Fast approaching forty, life’s experiences haven’t mellowed Terry Gallagher any. He’s become an angry, bitter man. Sickened by the mindless violence all around him, and trying to come to terms with his own thuggish past, he despairs as his near neighbor, old Mr. Johnson, war hero, is almost beaten to death in his own home while the police fail to bring anyone to justice. He despairs at the apathy and neglect of Tory and Labour councils, past and present, who use an already deprived community as a dumping ground for social misfits, bad debtors, drug addicts and so called economic migrants; where you were stigmatised just because of your background; where the authorities regularly debated imposing curfews but never had lack of amenities on the agenda. These were the social injustices that made Terry Gallagher’s blood boil. This was the legacy being left to his kids, and all because they had the misfortune to grow up on the notorious Broughton estates.
Here is a story of one man and his unwilling best mate, who form a junior football team and strive to bring colour and self-esteem into the lives of a rag-bag bunch of scruffy thirteen-year olds, among whose number are, Pete, the one-eyed goalie. Sasquatch: a giant of a centre half with unfeasibly large feet. Little Ginner: a flame haired fullback who suffers from nervous flatulence and an unhealthy interest in internet porn. Young Nobby: the human dustbin who eats anything put in front of him. And Duane: the outcast half-caste latent football genius who would experience recognition and heart wrenching tragedy within the space of nine months of his already short, unhappy life.
On a forgotten piece of waste ground, ‘Soldiers Field’, the lads shape their adopted home. With stolen scaffolding for goalposts and a twenty-four hour pitch surveillance protection programme patrolled through the telescopic sight of Ginner’s .22 air rifle, The Albion starts their footballing adventure. From an inauspicious start in the local Junior District Football league to potential glory in the prestigious County Cup, for Terry Gallagher and West Broughton Albion, the season unfolds amidst a backdrop of squalor and depravity, manic depression, heroin addiction, Yardies, guns, and death; where a web of bizarre and tragic circumstances transpire to push the emotional and mental state of this reluctant philanthropist to the limit and ultimately tip him over the edge.
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I worked as a football coach in the Bradford & district junior leagues for a number of years where I met kids & parents from diverse backgrounds and right across the social spectrum. The Albion is loosely based around a local team that came out of one of the more socially deprived areas of the district.
Although a work of fiction, some of the incidents within the book did actually happen, with embellishment and authors artistic licence added where necessary. Having said that, sometimes it was a world where truth often outdid anything a writer’s imagination could come up with.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Mostly they are an amalgam of people and characters I actually came across during my coaching days. Aspects of three or four persons could, and were often, moulded into one character. Others are pure products of my imagination.
Terry woke with a Gobi desert gob. The smell of frying bacon had aroused his senses and brought him out of his slumbers. From the mists of sleep, and barely conscious, he became aware that his head was banging – and he had a hard on. What the fuck was all that about? Was it God having a laugh or what? It was one of life’s great mysteries; an unexplainable phenomenon that only someone like Dr. Robert Winston could probably shed some light on. Anyway, at that moment in time both were unwelcome. He wished he’d remembered to take some aspirin and some water to bed with him the previous night. In fact, he wished he could remember coming to bed at all. He looked over at Jan’s side of the bed. Empty – No, he couldn’t remember – but she could…
The banging about downstairs had woken her. She had switched the bedside light on briefly and looked at the clock. It was half past one. He was a lot later than usual and, by the sound of it, drunk. She had resisted the temptation to turn the light back on and bollock him when he had staggered up the stairs and crashed into the bedroom. She had feigned sleep and maintained the pretence throughout the pantomime of him getting undressed. When he had finally crawled into bed and snuggled up to her she had cringed. She had hoped he wasn’t going to start. Their sex life hadn’t been brilliant lately, and she didn’t fancy a booze-soaked, fumbling shag at this time of a morning. He whispered her name and breathed lustily down the back of her neck. The reek of Guinness and kebab made her wince but she still managed to stay ‘asleep’. He put his arm round her and cupped a breast while manoeuvring his penis into the cleft of her bum. After a few adjustments and contented moans and groans his breathing fell into a steady rhythm and as he slipped into unconsciousness it became a full-blown snore. Jan breathed a sigh of relief and went to sleep for real.
Erection slowly subsiding, Terry kicked off the quilt and got out of bed; too quick. Blood roared through his ears and made his head pound. God, he felt rough. He made his way to the bog and emptied his bladder, letting loose a couple of rasping Guinnes inspired farts as he did so. He remembered the kebab from last night and water came into his mouth in an instant. He swallowed hard a few times and tried to take a few deep breaths. He hated being sick, he wasn’t the type who could stick his fingers down his throat to get shut. He flushed, got a quick wash, dressed and made his way slowly downstairs. The smell of cooked breakfast stopped him in his tracks. Rory looked up from his plate and nudged his brother with his elbow. Jan stopped tending the eggs that were sizzling and spitting in the frying pan and looked on, spatula in hand. All three of them stared expectantly at the pathetic spectacle that stood before them in the kitchen doorway. Any remaining colour drained immediately from Terry’s features and his glands went into overdrive, filling his mouth with water again. This time he knew he wouldn’t be able to hold it back. Without a word he turned quickly on his heels and shot back upstairs, reaching the bog and letting fly into the pot just in time. Beads of sweat popped out all over his forehead as he heaved and retched, while he clung on to the porcelain as if his life depended on it.
Back downstairs the boys pulled faces while Jan uttered oaths under her breath.
‘I think me dad’s gorra hangover,’ said Joe as a matter of fact.
‘He still looks pissed to me,’ said Rory.
Jan gave him a sharp clip round the back of his head. ‘You just watch your mouth and get on with your breakfast.’
‘Can we have his?’ Rory asked.
‘No you can’t.’
‘Why not?’ he persisted, ‘me dad’s not gonna want it is he?’
‘I don’t want any of it,’ said Joe. ‘It’s puttin’ me off me own, listenin’ to him throw up.’
Muffled rolphs and barfs could be heard from upstairs. Jan tutted, contemplated for a moment while listening to the sound of her husband being sick, then relented. ‘Well, I suppose it’ll only go to waste, here you are then,’ she said sliding the spatula under the freshly fried egg and onto Rory’s plate. ‘But don’t be coming for owt else now ’till tea time.’
‘Don’t forget the bacon mam,’ he said cheekily.
Joe pulled a hateful face at his younger brother. ‘He’s a greedy little get.’
‘I’m a growin’ lad aren’t I, mam?’ Rory said with a cocky air.
‘Yes, you are, love,’ his mother said, laughing at his cheeky quip. She put the three rashers of what had been Terry’s bacon next to the egg and gave his hair a ruffle; a little guilty about the clip she had administered a moment before.
Joe and his younger brother were chalk and cheese. Joe was a fairly quiet, thoughtful lad. Not entirely shy, just guarded. He observed a lot but tended to keep his opinions to himself. He was a lot like his mother. Apart from that, he was like any other thirteen year old; loved his sport, especially football, and as family tradition dictated, he had to be a Leeds fan. Although he and Young Nobby were best mates, just like their dads were, they both tended to have their mothers’ traits and personalities. Physically, it looked as if they were going to be Terry and Nobby clones.
Rory was something else. He had it all off. He possessed cheek, charm, confidence and knowledge way beyond his tender eleven years. He was streetwise as well; so clued up on what was going on around him, he often left Jan and Terry open mouthed with some of the stuff he came out with.
Rory’s gran, Jan’s mum, was supposed to be a bit psychic. She had watched him closely growing up and would say, knowingly, ‘He’s an old soul, that one; he’s been here plenty o’ times before.’ Terry didn’t know about any of that, he just thought that he probably spent too much time in the company of older lads, hanging about with Joe and his mates, showing off with newfound phrases and swear words. Although everyone around him tended to laugh at his roguish antics, both Jan and Terry knew they would have to keep a close eye on the little bugger if they were to keep him out of any major trouble.
A month or so before he was born Jan and Terry had been bandying around potential names for their new offspring, girls’ names mostly.
‘What if it’s another boy?’ Terry had said. Jan admitted she hadn’t given much thought to having another boy. ‘I like Rory,’ he’d said, fully expecting hoots of derision from his wife, but she’d liked it immediately, clearly oblivious as to who Rory Gallagher was. He gave a little smirk to himself and decided to keep quiet. If Jan had known her second son was about to be named after a blues legend and one of their Mick’s all time guitar heroes she’d have no doubt changed her mind. After eleven years she still hadn’t twigged and in all probability had still never heard of the bloke.
Jan gently shook her sleeping husband awake. He was laid on top of the bed still fully clothed but he felt cold. He shivered and stretched himself back to the land of the living.
‘How are you feeling?’
Terry looked up to see his wife holding a steaming mug of tea and a plate of toast but not much pity.
‘Better than I was, still got a bit of a headache though.’
She placed the tea and toast on the bedside table then sat at the foot of the bed and watched him in silence as he sat up and composed himself. Sometimes it was like looking after three boys Jan thought to herself and she couldn’t decide which one gave her most trouble. At least he had cleaned up after himself – after a fashion.
‘What?’ Terry said with a mouthful of toast, becoming aware that she was staring at him.
‘Nothing,’ Jan said nonchalantly.
‘You’re looking at me as if I’ve done summat wrong.’
‘Well, have you?’
‘No,’ Terry said defensively.
‘That’s all right then. What were you celebrating?’
‘Nowt,’ he said, feeling the hot tea slip down his parched throat.
‘You don’t usually come home that roaring drunk on a Friday night.’
He shrugged his shoulders and bit into some more toast. ‘I wasn’t that bad was I?’
Jan cocked her head to one side and gave him that look. Terry could tell she was fishing for something but there was nothing to fish for. He was only celebrating the clearing of his mind; putting things in order, so to speak. He couldn’t tell her he was celebrating forming a junior football team, that would sound daft, but in essence, that’s all he’d been doing. He supposed he’d tell her, but he’d wanted to tell Joe first. He shrugged his shoulders again.
‘Where’s our Joe?’ he asked
‘Over at Nobby’s I expect, why?’
‘Oh, just had a bit of news for him, that’s all.’
‘What sort of news?’
‘Bein’ a bit nosey, aren’t we?’ Terry said, shovelling down more toast and feeling better already. ‘Just a bit of father and son stuff, you know.’
‘Ooh, right,’ Jan said with a sorry-I-asked look. She got off the bed and headed for the door. ‘Oh, by the way, Mrs. Evans phoned; you were supposed to be at her house for eleven to give her an estimate for cutting down her leylandii. I told her you weren’t feeling too well this morning.’
‘Shit! What time is it now?
‘Ten-to-one,’ she said casually and skipped off down the stairs.
Laying out full stretch on the settee, newspaper folded at the racing section, picking out horses ready for a steady afternoon of sport on telly was the best way to deal with the remnants of a hangover in Terry’s opinion. But when he heard the sound of thundering feet tearing down the garden path, he guessed that particular cure was about to be rudely interrupted.
Joe and Young Nobby burst into the room and stood before him breathless and exited. ‘Is it rate, dad? Or is he just winding us up?’ panted Joe.
‘What? – Who?’ said Terry, sitting up and throwing down his paper.
‘Yer know, what Nobby says about yer startin’ a footie team.’
‘A footie team?’ said Terry, acting all bemused. Joe and Young Nobby looked at each other exasperated.
‘Yeah, a footie team,’ Joe implored with a tone in his voice that said: Please don’t mess about, dad.
A slow, sly smile spread across Terry’s face. Confirmation.
‘Yes! – Yeess!’ The two lads pogoed and high five’d in front of the telly until the ornaments on the mantelpiece rattled. Terry looked on, grinning from ear to ear, a nice warm glow suddenly enveloping his whole body. He was happier than he’d been in weeks.
‘What’s all this about, then?’ Jan was standing in the doorway, hands on hips, alerted by the commotion. Rory had joined her and was trying to push past, eager not to miss out on whatever was going on.
‘We’re gonna start a team, a footie team,’ Joe exclaimed.
‘Oh, so that was the big mystery, was it?’ Jan said, unimpressed.
Rory squeezed past his mam into the room and tried to join in the excitement. He leant on the arm of the settee and jumped up and down. ‘Am I gonna be in it, dad? Am I in t’team?’
‘You’re not in it, yer little sod. Is he, dad?’ said Joe.
‘Ah, you won’t be old enough for this team, I’m afraid, son,’ said Terry, suddenly realising that he’d not taken into account the reactions of his youngest.
Rory stopped bouncing up and down, his excitement evaporated. Terry saw the disappointment in his face and tried to retrieve the situation. ‘You could be t’mascot, though.’
‘I don’t wanna be a bloody mascot, I wanna play.’
‘You won’t be able to, son,’ Terry reasoned. ‘It’ll be an under fourteens side, in a league; there are rules, you’d be too young.’
Rory’s bottom lip came out and quivered. Terry looked into his eyes and hoped what he saw wasn’t hate. He tried a weak smile.
‘Bastard!’ he aimed at his dad. ‘Bastards!’ he aimed at his brother and Young Nobby before pushing past his mam again and slamming the back door on his way out so that the whole house shook.
Arms folded across her chest, Jan gave Terry that old familiar look and slowly shook her head. Untouched by Rory’s outburst, Joe and Young Nobby were still fervently jabbering away to each other.
Terry watched his wife turn and leave the room. The happy feeling had been short-lived.
Derryl Flynn grew up in a northern coal mining town in England during the fifties and sixties. He studied Film-Theatre & TV at Bradford College of Art in the early seventies where he developed a passion for writing drama for screenplay & radio. His debut novel The Albion was first published in 2008. Scrapyard Blues, his second novel has just found a home with Grinning Bandit Books.
Derryl lives with his wife, on the edge of the moors and just a spit away from Bronte country (not a good idea if the wind’s in the wrong direction) where he continues to work on his third MS.
Derryl Flynn is a guy who refuses to be pigeonholed. He writes fiction for any consenting adult who dares to take a look. His background is as eclectic as his scribbling: Art College drop-out, foundry worker, road builder, scrap man, curtain and blind fitter, and amateur philosopher, all accomplished with questionable degrees of success. He thinks he might be okay at making up stories.
Have you read this book or others by this author? Tell us in the comments how you liked it!