Roy Keane fixed the new boy with a laser glare, freezing the terrified lamb to the spot. “I don’t like smartarses, you hear? You’re not a smartarse, are ye?”
“Nnn..nnno, no. Sir”
The boy trembled, fear leaking from every pore and every orifice, filling the cramped pundits box with a sour, unpleasant odour.
“Yer not shitting yerself are ye?”
The boy jerked his head from side to side, pupils dilated and buttocks clenched. A bead of sweat trickled languorously down the small of his back to tickle the valley between his cheeks like an office manager on an intern.
Seemingly satisfied, Keane turned to leave. The boy failed to prevent himself from heaving a sigh of relief. Keane spun violently on his heel, a thought announcing itself on his face like a storm front.
“What do you think of that Martin Keown?”
A test, clearly. But the boy didn’t know the rules or even the price of failure. He stammered lamely, forcing the words out.
“Uum, he was a great player? He’s quite insightful on” but Keane interrupted the boy with a ferocity that, perhaps, surprised even himself;
“I SHIT ‘IM!!! He’s got a face like one of those Easter Island statues. I hate Easter Island. He’s a stinking, simian, Easter Island wetbag; even Vinnie Jones could take him. Prawn sandwich-munching, gimpy twat; I’ve taken DUMPS with more personality.”
He spat on the floor, as if to expel an evil taste, “I despise that goggle-eyed, vein-necked mongrel.”
With that he stalked off to find the makeup artist assigned to soften his own granite-hewn features in a vain attempt to prevent small children from having nightmares.
He was intercepted by a cloud of pinkish mediocrity. “Hello Roy!” bounced the jovial jowls of Adrian Chiles. Keane said nothing but glowered into Chiles’ eyes, inches from his face. They held one another’s gaze with all the tenderness of the Marquis De Sade faced with an underage servant girl. Chiles broke eye contact first, re-affirming Keane’s dominance.
Sated, Keane nodded brusquely in the direction of the new boy and his swampy armpits. “Southgate’s replacement.” Keane raised his voice “IF THIS ONE AVOIDS TALKING ALTOGETHER MAYBE I WON’T BITE HIS FACE OFF.”
Chiles approached the new boy, who by now was weeping viscous tears from his genitals, a mix of excitement and despair. “He’s just joshing, don’t let him intimidate you. A lovely guy, really.”
But Chiles’ eyes betrayed the numb terror of a hunted animal. He weighed up the new boy in his mind. He has a certain forcefulness about his manner of dress and choice of barnet, or lack thereof, he thought, maybe he won’t end up like Lee.
Chiles shuddered as his mind filled with too many unwanted memories, unspeakable horrors that woke him up in the early hours, night after night: Keane standing over the broken, crying form of Lee Dixon hitting him again and again with a foam hand he’d taken from a lovestruck young couple in the stadium, the constant humiliations, spittle collecting in the corners of Keane’s mouth as he smashed a chair over Gareth Southgate’s head and used the pieces to threaten Jamie Carragher during the Euros, Keane laughing in the face of a toddler as he stole her tube of Smarties.
Keane shouting, Keane stamping, Keane’s demeaning little slaps to the face, the pointing, the crazed eyes of a zealot, burning through your skin…
Yes, Chiles thought, poor kid doesn’t know what he’s letting himself in for.
Especially with that tie: Keane hates lime green.