I’m walking along the Clepington Road towards Dens in my training gear. It’s quiet. Terribly, terribly quiet. Not a soul on the street. No people, no passing traffic, nothing. A couple of cars lie abandoned in the middle of the road, doors open, engines still ticking over. Strange scenes.
Storm clouds darker than deep space fill the sky. The rumble of distant thunder pierces the silence. It builds and grows like a tidal wave, a tumultuous sound that shakes me from the ground up like a vibration from a source deep within the Earth’s crust. The tenements around me rattle in their very foundations. I walk faster, aware of an indefinable yet very real fear creeping up on me.
I head down Arklay Street and realise there’s a huge pall of black smoke rising from United’s ground. I’m frozen to the spot, my brain having difficulty processing the scene my eyes are relaying to it. Tananadice is burning.
As I stare open-mouthed and disbelieving at the carnage, a man appears from the wreckage and stumbles towards me. He’s well built, athletic, wearing nothing but boxing gloves and Stars and Stripes shorts. It looks like………it can’t possibly be……..
‘Yo Adrienne! I did it!’, he cries desperately at the dark skies above. Sweet mother of fuck. It’s Sylvester Stallone. Or, to be more precise, Rocky Balboa. He ambles past me. I try to engage him.
‘Here, um, Rocky……are you ok, mate? What the hell is going on here?’. He hears me, stumbles towards me and rests his gloved hands on my shoulders.
‘Yo Leigh………..Leigh………..YO ADRIENNE!’
The man is beyond distressed. He looks me deep in the eye and carefully whispers, ‘Rocky rhymes with Jocky…………Rocky……….rhymes with……..’ He trails off, shaking his head like a man defeated by some horrible truth.
He ambles on, shadow boxing a little as he goes. I watch him disappear round the corner. When I turn round again I see a man sitting cross-legged on the pavement. It’s Bob Brannan.
‘Bob! Did you see Rocky? What the fuck happened to Tannadice? Bob…’
While I’m sure it’s Bob Brannan, when he looks up at me he has no face……………no eyes, nose or mouth, no distinguishable facial features at all………….just skin pulled tight across his skull.
He shows me a bottle of Tippex. He unscrews the cap and takes the brush out. Slowly, methodically, he writes on the pavement….
THE AGE OF JOCKY
He drops the bottle. White corrective fluid spills on to the street. It gushes out and pours down the road like a babbling brook. It develops into a flash flood, then a powerful river…
I’m caught in it. I flounder in the white rapids of Tippex, flowing downstream helplessley with it. Using my kit bag to keep afloat I look around for help. Tony Bullock comes into sight.
He smiles and shouts ‘Pick a card, Leigh. Any card…..’, while fanning a deck of red and yellow cards in my direction.
But I’m already past him. I see Rab Douglas. He’s sitting in a shopping trolley filled with oranges and lemons, reading a big book titled ‘DUNDEE F.C. GENERAL LEDGER – SHADY DEALS AHOY’
He laughs and watches me go by, waving a brown envelope stuffed with money as I pass. I’m struggling to keep my head above Tippex.
Looking downstream, I gasp at what lays before me. Dear God. No….
A massive statue of Jocky Scott. It looms large over the scenes of devastation around him. A wave of Tippex throws me out the current to the base of the statue. It’s huge, intimidating, and terrifying. It stands tall in a typical topless, jetpack-wearing pose. A rumble comes from within it. Flames burst out it’s eye sockets. The statue suddenly comes to life. With a long, slow crack the legs part and step out. The head tilts down. It sees me and laughs.
‘Hiya Leigh! Hiya pal! Wha’s in cherge here? WHA’S IN FUCKING CHERGE HERE, LEIGH?’ He bursts forward, 50 feet tall, a monstrous stone version of the man himself. I close my eyes and scream……..
A voice in the darkness……
‘Leigh………..Leigh ya wee fanny……….Leigh……..’
I open my eyes. Jocky’s in my face, bellowing through his megaphone.
‘WERE YOU FUCKING SLEEPING THROUGH JOCKY’S TEAM TALK, GRIFFITHS?!! WHAT THE FUCK’S GOING ON HERE PAL? NAE CUNT FALLS ASLEEP ON JOCKY’S TEAM TALK! NAE CUNT!’
Reality kicks in hard. I’m in the dressing room at Dens with the lads stripped and ready to go for a game.
‘Aw, poor Leigh, needing a wee catnap eh? Poor wee lamb…FUCKING WAKE UP YA CUNT! 10 MINUTES UNTIL KICK OFF AND YOU’RE FUCKING SLEEPING!’
SLAP! He cracks me across the face.
‘Sorry Boss! Sorry! I don’t know what happened there. I’m ok.’
He sits on my knee and gives me a cuddle.
‘Nae bather pal. Jocky likes a wee sleep sometimes tae. Were you haein’ a nice wee dream there? Bet it was teckle! Does Jocky dream of electric sheep? Fucking right he does. Electric sheep and tits. Sometimes cocks tae! That’s what em talkin’ aboot!’
He jumps off me and starts hollering about who he’s got on his coupon today, ‘Charlton tae win at home the day lads, fuckin’ sure of it. Jocky’s bet a’ yir wages on it. No meh wages, that’s too risky, but you cunts better pray for a Charlton win if yi want tae get paid this week. Teckle!’
Dundee vs Inverness Caledonian Thistle. Let’s get it on.
We struggled for 70 minutes. We were 2-0 down and facing up to defeat. All of a sudden a roar came from the touchline, ‘CHARLTON ARE FUCKING WINNING! JOCKY’S COUPON’S UP! GET INTAE THESE HIGHLAND COW-SHAGGING, COCK-PUFFING CUNTS! THUNDERCATS! HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!’
It was as if an electrical current passed through the whole team. All of a sudden we started playing football. Passes started flowing, as did the renewed passion for the match and the belief we could haul it back. Brian Kerr started playing like a man possessed. He picked the ball up and hoofed in a peach from distance. 2-1 Caley. We didn’t relent. Gary Harkins, so often a source of hairy inspiration, picked the ball up on the right and drove in towards goal. He took a pop, and his shot took a wicked deflection which sent the ball past the helpless ICT goalie. 2-2. The fans and players went wild. Jocky was the most sedate man in the ground. Coupon apparently in the bag, he had switched his attention to a crossword puzzle, and was debating with himself as to whether 9 across was ‘Aristotle’ or ‘Microwave’.
If we had 5 minutes more to play we would have won 3-2. Alas, we’d left it too late for such events. The full time whistle blew.
We were quite elated. It’s a game we wanted to win, and though that wasn’t to be the late comeback had certainly given us an adrenaline buzz similar to that of a victory. Jocky came in. He was still pouring over the crossword. Stroking his chin with purpose, he paced around in a circle. Brian Kerr ventured a question. ‘Good comeback, eh Boss?’
No response. Jocky continued pacing and concentrating fiendishly. We took this as a bad sign. Perhaps he wasn’t happy with the fact we left it so late to get in the game. I decided to be brave and break the silence.
‘Sorry about leaving it so late to get it together, Boss. We should’ve beaten that team.’
With a slow, measured tone he replied, ‘Aye, Jocky likes his stovies all right. Stovies are fuckin’ teckle. Nae doubt aboot that, likes.’
Many an eyebrow is raised, not a word is said. We start changing and filing into the shower. Derek Soutar looks mighty relieved as Jocky sits on a bench and continues to focus intently on his crossword. As we wash up and share a few jokes there’s a cry from the dressing room.
‘YAAAAAASSSSSSSSSSSSS! THAT’S WHAT EM TALKIN’ ABOOT! FUCKIN’ DANCER!’
He comes bounding through.
‘HERE LADS, JOCKY FINISHED HIS CROSSWORD!’
For some reason we all started clapping. It seemed like the right thing to do. A few folk say things like ‘nice one!’, and ‘good on ya!’
‘It was that last clue there. Burstin’ mi haid for ages, then it came to me: ‘professional horse rider’ – Jockey! Ya cunt, it wiz starin’ iz in the pus the whole time! 15 minutes it took to get that!’ He starts wandering round the shower, fully clothed (well, still topless), shaking hands with each and every one of us. By the time he’s done a lap he’s soaking. Standing in the middle of the shower room he rips his trackie bottoms off, raises his arms aloft and yells, ‘SOAPY SOUTAR! IT’S TIME, CUNTO! GET IN HERE YA BIG BOLLOCK-SCRUBBING BASTARD!’
The rest of us start to slip out to leave them to it. The sound of Jocky belting out Time for Livin’ by the ubiquitous Beastie Boys, punctuated with sporadic requests to scrub harder, provides the soundtrack to us getting changed and heading home for the night. As I leave I spot the paper Jocky’s crossword was in. Curiosity leads me to picking it up. Far from being finished, the crossword is a sham. It’s filled with words such as ‘JOBBIE’, ‘TECKLE’, ‘HIYA’ and random combinations of letters. Credit where it’s due, he did actually get ‘Jockey’ right. Well, kind of. I guess ‘JOCKY!’ was close enough.
Monday morning at training. Bob Malcolm has joined us for his first full session. Bob’s got a bit of a chequered past, but you have to let bygones be bygones. He’s a Dee now, and that’s all that counts. He’s a good lad, and fits in well with the players. There’s a good bit of banter going on as we troop out on to the pitch to get the session started. There’s a note in the middle of the pitch instructing us to sit in the Shankley, the stand behind the goal that houses away supporters. We group together in the front rows and await Jocky’s arrival. And what an arrival he makes.
The roar of the jetpack has been replaced by a dull, standard engine noise. What can only be described as a replica of the Popemobile rolls out on to the track over to our right. Jocky’s in the perspex box in the back. He’s dressed as the Pope.
The Popemobile trundles slowly away from us down the length of the Main Stand. Jocky’s waving serenely and doing Hail Marys at the empty stand as he passes. He turns the corner, passes the Bobby Cox end, and heads down the side of the Derry. Bob Malcolm’s face is etched with utter disbelief. It’s a familiar look around these parts. At this point the engine of the Popemobile makes an unhealthy choking sound and dies. Jocky’s lap comes to an end. It takes a moment for him to notice as he’s busy blowing kisses and waving a crucifix at the empty Derry. When he does notice he takes out his mobile and makes a phone call. Jocky then picks up a mic. His voice is amplified through some kind of hidden sound system.
‘JOCKY’S HAEIN’ A FEW TECHNICAL PROBLEMS HERE, LADS. CHAT AMONG YOURSELVES FOR A WHILE.’
We try to make idle chitchat, but there’s no averting your eyes from this. Jocky continues treating the South Enclosure as if it was full of the faithful, be it Catholics, Derry Boys or otherwise. He’s crossing himself, bowing, and taking imaginary applause. After a while he starts body-popping, and you just know he’s singing a Beastie Boys tune to himself in there.
A good 45 minutes pass before the sound of another vehicle entering the ground reaches us. It’s the AA. The guy gets out his van and looks up at us.
‘Alright lads. Bit of a weird one, but I got a call from someone calling himself ‘Pope Jocky’?’ We point over towards the Derry. Jocky’s waving over at him. The guy puts on a brave face, gets in his van, and drives around the track to meet his customer. Jocky conducts business through the Popemobile mic.
‘Hiya chief. Hiya! What’s this a’ aboot? Jocky’s tryin’ tae get aff the drink, he disnae need a breakdoon recovery service.’ He howls with laughter at his own rapier wit. ‘Did yi catch that, chief?! You’re fae the AA! Ken? Eh? The AA! By Christ, that wiz funny as fuck. Jocky used to be in the RAC, but realised there wiz mair potential comedy value joining you boys. Worth every penny o’ the joining fee so it wiz! Fuckin’ yas! Right, ‘mon sort oot Jocky’s Popemobile, mongchops.’
The AA guy stares in wonder for a moment, then gets to work. He opens up the bonnet and starts checking out the engine.
‘Jocky disnae ken much aboot cars, like. Been flyin’ a jetpack for a good few years now. Drove a dodgem before that. Total fanny magnet, but no’ much use for gettin’ aboot unless there was some form o’ live electrical grid directly above yi.’
We can’t hear him, but judging by Jocky’s reaction the AA guy must have delivered some bad news as he gestures towards the engine.
‘Aw for fuck sake! What’s the score, chief? Eh? Jocky’s in the middle of a Papal tour here.’
The guy gets the winch out and hooks the Popemobile up to it. He winds it up on to the back of his recovery vehicle. The “Papal tour” continues. Jocky starts waving and blessing non-existant admirers again. As the recovery truck comes round past the Shankley Jocky tells the guy to stop in front of us. He turns to address the squad.
‘BOA-BY FU-CKIN’ MALLLLLLLLLCOLM’ booms Jocky in a serious tone. ‘HUV YOU GOT A FUCKIN’ PROBLEM WI ME, CUNTO? NO’ JOCKY, LIKE. THE POPE.’
Bob shakes his head slowly. He’s lost the power of speech.
‘HOW WOULD BOA-BY FU-CKIN’ MALLLLLLLLCOLM FEEL IF THE POPE WROTE ‘FBM’ FOR SOME CUNT WHA JUST WANTED YER STANDARD AUTOGRAPH?’
Bob half-shakes his head, half-shrugs. He manages to mumble, ‘That was a bad mistake, I regret it……’
‘JOCKY WINNAE STAND FOR ANY O’ THIS FTP NONSENSE, SON. WHA’S IN CHERGE HERE?’
Jocky gets out the Popemobile and clambers over the advertising board into the stand. ‘Hiya Boaby. Hiya pal! Dae yi ken Brannan? He’s called Boaby tae! Didnae realise yiz were related.’
He sits next to Bob. Bob’s clearly still trying to adjust to the fact his new manger just came barrelling into training dressed as the Pope, in the Popemobile.
‘Ken what, Boaby? Jocky’s no’ a religious man. Jocky’s in cherge here, no’ God. But ken what, Boaby? Eh dinnae mind cunts that dae believe in aw that shite. Tolerance, ya big cunt! Em a big believer in freedom o’ religion, likes. Eddie Malone’s a Pagan for fuck sake, but Jocky’s no’ bathered.’ He turns to Eddie. ‘Isn’t that right Malone, ya Pagan cunt?’. A highly confused Eddie Malone just accepts it and nods in agreement.
He wraps an arm around Bob’s shoulder. ‘The Pope’s no’ a bad lad, Boaby. Jocky plays darts wi him every Tuesday at the Fairmuir clubbie. Sound cunt. Throws a good fuckin’ arrow tae, let me tell you. Saw him last week and said ‘Ow, the Pope, Jocky’s awa’ tae sign that Boaby Malcolm, you cool wi that?’ And ken what the Pope said tae me, Boaby Malcolm? Do yi? The Pope says ‘Couldn’t really give a fuck, Jocky. It’s your round, cunto.’ Boy wiz right enough, it wiz meh round, like. Teckle!’
With that Jocky got up and returned to the Popemobile. As the recovery vehicle drove off he blessed us several times. He disappeared out the way he came.
The players waited a few minutes and digested what had just happened. We decided to have a kickabout. As we got a game together that familiar sound of a jetpack filled the stadium, and Jocky, still masquerading as the leader of the Catholic Church, roared overhead off into the distance.
Bob Malcolm followed him with a slightly dazed gaze until he was a speck on the horizon. I grinned.
‘Welcome to Dens, Bob. It’s pure teckle here………..’