, Aston Villa was relegated to Championship. The manager who replaced Penny emptied the hard accumulated war chest she had left behind. In two transfer windows, he spent over nine hundred million pounds in transfers, sold two third of the squad and exploded the wage budget from one hundred and thirty million pounds to two hundred and fifty million. From twenty-three, the main squad became twenty-seven players big. The club finished in eighth place; not even enough to qualify for European competition. He was fired and a new manager came in. The remnant of the war chest was cleaned up and more players were brought in. The main squad ending up with thirty-one players; four couldn’t even be registered. Mutiny ensued; he was fired before the January window. The one who replaced him couldn’t transfer the overstock because all the contracts were too high and because of all the unhappy players, the squad’s morale was at rock bottom, and it stayed there. The club ended the campaign in the eighteenth position and got relegated. Eleven years of work, to bring the club to the top of the Premier League, and third on the EUFA ranking, got scrapped in two years.
Ok, we’ll have enough time to pull each other’s leg later said Penny to stop the laughter. I wanted to talk to you because both said you wanted to come with me to my new club after the National team, right?
Yes, I did said Jon on the phone while Max just nodded with his head.
Well, I have some news on that front and, before saying yes to a club, I want to know where you want to go. She saw Max lean a bit forward; he now knew why he had to work alone so often lately. In the last weeks, I went to some interviews, three in fact. I got more calls than that, and my agent thinks I should have waited a bit for La Liga and Serie A to end because of Real Madrid and Inter… but I wanted to settle things quickly. As of right now, all three teams want to negotiate contracts with me: Manchester City, Arsenal and Bayern, in Munich. So, I have one question for you: Where do you guys want to go? Both men stayed silent. She had to start talking again. So?
Bayern? said Jon at the end of the line.
Yes answered Penny. Opinion?
City will be a hell hole! said Max. They have a rather young team but with huge contracts. That would make it difficult to do anything if we need to. Besides, they are eating managers for over ten years now. Arsenal is underperforming like crazy. Bunch of chokers maybe… or a succession of bad managers? They ate five of them in the last four years! I still think they should be in CL nonetheless with the squad they have. Bayern might be a hoot though. Great team, but getting old.
I agree on City said Jon on the phone. For Arsenal, well, it’s London and I agree about underperforming. They gutted us by getting Diego and Domingo when we dropped and yet, they can’t do anything worthwhile! Bayern would be fun for sure; well-established team with great players but we probably would be managing a transition toward younger players. Their youth teams haven’t been good lately so, it would be market work mostly. I think it would be well suited for you though, a transition toward younger players…
But which one do you want to go to Penny? asked Max.
I don’t know… Well… Max saw her becoming shy and this, he was surprised to see that. …I must say Arsenal is pretty tempting. I come from there, you know? Bayern, I’d say it would be very fun to arrive in a good team with high expectations. I’m scared about the type of play though, very different from PL... City? I went because, well… I just wanted leverage against other clubs…
Shrewd bitch! said, Jon. Max laughed.
Personally, I don’t really care said Max once he got his composure back. I asked to go with you after the Three Lions, I follow where you go and that’s it.
Penny… said Jon, …it’s fun to go back to our roots…