CRUNCH! A West End Rovers defender just ‘halved’ East End United’s star striker. He was in extreme pain, rolling about the ground with his legs covered in blood. His high pitched screams could be heard from houses in the next street. His leg was broken, the bone had completely snapped and it had ripped through his skin like a knife through cheese. Everyone was very concerned for Craig Close; after all he had been the league’s top scorer for the past two seasons and was well on his way to making it three in a row.
After Craig was stretchered off, the Red Cross workers did what they could to ease the pain of his leg but the pain in his heart was just as bad. Scouts from premier league teams had been watching him perform all season and rumours suggested that several clubs were in a bidding war for him. By all accounts he had been performing well all season and he would be an excellent investment at the age 21.
Finally the ambulance did arrive and took Craig to hospital. He went under the knife and had his broken bone put back in its place. A cast was put on his leg so that it could heal but there was more bad news to come from the consultant. He said to Craig in a serious tone of voice, ” Well son, you have broken your fibula. Now it’s not all bad news, given the proper recovery time and treatment, you could be back in approximately a year.”
Craig shouted angrily, “A YEAR! A YEAR! What am I going to do for a year? No one will want to buy a cripple! That’s my career over, flushed down the toilet, all that hard work, for what? The rest of my days at East End United?” “Take it easy,” said the consultant, “I don’t see why you can’t get back to the top form you had, a little more hard work and those scouts will be back in a year or two.”
So Craig set off on his long road to recovery. Keeping his leg up, resting and not being able to do much for five months, except little bits of upper body fitness. Finally the big day came and Craig’s cast was removed from his leg. He had an x-ray on it and his consultant told him that the bone had re-joined but he would still have to wait another five months for it to heal completely. Now that his cast was off, Craig was in the gym for hours a day, seven days a week, desperate to get back to full fitness, desperate to make a dream move to a top club and desperate to make the money he should have been making ages ago.
After a couple of months, Craig’s leg was coming on superbly. He went back to the consultant and it was all good news this time. “Well Craig, I must say your leg is healing quicker than I could have ever imagined. I know I originally said it would take six months, but at this rate, you could be back in about another two,” said the consultant enthusiastically. Again Craig set off determined and full of ambition to be back to full fitness and back in the squad in two months. Each day Craig continued to work hard in the gym, knowing that one day soon he would be back training with the squad, back kicking a ball and back scoring more goals for the team.
“It’s good to have you back in the team Craig but since it’s your first game back, I am afraid I’ll have to put you on the bench. You have probably noticed that John Walker and Darren Fraser have had quite the partner-ship upfront in your absence and have fairly been banging in the goals,” said Alan Watson, manager of East End United. “Yeah, that’s fair enough but I hope I get my chance again soon,” replied Craig. “YES! ” shouted Alan after the match. “5 – 0, what a result, well played everyone and excellent single performances from Walker with his two goals and Fraser with his hat-trick. Sorry Craig that you never got on today but we’ll see what happens next week.”
The next week came and Craig still never got a game. Weeks passed and the Fraser/Walker strike partnership was still flourishing. Craig was thinking of throwing the whole football career in, as it didn’t seem to be going anywhere since his injury but then a bit of luck came his way. One training session, Walker pulled his hamstring and was going to be out for months. It was Craig’s last chance to become a footballer – he had to take it. Saturday finally came and Craig was paired upfront with Fraser. Both strikers had an excellent match with Fraser getting a double and Craig scoring a penalty. Throughout the rest of the season both Craig and Fraser kept up their superb performances and Craig did eventually start to look like the player he once was.
Finally it was the crunch match of the season – East End United versus West End Rovers for the title. Craig was again paired upfront with Fraser and the scouts were back. It took Craig a while to get into the game but once he did, he was on fire. His link up play with Fraser was excellent and both were performing at the highest level. At half time, it was 1-0 to United with Craig slotting home a tap in from a goal keeping error. In the second half, Rovers pulled one back from a penalty kick. At one all, Rovers would win the league on goal difference. The whole of United pulled together to try and get one last goal. In the eighty-eighth minute, Craig won the ball from a midfielder and set up Fraser for the shot. The crowd erupted, what a strike!
The ball flew from Fraser’s boot into the top right hand corner of the net. United managed to hold out for the win and Craig was named man of the match and handed the match ball with a bottle of wine, which he sprayed over everyone. Craig knew he had impressed the scouts as he could hear everyone talking about how someone had been sold although he thought it was strange that no one had spoken to him. Craig walked into the pressroom of East End United to hear everyone cheering, except, not for him. All he could see was Darren Fraser holding a Glasgow Rangers shirt with his name on the back.