"So kiss me and smile for me, tell me that you'll wait for me. Hold me like you'll never let me go."
The dull clicks echo as we buckle our seatbelts around the depressurised cabin as the engines start. As the turbines get louder, there is an uncomfortable feeling running through everyone on board, as we all feel ourselves being pulled into the cheap fabric that wraps our chairs. The resistance is getting stronger as we leave the terminal, the large bus which drove us to our aviation vehicle is getting smaller…. smaller…. smaller and as it disappears into the distance we feel our feet get lighter as we recline back and leave the Earth. The cloth that surrounds our seats is being gripped tightly between ‘Arry’s hands and the small paper bag between his legs is rustling as he is trying to hide his nerves and remain comfortable.
“You alright ‘Arry?” I ask, as I watch the air stewardess giving the in-flight information with a fluorescent orange life vest around her neck.
“I hate flying Mike,” ‘Arry groans ,wiping another piece of his regurgitated breakfast from the corner of his mouth and leans over for yet another sick bag, “I know we were invited to the friendlies in Portugal by our mate, Niall Harrison, but next time I’ll give it a miss.”
“Well I think we are really lucky,” I reply, as I work out how to place my small, flimsy plastic cup of Mountain Dew into the small round groove on the pull-down tray, “I mean, after Leyton Orient stupidly put it on their site that they were playing Millwall and all the fixtures became behind closed doors, then I didn’t think we could watch the lads pre-season out in Portugal. But somehow Niall managed it for us. Apparently, the reason why fans weren't invited is because Neil Harris wants to try new things that he may not be able to do with a crowd there.”
“Talking of changing things,” Dave said from a few rows back, “anyone want to change seats with me? Sandra is snoring from too many Pina Coladas in the airport Wetherspoons and all I can hear is Samantha Patchcole's headphones blaring. ‘Arry, swap seats with me mate?”
“He’s not sitting next to me while his stomach lining keeps coming up,” said Samantha in disgust, “tell you what, if he’s like this on the way back I’m going to hire a car and drive home. Might even stop off at Martigues and say thank you to Jimmy Abdou?”
“What for?” moaned 'Arry, who now had his head firmly between his knees.
“Well, according to News at Den the other day,” I began, “he asked to go out on loan so that he wouldn’t impact Ben Thompson’s development and he wanted to play forty games before his time in England was over. What a great guy and Millwall legend.”
“Did you keep reading what Neil Harris said as well?” Dave said over the combined noise of Sandra’s wheezing, the airplane engine and the two young children arguing over who’s turn it is to play Paw Patrol on their agitated parents’ iPad. “He said he loved playing with Jimmy Abdou and that out of all the managers Abdou has played under, he is one of the first names on the team sheet for his hard work and reliability. He’s just been such a good servant to the club.”
“Excuse me,” I asked the navy waistcoat wearing gentleman walking down the narrow walkway with the catering trolley, “you wouldn’t have another Fat-Free Iced Caramel Macchiato, Upside Down, Extra Caramel for my nauseating friend here would you? Ridiculous coffees are the only thing that calm him down?”
“I’m afraid not,” the air host said, “unfortunately for handsome over there, he had the last one. But he’s more than welcome to get up and leave his seat and sort himself out.”
“Bit like Shane Ferguson ay Mike?” whined ‘Arry from under the warm flannel that was covering his puffed eyes, “he’s been told he’s free to find another club if he wants to get more game time, but Chopper has made it really clear he is a big fan of Shane. I like him, think he’s very talented but it was so tough to get in front of Ben Marshall wasn’t it? Oh God, I’m going to be sick again!”
“Oh blimey,” Samantha says as her eyes remain fixed on the Smash Hits magazine that the slicked back vomiting machine leant her before take-off, “poor ‘Arry must not like the turbulence. Good thing he’s not been looking at the official site! Steve Kavanagh has done loads to take our minds off of the CPO with publishing the letters from those who are standing in the Lewisham East by-election. But I’ll just be happy when the threat on our land is gone! It's making me sick with worry."
“Me too,” says Dave halfway through eating the extortionately expensive packet of peanuts he had used some of his Euros to buy, “anyway Samantha, you’ve seemed a bit interested in that little mug ‘Arry recently, something you wanna tell us?”
“Oh, shut up Dave,” smirked Sandra’s niece behind a shy smirk, “he’s coming back now, and he looks dreadful. I’ll ask him what’s going on with the Lionesses to take his mind off it….”
After a busy week trying to get ready for our trip and losing my passport twice, I try keeping up with my usual routine which had me behind due to the build-up of the World Cup. I tried to take my mind off the travel sickness with a big, fake smile on my face. I was feeling particularly unwell and the smell of deep fat fried food before take-off was not helping me and still lingering in my nostrils. As the plane shook, I had no choice, I had to go and be sick. I came out feeling a whole lot better I must say..
“What’s up with you then?” Mike asked in a non-concerned tone, “chucking up again?”
“I’ve been so ill this week, I think the exams and all that are getting to me. Just announce my death when we land.” I moaned looking for the sympathy that simply wasn’t there.
“Sorry mate can’t do that, think of the paperwork.” Mike laughed, “by the way, did you see the new design for the women’s leagues next year?”
“I did,” I agreed after burping up more of my breakfast I had in the terminal café, “I think they are very smart and look much more professional! As a few people have said it’s something that will have to grow on people, but it’s a massive step in the right direction if you ask me.”
“Agreed,” said Mike under an eye mask covering the top half of his face, “they just look better and gives the leagues more identity, although our league looks like the Comedy Central logo. Any copyright on that?!”
“I saw that on Twitter, I was in bits!” I said, “Millwall apparently have their first friendly sorted against Coventry United. It’s away, but I may try and get down there! I think we still may do well this season. I mean Man United haven’t even got a team yet. If their players aren’t registered in time, I want to see point deductions for them!”
“I personally think Man United will start slow and grow into it,” Mike said after screwing up another sick bag that I had passed to him, “if you want to pick points off Man United you’re going to want to have them in their first five games, when they won’t be settled and won’t be at their best. I still fancy Millwall to do well and I don’t see any reason why a top half finish is not possible. We have a good set of players still, if we can sort all the off field problems who knows what we can do next season.”
“It will be an interesting season,” I said, “teams will need to settle early on and teams will get better and some will get worse over the season. This season may prove as stability for some clubs and establishing themselves rather than competing. Thankfully we are landing now.”
We departed the plane and was instantly hit with the Portuguese heat. We made our way to passport control. Handing over our passports, we were met with a surprise that hit all of us.
“Ola Senhor Dave,” the tanned gentleman with jet black hair and the sky blue button-up shirt said, “Não te vejo há algumas semanas...”