“Let’s get out of here as quick as possible and see if we can find some scrubbers,” urged Ray, emerging from the antiquated shower, whilst towelling his lean muscular body and shaking the drops of water from his curly auburn hair.
A chorus of agreement echoed around the somewhat antiquated changing room, their voices ricocheting off the grey wall tiles which, in their better days, had shone pristine white.
“Keep your voices down,” he commanded, “we don’t want the Boss to know what we’re up to.”
Ray Church was the skipper of the touring English club which had just completed a post season friendly game against one of Budapest’s seven professional clubs. The game had been played at their dated, pre 1920’s stadium, on the outskirts of the city, in front of a sparse crowd of no more than five thousand spectators. The match had ended in a lacklustre 1 -1 draw.
It was the end of a successful season for the touring team, culminating with promotion to the top division of the Football League. To close the campaign their Hungarian Manager, Miklos Vadas, had arranged two games against foreign opposition, one match in Poland and another in his native land. Neither game had held much significance to the clubs involved, apart for giving international experience to the players.
During his relatively short tenure, the Hungarian Boss had transformed the fortunes of the club, this had been achieved by an uncompromising, hard line approach to the discipline of the squad.
Initially some of his methods had been hard to accept, particularly by some of the seasoned players, but as the team progressively gained more and more success they all ‘buckled down’ to the task, and their efforts were rewarded with promotion.
Although Miklos Vadas had arranged the short tour as a reward for the season’s efforts, he had no intention of relaxing his icy grip on the team’s discipline, and to underline his authority, he had imposed a curfew on the players, severely restricting them from sampling the night life of Budapest.
Even on this, the last day of their short tour, the players knew that the word ‘compromise’ didn’t exist in Miklos’s vocabulary and that he would not relent on his directive.
The team, therefore, decided to take things into their own hands.
Earlier in the day, Jonathon Dinsdale, one of the ‘elder statesmen’ in the squad, had voiced his opinion.
“The season’s over, it’s at least six weeks before pre-season training starts again,” he reasoned to the others, an indignant expression scrawled across his craggy face, “what the fuck’s wrong in having a bit of fun on the last night of the tour.”
The dour Scottish, fullback Alistair Cameron voiced his concern, “If we get found out we’ll be in for a hefty fine.” His apprehension stemming more from the thoughts of losing income, rather than any fear of reprisal from the Boss.
After a short debate it was finally decided that the curfew would be broken, and to hell with the risk of a heavy penalty.
By a stroke of good fortune, the club’s directors and team management, which of course included the Boss, had been invited to an official function at the ‘Kozponti varoshaza,’ Budapest’s main city hall.
“I’ve arranged for taxis to take you back to the hotel as soon as the after match function is over,” the Assistant Manager Cedric Coles informed the squad.
“No problem, CC,” they chanted back in unison, disguising their glee at this unexpected opportunity to put their plan into action.
At the after-match function their Hungarian opponents had plied them with copious amounts of local beer, washed down with a traditional fruit brandy drink; Palinka. Their hosts, knowing that the red light district of the city was irresistible to a squad of footballers far away from their wives and girlfriends, recommended a night club for them to visit. The club was situated not far from Vaci Street in downtown Budapest, and they assured their British guests that it was the place where they would find what they were looking for.
Fortunately, the nightspot in question was only a ‘stone’s throw’ from where the party was booked in at the Hotel Casati, affording a quick return to their abode if things went awry.
The taxi drivers were duly informed of the change of destination, and by the time the team members had reached their recommended nightclub they were all pretty well oiled.
These were the days prior to Hungary’s entry into the Euro Union, so predictably, the players were quickly pounced upon by several of the hostesses, hell bent on fleecing them of their West European currency.
The lusty Ray was quick to single out his erotic female plaything, ushering a tall swarthy damsel towards the carpeted staircase, leading upwards toward the dubious compartments.
“It’s every man for himself now,” a sly grin on his face as he conveniently abdicated his captain’s responsibilities, waving to the others as he disappeared upstairs.
Most of the squad preferred to play a waiting game, some querying their guilty conscience, others patiently assessing the quality of the females on offer, in the hope of getting full value for their money.
Taking the piss out of people was always on Pete Johnson’s agenda; born and bred on the banks of the River Tyne he was the archetypal ‘Geordie,’ with a love of football embedded into his brain synapses whilst still in his mother’s womb. As with many talented North Eastern youngsters he had passed under the radar of his two local clubs, Newcastle United and Sunderland, and sought his football future further south, in Yorkshire.
For Pete, making it into professional football meant more than just possessing superior ability; you had to have a quick wit and the constitution of an ox in order to protect yourself against all forms of ‘piss-taking’ which went on in the changing rooms of most football clubs. Many a promising career has floundered because of a sensitive nature succumbing to the black humour enunciated by unforgiving teammates. Being the victim of constant joking, teasing, and mockery, can nibble away at any player’s confidence, particularly if they are gullible enough to allow the banter to seep through the cracks.
“When you’re brought up in ‘Geordie Land,’ among coalminers and shipbuilders, it toughens you up,” Pete often boasted to the apprentice professionals, as he tossed them his dirty training gear to be washed.
“To survive in this game you’ve got to live on your wits, on and off the field, ‘whey aye’,” he would conclude in a high pitched Geordie slang.
His two cohorts, Scouser Sid Mackie and Cockney Kevin Roberts made up the other members of the squad’s ‘Three Musketeers’. As with their pal Pete; Sid and Kevin also typified the streetwise footballer materialising from the backyards of large industrialised cities such as Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, Birmingham and the metropolis of London.
Effective on the playing pitch, especially when the chips were down, the three of them would battle to the end to get a result for the team, however, their ‘off the pitch’ antics occasionally went over the top, and could affect team spirit from time to time.
The few foreigners in the squad were easy pickings for the trio, however, the lack of understanding of the British humour often took the edge off their pranks, but Jeremy Little; now that was another story; he was a prime candidate for their amusement….
At eighteen years old Jeremy was a rising star, arousing much speculation as to how far he could go in the game. He had burst on the scene in spectacular fashion by scoring a brace of goals on his debut early on in the season, this led him to establishing a spot in the first team on the back of only a handful of games for the reserves. The press were quick to hail him as another teenage superstar in the mould of George Best, Kevin Keegan and more recently Paul Gascoigne.
With all the rave reports surrounding Jeremy’s explosive rise to fame a certain amount of cockiness and confidence had infiltrated his somewhat naïve youthful brain. Squelching this cocky demeanour was a challenge that the ‘Three Musketeers’ just could not resist, they had already made sure that the young superstar had borne the brunt of much of their sadistic humour, and the visit to the night spot offered another opportunity to take him down another peg…..
It was the first time that Jeremy had been on a tour to a foreign country, and although his youthfulness wasn’t an issue on the football field, he felt ‘out of it’ in a social setting amongst the senior players. Overhearing their comments about sampling the nightlife in Budapest had caused him some uneasy moments, fearing that he would be dragged into situations which he wasn’t quite ready for. In the company of his own age group he had the confidence and cockiness to lookout for himself, but hanging out with seasoned professionals, well, that was a different story.
With the majority of the players cosily installed in a corner of the lounge bar, the unscrupulous tri began to hatch a plan.
“Let’s see if we can get Wonder Boy sorted with one of these hookers,” Pete impishly uttered to Sid and Kevin, his devilish eyes blazing like the spotlights on his new Ferrari.
He beckoned to Jeremy, who was silently sitting on the other side of the beer strewn table.
“Hey wonder boy, have you ever had it away?” teased Pete, with a mischievous smile lighting up his face.
Fortunately the darkened atmosphere of the room concealed Jeremy’s flushed face.
“Course I have,” he lied, hoping the nervousness in his voice didn’t reveal his inner apprehension. “There’s a place in Leeds where me and my mates often go to pick up girls.”
“Oh well then, you’ll have no problem sorting this one out,” laughed Sid pointing towards a dark sultry maiden, of Romanian descent, looming towards them through the murky interior of the upstairs chamber.
Pre-arranged and primed by Kevin, she made directly for Jeremy, scrutinising him through her large smouldering eyes, before allowing a shapely brown leg to emerge from a split in her tight mid-length skirt; her dusky face softened revealing a pearly smile as she beckoned him to join her.
“Go on then,” chorused the other players, taking a cue from the ‘Musketeers,’ lifting him out of his seat and propelling him towards the sensual olive skinned beauty.
Jeremy gulped, he was way out of his league in this company, back home he was used to dating teenage girls who were just breaking out of puberty and beginning to explore their sexuality. With them he felt in control, but this was a different scenario; fronting up to a foreign woman several years his senior was a different matter, and quite scary for the youngster.
“I don’t think I’ve got enough dough on me,” he stuttered half pleadingly, looking for a way out of his dilemma.
“Not a problem,” joined in Frank Dunning, who was also beginning to enjoy Jeremy’s discomfort. “The lads will sort out the cost, and you just get upstairs to do the business with her.”
With the minimum of pleasantries Jeremy’s ‘daughter of darkness’ guided him up the narrow staircase, following the path his skipper had taken only a few minutes earlier, which led into a dim, quiet, red carpeted corridor. Austere green painted doors on both sides portrayed the illusion of an expensive respectable aura to what was, in reality, a somewhat devious abode.
By now Jeremy’s sense of security was lower than a team in the relegation zone, as he hesitatingly attempted to make small talk with this oriental beauty.
“Where are we going?” Was all he could muster from his dry hoarse throat?
“You like me; yes?” She asked in broken English, sensing his discomfort, as she slid open a well-oiled oak door, revealing a darkened room with a protrusive double bed in its centre, draped by a silky scarlet sheet.
“Yes I like you,” he managed to utter, his trepidation revealed in his wobbly tones….
Suddenly, like a page from an Agatha Christie novel, the state of play took on a dramatic twist.
“WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?”
An unmistakeable voice thundered along the corridor with the impact of a raging tropical storm.
Like a hypnotized rabbit caught in a car’s headlights Jeremy froze on the spot, slowly turning his eyes and staring at the unbridled anger in the face of his Boss; Miklos Vados.
“GET THE FUCK OUT OF THIS PLACE AT ONCE,” he stormed, the English swear word sounding strangely comical when emitted from an East European mouth.
Jeremy needed no coaxing, with only a sideways glance at his dusky temptress, he took off like a sprinter out of his starting blocks, sidestepping his raging Boss en-route to the staircase where he bounded down the steps, through the front door and out onto the street, not stopping until he reached the welcoming front façade of the Hotel Casati.
As he slinked back to his room his mind was torn three fold; relief that he had avoided having to, ‘do the business’ with the sexy hostess; pleased that he had ‘saved face’ with the other players; but more than a little anxious about the altercation with the Boss, which would unquestionably take place next morning.
Two hours later, shortly after 3am, unbeknown to the squad, a shadowy figure slipped discreetly through the side door of the Hotel Casati. Anyone who didn’t know any better could have sworn it resembled the Boss, Miklos Vados……….
Based on true incidents: characters names are fictional.