But it’s not so unusual for a footballer to hang about with a gangster is it? Almost form isn’t it? Expected. I met Pat when I just moved back here, in my twilight, after my time with City. We moved in the same circles. I liked champagne and flesh and he like making sure I had all I could handle. He just loved the stories. Tales from the trenches. Cup finals, the European nights. The managers, the big personalities.
Then one night, a young lad bumped into him as he was telling one of his own tales. Just bumped into him. Knocked him off his stride and spilled his drink a little. Just a little bit. And then he made me come outside and showed me what he was famous for. After that he made me watch every time. Like having seen him once changed me in his eyes. Like it was all ruined. Like if the friendship was ruined he would ruin me. Ruin my peace.
When I heard what had happened to him, I was relieved. Of course nothing like that should happen in life. Not to anyone. And you have to feel for his family. Who do I feel sorry for? The woman who bought the sausages. The police never got to her before she’d had them for her breakfast. But I was glad it was over. There’s the laugh. That’s what you get for finding comfort in the suffering of others.
Playing helps. When I’m on the pitch it all seems to blow away and I can be me again. The me I was before all this. But you can’t play forever can you? Eventually the whistle goes and you have to hit the showers. The floodlights go out and you have to face the big one. The match you can’t win. The one where the odds are stacked against you. The one that starts when the glass falls from your hand and you crash into the darkness.