"When will I see you, again?"
I reach in take out the small nickel-brass and nickel-plated alloy piece from my back pocket. Looking down as my dodecagon glistens in the buzzing light above me, I read the inscription engraved on the outside: “ELIZABETH II D G REG”, followed by “Fidei defensor.” “Defender of the Faith” I chuckle, as I instantly think of the game last Sunday, where our defenders of the faith expertly kept out Aston Villa in another wonderful home performance. 1-0 was the result after a Shaun Williams penalty, and I was hoping once I put this £1 coin in the Cops and Robbers machine, I would have the fortune of the Millwall midfielder who scored the penalty, rather than Lee Gregory who missed the spot-kick awarded later in the game.
“Usual builder’s strength, Mike?” came a high-pitched shout from behind the counter.
“Yes, please Sandra? I’ll be over in a sec to get it.” I reply, as I watch the flashing lights settle down and focus on the three spinning reels that will decide my fate.
“You say about Shaun Williams, Mike” Sandra said to me, “have you seen he has finally made the Ireland squad with Aiden O’Brien? About bloody time if you ask me!”
“You’re right there!” I agree, as I try to see if some of the luck of the Irish will rub off on me, “this is probably one of the best seasons he’s had down here. I still can’t get over how he missed the squad back in March. Just like he said in the Southwark News and what I read on NewsatDen earlier, he couldn’t have done anymore and its fantastic that he is getting some recognition at last. By the way, where’s your niece? One shift too much for her was it?”
“Who Samantha? She’ll be here soon don’t worry!” Sandra said reassuringly, “she loved it down here and wanted to come back again, so I said she could.”
“You talking about your niece or Paul Robinson?” I ask as I decide which wheel to nudge down, “he just got released by AFC Wimbledon and although he mentions he had a good time down there, he makes a point of saying how special it was to play at The Den again. Loads of people have been going crackers and asking for him to come back and I would love Robbo to come back!”
“Me too Mike!” said Sandra as she gently placed my ceramic mug of dark brown tea on the light brown laminated table that’s next to the fruit machine. “Where’s ‘Arry? Since I gave him that iced venti, 2 regular shots, one decaff.. 3 pumps white mocha, 4 pumps gingerbread, half soy, half nonfat, 2 splenda, 3 equals, easy ice, with caramel and chocolate drizzle on top, white mocha he ran to the toilet and has been in there for ages! He even left his Smash Hits on the side, and you know how much he loves to read that in the toilet.”
“Well I hope he isn’t in there too long!” I laughed, “if he’s been in there that long he won’t be ready for next season.”
“Who do you think I am?! Sid Nelson?!” came a voice from behind the emulsion painted door. Sandra and I followed the peeling paintwork that acted as an arrow and saw two LA Lights with two pink socks pulled up tight half way up his shins and his Primark cream shorts all gathered in a heap on the floor. “I’m reading from in here that he’s in a race to be fit for the start of next season. Apparently got injured against Newport County while he was on loan at Chesterfield. I’m not sure what’ll happen first, he’ll get fit or I’ll get off this toilet by August.”
“One person we may not see round here too much anymore is Tim Cahill,” I yell through the cubicle door as I sip my builder’s strength. “Neil Harris has an open mind whether or not Timmy will be here next season, but he thinks that Cahill may go elsewhere. End of the day, it worked out well for Tim, both he and James Meredith have made the preliminary squad for the World Cup which was his target when he came here. I just hope I see some other number 7’s land here in Bermondsey on this machine!”
“Well if Timmy does go, I hope we can keep hold of Ben Marshall.” Sandra says as she takes my iPad out of my bag and load up the Millwall page “Jed Wallace said on NewsatDen that he wants him to hang about for a bit longer and so do I. He always pops in before a game for a quick beans-on- toast with a bit of bubble. I’ll miss him if he does go because they reckon Stoke might come in for him, but I do secretly hope he stays.”
“He had a great season, but to be honest Sandra everyone did.” I reminisce, “look at some of these photos on the official site, JB is celebrating with the fans, the lap of honour was respected by both the players and the supporters and Neil Harris has got so much praise from everyone for how well we did this season.”
“’Ere Mike,” came a whisper from under the toilet door, “can you send Sandra to get some loo roll? I’ve just used it all up and when I come out I’ll tell you all about the Lionesses….
After spending an eternity in the toilet, I sat back at my seat, slowly swirling my spoon around in my coffee, looking devastated at it. My good friend Mike could not help but notice the disappointment on my face.
“What’s up ‘Arry?” he asked concerned, “Sandra hasn’t dropped out of the Britain’s Got Talent audition next week has she, leaving you all on your own?”
“No she’s still in that mate,” I sighed, “and more determined than ever if I must say so myself. It’s just very hard to stay positive when things are going so bad! The Lionesses have done so well, and everyone is amazed that they have been able to carry on play for free and compete, but you just feel for the players and staff there. They deserve so much more, and this coffee... it deserves a lot more caramel.”
“Having a rough one then today mate?!” Sandra glares from behind the till, agitated that ‘Arry is not happy with the next coffee she brought over.
“Yeah I’ve been so busy lately,” I reply, “and trying to get things sorted for Sunday! It’s their final home game of the season and it’s against top of the league Doncaster Belles. It needs to feel special that day, a bit like when you wake up for your breakfast and your mother brings you a full fry up and a glass of bubbly.”
“I feel a big 3 points to be honest,” Mike said, ”as it’s also a double header. The development team kick off at 10:30 so it will be good to hopefully see what fry ups. I mean, with what they are like, they’ve also been doing well this season.”
I slowly start to sip my coffee and as I sit there and take in the peace and quiet, 6 feet 11 inches of Tim Gale walks into the cafe.
“Alright boys,” says Tim in a suggested whisper, “how is everyone feeling? Good?!”
“Yeah not too bad mate,” Mike replies to the only man in Bermondsey who is taller than him, “I’ve got a hangover from the Bermondsey mile and he’s struggling to find a train to Brighton next Sunday.”
“I need to go next Sunday,” I say as I try to navigate around National Rail website, “and I’ll try get some videos done as well, last game of the season against once again another very good side.”
“If you want to watch another one of my videos,” Tim says in a low monotone, “click here...”
“Mate that is too creepy,” Mike says in a worried tone, “that’s worse than some of the Lionesses banter.”
“Right, anyway...” says Tim as he picks up his camera and microphones, “I’m off see youuuuuuu... next weekend.”
“See you mate,” I say as I make sure the door closes behind Time, “yeah Brighton is a right pain. You’d think Brighton womens side would play in Brighton!”
“Could always use the A-Z finder?” Mike suggests, “helps me find the local curry house every now and again.”
“I mean where even is Lancing?!” I ask, “such an odd place, I better get an earlier one just to ensure I get there on time. Honestly this travelling is driving me mad just how does B. Taylor deliveries do it?”
We are startled as we here a china mug smash behind us. We turn to see Sandra in a state of shock, her mouth opened aghast with the visitor who has just walked in.
“What?!” Mike shrieks in a high-pitched shrill, “it….. it can’t be?!”
“’Ello lads,” Dave says as he brushes his feet on the doormat, “have you missed me?”