Life is good in Dundee. When I say good I mean it’s a seemingly never ending onslaught of abject misery and pain. I’ve been housed in a teepee in Caird Park. According to Bob ‘Hefty Love Cannon’ Brannan (that’s not my name for him, by the way – he walks around with a name tag saying exactly that) it’s the ‘best o’ the teckle’ – the finest accomodation in the city. Who am I to argue? After all, I was born, raised and educated in a portaloo at the top of Leith Walk.
The training regime at Dens is nothing short of insane. It begins when we’re taken into the city centre and told to do laps round the aisles of Tesco Metro. Shoplifting is encouraged. Rab Douglas treats it like Supermarket Sweep and runs round filling a trolley before bolting out the door while Tony Bullock distracts the security guard with his sword swallowing routine. We reconvene at Dens and empty our pockets of any goods we managed to pilfer. Our glorious leader, Jocky Scott, surveys the bounty. This is how he picks the team for Saturday; the 11 players whose contraband has the highest monetary value start. Paul McHale returned once with a Lion Bar and Tesco Value toilet roll. Jocky took him to one side and berated him mercilessly. ‘Em no wiping meh arse wi that, McHale! Jocky needs the two-ply luxury bog roll, ya daft c**t! Dinnae even like Lion Bars either!’ Poor Paul is unlikely to get a game for the rest of the season after that episode.
Having warmed up at Tesco, it’s down to some work with the ball – only we don’t use balls. Jocky insists we’ll become better players if we learn to play with plastic bags filled with human hair. I quietly asked Colin McMenanin where all the hair came from and he pointed out Gary Harkins sitting by the side of the pitch being shaved by a team of barbers. Harkins is hairier than a gorilla. He gets an all over body shave then goes from being as smooth as a baby’s bum to hairier than Teen Wolf in less than 60 seconds. It’s really quite remarkable to watch; the man’s a freak of nature.
As we do passing exercises with bags full of Gary’s hair Jocky patrols the touchline, stripped to the waist, bellowing at us through a megaphone. He splices motivational encouragement with lines from his favourite Beastie Boys songs. ‘That’s it lads, keep it up……………… I’m tellin’ all y’all this is sabotage!…………….. Keep it on the ground lads, one touch to control, one to pass……………….. You gotta fight! For your right! To paaaaaarty!………………… Easy ball lads, that’s the game.’
His mood often sours when we have a bounce game. I must have fallen out of favour with the man. As we’re playing he’ll howl, ‘WHA’S IN FUCKING CHERGE HERE? GRIFFITHS YA CUNT, GET OVER HERE!’ I jog over, terrified. He puts the megaphone down, spits on me, and asks, ‘Leigh, wha’s in fucking cherge here, son?’ Shaking with fear I reply, ‘Ummmm, you are boss.’ He nods. ‘Fucking right I am. Now get back in the game ya wee fanny.’ I get no further than 10 yards away when he’s bellowing through the megaphone again. ‘GRIFFITHS YA CUNT, GET OVER HERE!’ I turn round and jog back. He picks his nose and wipes it on my chin before asking, ‘Leigh – wha’s in fucking cherge here, eh?’ ‘You are boss,’ I stammer. He tells me to get back in the game again. I get about 10 yards away and he’s at it again ‘WHA’S IN FUCKING CHERGE HERE YA CUNTS?? GRIFFITHS!! OVER HERE YA WEE RAT!!’
This cycle goes on and on. One time it went on past the point where the rest of the team left and went home. Back and forth I went for hours, Jocky bellowing at me through megaphone with his top off, calling me all kinds of names and asking who was in charge before sending me back to a bounce game that wasn’t even going on anymore. As darkness fell he eventually left me be. He strapped on a jetpack and took off out over the Main Stand, shouting, ‘Okay Leigh, good session son. See ya tomorrow.’ As he vanished over the horizon I dropped to my knees and cried.
God I miss my portaloo at the top of Leith Walk…