Taken from the Christmas issue of The Square Ball…
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental…well, kinda. But just to be clear, this is a load of made up crap! 😉
Narrator: Hey there, it’s me. You know, that new guy from Radio Aire (playing today’s best variety of hits) who does the does the on-pitch announcements at Elland Road now Ben Fry’s gone. Anyway, I’m here to narrate as I’ll take on just about any easy gig I can…anything to get me away from having to listen to Olly Murs, Katy Perry or Maroon F**KING 5 AGAIN!
You know, I used to be a man of principle, purity of soul. I wanted to beat the drum for innovative, cutting edge bands…oh what’s that? Okay, I’ll get on with it. Now back to story…
It’s a windy Christmas Eve at Elland Road and Ross McCormack has just finished a signing session at the club’s superstore. After saying his goodbyes, he makes towards the exit to head over to the West Stand car park along with Lucas the Kop Cat, ready to make the journey home for the Christmas festivities.
Lucas: So Ross, what do you want for Christmas?
Ross: Well you know me, Lucas. I wanna prove all my haters wrong. I wanna score 30 goals this season…but most of all, I wanna get this club back into the top flight.
As Ross makes his way down the steps outside the superstore, his gaze drifts upwards and fixes upon the statue of the hallowed Billy Bremner…
Somewhere, over the rainbow, way up high
There’s a league that I hear of, morning, noon and night on Sky
Somewhere over the rainbow, dreams come true
And a hyper Jim White, excitedly speaks of you.
Someday I’ll wish upon a star and wake up where Yeovil’s far behind me
Where Hull v. Stoke is an event, where £18 million buys you Darren Bent
That’s where you’ll find me
Somewhere, over the rainbow, The Bluebirds fly
Well, granted they’ve now become Dragons…but why can’t I?
If Alex Bruce plays in the Premier League
Why, oh why, can’t I?
As he finishes, Ross looks skyward, wistfully. When he turned back to face Lucas, he sees a downbeat looking snow leopard…
Ross: You’re looking a bit down, wee beast. Have you not got any grand plans for the holidays?
Lucas: Not really Ross. I’m a snow leopard. We don’t particularly celebrate Christmas, being a predominantly atheist species. And besides, my friends have been tending to avoid me since I lost my mojo.
Ross: Oh no! Are you still suffering from that Ronnie Rhino inferiority complex?
Lucas: Ross, we both know I don’t possess his charisma and way with the ladies…no, I’m just gonna sit at home with a bottle of Southern Comfort, a box of Kleenex and watch some late night Animal Planet…
As the chat continues, a shadowy, unwelcome presence approaches on a bicycle, it’s Gwyn Williams…
Gwyn: Hey Ross! I’ve just been on the phone to Delia Smith. I’ve set up a meeting for next week…
Petrified, Ross and Lucas hastily make their getaway to the West Stand car park, though they can barely stand in the face of the ferocious gusts of wind. All of a sudden, across Fullerton Park, they are affronted with an astounding sight, a tornado is sweeping over the M621, picking up cars like crisp packets as it makes its way toward the stadium. In a desperate bid to find shelter, Ross and Lucas break into the prefabricated offices opposite Howard’s (award winning) restaurant.
As the tornado hits the car park, a window in the offices blows clean through (that’s Safestyle UK, for you) knocking Ross unconscious. When he wakes, he finds himself in a strange land…
Ross: Christ, my f**king head. That must’ve been some night…
Groggy and bewildered, Ross makes his way outside. He gasps, taken aback by his surroundings. Behind him lies the West Leeds Railwaymen’s Club & Institute and all around him, familiar faces from an earlier part of his career…
Ross: Lucas, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Beeston anymore…
Simon Grayson: Ross, you’ve done it, you’ve done it! The eyes and ears, the snake in the grass, that w**ker is no more!
Ross: What? Stop being so cryptic.
Glyn Snodin: You’ve killed the fat, horrible b**tard!
Still startled, Ross turns around and underneath the prefabricated offices lies the body of Gwyn Williams. At first, there is disbelief, but on closer inspection there can be no doubt. As Ross confirms his deed, so a crowd of ex-players, all wronged by Leeds United’s ex-Technical Director gather around for a celebratory chorus…
Ding Dong! The Snitch is dead.
Which old Snitch?
The Chelsea Snitch!
Ding Dong! The Chelsea Snitch is dead!
Ross: Okay guys, there’s no need to make some song and dance about it! Now how the hell do I get back to Elland Road?
Suddenly a pink VW Beetle pulls up in the car park and out climbs a familiar looking figure.
Ross: David, is that you in the fairy godmother outfit?
Gilda: Yeah! It’s my fancy dress outfit for the London Marathon – did I tell you guys I’m in training for a marathon?
Gilda: Ah right! Anyway, this ain’t no fairy Godmother get-up, I’m here as Gilda, the Good Witch of the North!
Gilda: Yes, now stop being so judgemental! I haven’t critiqued your new gingham dress and pigtails look, have I?
Ross checks out his reflection in the window. He stands in dumbfounded silence until the stifled laughter of the Kop Cat snaps him out of it…
Ross: Shut it furry a**e! I’m not the one done up head to toe in Macron gear!!
Gilda: Hey, come on guys, back to the script! I’m here to guide you home and keep you safe from the covetous hands of the Wicked Witch of West Leeds who intends to claim ownership of you so he can fund the set-up of his new radio station. I’ve gotta warn you, he’ll be extra p*ssed too, now you’ve killed his partner in crime.
The Good Witch tentatively approaches the body of Gwyn Williams and removes his football boots…
Gilda: Here Ross, take these ruby Adidas Predators and never take them off. They shall protect you from the evil advances from the evil one!
Ross: Wow! Thanks David…sorry, Gilda. But how, pray tell do I get back home? The coach to Blackpool departs at noon on Boxing Day.
Gilda: Why that’s simple. You just need visit the Wizard of Osmondthorpe and he can transport you back!
Ross: And how do I find him?
Gilda: Why, you follow the Inner Ring Road!
With that, the Good Witch disappears in his/her VW Beetle, leaving Ross startled and confused…
Ross: So did you catch all that Lucas? Now where do we start?
Suddenly all the ex-LUFC employees swarm around Ross and Lucas, each in turn, offering the same piece of advice: “Follow the Inner Ring Road!”…
Follow the Inner Ring Road
Follow the Inner Ring Road
Follow, follow, follow, follow,
Follow the Inner Ring Road!
We’re off to see the wizard,
The Wonderful Wizard of Os(mondthorpe)
We hear this wiz is really da shiz, if ever a Wiz there was,
If ever, oh ever a wiz there was,
The Wizard of Os(mondthorpe) is one because
Because, because, because, because, because
Because of the wonderful things he does
We’re off to see the wizard, The Wonderful Wizard of Os(mondthorpe)
With that, Ross and Lucas wave their farewells and head for the Armley Gyratory, carefully following the signs for the A58 (Eastbound). However, confounded by its scale and complexity, Ross and Lucas immediately encounter confusion, however, salvation is at hand in the form of another familiar face…
Ross: Hey Ryan! How are you keeping, man? Which exit do we need to take for the Inner Ring Road?
Ryan Hall: Hey brother! Now let’s see…yes, that’s it! Take the third exit! Oh hang on, now is the second? Hmmm…give me a minute.
Ross: Oh come on, we’re in a hurry here!
Ryan Hall: I’m sorry man, I just can’t make up my mind. You see, I have no brain. It’s like this…
Since I mouthed off on twitter,
My career’s gone down the sh*tter,
All alone I have to train,
I could now be happily playing
And still have Leeds a paying,
If I only had a brain
Ross: Don’t worry. We’ll find our way. We just have to visit the wizard, you see.
Ryan Hall: The wizard? Then please take me with you! He could maybe help me secure a new full-time contract somewhere!
Ross: No problems brother, but just one other thing; why the hell are you dressed up as a scarecrow?
Ryan Hall: Oh, Neil’s offered my a part-time gig at his farm. Still maintains I’ve got the talent make an impact in any position…
With that, a kindly Ross offers a welcoming hand and off the trio skip into the distance, singing eulogies in praise of the wizard they seek. As they pass the YEP clock tower, the gayly skipping friends’ gaze fix upon another familiar figure…
Ross: David, I thought you were dead!!!
David Norris: Mmmmmmmmmm!!
Ross: What’s that? Oh, you want me to pick up that bottle by your feet? Let’s see…ah cod liver oil! You want some? Here you go son, drink it in.
David Norris: Ah thank you Ross, I can finally speak. I’ll have the rest of the bottle if you don’t mind.
Ross: Here you go son, drink it down.
David Norris: Cheers, you’re a life saver. I’ve been so inactive since the summer that all my joints have seized up! Mind you, I pocketed myself a few quid impersonating a statue in City Square.
Ross: I wondered where you’d disappeared to! Haven’t seen you around and about the first team squad in ages, even the development squad! What’s the story?
David Norris: I just don’t think the gaffer rates me. He can see I’ve got an eye for goal, I can beat players and I possess these smouldering eyes, but ever since the emergence of Alex Mowatt I just don’t seem to figure in his plans. I’m told he just doesn’t think I have the hunger and desire to fight my way back into his plans…
My situation’s odd,
Don’t make the Blazing Squad,
Have Brian notice me, I can’t.
But I know I’d be competing,
Rather than in the West Stand seating,
If I only had the heart.
Ross: Nice rhyming fella. Have you got any more? It somehow feels like there’s a verse or two missing
David Norris: Oh give me a break!
Ross: Okay Dave. Look, why don’t you come along with us? We’re off to see the wizard, he might be able to help you out?
With that, David joins his friends and onwards they bound toward their destination, singing as they go, Ross never once questioning how his comrades knew every word to a song they’d never heard before. As the quartet approach the slip road for the universities, a silver saloon pulls up alongside them and as the passenger side window slides down a face from the past affronts them…
The Wicked Witch of West Leeds: Oi! You bloody lot. Look at the state of you! A transvestite Scotsman, a leopard in polyester, an unemployed scrounger and…David, I thought you were dead!! To think of the money I sp*nked on you lot and that bloody Haigh has the cheek to say I’ve conned the club out of funds! Driver, run these bloody chancers down!!
Ross: Oh f**k, it’s Bates!!
The Wicked Witch of West Leeds: McCormack you sh*thouse, come here! I’ve got a new radio station to fund!!…Arrrgggh!!
The Wicked Witch recoils in horror as he sees Ross is now the custodian of the ruby Adidas Predators. Realising his target is untouchable he leaves the scene to make fresh plans for his capture. Shaken, our heroes continue their journey, taking in the 1960s brutalist, architectural magnificence of the road they tread. As the A58 gives way to York Road a desperate looking face from the past comes into view.
Lucas: Holy s**t? That can’t be…? Is that you Ellie?!?
Ellie the Elland Road Elephant: Hi guys. How are you? David? I thought you were dead!!
Ross: Hey Ellie, we’re fine. But look at you, dirty, cold, destitute. What’s happened to you? You look like a broken mammal! Why are you crying?
Ellie: Well you dumped me here the other day when you were on your last fly tipping episode!
Ross: Ah f**k!
Lucas: But Ellie, I don’t understand. I thought you’d gone on to bigger and better things when you left Elland Road.
Ellie: Don’t talk to me, Lucas! You’re the one who put me here! For years I owned that pitch, putting smiles on the faces of children and parents alike, then all of a sudden it was gone. I was shattered. I turned to the booze, I lost weight…and just look at me now. My confidence, my courage, shattered!
Ross: Oh Ellie, I’m so sorry. Please tell us more about it.
Ellie: Well, it’s like this…
Yeah, it’s sad, believe me, Ross
I used to be the boss
A mammal of vim and verve,
But then in the Kop Cat came,
To snatch my f**king fame,
And now I’ve lost my nerve.
What I need in truth is a miracle worker…
Ross, Lucas, Ryan and David (all together): Well, it’s funny you should say that…!!
And so the journey continued, the skipping and songs picking up tempo as the bright lights of Osmondthorpe came into view. As the five friends moved through the streets, people sang joyfully, then a horse rode past that changed its colour from purple, to red to yellow…were those really Smints that Ryan Hall had been sharing?
Not to be perturbed our heroes marched on and then suddenly stumbled upon a dingy looking building on the main street, beside the door there was a buzzer, alongside it was a label, it read ‘The Wizard’. Ross’ heart leapt, he froze in a moment of excitement, then recomposed himself and pressed the buzzer…
The Wizard: Hello, Os Cabs…erm, I mean, the Wizard! Can I help you?
Ross: Oh yes, yes if you could please! I’m Ross and these are my friends: Lucas, Ryan, David and Ellie. We’ve traveled a long, long way, from the windswept outer reaches of Wortley to seek your help!
The Wizard: Outer reaches of Wortley? That’s about 3 b**tard miles! P*ss off and stop wasting my time! Who the hell walks from Wortley to Osmondthorpe on Christmas Eve anyway? Oh and look at that elephant – bloody tramp!
Ross: You ought to be ashamed of yourself, talking to us like that! Now open that door before I kick it in and plant one on you, sonny!
The Wizard: Hey, hey, hey! Pipe down. I have every intention of helping you, but first you have to prove yourself. A task is what I ask of you. Track down the Wicked Witch of West Leeds and bring me his broadcasting licence, I don’t wanna hear any more of his sh*te on the airwaves. All you need do to find him is head due west, across the abandoned wastes of the sodden football pitches…
A collective shudder rand down the spines of the group, they would have to conquer their greatest foe if they were to fulfill their wishes. They exchanged glances and from those looks, they knew it had to be done.
The sodden pitches came into view but there was no sign of the witch, but then, as they encroached the playing area, a swarm of self-righteous, smug looking men, bedecked in suits, headsets and purple bibs overwhelmed them. Ross and Lucas were smuggled into the back of a Transit van, drugged, then driven away.
When Ross awoke he found himself alone, tied to a chair in a modest converted office. The door opened, it was the Wicked Witch of West Leeds.
The Wicked Witch of West Leeds: Right Rossy! I’ve got a string of Premier League agents on the phone, each ready to pay me enough cash up front for your services to allow me to launch Radio Yorkshire. My profile once more will be sky high – people will again listen to my every word, while little Ben Fry can finally become the new Bruno Brookes!
Suddenly there was a knock on the door…
Girl: Mr. Witch, here’s your Chicken & Bacon Ranch Melt, no cucumbers as requested, and a medium Fanta. Will there be anything else?
The Wicked Witch of West Leeds: No, no! Just bugger off!
Girl: Okay Sir. If you do want anything else, just bang on the floor!
Ross: A witch that lives above a Subway? What happened to castles?
The Wicked Witch of West Leeds : “Oh that bald headed tosser’s retreated back into the woodwork now Gwyn’s snuffed it!”
Ross: “No, I mean…”
The Wicked Witch of West Leeds: Oh right! Well I’m paying the rent on this, NOT Leeds United! That’s what happened! Now give me those ruby Adidas Predators or the Kop Cat is dog food!
Ross looked about and was engulfed in panic. Where is Lucas? The horrible realisation dawns upon him that giving up the boots and moving club may be the only way of rescuing his friend. He casts a glance towards those size 8s that guard him and slowly reaches downwards…then all of a sudden, a commotion downstairs. Panic, screams…the witch bangs down on the floor…
The Wicked Witch of West Leeds: What the hell is going on down there?
The thundering sound of footsteps can be heard and suddenly the girl bursts through the door…
Girl: He’s gone, he’s gone! Lucas is gone!!
The Wicked Witch of West Leeds: How the hell is he gone?
Girl: Through the cat flap!
The Wicked Witch of West Leeds: But he’s over six feet f**king tall!!
Girl: Ah yeah…well, actually, the thing is, we’ve been overpowered by two washed up footballers and somebody in an elephant outfit!
Before the witch could spew forth a cavalcade of profanities, in charged Ellie, knocking him to the floor. As the dazed witch lay on the carpet, Ryan freed Ross while David headed for the filing cabinet. Within seconds, he’d found it – the broadcasting contract! The witch looked on in horror, his passport back into the media, his soapbox was gone…the shock killed him on the spot.
Just as our heroes tried to make their exit, the purple bibs entered. Had Ross, Lucas, Ryan, David and Ellie come so far only to be denied?
Purple Bib: He’s dead! HE’S DEAD!! PRAISE BE, HE’S DEAD!! Oh he’s finally dead! How can we possibly thank you?
A huge wave of relief washed over our heroes and still shaking, Ross looked upon his old foes and smiled…
Ross: Well we need to get back to Osmondthorpe if you’ve still got the Transit handy…
And so all five left the offices, carried on the shoulders of the rejoicing guards, leaving via the rear entrance, so as to remain unaware of their proximity to Elland Road (and in the process fill a gaping plot hole). When they arrived back at the Wizard’s HQ, he welcomed them with open arms.
The Wizard: Welcome my friends, come in, now what can I do for you?
Ellie: Well I need my courage and confidence back. Ever Since Lucas succeeded me my sense of self-worth has evaporated.
Lucas (breaking down): Ellie, I’m so sorry. There’s something I have to tell you…you’re my hero. Ever since your early days, working for the fire service, I’ve adored your work. You inspired me to become a mascot. Your work at Elland Road blazed in trail that I’ve always tried to follow but just haven’t been able to. You didn’t lose your job because I was a better mascot, you lost it as I promised to give Ben Fry a paw job after every game and I offered to work for a fraction of the wages. You should believe in yourself because I believe in you!
A huge smile broke across the face and the two creatures embraced. Ellie had her mojo back and Lucas was finally liberated of the dark secret that haunted him. He now felt ready to now challenge Ronnie Rhino’s position as top mascot in the city.
The Wizard: Okay Ross, now how about you? How can I help you?
Ross: I just want to go back home, to Elland Road where I belong.
The Wizard: Well I can sort that out. Just slip me £20, there’s a taxi set for Beeston outside.
Ryan: What about me and Dave? What can you do for us?
The Wizard: Jesus fellas, I’m a taxi driver not a f**king miracle worker.
Tempers quickly flared and Ross had to act quickly to restrain Ryan Hall from planting one on the wizard and going down for a second instance of affray. Eventually tempers were calmed but as Ross stepped outside, the taxi was gone. A lucrative run to Wakefield had done for him. As he broke down in despair at the roadside a silver Lexus pulled up at the by the kerb. Out stepped an old face…
Gilda: Hey Ross, why so down fella?
Ross: My taxi is gone, I’ll never make it back to Beeston now.
Gilda: Fear not Ross, if you wish for something hard enough you only need close your eyes, tap your boots together and think to yourself, “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home…”
Ross did as he was told, drifted off and moments later he awoke, slumped over the keyboard of a Dell desktop PC. Suddenly there was a knock on the door, enter Brian McDermott.
Brian McDermott: Come on Ross, get yourself home, it’s Christmas Eve!
Ross: But what about…where’s Lucas, Ryan, David and Ellie?
Brian McDermott: Lucas, Ryan, Ellie and who? I think you need to lay off the Smints, lad.