While Nicolaj Bur seeks redemption for the “Nearly Men” of Europe, the world continues to turn. Join us now for the “The Ballad of Toothless Bob,” a Football Manager story which explores the broader in-game world, away from the pitch.
Because far more is at stake than the Champions League. In fact, the fate of the entire world may rest upon the shoulders of a half-mad Leeds United supporter with questionable personal hygiene. What lies beyond the twisted redstone doorway, hidden deep in the bowels of the Santiago Bernabéu? More importantly, who is on the other side…and what do they want? Read and find out.
Previously, on the Ballad of Toothless Bob:
Volume 1: Nicolaj Bur risks disrupting the space-time continuum with a casual roll of the dice, while a Leeds United supporter known only as Toothless Bob prepares his army of children for the new season.
Volume 2: Toothless Bob and his army of children are forced to flee Yorkshire, one step ahead of the law.
Saint-Denis, France; several blocks from Luis Fernandez Park. Exterior. Late Evening.
The distant sounds of a crowd echo down the narrow street.
Eric Clapton’s It’s In The Way That You Use It blares from the open door of the seedy bar on the corner. The bouncer’s foot taps in time with the beat. The chorus kicks in, the lyrics as clear in his mind today as they were in ’86.
PSG are hosting Marseille tonight. Law enforcement are out in force, but concentrated closer to the recently-built stadium.
In hindsight, that will be seen as a colossal blunder.
Raindrops begin to fall, as the music changes to George Michael’s Faith. The bouncer begins to hum the instantly-recognizable refrain.
For now, he has little to do. He knows that will change once the final whistle blows, and the legions of disgruntled supporters of Le PSG descend upon the nearest source of cheap alcohol.
The winds pick up, as the bouncer watches the smoke curl from the tip of his cigarette. He knows it is a filthy habit. Maybe it is time to finally quit, for good.
The bouncer quirks an eyebrow, as he watches the wind carry his poorly-executed smoke rings off down the street…only to see leaves blowing along the ground in the other direction.
As the bouncer looks around, to see if anyone else has noticed this strange occurrence, he feels a strong chill. The night feels somehow, darker.
And that’s when the screams began.
Later that same night. Luzarches, France. Interior of a non-descript home.
The front door shuts quietly.
“Count off, lads,” insists a barbed voice, emanating from a man who stands cloaked in shadow. The sound of children counting quietly in various languages fills the room.
Satisfied, the man steps into the light, a soft chuckle rising from deep within his belly. “You know the rules, lads. Lights out. Keep quiet, and keep your heads down until we get back home tomorrow. No one leaves. No phone calls. There’ll be time enough for celebrating once we know we’re in the clear.”
Several lamps are lit, as the children quietly begin to settle in for the night. Before bedding down, however, they each approach their garrista to pay homage. Nothing overly official. A handshake. A solemn nod.
This is not the first time they’ve pulled a stunt like this. Although it might just be the biggest target they’ve hit.
The “mighty” PSG may be stumbling as of late, but they still think of themselves as the kings of France. And they still pull a gate that other clubs dream of.
Which made them a ripe target for the man in this room. A man known to the West Yorkshire Police as Toothless Bob, a name he wears like a badge of honor.
The take tonight? Mid 7-figures. One simple hack. More than enough to keep them living well for a year or more. Time enough for the heat to die down.
The diversion? Necessary.
Maybe not “necessary” in the strictest sense. But some form of distraction was just good planning. Self-preservation. Making sure that Bob and the lads had 10 minutes where everyone’s focus was on anything but them.
It was also good fun. A bit of mayhem never hurt anyone. Not permanently. At least, not since the Millwall match.
A heavy sigh, as Bob turns out the lamp nearest to him, closing his eyes. The Millwall lad was a mistake.
A mistake he’d pay for sooner or later. The Crooked Warden’s rules demanded as much.
Give and take.
The Crooked Warden always collects his due.
Later that same night. Luzarches, France. Darkened interior of a non-descript home.
Bob wakes with a start, his heart racing. The images seared indelibly in his mind, even if they are clouded with the haze of sleep.
Nine shadowed figures, surrounding a dark figure kneeling in the center of the Santiago Bernabeu, the shadowed figures chanting, in a droning monotone. A woman dressed in white, watching on with approval.
As thunder rolls outside, Bob shivers. He can still hear the chant echoing in his head.
Soon comes the day all shall be free; even you, and even me…
Soon comes the day all shall die; even you, but never I.
It is the fourth night Bob has had the dream this week.
He’s heard several of the children talking about it as well. Only, Bob hasn’t shared his dream with the children. He dare not show them any weakness.
The detail he has yet to see, however, has reached his ears. Several of the children claim that the dark figure kneeling in the middle of the nine, is none other than Sergio Ramos.
Bob turns his head to the candle-lit oil painting on the wall. Sergio — the Crooked Warden made flesh, the Son of the Son — gazes back.
Like the Mona Lisa, the painting’s eyes seem to follow Bob as he steps gingerly across the room, avoiding stepping on his young charges.
The irony of it all is that Bob truly cares for these children, like a father.
Bob steps up to the youngest of his charges. Their most recent “free transfer,” in the parlance of their crew.
Ethan. Bright-eyed. Eager. Smart…almost too smart.
The hack tonight was his idea.
Bob nudges Ethan awake, whispering softly. “We need to talk, son.”
In the morning, Bob shares the news.
Instead of going back to their home base in Germany, they’re going to Madrid. The rest of the crew will meet them there.
Ethan shares Bob’s concern. The dreams.
There can be only one meaning.
Sergio, the Son of the Son, is in trouble.
The answers to their questions — and, perhaps, the woman in white — surely wait for them at the Bernabeu.
Next time, on the Ballad of Toothless Bob:
Bob arrives in Madrid with his army of child hooligans, planning to infiltrate the Santiago Bernabeu in search of answers and, if necessary, to protect Sergio the woman in white.