Benson’s come over to train me up for this punditing gig he’s been banging on about for weeks. He’s my agent – a good lad, to be fair. Likes his clobber and looks like he’s just won a fight to the death for Big Ron’s gold and sunbeds. That’d explain the backwards-through-a-bush barnet too.
He reckons he can get me a slot on Soccer Saturday – well, on a Tuesday. Thinks there will be slow night next time ITV have the good Big Cup games. Seems Don Goodman might even be on.
So he’s spent all morning putting me through the ringer. He’s using the Sky + to play the only goal over and over in some England U21s friendly. And while he pretends to be Jeff Stelling reading latest scores off the vidiprinter, I’ve got to interrupt him every now and again, giving it loads about England just scoring.
“Ooooh uhhhhh ahhhhh, goaaallll!”
“Not bad Ted, not bad,” goes Benson. “More Michael Jackson the morning after a dodgy lager top than Phil Thompson. But that may not be such a bad thing.”
“You’ll get nowhere in this game without a convincing goal shout,” Benson’s been telling me. “Just enough excitement to suggest it might well be the first goal you’ve ever seen, but don’t overegg it – there’s only so much Stelling can take. Charlie Nicholas, for one, treads a fine line.”
The thing is, Steven Taylor’s near post scramble wasn’t that exciting the first time and it’s getting to be less and less of a surprise at the twentieth time of asking. Anyway, I’ve never seen Jeff Stelling do his gig while inspecting a Keeley Hazell calendar rather more closely than Benson’s ever studied the clauses in any of my contracts.
Benson looks up from October for a second as I give it another go. “Ohhhhh, yowwww, gowlllllll!”
“Best one so far, Ted. Now, reckon you’re up for taking things a step further? Only if you’re sure mate,” Benson goes, and I know what’s coming. He rewinds the action again and I’m psyching myself up, ready to give it the full gun.
Benson’s going to the sound of the trumpets. “Chesterfield two, Barnet one, Steve Fletcher with his fifth header from a left footed cross in four and a half home games. That’s the first time Northampton have conceded more than one goal early in the second half since October 1972…”
I’m up. “Ahhhhh, ummmmm, uuuffff, it’s therrrrrrrrre!”
Benson goes; “… and before we go to Rob Palmer at Gresty Road, there’s been a goal at Eastlands where England have been under the cosh for the opening half hour. Which way’s it gone, Ted Ferry?”
I swing into action. “Ummm, it’s England, innit, Jeff. Boy done ever so well. Ah, er, it’s come in and he’s gone up there, it’s gone in there, the lad’s spilled it, might have been over the line. One-nil, Jeff. I think it’s Steven Taylor.”
Benson seems happy with that. “Nice one Ted. Shades of Reidy in the delivery. But no need to go overboard on the detail. Don’t spoil them.”
So we knock it on the head and Benson sticks on Five just in time for Home and Away. Obsessed with it, he is. His two daughters are called Pippa and Sally. I’m Pippa’s Godfather and he insists on telling her my name is Alf.
Until today, my new routine had begun to take shape nicely, to be fair. Up and at \’em before eleven, without fail. Show a few youngsters who’s boss at Need For Speed on the XBOX 360 before breakfast, stick Channel U on the plasma and after that the day’s my own.
It’s five weeks now since the club paid up my contract. It was only a week-to-week thing anyway, a last hurrah. I’ve done all the goodbyes with the other English lads in Shooters – Bendo, Andy and Tuffs the kit man. Credit to Benji for representing the continental boys – and bringing his bird – though it wouldn’t have killed \’em to come over and join us.
The club haven’t announced anything yet in case I want to get fixed up somewhere else so as far as the supporters are concerned, I’m still on the injured list. And the transfer list. And no doubt a couple of thousand hit lists if the moaning so-and-so’s ever see me on the pitch again.
I only started twice this season and the last one wasn’t my finest hour. Produced the textbook poorly-weighted backpass for Ronaldo’s first and by the time I’d lost Vidic at a corner for the third, and knocked in the fifth myself, I was pleading for the hook.
“Ferry had become a target for the booboys,” said The Sun. More like Ferry had become the reason the booboys get out of bed in the morning.
I can’t say I’ve missed it, to be honest. Certainly not the training. Spending every day chasing young lads round in five-a-sides got old a long time ago.
Reckon I’d be happy enough just chilling for few months but Benson’s really pushing this punditry thing. Suppose he’s not made anything out of me since I switched on the town Christmas lights when H from Steps missed his train.
Alf has just wrapped up another search and rescue mission in Summer Bay so Benson is back on the case again.
“You’ll need a catchphrase of course, something imaginative like Kamara’s \’unbelievable’. Reckon you can do metaphors? You know the kind of thing, West Brom are going down faster than a… actually, nah, let’s leave that for another day, shall we?”
Benson’s big worry is my lack of profile. Put it this way, veteran second choice right-backs with relegation strugglers tend to shop in the bargain basement of WAGS boutique.
“Once we get you out there, you’ll be fine. The tricky part’s breaking into the club in the first place. It’s a Catch 19 situation, as Cottee says.”
And then he hits Sky Planner and rewinds back to just before the England corner one more time.
Benson is beaming like a proud father. And then his expression changes, like he’s had some kind of brainwave. “Hey, you’ve got a few Ireland B caps don’t ya?”
“Beg your pardon, mate,” I go. “Two full caps an’ all… summer tour to the States.”
And there he is, like George Peppard with a plan coming together. “Ever heard of Johnny Giles?” he says. “No mate, is he the geezer you’ve got lined up to sort out the ensuite?”
And Benson’s just shaking his head. “Don’t worry Ted, you’ll find out… you’ll soon find out.”
Next time: Could Ted’s Ireland caps give him his big break?