The Damned United, David Peace’s imagining of Brian Clough’s tumultuous tenure at the helm of Leeds United, was an outright literary phenomenon, eventually spawning a film with Nick Park-puppet-look-a-like and esteemed actor, Michael Sheen. With that in mind, Perez Shilton aims to bandwagon Peace’s success, utilising far less tact, nuance and subtly and far more liberties with truth, rumour and hearsay in doing so.
Das Mackemned United – A Novella
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or Titus Bramble, are purely coincidental.
West Bromwich Albion 3 – 0 Sunderland.
A seething Di Canio frogmarched his way through the Stadium of Light foyer, furiously exhaling the tune of a Wagner overture through his nostrils as he did so. Reaching his office door, his secretary and sometime lover, the voluptuous Tyne beauty, Eva (pronounced ‘Ayye-veeh’) anxiously approached him.
“Why aye, sir? Soom of tha play-ahs would laik a word pet, shall we send ‘em in?” she shouted in her salacious Geordie drawl that had so enamoured her to Paolo when they’d first met.
Composing himself, Di Canio extended his palm in the air so that it was full stretch away from him, then brought the palm down to wipe across the top of his head, to his bald spot, to the back of his neck, all in one seamless full movement.
“Thank you Eva, tell-ah the men I want to see them too.”
“See, the thing is mun… We’ve kinda already let them in, laik… Don’t be angry at us,” Eva giggled nervously, the fake tan cascading from her body as it convulsed with mirth.
“Ah,” muttered Di Canio, somewhat annoyed. He momentarily considered having her executed, but thought better of it. He was fond of her, though as he watched her paint fake breasts onto her nails, he couldn’t remember exactly why.
He braced himself and swung open the door to his office, affectionately termed ‘the bunker’ for the purposes of this weak pastiche. Around the room, his rag tag squad of players stood across from him, arms folded, scowls frowned. They were all here, Leonhard Cattermuhle, Wes Braun, Josef Altidore, John O’Sheangele and, perhaps worst of all, the fearsome Titüs Bräahmbl, who stepped forward.
“Your tactics are ineffective, Mein Gaffer. With your 4-2-4 formations, we cannot mobilise enough men in the midfield, meaning we never get the ball to the forwards, who are unable to perform goalmouth assaults.” Bräahmbl banged his fist on the desk, failing to notice the sharp desk tidy in his hand’s path, cutting his hand quite badly.
Shaking with fury at his men’s insolence and the prospect of having to clean up his newly bloodied papers, Di Canio began to slowly remove the glasses he was now wearing for some reason. “The following people will-ah stay here: De Fanti” he uttered through the pursed lips that he was practically chewing off with repressed anger.
“Sir, that’s only one person, and he’s not here…” Keiron Hesstwood observed, timidly.
“THEN FETCH-AH HIM! NOW!” he bellowed, managing to cover Fillipo Bardssolini in a wadful of phlegm as he did so.
De Fanti, the club’s Director of Football poked his head into the room, nervously, wringing his hands together and hopping from one foot to the other. “Hullo!” he greeted, attempting to be cheery.
“Get in-ah here now De Fanti you blonde-ah fuck.” A scalded De Fanti nodded and looked at his shoes, knowing his place. ”Everyone else, vamos!”
“Sir, that’s not even Italian, and I don’t think it means what you think it means,” Steffan Fleitzcher offered.
“Shaddup, and ah-fack off into the corr-i-dor! ALL OF YOU!” he screamed.
The first team filed out like reproached schoolchildren, planning to press their ears to the wall so as to hear the Italian’s wrath. Unfortunately for them, the immediate outside of the office was less than a few feet wide and was heavily cluttered with several large busts of Kevin Phillips, so many of the players had to sit on one another’s shoulders in order to fit in the cramped space.
As Di Canio paced around his office, calculating his thoughts, a tense quiet fell all around. A quiet so tense that Connor Wickhimmler became incredibly nervous and pissed himself, much to the displeasure of Titüs Bräahmbl, upon whose shoulders the Scot was perched.
After a while, Di Canio stopped pacing and turned to De Fanti, prodding an accusatory finger into his chest, making the Director of Football cower and back against a wall. Di Canio began to nod to himself maniacally. “You shall-ah sell everyone.”
“But sir, we already sold most of the squad, and we’ve only just bought in fourteen players… Besides, we’re not even in the transfer window any mor-”
“EVE-RY-ONE!” Di Canio bellowed, pinning De Fanti up against the office window by his goatee. At that moment, Paolo noticed the chubby bespectacled fan from earlier standing on the other side of the window pane, his arms splayed either side of him in a mock-shrug. Di Canio began rapidly hitting the underside of his chin with the back of his hand in retaliation, and a ten minute stare-off between the two ensued, broken only when De Fanti worked up the courage to snap him out of it.
Reeling from the fan’s damning gesture, Di Canio tore off his shirt, revealing several offensive tattoos, including a mural of himself laughing outside Anne Frank’s house.
“You see these De Fanti?! David Miliband resigned-ah for these! Such-ah bravery! Such-ah courage! Has that all been for nothing?!”
“Sir, I think David Miliband’s resignation was an act of opposition to you…”
Di Canio’s face fell. He crumpled in his chair. “Oh, fack. Really? Why?”
“Well sir, he didn’t want a fascist to get the job you see…”
Di Canio’s face picked itself back up. “He tried to stop-ah me getting a job because of my beliefs! A true fascist, whose legacy will-ah live on! Unlike these-ah so called ‘players’. They are cowards, traitors and Sessegnons! They are the scum of the Tyne people! They will pay for it with their blood!” His eyes were gleamed frenziedly and he started pointing upwards and wagging his finger. ”Yes, their blood! Pay for it with their blood!”
“Sir, I think you’re being a bit rash…”
Di Canio opened his office door and roared out into the corridor. “O’Sheangele! Wickhimmler! In here! Now!”
They obliged, and Di Canio hurriedly ushered them in. “Come on! Come on! Wickhimmler, lie on-ah my desk! O’Sheangele, get out-ah your medical kit and cut-ah him open! De Fanti, if we cannot sell-ah them as players, we will-ah harvest their organs for science! Put an ad on Gumtree, now!”
As O’Sheangele dutifully began to make incisions, club chairman Ellis Short entered the room. Surveying the scene, he put his hands on his hips and let out a big sigh.
“Paolo, Paolo, Paolo,” he muttered, shaking his head disappointedly. “I’m afraid this contravenes several health and safety regulations. For a start, John’s not even wearing proper surgical gloves.”
“Fack you! You are bull-ah shit!”
Short rolled his eyes wearily. “I’m not bullshit, Paolo. Look, I’m afraid this time-”
“No! You-ah can’t!” Di Canio was suddenly panicked.
“I’m sorry, but I’m afraid this time-”
Before Short could finish his sentence, the Italian had grabbed Eva, taken off on his heels and bounded out of the stadium. They were caught trying to escape Sunderland in Eva’s Honda Civic less than forty minutes later, with traffic backed up all the way along the A690 heading south (thus concludes the first bit of actual research conducted for this tale.) Di Canio was strung up by the football bag in the boot and subsequently issued his notice.
Distraught, Eva shot herself. Topless, on Snapchat, circulating the picture to every prospective lover in her contacts list who still had a steady income.