The alarm sounded at 5:00 am, but he was already awake. Dread filled his stomach. The day had come, the one he had tried not to think about, the day he had tried so hard to convince himself would be ok. He knew it wasn’t going to be. September 1st, 2014. It was transfer deadline day. Twice a year, his worst nightmares came true.
Reporter F went through his daily routine. Shit, shower, shave. It helped to have a routine. He picked out a casual suit, but decided to dispose of the jacket. A nice yellow tie had been provided by Sky Sports News management, and he was obliged to wear it. Corporate image and all that. Yellow signified happiness and fun, said the email from HQ.
The crew would provide the food, but he had some provisions of his own – Monster Munch, scotch eggs, Lucozade and of course the hip flask. He hoped he wouldn’t need that, but just in case…after all, what if it was like deadline day January 2012, outside The Britannia Stadium? He shuddered as a cold chill passed through his entire body.
He met the cameraman and sound crew outside St James Park. They seemed pretty down too. Talk was fleeting and muttered. Everyone knew they just had to get through the day and that was that. Strong coffee was taken, and the odd pill.
The morning was ok – they usually were. Little to report, and the kids were in bed. Apparently the schools were off, so that didn’t bode well. Not well at all. They’d be here at some point – a case of when, not if. A gradual trickle and before you knew it, they’d be everywhere. Keen for their fifteen minutes of fame, they could stand in one spot for a hell of a long time. It could be worse. He could have been at Stoke. The poorest performer always got Stoke. He’d had it twice, and it wasn’t a day you forgot, nor got over easily. He still had the odd flashback.
The only thing that kept him going was the thought that one day he would be rewarded with the ultimate desk job – presenting from the studio. Jim White’s larynx couldn’t hold out forever.
There were tales of woe that had become legend down the years. Everyone knew them. The day Alan Irwin got his foot run over chasing after Harry Redknapp outside the Spurs training ground. Kaveh Solhekol molested by Rod Hull and Emu near Old Trafford. Gary Ciotterill having his ear flicked constantly for seven hours by a man in a mankini as part of a Paddy Power PR stunt. There were many more. One day he’d laugh about all of this, as a nurse fed him his daily medication.
But today Reporter F had been given the Newcastle gig. God knows why, he lived in Bournemouth. He had to stay in a Travelodge overnight. Anyway, there were rumours of possible late deals, but nothing concrete. It was trying to rain, whatever that meant. No deals announced in the morning, none on the horizon either it seemed.
At 1pm though, his worst fears were realized. He saw them out of the corner of his eye whilst making some notes. Four teenage boys. No, make that five. One was wearing a curly hair wig and another was carrying an inflatable sheep. When they saw the camera and Reporter F, they started cheering and quickened their pace. And so it began. The boys stayed there for seven hours, fuelled only by Haribo and sheer stupidity.
They were soon joined by others. They all seemed a tad simple and shouted stupid things a lot when he was talking to camera. A couple had made banners, bless them. I LUV KATY, HI MUM, TOON ARMY 4EVA, JONNY SUCKS D…..
When he was off-camera they looked at their phones a lot and insulted each other. The day trundled on. More teenagers arrived and gurned at the camera. Alan Pardew arrived at the ground but wouldn’t acknowledge Reporter F. He tried to get a word with the assistant manager but he said he had no news. No deals had yet been done. He talked to camera about a possible move for Hatem Ben Arfa. As he talked, he felt a tickling sensation in his ear. He swatted away what he thought to be a fly. No, his mistake, a young man was poking a blue dildo into his ear.
At one point he had to stop mid-sentence and tell those behind him to keep the noise down. Soon after, he was hit by a cream éclair. During his next report a kid shouted “I love pussy” as he discussed possible arrivals. Why did Sky keep coming to him? He had nothing to say!
Men don’t cry, his father had always told him. Men don’t cry….
Other rumours came and went. Deals fell by the wayside, no one moved despite talks. He was wasting everyone’s time by being there and speaking to camera. As dusk fell, the children drifted away. Not all of them though. A few hardy souls stayed to insult him further. One mooned the camera from the safety of a grass verge. Back in the studio, Natalie Sawyer, clothed entirely in yellow, was forced to apologise to viewers. His feet hurt now. He was laughingly called a roving reporter yet he had barely moved in twelve hours. Cramp was setting in. His stomach yearned for some food. A half-eaten Haribo tangfastic bounced off his shoulder.
It was long dark now. Reporter F stood outside a deserted St James Park. Behind him a man in a luminous jacket swept some twigs from the road, whistling as he worked. A white van trundled past. A security man looked vacantly towards the camera, whilst nibbling on a Twix. He could hear beeping – another van was reversing somewhere in middle distance. A Mercedes pulled up! Could this be, possibly, Alan Par… no, it was someone from the catering department. Reporter F solemnly spoke into the camera. As suspected earlier in the day, Newcastle would not be doing any business on transfer deadline day. Was it raining? Or did a solitary tear run down the cheek of reporter F? No one could be sure.
He mouthed to the camera “Help me. Someone please help me.”
A pigeon crapped on his shoulder. The camera faded to black.