Our summer holiday was over. Most of the lads had been to places like Ibiza, Magaluf, or in Rab Douglas’ case, jail. Forgetting his sword-swallowing accomplice, Tony Bullock, had left the club he’d been caught departing Tesco Metro with a trolley full of hairspray and blue and white stripe mushy peas. He did a weekender in Bell Street before he was bailed out. Good old Rab.
Pre-season training was brutal. Gordon Chisholm ran us ragged. Physically, it’s the toughest time of year for footballers. Excess weight and lethargy is targeted by a harsh regime of running up sand dunes until you vomit. Once you finish spewing your guts up you have to run some more. It’s hard going, but it’s necessary and worthwhile. A good pre-season often leads to a successful year on the pitch.
We played a series of friendlies and minor cup ties in the lead up to the start of the league campaign. Personnel changes had taken place since the squad broke up in May. A lot of guys had gone and a few new arrivals had been welcomed. The games preceding the league matches were an opportunity to gel together. It was important to hit the ground running come the start of the season proper.
We had a new team captain. Gary Harkins was a great choice of skipper. He was well liked among the boys and his talent was an inspiration. On his day he’s the best player in the division. His team of barbers had to go at him with lawnmowers for nigh-on five hours in order to get his summer growth under control, but when he was back to a regular Teen Wolf-level of hirsuteness he’d been thrilled to accept the captaincy.
We had a mixed bag of performances during the pre-season games. While we destroyed Forfar we struggled against Alloa. Things didn’t quite click into place as we hoped they might have. I had personal concerns of my own to deal with. There was a new striker at the club. Mikael Antoine Curier was back from his loan spell at Hamilton Academical. I’d barely met him when he left for Accies so I’d been apprehensive about his return to Dundee. Apparently he wasn’t the easiest guy to get on with. Big Rab had cracked him in the jaw at one point when he was late in paying for Mach 3 razor blades, an item often lumbered with security tags and difficult to steal.
Chisholm had introduced us properly at training, telling me he wanted us to forge a goal scoring partnership in the coming season. I remembered the meeting well…….
Chisholm pulled me up at the start of one of our first sessions at the facilities in Caird Park and told me about the returning Mikael Antoine Curier.
‘This guy has potential to be a great strike-partner for you, Leigh. He’s big, strong and knows where the goal is. I think you’ll do well together. One point to note: he’s a wee bit……well……he’s a wee bit….. eccentric……’
Fuck. Not another one.
The French national anthem, Les Marseillaise, suddenly burst out in all it’s pomp and splendor. A full orchestra seemed to be playing close by but were nowhere to be seen. Where the hell was the music coming from? I didn’t have time to think about it. Mikael Antoine Curier came marching up towards me with a look of pure arrogance on his sneering face. He stopped inches from me and bellowed along to the music emitting from an invisible source.
‘AUX ARMES, CITOYONS! FORME VOS BATTILIONS!’
He sang along to the rousing anthem with passion then made a slicing motion across his throat. The music instantly cut out.
‘Bonjour Leigh! I am Mikael, ze saviour of ze Dee! I come from ze dizzying heights of ze bottom half of ze SPL to assist you in your quest for promotion. En guarde, First Division! Mikael is back and he is angrier than a lorry driver blocking ze road in Calais iin protest of a trade issue zat is inconsequential to ze rest of ze civilized world.’
Mikael lay down in front of me with a nonchalent look on his face.
‘Hey Leigh, I am on strike! Why? No real reason. Maybe you looked at me funny. Maybe I am outraged at Sarkozy’s Cuban heels not being polished to a military shine. Maybe I just want to lay around smoking for a while.’
He pulled a Gaulloise out his sock, lit it and puffed away without a care in the world.
I asked Chisholm what in the name of fuck was going on. He shrugged his shoulders and explained how Curier would be a good foil for me up-front this season and that I should try and put up with eccentricities. Given the events of last season it was probably manageable. I was well-versed in coping with eccentrics.
Chisholm gave Mikael a smiling thumbs-up then looked at me as if to say “indulge him, please”. I mustered the best of my high school French classes to annouce, ‘Mon nom est Leigh. J’habite un tipi dans Caird Park. C’est tres gentil.’
Curier called halt to his strike and jumped up.
‘Leigh! Vous parler un peu français?
I was struggling to grasp the gist of conversation but took a stab in the dark.
‘Oui, j’ai odeur de bacon.’
Curier gave me a strange look but seemed vaguely impressed by my efforts. He gave me a hug, slapping me hard on the back. He held my face in his hands and looked deep into my eyes.
‘Leigh, togezer we score many goals for ze Dee, huh? We break through the defense of our opposition like zey are ze patio doors at my ex-girlfriends parents house! It will take more zan zat B&Q garbage to prevent me hacking your Bebo page, mon cherie! En guarde!’
As he turned and marched off Les Marseilles inexplicably kicked in out of nowhere again. Where the hell was it coming from? I looked all around but saw no musicians. As Mikael got further away the music faded out.
It was the week in the run up to the opening league game against Queen of the South when I saw Jocky for the first time since he took a piss in the tunnel between Heaven and Earth. I left the ground after training one day and walked up the Dens Road. As I passed the play park across from Frew’s I noticed Jocky was on top of the climbing frame drinking a can of Special. A bunch of wee Hilltown neds were falling about drunk with cans in their hand beneath him.
‘Hiya Leigh! Hiya pal! By Christ, this is fucking teckle play park! A’ the bairns are fucked oot their skull! Good sweengs, tae!’
I jumped the railing and joined him.
‘Boss, please tell me you didn’t buy these children a carry out.’
‘Check you, ya social-conscience haein’ mongchop cunt. Of course eh didnae buy them a kedger! The wee cunts paid for it themselves, eh just did the damage in the shop on their behalf. Eh wiz comin’ oot the Bowzer efter a swift pint wi’ when one o’ the wee vaginas said, “here mister, gonnae buy us a carry oot?” Eh says, “fuck up, ya wee prick! Eh’ve only got enough dough fur meh aine carry oot!” The boy says ti’ iz, “nae bather, mister. Here’s £20. Get as much as yi’ can and a couple fur yirself.” Wee boy wiz fuckin’ minted! Entrepreneurial cunt, like. The Hulltoon’s full o’ them.’
He shouted after a wee boy who was throwing rocks at passing cars.
‘Isn’t that right, Mikey? Yi’re a wee entrepreneurial cunt, like?’
Mikey hurled a half-brick through the window of the 22 to Downfield, shouted “Huns rule” and gave Jocky the finger.
That amused Jocky no end. ‘Yas! That’s the gemme, wee aine!’ He nudged me and explained, ‘boy’s a Hulltoon Hun, like. Jocky feels mair o’ an affinity wi’ the Lochee Fleet but the Huns are a’right tae. TOTH ya bas!’
Just then I spotted Mikael Antoine Curier swaggering along Dens Road. Les Marseillais mysteriously started up. Jocky and I looked all around, confused as we tried to locate the source of the music. Curier spotted us at the top of the climbing frame, jumped the railing and stormed over towards us. This didn’t look promising. He cut the music with a slice of his hand and spoke.
‘Le Jocky! We have unfeeneeshed business, monsieur! En guarde!’
Jocky put a hand on my shoulder and spoke calmly. ‘Gies a minute here, pal.’
He climbed down and went to him.
‘A’right, big aine? What’s the problem, cunto?’
Curier spat at Jocky’s feet. Ooft.
‘Ze problem ees you sent me to Hamilton! Eet ees a…..how do you say…..a beeger shitehole than Dundee!’
Jocky was apologetic.
‘Eh’m sorry, big aine. Nae cunt likes Hamilton, yi’re right enough, but Granny telt iz yi’ were a troublesome bugger on the ouija board and that eh should punt yi’ as soon as. Granny’s often right aboot stuff like that. She predicted Bobo Balde wiz black before the papers got hud o’ it ‘n’ a’hing.’
Curier spat at Jocky’s feet again.
‘No excuses, Monsieur Jocky! I challenge you to a duel! Peestols at dawn!’
Jocky squared up to him.
‘Pistols at dawn? Whaur di’ yi’ think yi’ are, Montrose? Fuck up, cunto! This is Dundee! There’s nae pistols at dawn here! If yi’ve got a problem it gets sorted wi’ wrestling in the Fairmuir car park………….at dawn!’
The music started up again as Curier stomped off screaming he’d be there and ready to wrestle. It faded as he disappeared out of sight. I climbed down and stood by Jocky’s side.
‘Are you really going to wrestle him, boss?’ I asked weakly, already knowing the answer.
‘Leigh, shut yir pus. Of course eh’m gonna wrestle him. Nae cunt spits twice in the Hulltoon play park! Nae cunt! Curier’s lucky Mikey fae the Hulltoon Huns didnae see that, the wee man would o’ panned his heid in.’
He walked off. Arguing would be an exercise in futility. I sighed, followed him and jumped on the opposite end of the see-saw.
It was that peculiar time of day when, depending on which angle you were approaching it from, it was either terribly late or far too early. The opening bars of the dawn chorus provided a soundtrack to the first glimpse of sunshine out over the horizon to the east. The sky was clear, the air cool and crisp. I approached the Fairmuir, passing an attack helicopter that was parked between a white Transit van and a skip filled with broken masonry and the prerequisite dirty old mattress. While most folk would find that bizarre beyond belief and stop dead in their tracks to ensure they weren’t hallucinating, I merely made a passing mental acknowledgement of Jim McLean’s presence in the vicinity and carried on without missing a step as if it’s perfectly normal to see such vehicles neatly parked on residential streets.
Attack choppers are fairly passe to me these days, yet I was surprised by the scene that awaited me in the Fairmuir car park. When the fight had been arranged earlier I hadn’t given much thought to how it would pan out. When Jocky had suggested a wrestling match I didn’t appreciate the extent to which he planned on taking it to.
There was a proper, full-size wrestling ring in the middle of the car park. It was surrounded by seating that was almost entirely filled with spectators. The Fairmuir had come out in force to see the match. By the looks of things they were firmly placed in the “it’s really late” frame of mind when it came to judging the time of day. There was a constant babble of rowdy conversation and laughter. People were stumbling about with trays loaded with pints and spirits. They’d been up all night drinking in preparation for a wrestling match involving one of their favourite sons.
I wandered in, a little unsure what I should do with myself. I scanned the crowd and caught the eye of a familiar face.
‘Alright Leigh! ‘Mon over here and get a seat, pal.’
The Pope waved me over. He was sitting second row from front. I shuffled along a row of pished pensioners to meet him.
‘Tam! How’s it going? Jeez-oh, it’s a bit mental here tonight, eh?’
‘No’ half, mate. We’ve hud a braw night. There’s no’ been scenes like this since Jocky and Archie Knox settled a minor dispute by haein’ a sumo wrestling match. Eh thought eh’d seen it all until the pair o’ them came out in nappies and knocked fuck oot each other. Archie eventually said he’d hud enough and conceded that Jocky wiz a better player than Johan Cruyff.’
No doubt seeing the look on my face his comment had ellicited, he elaborated, ‘a better darts player, like. Fuck knows why Archie argued about it.’
Another voice from the recent past mercifully evaporated the mental image of Jocky wearing a nappy that was mounting an assault on my mind’s eye.
‘Leigh Griffiths! How are you, son?’
I turned to find Jim McLean making his way along the row. He was still looking very much the leader of an apocalyptic helicopter attack unit in combat trousers, a stetson and aviator shades. He had a tray with three pints and three shots on it.
‘One of my scouts saw you coming so I got you a drink. Fire in.’
I tried to protest that it was a bit early for a drink but was swiftly reprimanded for being a wimp and cajoled into it. The three of us raised our shots and downed them in one. It was vile, so I quickly washed it down with a big swig of Special. Breakfast of champions.
I’d arrived just in time. An old woman entered the ring with a microphone.
‘Ladies and gentleman, it’s time fur the Main Event o’ the evening – The Battle o’ Fairmur Car Park!’
A cheer went up. Anticipation and drunken excitement hung heavy in the morning air.
Les Marasaillies came over the external speakers that had been hooked up to the clubbie’s PA.
‘….from Orsay, France and weighing in at 193 pounds – Mikael….Antoine….Cuuuuuurier!’
The crowd erupted into a chorus of boos. We turned towards the clubbie. Curier came bursting out the back door in a black, single-shoulder-strap leotard and matching knee-high wrestling boots. His arms were raised aloft as he walked down the aisle. He jumped up on the ring apron, through the ropes and into the ring. He paraded around in a circle with his arms still up and a look of utter contempt on his face. He was very much the “bad guy” in this contest, and the crowd dutifully gave him pelters. McLean was standing on his seat swearing his head off. Tam had taken the classic “come ahead then” stance as he yelled, ‘Mid rule ya cunt!’. A group of old woman with blue-rinse hair-doos were chanting, ‘YOU’RE GOING HOME IN A TAYSIDE AMBULANCE!’ Curier, reveling in the role of the pantomine villain, sneered out at all around him.
The French natonal anthem cut out and was replaced by a soft rock guitar riff that was instantly recognisable to any wrestling fan.
‘When it comes crashing down and it hurts inside….’
Jocky was going to make his entrance to Real American, Hulk Hogan’s theme song. The crowd cheered and turned back to see him come out.
‘His opponent: from Broughty Ferry, Dundee and weighing in at 168 pounds of stovies and Special…..the Man in Cherge himself…..BIIIIIIIIIIIG JOCKY!!’
The crowd roared their approval. I stood on my seat to see him make his entrance. And what an entrance he made.
He came bursting out in nothing but a red, white and blue cape, the swimming goggles he wore in the shower and a pair of those green Wellington boots with frogs eyes protruding from them. Either he’s forgotten to put trunks on or he planned on wrestling as he was. He’s not known for being forgetful….
He stopped just outside the door to take the acclaim of his fans and shook his hips so his monstrous cock and balls flapped from side to side, slapping against his upper thighs. Good fucking grief. He waved his hand round then cupped it to his ear, Hulkster-style, and the crowd went wild. He met the high-fives of the fans lining the aisle as he marched towards the ring. McLean and Tam were giving it laldy. I was stunned into gaping-mouthed silence.
As he jumped up on the ring apron he turned towards where we were sitting. He saw me, waved with one hand and used the other to do “the helicopter” with his fearsome member. As it cut the air it made a dull “whump” like that of McLean’s helicopter’s rotor. Terrifying. I couldn’t hear him over the noise of the crowd but my lip-reading skills were sufficient enough to recognise a “hiya Leigh, hiya pal!” when it came my way. He noticed Tam next to me and blessed himself. Tam laughed and did the same back at him, drawing a double-thumbs up and a smile. The smile evaporated when his gaze fell on Jim McLean. He started making a furious button-pushing motion of some sort before landing a punch into the palm of his other hand. I looked at a highly amused Mclean who turned and to me and explained, ‘try as he might he can’t beat me at Hungry Hungry Hippos. Twister, yes, but he plays that in his cape and Wellies too and I find it’s a tad off-putting.’
Jocky was giving it big licks with the Hulk Hogan moves. He gave Mikael the Big Pointed Finger from the ring apron before going through the ropes and working the crowd into a frenzy with the cupped-hand-to-ear routine at all sides of the ring, including the one that faced a brick wall. He grabbed the ring announcers mic. and sang along to his entrance tune.
‘Eh am a real Dundonian! Fight for the rights o’ Jum and Tam! Eh am a real Dundonian! Fight for what’s right, shag Duffy’s wife!’
He ditched the microphone and pulled a series of bodybuilder flexes before joining Curier and the ref (Joe McConachie fae Lochee, according to Tam) in the centre of the ring. As Curier protested at his rival’s lack of undergarments the crowd broke into a chant of, ‘JOCKY! JOCKY! JOCKY!’
The gaffer’s in great shape for a man in his 60’s, no question, but he was up against a big, tall professional footballer in his 20’s. As they went toe-to-toe I got the distinct feeling he had bitten off more than he could chew.
The opening exchanges were tight. The two combatants grappled away, putting each other in a series of holds. Curier stood with his hands up and fingers spread, inviting Jocky to accept a Greco Roman knuckle challenge. Jocky took him on, locking his fingers into Mikael’s. The two men squeezed, grimacing as they tried to over-power each other. At well over 6′ Mikael had a huge advantage. He managed to grind Jocky down until he sunk to his knees, gaining a psychological victory as well as a physical one.
As Jocky yielded to Curier’s strength McLean shouted, ‘Jocky! I just offered your hippo a Jaffa Cake and he refused it because he wasn’t hungry!’ Jocky heard him, looked over and unleashed a barrage of abuse at his old pal. As he screamed, ‘meh hippo’s fucking sterving ya mad baldy vagina! Jaffa Cakes are fucking teckle, nae cunt says no ti’ one of them!’, he started pushing back up and slowly rose to his feet, equalizing Curier’s pressure. Mikael started going down.
‘See when this is finished eh want a fucking rematch, McLean! Jocky’s hippo nearly put Jimmy Chung oot o’ business he wiz that hungry! Wiped out the whole fucking buffet, it wiz nae bather! When the food wiz finished the cunt started eating chopsticks and drinking a’ the soy sauce. Efter a’ that he still wanted a chippy on the way back up the road!’
With that he forced Mikael down onto his knees. McLean laughed and shook a celebratory fist before settling down to apply some lip balm. Jocky realised what his pal had done for him and his anger switched to a cheerful nod. With Mikael in a vulnerable position on his knees Jocky pressed home the advantage by breaking the knuckle grip, quickly grabbing his cock and clobbering Curier in the face with it. He swung it like a baseball bat and made a heavy connection. Curier toppled over and Jocky pounced on him, pinning his opponent. He waited for the referee’s count, but it never came. He looked up and saw Joe rolling a fag in the corner.
‘Fucking hell, Joe! Get over here, cunto!’
Joe abandoned his rolly-up and slid in.
The moment of hesitation had given Mikael the time he needed to recouperate. He kicked out the pin in the nick of time. Jocky was furious. He jumped up and started remonstrating with Joe, who was apologetic but steadfast in his reasoning about needing a smoke. As Jocky started questioning his credentials as a proper Fleet man Curier struck back, crashing a double axe-handle into the back of Jocky’s neck. It was the moment the tide turned.
After coming so close to defeat the big Frenchman took control. If you neglected to take penis size into account Mikael had a distinct physical advantage. He was bigger, stronger and around 40 years younger. He battered Jocky from pillar to post, mocking both his opponent and the crowd as he went. He exuded arrogance. He knew he had Jocky licked.
It wasn’t easy to watch. Jocky was loved by everyone present and it was hard for us to look on helplessly as he took a pounding. Though he fought valiantly Curier was too big and strong for him. Along with the fact his massive cock was flying around like an unmanned fire hose, his cape had become wrapped round his neck and his Wellies clearly weren’t meant for anyone over the age of seven, it made for grim viewing. It was now a matter of just hoping Jocky made it out the ring in reasonable health.
Curier body-slammed the boss in the centre of the ring. With his foe flat out on the canvas and all but beaten, Curier signaled it was time to finish it by slicing a hand across his throat. The end was nigh. He climbed the turnbuckles and stood on the verge of some kind of high-flying coupe de grace. The crowd begged Jocky to get up before he was annihilated, but he was lifeless. I couldn’t even look. As I sat down and put my head in my hands a cry suddenly came from the back of the car park…….
‘OHHHHHHHHHHH YEAHHHHHHHHHHH!!! DIG IT!!!’
Macho Man Billy Dodds came tearing down the aisle and hit the ring like a retarded cannonball. Curier lost both his concentration and balance at the sight of his assistant manager in all his multi-coloured, Randy Savage-aping glory and started wobbling about on the top turnbuckle. Billy grabbed a foot out from under him, sending him crashing down to the canvas. He landed heavily on one leg and rolled on to his back, the wind knocked out of him.
Billy leaped up to where Curier had stood seconds before, primed and ready to fly. He waited until Jocky got himself out the way.
‘Jocky! Billy’s Macho Man Randy Savage! Watch Billy, Jocky! Jocky! Are you watching Billy?!’’
Jocky hauled himself to his feet and stumbled about aimlessly like a blind man.
‘Eh cannae see fuck all, pal, meh goggles are a’ steamed up here! Jocky cannae see yi’, Billy! Jocky cannae see yi’!’
Billy looked like he was about to get down and help Jocky. McLean yelled, ‘BILLY! CONCENTRATE ON THE MATCH!’
Billy heard him and waved. ‘Wee Jum! Billy’s a surfer! Fish for tea!’
McLean muttered, ‘good fucking God,’ and yelled back, ‘YES, I KNOW, SON! FINISH OFF CURIER!’
Billy remembered what he was supposed to be doing and focused. He pointed to the sky with both hands, bellowed, ‘BILLY LIKES FUTBA!’, and flew off the top rope, delivering the famed Flying Elbow.
He hit him hard. We cheered as he nailed him. Job done, he immediately charged out the ring and back down the aisle out of sight. The impeccable timing that made Billy a natural goalscorer during his football days had not been lost as he’d grown older and stupider. What a boy.
Jocky had managed to clear his goggles and was back into the Hogan routine again. He paced round Curier’s prone body in circles with his fists clenched tightly and his head shaking wildly. He stood over his fallen opponent and delivered the Telling Off, a classic Hogan move than involves wagging a finger and getting his foe in trouble for daring to mount a challenge.
Hogan’s Leg Drop finishing move had ended many a wrestling match. Jocky’s modified-yet-equally-effective version could only be described as a Cock Drop. He propelled himself off the ropes, took to the air and landed his mighty tool on Mikael’s chest. Jocky lay over him and Joe delivered the three-count between puffs of the fag he’d rolled during Billy’s appearance. The bell rang. Real American came back on. The Battle of Fairmuir Car Park was over.
‘The winner of this contest, and STILL the Man in Cherge…..BIIIIIIIIIIG JOCKY!’
It was after 5am in the Fairmuir car park. Scores of rabid, drunken old folk celebrated one of their own overcoming the odds to win a classic wrestling match. The loser slunk off, limping heavily. The victor stood in the middle of the ring furiously thrusting his hips so his cock jumped around like an epileptic python. It was quite a scene. It was a night that would be long remembered in the clubbie’s folklore.
Not wanting to get caught up in the Hungry Hungry Hippos contest that would surely follow, I slipped away quietly. Yet more madness had taken place. As much as I had grown used to things here, it wasn’t normal. Honestly, it was nothing like this at Livingston. The worst thing I’d had to contend with at Livi was those annoying bastards with the drums that I’d spent entire games willing to give it a bloody rest. Say what you like about Dundee FC but it’s rarely boring for anyone connected with the club.
The new season was about to get underway. Last year had been an insane rollercoaster off the pitch and a failure on the pitch. While I was prepared for yet more craziness off the field I was absolutely determined to be a success on it this time round. As the strains of a no-doubt-Jocky-lead singalong to Jay-Z reached far beyond the Fairmuir (“eh’ve got 99 problems but the ‘tache ain’t one o’ them!”) I looked up and saw a solitary fluffy white cloud drift across the clear blue sky. It seemed to morph and take shape into………..into Granny Scott. Just as I went all Jim Spence and began marveling at how clouds sometimes looked like stuff, a voice boomed out the sky.
‘Hiya Dorothy, hiya pal! Mind what eh says now – AWAY THE DEE!!’
That shot McLean gave me must have had a mental level of alcohol content, I was hearing voi…
‘Why aye Leigh! Howay the Newcastle too, like! The fog on the Tyne is all mine, all mine, the fog on the tyne is all mine!’
I was hearing voices, all right. Well, better that than those bloody drums I suppose.
Seconds out, round two….. ding-ding!