"When will I see you, again?"
The back of 'Arry and Sandra's heads greet me as I walk in the Millwall café this week. Both are perched precariously on the edge of their varnished wooden chairs, looking at the wall mounted television and the images that are displaying on the news channel. Sandra's tea-stained apron string is nervously being passed through her fingers, and each time she drops the rope she hurriedly places it back into her thin, sinew-ridden hands. 'Arry is also looking at the television, but his equivalent of the apron string is a small triangular biscuit wafer, which he quickly scoffs into his mouth.
After the weather forecast has finished, the screen turns to black and Sandra puts her head down with a sigh.
"It'll be alright Sandra," 'Arry reassures her, gently placing his arm around her small frame and carefully placing the bend of his elbow over her shoulder blade. "He'll turn up, and soon we'll hear his change clunking in the Cops and Robbers machine again."
"I know 'Arry," says Sandra sadly, "but just something on the news that he has been gone for ages would've been nice, and that he is missed by all his friends."
"Well we can't lie about Dave now can we Sandra?" 'Arry says in a caring tone.
"But he has been gone for ages 'Arry?" Sandra replies puzzled.
"Yeah I know," 'Arry says trying to hide his smirk, "but he hasn't got any mates....."
"Anyway Sandra," I remark, trying to calm her down and stop her from attacking 'Arry. "We don't know what's happening with Dave at the moment, so lets not try and worry. Bit like what Neil Harris said the other day about Ben Marshall. He's been playing really well since he joined, and Chopper isn't being drawn in on where he'll be in the future, although he admits that Marshall has real quality and fantastic ability."
"Yeah I suppose you're right Mike," Sandra says trying to cheer herself up. "I agree with Chopper that he's brought in a winning mentality, and that shows with his goal and the victory against Burton last week."
"Talking about quality," said 'Arry, who was cowering behind me from Sandra's death stare, "any chance of a breakfast and a coffee?"
"Sure thing lads," said Sandra from the inside of the Lucozade fridge, "sit yourself down and I'll bring over the usual."
We sit ourselves down in our usual spot by the exit. The cold draught from under the blue-framed double doors swirls around our feet and causes 'Arry and I to both shake. The uneven wooden feet of our chairs is banging loudly on the blue and white laminated flooring.
"When you getting that door sorted Sandra?" I ask as I watch her expertly slalom around the tables with our two fry-ups, wondering why she hasn't entered the Winter Olympics.
"Don't start Mike!" shouted Sandra, who now has to contend with the four gentlemen in high-vis jackets who had been inserted into her usual course. "Had the fella who fixes it booked in for the 17th March. He was going to come in, do it early and then head up to Barnsley for the game. Then what do you know? The Football League then go and change the kick-off time to 1pm so he had to cancel!"
"Oh that's no good," I say halfway through slurping my builder's strength and scrolling through the iPad I took out of my bag, "it says here as well they may also do that with the Sheffield United clash on the 14th April. Better ask your mate to check his train times on that day too."
"Like the Lions at the moment ay Mike?" 'Arry said, whilst trying to position his nose so that it didn't get covered in the extra whipped cream that Sandra had put over his skinny, hazelnut latte with chocolates flakes and glazed cherries. "Neil Harris said we are like a steam-train at the moment, even when we don't do well we are getting results and George Saville reckons there's no reason why we can't make the play-offs."
"Saville's right, just like we said earlier," I reply, slowly scrolling up to read Jake Cooper's view of Sunderland at NewsatDen. "Also, we can't take Sunderland lightly and Cooper says here that they have a top squad. On paper they have a great side and will be a tough ask for the Lions. As long as we get the 50 points and further away from that poxy League One..."
"Please Mike," Sandra says cutting me off abruptly, "can you not say 'poxy'? It makes me think of Dave spending all his wife's money in the fruit machine over there, and I feel myself getting a bit choked up."
"Oh I am sorry Sandra," I say, taking her delicate gold ring covered fingers in my hands. "He'll be back soon I'm sure. Just like Aiden O'Brien and Byron Webster who seem to be back in training. Anyway 'Arry, what's been happening with the Lionesses?"
"Yeah I’ll have another caramel mocha please Sandra?" I ask, as Sandra wipes away her tears that Mike has caused.
"Sorry but we’ve run out" Sandra sniffs, "you and those coffees have put us out of stock on them. Would you like a builder's strength?"
"Ran OUT?!!!" I shout over the repeated news bulletins from earlier, "you’re just like the FA - running out of games for the Lionesses!"
Despite the havoc the cafe has caused me, first thing I talk to Mike about was the Lionesses, who now don’t have a game for quite a while.
“It’s a bit of a joke” I moaned, while waiting for my second breakfast which was late.
"Yeah it is to be fair," says Mike, who was still finishing his first, "what does a club do during a whole month of no football? It’s basically like a new season again! Saying that with this snow at the moment I don’t think their would be a game anyway.”
"Yeah suppose so," I agree, "the weather is getting on my nerves a bit, just like this café. I think Sandra is having me on here."
"Forget Sandra and your fancy coffee," Mike says sharply, "where is Dave?!"
"I haven’t seen him since he pulled away in that car," I answered puzzled, "maybe he won the jackpot and went to Miami for a week"
After a few moments silence, we both burst out laughing.
"Do you think Dave would really go to Miami?" Mike asked before putting down his stainless steel knife and fork. "His jackpot winnings would go right back into the fruit machine."
"Anyway, how do you think the Lionesses will get on next season with the change?" I ask my friend.
"I’m not sure," Mike replies, taking a big slurp and finally putting away his iPad. "I think we will have to wait and see who is in our league, but also the transfer business done by clubs that are moving up and down divisions as well as our own."
"I think we've just got to keep hold of what we have and make one or two additions just for squad depth next season," I say gleefully, as I see Sandra bringing over my second helping, "as with a bigger league there will be more games, so it will be needed during the congested periods."
"Who will they bring in though?" Mike enquires, "because with a fair few teams moving about surely it will depend on the location as well?"
"Time will tell Mike, time will tell..." I say rubbing my chin, "just like the time this breakfast took to arrive!"