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Short Odds

As the season reaches its climax and Liverpool's title hopes are still alive on the last day of the campaign it is soothing to know that behind the scenes at Melwood things are reassuringly familiar.

" I said have you got those in polyester?"
" I said have you got those in polyester?"
Stu Forster

INT: The manager's office, Melwood. Morning.

Brendan Rodgers sits behind a large desk with multiple monitors. He is perusing a number of high-end clothing catalogues whilst he talks, via speakerphone, to Sam Allardyce, who sits cradling a whiskey at the bar of a salubrious London hotel. Throughout the conversation, Rodgers orders several items online and leaves his desk to try on a succession of designer jackets in front of a full length mirror. He is fully attentive throughout to Allardyce, alternating between a jocular tone and a deeply earnest one.

Rodgers: Honestly Sam. He's one of the best I've ever seen. Just a wonderful technician and what an outstanding attitude. He's so good he basically shows up the other lads. I feel like I can't select him when I've got Gerrard and Suarez moaning that I'm playing favourites. I'm not the kind of impressive authority figure you are, Sam...

Allardyce: I don't know Brendan. I'm pretty well stocked with attacking talent at the moment.

Rodgers: Look mate, I won't lie to you. We could do with the £15m we discussed but honestly, Iago is better than anyone you've got on your books, Sam. Even Stewart Downing. He's that good. I just feel you'd be the mentor that he needs. Sometimes my inexperience leaves me unqualified to handle the really top talent, y'know?

Allardyce: Well, I do have a hell of a CV. I think those stuffed shirts in the FA are more impressed with a foreign name than a resumé as impressive as mine. I often thought that if I'd been called Allardici...(Rodgers cuts him off)

Rodgers:'d have managed England? Yes! Me too! You're not some fly-by-night mercenary like that Manuel Pellegrini -- you should show him what you're all about on Sunday, by the way. Those FA idiots messed up big time in not appointing you, mate.

Allardyce: You know what Brendan? Let's do it. I'll take Aspas. £15m, but not a penny more, mind.

Rodgers: Well, you're robbing us blind Sam, but damn it, I like you, so you have a deal! Listen, you're not near the lads there are you? I'd love a quick word with Big Andy. There's a man I want him to speak to...

Allardyce: As it happens he's just here at the bar next to me. Hang on...

Allardyce hands the phone to Andy Carroll, who is sitting on a barstool clad only in a pair of pink shorts. His expression is quizzical but happy as he speaks.

Carroll: Hello gaffer, do ya miss me, like?

Rodgers: Every day, big man. Every day. I fought for my life to keep you, but that Allardyce is such a brilliant negotiator. I still can't believe he convinced me to let you stay there. Listen, there's a man I'd like you to speak to before the City game.

Carroll: Is it Tinie Tempah, gaffer? I saw you and him are mates now...

Rodgers: No Andy. It's a lad called Steve. Steve Peters? He's a good man.

Carroll: Oh aye? Well, whatever you say gaffer. Tell him I'm here most of the time.

Rodgers: (Conspiratorially) Listen, Andy. I didn't want to say this, but did you hear what Vincent Kompany was saying about Geordies?

Carroll: What?! Shame the bloody season's over. I'd love to get a go at him for that.

Rodgers: Andy, you play them on Sunday, mate? Listen, it was pretty ugly stuff he was saying...(There is a knock at the door and Luis Suarez pokes his head in. Rodgers signals to him to come in and cuts Carroll off politely but firmly.) Listen Andy, It was Steve who told me that Kompany stuff. He'll be there to meet you in the afternoon. That okay big man?

Carroll: Okay then gaffer. Oh, tell Colly I sent him on some of those West Ham training shorts he wanted. See ya. (He hangs up)

Rodgers: Louie! What can I do for you, my friend? (Absent mindedly, as he tries on a Hugo Boss pea coat) What do you think of this one?

Suarez: Very beautiful, boss. Can I speak with you about the Stevie?

Rodgers: Absolutely. What's going on?

Suarez: I want the Stevie to be happy again. He has been sad since he fall against Chelsea, so I make a party before the last game. I think is best for the Liverpool. You will come?

Rodgers: Of course! Wonderful idea, Louie. Where is it on? Listen, you won't be serving that special mystery meat again will you? I wasn't right for weeks after that the last time.

Suarez: No, no boss. Come to my home, tonight. I will make a fantastic party to make the Stevie happy. I just speak with the Phil Collins. He is come too.

Rodgers: You're a good man. Right let's get to training.

EXT. Training pitch, Melwood. Morning

Steven Gerrard sits on an exercise bike pedalling furiously and listening to a specially compiled audio coaching programme. He mouths two phrases repeatedly -- 'I am the master of my own destiny' and 'Remember Istanbul' --and he pauses occasionally to look up from beneath his tiny furrowed brow at the levity around him. As he strokes his newly sprouted depression beard, he looks a remote figure. A group of players including Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson and Victor Moses are being drilled in defensive tracking by Colin Pascoe. The coach struggles to keep them focussed on the task at hand.

Pascoe: Right, so when Raheem goes past Jordan, you keep pace with his run and put in a tackle , okay Victor?

Moses: No problem, Colly.

Pascoe: Right...go!

Sterling plays a one-two with the coach to go past Henderson and surges towards the goal. Moses jogs towards the blond midfielder and stops. Pascoe blows his whistle and approaches Moses.

Pascoe: What's going on, Vic? You were supposed to track Raheem?

Moses: Sorry Colly, I just can't get the idea clear in my head.

Henderson: To be fair, Colly, this is tricky stuff. I prefer to just run around loads. Can we do that, instead?

Pascoe looks thoroughly dejected as Sterling jogs back.

Sterling: Here's the gaffer and Bitey! (Rodgers and Suarez, deep in conversation approach the group)

Rodgers: So I'm thinking fourteen goals will do it for us if West Ham can get a draw. What do you reckon Louie?

Suarez: Will be difficult but Suarez will score fourteen goals for the Liverpool.

Rodgers: Good man! What's going on here lads?

Sterling: Colly can't teach us how to defend, innit gaff'?

Pascoe: Steady on Raheem! I was just...

Sterling: (Nudging Rodgers and adopting a poorly executed Irish brogue) You say steady once more and you'll be on the first plane out of here...

Rodgers and the others laugh but Pascoe is shattered. Seeing his friend is hurting, Rodgers intervenes.

Rodgers: Don't listen to these idiots, Colly. You're a wonderful technician. It's not your fault they're not too clever, is it? (Pascoe brightens slightly and smirks at Rodgers) Right, let's see if I have any more luck with this. Ready Victor? Remember son, everyday you need to wear that shirt with pride and if you won't do it for yourself, do it for Lucas.

Everybody stops and looks across the training pitch. Lucas waves sheepishly back.

Rodgers: Right, let's try it again.

The drill proceeds as before but this time Moses puts in a lung bursting run and blocks Sterling's progress towards goal.

Sterling: You're the man, gaff!

Rodgers: No, it's nothing. Colly would have got it next time, wouldn't you mate? Colly?

Pascoe has slumped off dejectedly in the direction of Dr. Peters office. Suarez whispers to Rodgers as both men look concerned. Suarez reaches into his kit bag and removes three pairs of training shorts before sprinting after the Welshman.

Rodgers: (To himself, in admiration) What a wonderful man. Outstanding...

INT: An airy modern office, Melwood. Afternoon.

Colin Pascoe is perched somewhat anxiously on the edge of an expensive ergonomic chair in front of an impressive looking desk. He looks around sheepishly when Dr. Steve Peters enters the room. The older man is the picture of serene certainty as he sweeps easily behind his desk and addresses his uneasy companion in a soft cajoling tone.

Dr. Peters: So, Colin, Brendan tells me you wanted to talk about a little issue with your attire?

Pascoe: Well, yes. It's a bit...delicate. I just feel so much pressure to up my sartorial game. I mean Brendan's so bloody pretty these days with his sharp suits, fitted knitwear and expensive smart-casual jackets. I remember when we used to be just two chunky guys in training gear, but now...everything's changed. He's got cheekbones and teeth and...

Dr. Peters: (Interrupting gently) It's not really about Brendan though, is it Colly? It's this penchant you've got for shorts, isn't it? Brendan is worried, mate. He says he saw you stockpiling them in a spare storage room here. I mean, how many pairs do you need?

Pascoe: I don't know what to tell you Steve. It's the most peculiar thing. I see them and I just want them. I adore the feeling of freedom...the breeze on my calves and around my...

Dr: Peters: (Cutting him off more urgently this time) But Colly...I mean, not to be indelicate mate, but you're not in the best of shape for a man that insists on flaunting his knees. There are better looks for you.

Pascoe: I know Doc, but it's just so bloody...comforting, y'know? I realise I look utterly ridiculous, but it's a...compulsion.

Dr. Peters: Okay, don't worry, we can definitely do something with this. Do you ever wear trousers? I want to start working on associations -- make you see that it can be okay to cover your shins.

Pascoe: Doc...this goes deep. I still have my wedding shorts. Y'know that Pharrell Williams look? Old hat. I rocked that in the 90s. I mean, I have padded Gore-Tex ones for blizzard conditions. I'm...I'm...not well.

Dr. Peters: Don't panic Colly. I won the Olympics, I can sort this. Maybe if we...(The phone rings and Peters picks it up irritably) Hello? Yes, he's here with me now, Brendan. Well, I think he should stay. We seem to be making progress and...(Peters stops mid-sentence and addresses Pascoe with shock.) Colly, what are you doing?

Pascoe has started rifling through Peters' gym bag and has liberated two pairs of shorts. He is utterly mortified.

Pascoe: I'm...I'm sorry Doc...don't look at me! (He runs to the door, pauses, returns, grabs the shorts and runs out.)

Dr Peters: (Returning to his phone conversation) Brendan? Yeah...I'll send him down now. Yeah, it went really well. Pretty much sorted now I think. Did I ever tell you about when I won the Olympics and I was...Brendan? Brendan?

Rodgers has hung up. Peters, oblivious to the rudeness, picks up a picture of himself and Bradley Wiggins and polishes the glass on it.

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