This week I was capped at under-21 level for the Scottish national team. I’ve had the pleasure of playing for the under-19 team in the past, and I’ve also featured in the B Squad. At any level, it’s a great honour to be capped by your country.
I made my debut for the under-21 team back in November ’09. I was thrilled to retain my place in the squad for the following match – a European Championship Qualifier against Azerbaijan at Falkirk’s stadium. I received word that I’d been called up a few weeks ago. It started when I was summoned to our glorious leader Jocky Scott’s office, where an important phone call had apparently arrived. I knocked on the door.
‘Wha’s that?’ came the megaphone-amplified voice.
‘It’s me Boss, Leigh.’
‘Wha?’ came the puzzled response.
‘Leigh Griffiths, boss! I was told there’s a phone call for me?’
‘…………..Eh? Better no be Jehovah’s. Jocky disnae need salvation’
Exasperated, I take a deep breath and shout, ‘It’s Leigh Griffiths, Boss. I play up front for you! I was told there’s a phone call for me!’
I hear him getting up and coming to the door. There’s the sound of bolts being unlocked. Lots and lots of bolts. I count 17 of them being pulled back before the door creaks open. Jocky’s topless, shoeless, wearing his trackie bottoms and the swimming goggles he usually wears in the post-match shower.
‘Hiya Leigh. Hiya pal! Takes a while to get the door unlocked, but there’s been a few problems with some cunt pinching Jocky’s Tippex.’ His face suddenly drops into a dark glare. His eyes glaze over as he stares into the middle distance and whispers to himself, ‘Bet it was that Boaby Brannan………fucking big-cocked bastard that he is……….he’s gettin’ telt so he is…………..hiya Boaby! Hiya pal!…………….’ Coming from what looks like miles away, he snaps back into reality. ‘Leigh! Hiya pal! What can I do for you, diseased vagina-pus?’ As always I’m caught off guard by the man, but I repeat that I heard there was a phone call for me. ‘Aye, right enough, there was. Come on in.’
The door opens and I step in. Jocky’s office is sparsely furnished with a desk and a couple of leather recliner chairs. The walls are adorned with a few photos, which are mainly of Jocky standing around with his top off. There’s a coat stand with his jetpack hanging from it. The only items on his desk are a telephone and an Etch ‘a’ Sketch depicting what appears to be a perfect copy of Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’. He sees me staring at it and quickly shakes it away.
‘Someone phoned for you earlier, telt them I’d get you to phone back.’ He hands over the receiver and starts to punch in the number for me. I put it to my ear.
Ring-ring…… ring-ring…… ring-ring…….
‘Thank you for calling the Cock Lover Hotline, calls cost £1.50 per….’
Jocky howls with laughter. ‘YAAAAASSSSSSSS! FU-KING YAAAASSSSSSSSS! Wha’s in cherge here, Leigh?! Eh?? Jocky got yi a belter! Ya cunt, that was fucking teckle!!’
This goes on for a couple of minutes. I laugh along, because it was a good joke, and his reaction of pure, unadulterated joy is infectious. I’ve never seen anyone so amused in all my life. Finally, he calms down. Wiping tears from his eyes and cheeks.
‘Sorry pal, sorry.’ He begins punching in the number.
Ring-ring…… ring-ring…… ring-ring…….
‘Thank you for calling the Cock Lover Hotline, calls cost £1.50 per….’
Another explosion of mirth. ‘OH YA CUNT! YAAAAASSSSSS! Twice, Leigh! Twice! That’s what em talkin’ aboot!’ Once again he’s in fits of laughter. He gets up, opens the window overlooking the pitch and yells ‘Here a’body – Leigh’s phoning thon gay chatlines!’ He stumbles back to his seat. It takes a full minute for him to compose himself before he’s typing the number in again. I can see where this is going.
Fifteen minutes later I’ve been thanked for phoning the Cock Lover Hotline nine times. Jocky finds it as amusing the ninth time as he did the first. As he’s composing himself to type it in for the tenth time it starts ringing. He straightens up and excuses himself. ‘Twa minutes pal, some cunt’s on the phone here.’ He answers it. ‘Wha’s that? That you, Brannan? Whaur’s Jocky’s Tippex ya cunt?!’ He falls silent for a moment then passes it to me. ‘Billy Stark, Leigh. Phoned earlier, like.’ He hands me the receiver. It’s Billy Stark asking me to join the under-21 squad for the game against Azerbaijan. As I chat to Billy, Jocky pulls a bucket out from under his desk and puts it in the corner of the room. He turns to face it, drops his trackie bottoms to his ankles and takes a piss. I can’t help but notice he’s got a tattoo on his arse – a ‘J’ on the left cheek, and ‘CKY’ on the other. As I contemplate why there’s an O missing he finishes his piss, bends down to pull his trackie bottoms up, and shows how cunning use of the human anatomy can save on tattoo ink. Good grief.
Jocky congratulates me on my call up. ‘Proud o’ yi kiddo. Never made the Scotland squad myself, like. Played for Senegal in a friendly against AC/DC’s road crew once, right enough, but that’s no as good as a Scotland cap. Teckle!’
As I head out the door I notice a lever on the wall. Thinking it was unusual I asked what it was. Jocky straightened up and gave me a look that penetrated the very depths of my soul.
‘When the time comes to initiate Jocky’s Master Plan, Leigh, the first thing I’ll do is pull that lever. When that lever is pulled, prepare for the Age of Jocky.’
The Age of Jocky. I take a moment to let that sink in.
‘What if someone else pulls it for you? Like a cleaner, or Bob Brannan?’
‘Son, the only lever of mine that Boaby Brannan will be pulling is the bad boy in meh trackie bottoms. Besides, if anyone managed to break through the 17 locks big Rab poackled fae B&Q for me, the lever has a sophisticated scrotal recognition security feature. Only a scan of meh ba’s will release the mechanism that allows it tae be pulled.’
He holds my eye with the penetrating stare, a look of cold, unforgiving steel.
‘Ken what Leigh, you’re a good lad. Jocky likes you. If we win the league this year I’ll let you in on Jocky’s Master Plan. I’ll show you what happens when the lever is pulled.’
I’ve never known him, or any man, to be so serious. I nod and go to leave.
‘Oh, and Leigh, see if we dinnae win the league……… you’re getting fucking battered, ya fucking muppet. Harkins tae! Telt!’
March 2nd in the Falkirk Stadium home dressing room, Scotland vs Ajzerbaijan. We’re stripped and receiving instruction from Billy Stark. I’m on the bench, but Stark has told me he intends on getting me involved at some point. As we file out into the tunnel, Dundee United striker David Goodwillie pulls me to one side.
‘Here mate, what the fuck was all that about the other week? One minute we’re doing sprints and passing exercises, the next Eddie Malone comes flying in wearing his pants and waving a big fucking knife! We all shat ourselves! Worse yet, when we get out on the street your boss comes at me screaming something about Panthro from the Thundercats! He’s off his rocker!’
‘Aye, erm, sorry about that mate. Hope you’re ok, that was some clothesline you got hit with. All the best, man. Have a good game.’
We shake hands and head out on to the pitch. As I take my place in the dugout I look around the ground. There’s about 2,500 here, not bad for this kind of fixture. A flag behind the goal catches my eye, a big saltire with the words ‘WHA’S IN CHERGE HERE?’ printed on it. Good God. A topless man with a megaphone is shouting, ‘LEIGH! HIYA PAL! HIYA!’ and waving frantically. The boss has come to see me.
As the game gets underway I wonder what madness Jocky’s presence will bring. It doesn’t take long to find out.
‘GET THE FUCKING SUBBIES ON STARK! THIS IS SHITE!’
Billy looks towards the megaphone man and strains his eyes, probably thinking, ‘Is that Jocky Scott? Cannae be!’ Things don’t improve when Goodwillie gets his first touch.
‘BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! YA DIRTY ARAB BASTARD! YA DIRTY ARAB BASTARD!’
A steward approaches Jocky and they appear to have an animated conversation. Thankfully, it ends with Jocky sitting down and being quiet. That lasts about two minutes.
‘GET THAT BIG SPUNK STAIN GOODWILLIE AFF, STARK! YOU’RE A FUCKING DISGRACE! WILLIE MILLER BURST YOUR RING YA CUNT! JIM LEIGHTON FUCKED YOU UP THE ARSE WI THAT BIG NOSE O’ HIS! JUST AS WELL THE CUNT’S FOREHEAD’S COVERED IN FUCKING VASELINE!’
This time the steward’s accompanied by a couple of police officers. They argue for a few moments until Jocky’s flanked by the two officers and ejected from the stadium. Unbelievable. We’re only 10 minutes in and he’s been turfed out.
I settle into watching the game. As halftime approaches a ball boy passes me a note. I discreetly open it.
‘Hiya pal. Hiya! Coppers kicked Jocky oot, likes. Teckle! Mind and stick to the plan. When half time comes, go to the bath in the dressing room. The French Resistance have dug a tunnel up underneath it. When they break through, follow Pele and Sylvester Stallone into the tunnel and get the fuck oot o’ there. Escape tae Victory, cunto! PS – Tell Stallone Rocky rhymes wi Jocky! Yo Adrienne! That’s what em talkin’ aboot! X’
Madness. Half time comes and goes. The second half starts, and I’m told to get warmed up. I do some stretches and sprints down behind the goal. Watching the action at the other end of the pitch I think I hear a faint roar in the distance. Surely not….
The silhouette of a man flying a jetpack passes across the full moon.
Five minutes later and I get my chance to represent my country. A surge of adrenaline washes over me as I run on to replace Goodwillie. I’m barely on the pitch when play suddenly flows forward. We attack, and a vicious cross swings across from the left. It’s perfectly judged, and within seconds of coming on I’m heading the ball into the back of the net. What a feeling! My team mates swarm to me to offer congratulations.
As we jog back to restart the game I hear the cry, ‘GET AZERBAIJAN TELT, LEIGH!’ I look up to the roof of the stand. Jocky’s standing there with a fist raised in the air. I mirror the gesture right back at him. He nods in approval.
Jocky spends the rest of the game hovering around the ground at a height just out of reach of the stewards and police. It’s fairly comical to watch them try to catch him in a net on the end of a big stick as if he was a rare moustachioed butterfly.
The game ends at 2-2. I’m thrilled to have scored a goal. As I leave the pitch I look up, but Jocky’s gone. It was nice of him to come and show his support. I’m starting to feel a real bond with the boss. There might just be a method to his madness.
After the game a handful of players from the east coast are driven home in a mini bus. By the time we’re half way home the lads are dozing off. The silence is rudely interrupted by David Goodwillie shouting, ‘HOLY FUCK! IT CAN’T BE!’ and recoiling from the window in horror.
Jocky’s flying alongside the minibus at 70mph. Topless and wielding his trusty megaphone, he gestures for someone to open a window so we can hear him. He flies close.
‘Goodwillie ya fucking mind-cripple, see when we’re in the SPL next year, you’re fucking claimed! I’ll have you stuffed and mounted on a plinth in meh gairden ya cunt! You’ll look braw next to Jocky’s monkey puzzle tree! Wha’s in cherge here?’
David bursts into tears and starts rocking back and forth in his seat with his knees tucked up under his chin. Jocky turns to me, ‘You did well tonight, pal. Jocky’s affy proud. See ya at training tomorrow.’ He starts to veer away from the bus, but just as we’re about to close the window he flies back and announces, ‘By the way, Leigh, the phone bill’s in. You’re due me £25 for the gay chatlines you were phoning the other week. Dae yi mind that, Leigh? Mind yi were phoning a’ they gay chatlines? That’s what em talkin’ aboot!’
He accelerates and disappears. With a van full of boys who now think I’m gay and an inconsolable David Goodwillie rightfully fearing for his safety I start counting down the miles and eagerly await the sight of the Menzieshill multis rising from the horizon.