"And he's round the final bend and on the home straight...."
The man in the long, brown overcoat crouches down, attentively peering through the grills that are covering excitable yelps. After checking that each compartment is secure, and that each numbered gate is locked, he slowly stands and raises his right arm. The fluorescent flag that is resting in his hand is waved, telling the hare it can start to run and begin the chase. A high pitched, but quiet noise shoots down the metal rail on the outside of the sand racetrack. The hare is getting closer to the traps.
The caged animals inside are feeding off the anticipation of the crowd. It's getting closer.... closer.... closer. The eager spectators quietly yelp like the beasts they are watching, gripping tighter and tighter on their race programmes. Closer.... closer.... closer. The hare is on the final bend. This is it. Everyone is grabbing tightly to the cold bar by the side of the course, and with our pupils dilated, we see the grills open to a roar. The six coated greyhounds fly out and chase their prey towards the first bend.
"Come on!" screams 'Arry. "I've got the six dog here lads! I've read the form and he's supposed to do really well at corners!"
"Like our back line against Cardiff the other night mate!" I shout back over the roar of the crowd. "Just like this race, a load of corners came up quick, but we dealt with them well." I take my eyes away from the race to look at the guide and check the dog's current form. "Why did you choose the six 'Arry? Always brave to choose a wide dog in a race, especially on his debut!"
"I took some inspiration from the other night mate." Said 'Arry, whose eyes were following the pack along the back straight.
"Do you mean with Ben Marshall?" I ask, following the same pack as my snapback-capped friend. "If so I can see what you mean. He had an absolute blinder didn't he? For a wide man on his debut I thought he was really good."
"Shame this poxy dog couldn't finish this race like Marshall did!" Dave moaned, "he's at the back now! Poxy thing."
"Don't tell me you listened to my tip Dave and backed that dog?" 'Arry laughed.
"You're cheering for it as well!" shrieked Dave, as he watched the dog he put £5 each way cross the line in last place.
"Haha, I was winding you up Dave," laughed 'Arry, as he waved his small betting slip in Dave's direction. "I put mine on the four dog. You look at his form, he had a 'mare in his last race, like we did against Rochdale in the cup. Said he was due a big performance and had character. Just like what Neil Harris said on News at Den about Mahlon Romeo. Had a shocker at the start but recovered really well."
"Where's Sandra with our grub anyway?" Dave asks, peering over the sea of people who were between him and the small serving window which was our Millwall café hostess' destination.
"She'll be back in a minute, give the poor woman a rest!" I say, with my eyes firmly on the race guide and studying the next six dogs. "By the way, did you see what Chopper said about Cahill being nowhere near his best? Says he has had a great impact so far and had a good cameo the other night, but will need to do a bit more to get back to form."
"I know what he means," Dave sighs, "I wish I was at my best tonight. Eight races so far and not one bloody winner. I have more luck on the fruity!"
"Will you stop going on?" Sandra asks, with four polystyrene plates carefully balanced in her frail hands. The skinny, gold-ringed fingers with the protruding veins hiding the strength she possesses. "Sorry Dave, but they didn't have chicken nuggets and chips, so I had to get you scampi."
"Thanks for this Sandra," I say, "that's really nice of you to get this for us. 'Ere 'Arry, did you see the other day that Jed reckons that if Lee Gregory had more goals, the way he plays and what he offers to the side that he'd get in loads of Premier League teams?"
"Bit like the four dog in the last race ay Dave?" said 'Arry, his mouthful of masticated cheeseburger hiding the stifled laughter that was aimed at our friend who had bet on the wrong dog. "He'd be racing in the gold collar if he kept putting in performances like that. Thanks to him, I may break even tonight."
"As Millwall will do if we beat Birmingham at the weekend," I say, delicately opening the light blue sachet of tartare sauce, before turning the packet upside down and squeezing out the off-grey dressing. "Apparently if we win at St. Andrews, then we will have the same points as in the whole year that we went down. Show's how far this side has come really..."
"They've done really well," said Sandra, who along with kindly bringing over our dinner helps me open my second sachet of tartare sauce. "Also says that we're not going to be intimidated which is great to read. Anyway, come on, let's get ready for the next race."
"I hope I have more luck than I did in the last poxy one," says Dave, as he picks up his pint of John Smith's and makes his way outside to the cold, concrete concourse.
"Seriously Dave," I say rolling my eyes, "you really don't stop moaning do you? Anyway, before this next race starts, what's been happening with the Lionesses 'Arry?"
"I’ve had enough of this!!" I moan, seeing my latest bet fail to come in. "Damn dogs haven’t won me a lot so far, it’s an absolute joke!"
"Calm down mate," Mike chuckles, before gently tapping me on the top of the head with his rolled up programme, "it’s only a laugh! You’re getting more wound up than Dave on that fruit machine at this point, or when you couldn’t say the word penchant."
"Oi, watch it you!" I reply, straightening the peak of my Greasy Spoon cap after receiving the soft paper blow. "Anyway, the Lionesses got a good result Sunday, a bit lacklustre, but we got there."
"We did mate," Mike replied, sipping his builder's strength tea in the flimsy polystyrene cup. "It’s showing signs of real champions when we can win games when we are aren’t the better team. Just like dog four, got a bad leg but still won the race."
"Put your money where your mouth is," I say, "a bet on dog four in the next race?
"If he wins," Mike says, smugly checking the form guide and seeing that the two dog is in fact the favourite, "then the next interview with the Lionesses you do, you have to sing a duet with them."
"You two drive me insane with your ideas," Sandra says, whilst helping Dave open his sachet of brown sauce. "You two could be put in a dark cardboard box and you make an idea out of nowhere."
"Just because you're not one of us there is no need to be so childish!" I laugh, "I tell you what Sandra. Come down on Sunday when the Lionesses visit Arsenal."
"I’ve got work Sunday so I won’t be there, its stock take time!" Sandra said excitedly. "However I am feeling confident."
"That’s not good then!" Mike said, "last time you felt confident was when you thought you and 'Arry could tango in that Salsa Bar. Instead, it turned out with both of you falling over the edge of the bar and all of us getting barred!"
"That reminds me," I interrupt. "Wait till you see the interviews with Ashlee and Rianna that I did on Wednesday."
"How did the new equipment work?" Mike laughed, "I heard they are massive fans of us?
"Let's just say we need to buy a pair of new boots for Rianna Dean now!..." I reply.
"Not with my winnings you won’t!" Dave shouts, as his dog races three lengths clear towards the finish line. "Finally, I've had a winner!"