April 21, 2012
By Carl Mungazi
“Have you got a squeaky bum?” Sir Alex Ferguson’s hard stare disturbed Dimitar Berbatov as much as the odd question.
“Have I got a what?” The Bulgarian asked.
“A squeaky bum. Have you got a squeaky bum, son?”
The Bulgarian looked at his manager with a puzzled expression. When Sir Alex had called him to his office for an urgent meeting this wasn’t what he had been expecting. He wriggled in his seat, listening, then answered uncertainly. “No, I don’t believe I have a squeaky bum.”
Sir Alex sighed, removed his spectacles, rubbed his eyes in frustration and popped a fresh piece of gum into his mouth. “That’s the problem, Dimi. That’s why I have to let you go.”
“Because my bum doesn’t squeak?”
Sir Alex sighed again. “Well no, not exactly. You haven’t grown into the right type of player for this club. I had thought you would, but, well, we all make mistakes. United needs battlers. That’s just not you, is it?”
Berba rolled his eyes, in exasperation. ”This again? Not everyone is a thug, you know, and elegance isn’t the same as weakness… But what does all this have to do with squeaky bums? Arses don’t win trophies.”
“Have you not noticed the common thread running through the players that are in the starting eleven, lad?” the Scot inquired, his voice dripping with disappointment. “They may not have everything, but they give everything they have, backsides included. There’s no holding back. That’s what this club needs when we’re going through squeaky bum time. Every game is crucial.”
Berba blinked hard, still not comprehending. “I can’t give anything if I’m not on the pitch. No one is going to know if my bum squeaks while I’m sitting in the stands.”
“Listen Dimi, forget about the bums. I’m sorry, there’s no getting around it; you’re leaving at the end of the season. You’ve been a good asset to the team in the past, but things are changing. In some games, you go missing. We can’t afford to keep carrying you.”
“But I scored a hat-trick against Liverpool!”
“And look at them now…” There was an awkward pause as the player searched for another, more convincing argument. He knew domestic cups were like poor excuses to the man who had reduced the Merseyside club to a footnote in English football history. When he remained silent, the manager extended an olive branch. ”Where would you like to go?”
“Into the first team.” Berba looked down at his feet glumly, knowing his stubbornness was useless.
“Please, Dimi, don’t make this any harder than it already is. I like you, I really do, but it just isn’t working.”
The Bulgarian continued to stare at the floor. Finally, he let out a long sigh, and, rising, met his manager’s stony gaze. “I understand. To be honest, I expected it, but it’s still tough to hear. There aren’t many places you can go from here.”
“Thank you, son. I know it’s hard, but you’re a brilliant player. Any club would be lucky to have you.”
“Just not this club?”
“Let’s just say we’ve been lucky to have you. Now, it’s time for others to share in our luck.”
Dejected, Berba walked slowly towards the door. His shoulders slumped as, behind him, he heard the gaffer speak into the intercom. “Let me know when the next one arrives, will you?”
Out in the car park, The Bulgarian struggled to get a grip on himself. Leaning on his car, he lit a cigarette, took in a long drag, and allowed images of his some of his finest goals in a United shirt to run through his mind’s eye. Among them were the overhead against Liverpool, the lob against Chelsea and the volley against West Ham. The record would show he’d hit the back of the net over fifty times for this great club. He remembered only the very best, but now it seemed to him he might be the only one who would.
Another car eased alongside, snapping him back to the present. A young man emerged, nodded nervously, then headed inside. Berba acknowledged the greeting, released a large plume of grey smoke, and smiled to himself. Getting into his vehicle, he put it into gear, spinning the tyres as he left the complex. Making his way across town, he began humming a happy tune.
Meanwhile, back in the manager’s office, another conversation was underway.
“So tell me, Mr Anderson, how squeaky is your bum?”
Squeaky Bum Time by Carl Mungazi is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.