THE PHONE CALL
I’ll never forget the first day he phoned.
“Is that Colin?”
“It is, who’s speaking?”
“It’s Richard. I saw your advert on gum tree…”
I could have been a contender, a star. I could have been someone. As a teenager I played football for Charlton Athletic, but unfortunately injuries, deviant behaviour, and a misguided drunken joyride in Paris on a Saturday night in the August of 1997 put paid to that. I had a broken leg, a criminal record which was covered up for my own safety and was pretty much a man of leisure. I made all my money playing the comb and paper on the mean streets of Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire, where I moved as I heard it was the lesbian capital of Britain. However, The Fantasy Channel had lied and they all looked like Leo Sayer.
In order to make some real money, I decided to hire myself out as a football coach. I put an advert on gum tree advertising my services. I never thought anyone would take me up on it. Perhaps a Sunday league team paying my £15 a week and my fill of the drip tray, if I was lucky. I certainly didn’t expect this goliath to be on the other side of the phone now.
“Yeah, I saw your advert, and you seem like just the kind of man we’re looking for. I don’t want to go into specifics now. I see you’re based in Yorkshire… I’m based on the Albert Docks. I’ll send a driver.”
I arrived at Albert Docks feeling nervous. My Primark tanga briefs were brown with hestitation and trepidation. I was scared. Who was Richard? Why wouldn’t he go into specifics on the phone? Why is there a bus that’s also a submarine here? That looks fun. All of a sudden a black bag was put over my face, and I was (I think) thrown down some stairs, where I blacked out.
Water was thrown on my face, and when I came to, I could hardly believe what I saw. I rubbed my eyes to make sure what I saw was real and not just some kind of sexy and mulleted mirage. It was Richard…
THE ALL STAR XI
“Glad you could join us, Colin”.
He was tall and muscular, and was swigging deeply from a bottle of Tesco champagne that he definitely didn’t shoplift.
“Why did you throw me down the stairs? Why could you tell me on the phone? Am I still in Liverpool?”
“No, you’re not in Liverpool anymore. You’re in our HQ. The work we do here is very secretive”
“Yes, we. Introducing The Richard Madeley All Star Select XI!”
I thought I couldn’t believe my eyes before, but that’s before from the shadows came the biggest array of A-List talent I’d ever seen in my life. They didn’t need any introduction, but the polite Madeley did it anyway.
“Bob Carolgees, Goalkeeper. Master of the spit save. In defence, Stan Boardman, Simon Mayo, Mike Yarwood, and Leslie Crowther.”
“Leslie Crowther? I thought you were…”
“Dead?” interrupted Crowther, before chuckling to himself, “I just had to say that for the nature of our work”.
Madeley continued to reel off the superstars.
“Gary Wilmot, Christopher Biggins, Biggins isn’t afraid to get dirty in the tackle, Gorden Kaye, and international superstar Steffan Dennis”
“Yeah, and my strike partner, and vice captain, the ever dangerous Terry Christian”
“Hello” Christian boomed in a deep and manly bass voice. “I look forward to working with you”.
“Yeah, everyone goes on about working. But no-one’s told me what it is any of you actually do?”
“It’s secretive”, said Madeley.
“I know that”, I replied, “But you’ve got me here now, and I’m so impressed by the cavalcade of celebrity stardom which I behold in front of me that there’s no way on earth I can turn you down!”
“I thought you might think that way when you saw my merry band of national institutions. There’s a reason we found you. We know you’ve got a covered up criminal past which you regret, and we know you can keep a secret. And you need to keep ours. We’re more than a football team. We’re keeping the kids off the streets, and we’re solving crimes.”
“Wow indeed. And we’ve chosen you, Colin Bollocks, to be our coach.”
“How can I say no? It would be an honour.”
“I thought you might think that way. That’s why I organised the chopper to pick us up in 10 minutes”
“The chopper. We’re going to Columbia!”
The streets of Columbia were a culture shock and a half to me. As me and the Richard Madeley All Star Select XI roamed about we saw all kinds of tragedies. 3 year olds snorting cocaine and jif while digging coal. A tear fell down my cheek. Richard noticed. He always did.
“This is the kind of thing we’re trying to eradicate through our hard work, Colin. Today we play the El Presidente XI, and if we win he says he’ll free all the children and throw all the cocaine into a massive fire and make everyone in the country speak English as their first language.”
“Hello Richard!” boomed a heavily accented voice behind me.
“Ah, Carlos, my good friend!”
It was Carlos Valderama! He gave Richard a very manly hug, as the sweat glistened on their brows in the hot latin sun.
“Richard, mi amigo. You must be careful, si?”
“El Presidente, he not play fair, comprende?
“Carlos, I’ve dealt with bigger problems before. I’m sure I’ll be fine”
“Si, Si. You come play with children, Si?”
“Oh yes!” answered Christopher Biggins.
“Bueno! The Children have heard of you and your bueno skills, amigos.”
The All Star Select XI made their way onto a park, where they shown the children their tricks and skills. They were amazed by Gary Wilmot’s Singing Shot where he’d kick the ball in a straight line then averagely sing a show tune and the ball would suddenly bend a full 90 degrees before hitting the top corner. They were left mouths agape by Stefan Dennis’ boomerang pass he learned in Australia. One child saw this, and stopped stabbing another child in the face with an amphetamine covered shank made from a toothbrush and ran over to the superstars.
“Mr! Mr! I wanna be just like you! I no stab other children in the face anymore. You are my heroes”
“What’s your name, little boy?” Enquired Richard.
“My name is Pancho Asprilla!”
“Well, here‘s two tickets to the game today. In the Royal Box! But now we need to go for a steaming cup of Bovril and a meal of Fish and Chips to prepare us for our match! All Star Select XI, assemble!”
“There’s a problem, Richard *ACHTOOEY*”, said Bob Carolgees.
“And what’s that?”
“Terry Christian’s gone missing, and there’s only 20 minutes until the game!”
“Oh no! Look over there!” shouted Gorden Kaye.
An array of Columbian natives were running away with Terry Christian, tying him up with a load of drugs and guns.
“We’ll never get him back in time for the game now!” cried Simon Mayo.
“Carlos. Just this once, can you be part of the All Star Select XI?” asked Madeley
“It would be an honour. Si!”
THE FOOTBALL MATCH
The game was played fairly, although the Columbians were more used to the heat and the All Star Select XI missed their powerful inside forward Terry Christian and so El Presidente’s XI rushed into a 8-3 lead by half time. As their coach, I needed to give them a team talk.
“Ok, we’re losing. And we are missing our powerful and hard target man Terry Christian. But we’re the most skilful team in the world. Can anyone here name a better footballer than Gorden Kaye? A more skilful stopper than Mike Yarwood? I know I can’t. We inspired Pancho to change his ways, and now he’s sitting in the Royal Box. Every child in Columbia can change their ways too if we win today. I know you’ve all got it in you! You’re the finest array of football talent of all time, and you can save every child in the country. So let’s go out and do this!”
The players seemed inspired by this. Richard Madeley scored a 70 yard over head kick to make it 8-4, and then Stan Boardman rounded 7 players to calmly slot it past their drug dealing goalkeeper to make it 8-5. By the time the 89th minute was reached it was 8-7 when Gorden Kaye swung in a corner, the ball flew high in the air and Carlos Valderama met it with a powerful header to make it 8-all to the rapturous cheers of the crowd. Columbia kicked off, but Richard Madeley himself won the ball and bounded down upon the Columbian box, when a shout rang out.
“RICHARD! HELP ME!!!!!”
El Presidente had Pancho in the Royal Box with a gun at his head.
“GIVE UP THE GAME, OR THE KID GETS IT” the fascist dictator boomed.
“How much time is there left in the game, ref” asked Richard.
“One kick” answered the ref.
“There’s time for one kick left El Presidente”, Richard called over. Bring the kid onto the pitch and I’ll kick the ball to you and we’ll call it a draw”
“THAT IS FAIR, SI!”
El Presidente left the Royal Box and bought Pancho onto the pitch with him.
“NOW, KICK IT TO ME, MADELEY!”
Richard Madeley reared back and fired off his famous Meaty Madeley Vortex Shot towards El Presidente. It connected with El Presidente at great speed knocking him out before flying into the Columbian top corner! It was one kick! We had won 9-8! We were ecstatic. The Children were free!
“There’s one more thing I need to check out though” said Madeley. He pulled off El Presidente’s face to reveal it was a mask, and under that mask it was… TERRY CHRISTIAN!
“Terry, but why?”
“You get all the rewards, Richard. I was jealous. I should have known I couldn’t have outsmarted you and your All Star Select XI.”
“No, you couldn’t. And now you’re off the team! Police, take him away!”
The police took him away. Pancho went up to Richard to thank him and asked him a question.
“Si, Ricardo. Who will take his place?”
“Maybe one day it’ll be you Pancho. But I’m sure we’ll find a replacement for Terry in my All Star Select XI!”
The children clapped and cheered as we flew off back to HQ in our chopper. They were free. But I wasn’t free anymore. By choice I’d married myself to the Richard Madeley All Star Select XI for life! And I wouldn’t have it any other way.