A Sixways Christmas Carol
December 19 2019
London. Autumn Internationals lately over and the IRB pronouncements on the World Cup 2023 now finished. Implacable December weather. As much mud on the training pitches as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth. Water everywhere. water on the touchline, water at the top of the Stand. Water in the eyes and throats of the hopeful players, panting around their chilly circuits; water in the lungs and ears of the watchful trainer, driving his team on to greater fitness.
Of all good days in the year, on Christmas Eve – old Randolph Featherstonehaugh Uriah Scrooge, Esq. sat busy in his counting-house in Bleak House. Scrooge! A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old miser. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; no warmth could warm, no wintry weather chill him. Nobody ever stopped him in the street to say, “My dear Scrooge, how are you?” But what did Scrooge care!
On this dark and dismal morning, we find R.F.U. Scrooge counting the profits he has made from the Autumn Internationals and scheming to ensure that as little as possible should be paid out to affiliated clubs. In particular, he gloated over the sovereigns denied to his hard-working nephews, Cecil Twist and Solly Cratchit in Worcester.
|Just then there was a knock at the door. Scrooge looked up sharply as a smiling, jug-eared figure appeared in the doorway.
“It’s you, Twist,” grunted Scrooge. “What do you want now?”
“Please, Sir,” asked Twist, “I want to spend more….It’s not fair that I get to spend less than other clubs.”
“Bah, humbug!” said Scrooge. “If you don’t like it, there is plenty of space in National One. Take your business there. Now, I can’t spend any more time on you. Get back to Sixways where you belong. Goodbye.”
And he slammed the door in Twist’s disappointed face. “Asking for more, indeed. Whatever next,” muttered Scrooge. “It’ll be Cratchit wanting extra funds in a minute. I’ve already given his family an England cap. What more does he want!”
| Just then, there was a loud rapping on the door, followed by a strange clanking sound. Before Scrooge could get up, the door opened to admit a curious procession of shadowy figures. Scrooge sat motionless in his chair as, with a rattling of chains, he watched the wraithlike figures fill his room. Around their necks hung brightly coloured scarves, bearing their names: West Hartlepool, London Scottish, Richmond, Wakefield, Blackheath……
“What do you want?” stammered Scrooge. “You don’t frighten me.”
“Well we should,” said one figure, detaching itself from the rest. “I am Orrell, otherwise known as the Ghost of Christmas Past. As you can see, my friends and I are mere shadows of our former selves and we have something to show you. Look….”
As the figure spoke, the room faded from sight and Scrooge found himself in a featureless landscape, dominated by a huge advertising hoarding bearing the words “1995 Rugby Turns Professional!” At its foot, two hooded shapes were pulling slips of paper from a velvet bag.
“Wasps,” read one figure.
“Leicester,” read the other.
“What are they doing?” asked Scrooge.
“Selecting the chosen clubs,” explained the ghost. “These are the ones who will be given the most money. Anyone joining them later will be kept poor.”
“And a good thing, too. In my opinion they all have too much cash.” And Scrooge turned back to working out his profits.
| Just then another figure stepped forward, even more bowed down with chains than the others.
“I suppose you are the Ghost of Christmas Presents,” said Scrooge sarcastically.
“I am,” said the wraith. “Once I was known as Rotherham, the hope of National Division One. I was a victim of your meanness. Take a look at what your miserliness is doing now.”
Once more the office in Bleak House dissolved away, revealing a room in Solly Cratchit’s humble abode in Hindlip Lane. Around the wall hung the shirts and shorts belonging to his numerous children. One peg, however, was empty. Above the bare space, the name label read, “Tiny Dunc”.
“Tiny Dunc,” stammered Scrooge. “Where is he?”
“You may well ask,” replied the wraith. “Having escaped the poverty of The S.R.U, he found safety with Solly Cratchit’s family. Sadly, there was not enough money to buy kit small enough to fit him and he is forced to spend his days shivering in the cold tub.”
“That’s…..dreadful,” said Scrooge and, for the first time, the old miser looked troubled as he found himself once more at his desk.
| His thoughts were interrupted by the shrill blast of a whistle and the door burst open to reveal a slim, grey-haired figure in navy blazer bearing a red-rose crest.
“Who are you?” stammered Scrooge in a state of alarm. “You remind me of someone I once knew – Ed Morrison, the referees’ supreme. But no one has heard of him since he went to Newcastle with the Worcester Warriors’ Supporters.”
“I am indeed Ed,” replied the figure. “And I am here to-day to ensure fair play. I am also charged with the responsibilities of the Ghost of Christmas Future, so I must ask you to come along with me.”
With that, Ed Morrison put his hand into his pocket and, with a magical flourish, pulled out a glowing scarlet card. As soon as its light fell upon the cowering figure of Scrooge, he felt the room spin around him and, when he opened his eyes, he discovered that he was suspended high above England. As his vision adjusted, he found that he could see weary figures in white kit and red velvet caps dragging themselves towards London. Their progress was painfully slow because around each ankle was a chain attached to a large iron ball labelled “Central contracts”.
Further away, across the length and breadth of the land, Scrooge could see black flags flying above Kingsholm, Welford Road, Franklin’s Gardens and many other grounds and hear the weeping of loyal fans grieving for the loss of their captains and crowd favourites.
“This is ridiculous,” spluttered Scrooge. “Anyone would think I didn’t care about rugby.”
“Be careful, Scrooge,” warned Ed Morrison. “Remember that rugby is more than money in the bank and England is more than just Twickenham. Take another look.”
| As Scrooge looked down again, he saw the tall terraces of Twickenham beneath him. At Morrison’s side, he gradually sank closer to HQ. What a sad sight met his eyes! The concrete was cracked and littered with the torn pages of old programmes. Weeds forced their way through broken turnstiles and spiders scuttled away into the corners of the hospitality boxes. On the pitch, no grass grew, returning the surface to its original horticultural state.
In the centre, where once Jonny Wilkinson kicked off, stood a huge marble monument, surmounted by a winged statue of a weeping Eddie Jones and carved in the shape of the Webb Ellis Trophy. On its base the golden inscription read:
England’s World Cup Hopes 2019 R.I.P.
“What does this mean?” Scrooge asked his austere companion. “What has gone wrong?”
“See that bare earth,” replied Ed. “The grass roots have been starved of sustenance. Without roots, there can be no growth. If England is to be successful, you must restore its grass roots to full health. You have the sovereigns. It is a case of ‘Use them or lose them’.”
And, with that, the blazered figure faded from sight and Scrooge found himself once more alone in his office.
“Quick, I must do something. Get me the official helicopter immediately.”
At Sixways, the Cratchit family was assembled around the table for Christmas dinner.
Suddenly, there was the noise of a helicopter overhead. Everyone rushed to the balcony of the Sixways Upper Suite in time to see the scrawny figure of Scrooge running across the stadium pitch, waving a piece of paper.
“Happy Christmas!” yelled Scrooge. “Where’s Tiny Dunc? I can save him. Here’s a cheque for some more basting money for the Turkey from our new Friends CVC, I have been a mean and narrow-minded old **** but now I’ve reformed and you can have a “fair” share.”
Merry Christmas to One and All!
Best wishes for a peaceful, joyous
and successful New Year!
If you do not already have an account Click here to Register.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2019:12:29:09:53:20 by Faithful_City.