During the game we fed him sweets, cheddars, hula hoops, sausage rolls and buns to keep him cheerful while the heavens opened up and the winds cut through our thin summer coats to the bone.
It wasn’t the greatest of games but it sure livened up a bit when you and the other lad, Arfield, came on. A number of things intrigued Joe. First there was the sight and the antics of Bertie Bee. It taught me not to underestimate the importance to little people who are just six years old, of this fat, swaggering creature. Us oldies might just shrug our shoulders at it and say, “Well I suppose in today’s game we have to have these things.” But I realised that on Saturday that Bertie does in fact have a real role to play and the kids love him.
Secondly, it was the colour of the football boots that got him all wide-eyed. Jimmy McIlroy and John Connelly never wore boots the colour of a Dulux catalogue so me being me, a bit long in the tooth and a bit of a traditionalist, dinosaur some would say; I’ve always looked at today’s fancy boots and wondered what iron-man Dave Mackay would have thought or Tommy Banks and Roy Hartle. I reckon they’d have made a beeline for anyone in green or blue boots and kicked them into the stand. Anyway: Joe loved them, so much so that on Monday this week we had to get him a pair of vivid orange-striped trainers.
We were shopping for new school shoes for him. We hadn’t the heart not to get him the trainers. He particularly liked the yellow boots that Stanislas was wearing. Personally I thought it looked like he was wearing a banana on each foot, but then when ah were a lad we all wore enormous brown boots that came up to our shins, with studs 6 inches long, and not until we had rubbed them with dubbin for 6 months were they fit to wear. On Friday afternoons at Tod Grammar school we’d clatter down Ferney Lee Road in them to Centre Vale Park. We sounded like weavers in clogs going to the factory. I tried to explain to Joe what dubbin was. He said it was the silliest word he had ever heard. I said you should have seen the boots and then remembered I could show him some.
On Thursday night at the Adamson book ‘do’ Steve Kindon gave me a pair of gigantic, ancient boots mounted on a plinth that weighed a ton. They were signed by Jimmy Adamson. Steve is a big, strong bloke so that he lifted boots and plinth in the palm of one hand whilst holding up the roof with the other. When I copped hold of them my knees nearly gave way. They were so big you could have put a hundredweight of coal in each one and sailed them down a canal.
Back at home when I showed Mrs T and said I don’t know quite where to put these she just stared and said in utter astonishment, “What the f*ck are those?” The last time I heard such language was when she went to have a hairdo and when she came back and said do you like it, I asked her was it finished yet and when was she going back. I said the boots would look nice on her dressing table as a feature, maybe with some plastic flowers stuck in them. If looks could kill we’d all be in the 1882 today having a Wake. Anyway, at the moment they are in the lounge on the hearth. For novelty value and as a talking point they equal the condoms the club gave away a while back; the ones with the picture of Graham Alexander on. What a claim to fame that is, or a good question on that TV show – Pointless.
Anyway: it was when your goal went in that little Joe got really excited mainly because we told him your name was Treacy. Well: his eyes opened wider and wider and he was well chuffed. The reason being that his other granny is called Tracey and this in the head of a six-year old is just a piece of the magic that helps make up their little worlds. He couldn’t wait to tell her.
Since then, and I am not making this up, you are his favourite player. And this I think, in fact hope, will a be a bit more inspiration to you in your search for fitness and a return to a frame of mind that is focussed on being the skilful, talented footballer, that we know you were, and seem determined now to be again. It’s clear that Sean D has played an important part in your rehab.
There’s this expression “battling with off the field demons,” that’s been bandied about. We always assumed it was a liking for a drink or two, and then another drink or two. What we didn’t know was that these demons also included personal domestic issues, needing to be with family in Dublin when things were tough, and battling for access to see your daughter. If you’ve been involved in court procedures, it’s draining, hardly the best background if you want a good night’s sleep, either. If you’ve been down in the dumps, a bit depressed, then the last thing you need is folks telling you to snap out of it. Depression is something nobody can just click a finger and it disappears. Once people know about things they become incredibly understanding and many can identify with the same problems. Most people are patient and tolerant and want others to get their lives back on track when they know they are struggling.
“When can I go again?” said Joe. I guess, for various reasons, it won’t be until October. By then who knows, you could have cemented a first team regular place. He’d be well pleased if we said you were playing. If it’s at Stan’s expense, you’ll have to borrow the banana boots. With you in yellow boots he’d just be overwhelmed.
The other thing is this: the club is skint. Sean D has only brought two new players into the first team, Tom H and David J. And they’ve been two cracking signings. Getting you back to full fitness and playing like a match winner, would be like having a third brand new player, and at no real extra cost. It’s clear that the rest of the players are backing you now. Michael Duff was commentating on Claretsworld and said how the players were encouraging you. That’s great. What’s coming across is that there is a spirit and camaraderie in this group of players. We saw it at York and then away at Sheffield. It’s a small group of solid players that together is making a real team. Nobody is a Messi but the sum of the parts makes it a close-knit side that might just do a bit more than any of us anticipated. If we bemoan the lack of a real flair player, the Robbie Blake type player that can produce the magic moments that win games; then the goal you scored against Yeovil was one of those unexpected magic moments that has fans standing up roaring. We’d love more of that. It takes a lot to get me on my feet (bad knees I’m afraid), but by gum that goal did.
Mike Garlick has told us fans what the picture is. It won’t have escaped you players I’m sure. The club isn’t awash with money. There’s no more parachute money after this season. But if football is all you know and it was you that said, “I’m too stupid to do another job,” then the thought of another contract at BFC must surely provide yet more motivation. And jeez, you’re only 24. The interview you did that was in the Telegraph was eye-opening and brave.
Mind you despite the serious attempts of several good folk to explain things to me I’m still confused by these money issues. I could do with a sort of idiot’s guide to finances in the next programme; some simple definitions of what’s what. What’s the difference between debt and operating losses for example? Is some of the £8million ‘loss’ not really a loss like you and me sometimes lose £8million of real cash under the settee, or on a slow horse; but is some of it to do with theoretical losses to do with depreciation of assets and amortisation – and what are they when the cows come home; are they the same thing.
Depreciation is I think: If a player is an asset and three years ago cost £300,000 on a three year contract, it means that each year he goes down in value by £100k. So that is entered as part of the operating loss. But it’s not real money. It’s this theoretical money. Similarly the same rule applies to buildings and equipment – the new tractor at Gawthorpe, the new players’ rooms, for example. It’s just the way some things go down in value and you can enter this in the profit and loss account.
Somebody once tried to explain amortisation and I had to go and have a lie down. If I’ve got it right, amortisation is just the decreasing value of something over time, and an £8million operating loss doesn’t actually mean you owe £8million. Thus, within hours of the programme piece by the chairman that caused mass shock/horror/panic/wailing and gnashing of teeth amongst us rank and file thickies; another interview revealed that it was not as bad as we should imagine, because things were on track for a break-even scenario at the end of this season with the Charlie sale and more director loans.
But: and here’s my uneasiness; all the while the debt to directors is increasing and will increase further during the coming season to get the operating loss reduced to zero. Currently at over £6million, what will these loans be by June 2014? And if one or more directors become fed up of all the flak they take (and who could blame them when its they and not us who stick their heads above the financial parapet) and want out, and want repayment of their loans from a club that has no money; then what the hell kind of mess are we in then? That’s the worry for me; not controllable operating losses but the underlying debt that won’t go away.
Much has been made of the 6.5% interest on loans that directors make. But here’s the thing: a commercial loan would cost 10%, maybe more, and the lenders would want repayments on the dot, bang on time. Directors can waive repayments, and they do, if things are tough. But worryingly, that interest does accrue and adds to the club debt.
Joe stayed over last night and this morning found me tapping away on the computer writing this letter. “What you doing?” he said. I said I was writing a letter to Keith Treacy ‘cos I’d heard he was a bit down in the dumps. He looked a bit puzzled when I asked him if he knew what amortisation meant. “Don’t be daft Pop Pop,” he said and asked:
“Will Treacy score another goal like he did last Saturday? I hope he does.” Then he skipped off down the hall looking for Buzz Lightyear. “And can I have some toast – please?” yelled the voice as it raced away. “And can I watch Cars 2?” How wonderful to be six, I thought.
If, 60 years from now, Joe remembers his first game, he’ll think of a few things I bet: yellow boots, Bertie Bee and his hero called Keith Treacy and the cracking goal he scored. Dear God Keith, you’ll be 84 then so the thing is; make sure that in the next ten years you can store away a treasure trove of football memories to look back on – and don’t forget a little blonde-haired lad called Joe who decided, on 17 August 2013, that you were the next best thing to Buzz Lightyear and Cars 2.
If that doesn’t cheer you up, nothing will. And: if you’ve no idea what amortisation is; then join the club.