With the Championship title almost in the bag, Sovereign FC’s golden generation blew off some steam with a whistle-stop tour of Spain. Five years on, former Sovereign starlet and masseuse Sam Lambeth recalls the bacchanalian banter of Barcelona.
A breezy February afternoon in Barcelona can be a breathtaking place. While a few health-conscious chicas take in a leisurely jog down the pristine pavements (however, ironically, they remain in total control of their breathing), occasionally accompanied by an equally athletic canine, the streets are beautifully unoccupied. The only noise is the faint footsteps of townsfolk as they bustle from shop to shop – it’s a near-silent oasis of almost ethereally quiet contemplation. As the city spreads beneath their feet, oblongs of mist are battered by beams of unobtrusive sunlight, just as the pavements are battered by another gang of toned runners. Heavy breeze, light breeze, more breeze.
Into this step the soporific disposition of Sovereign FC, the highly-regarded team of young upstarts rapidly ascending to the top of the football pyramid. The team have injected a mite of masterful maturity into the homely huff and puff of the Championship, not to mention the footballer lovers worldwide who adore an underdog. Their punishing but personable style of play has pounded pussy and mounted Mandem. As a treat for such terrorising performances, manager Neil Jackson – stocky, slovenly, the kind of man who would get mugged for his wallet and take them to his private safe – has treated us to a few days of warm weather training. After being up for 24 hours, though, not even the Vitamin D is helping us.
After a sleepy saunter around the local zoo, the only thing most of us are thinking about is crashing our heads for a long-overdue siesta. Ash Wiley, usually so friendly and forthcoming, has already called me an “upstart cunt”. Frazer Evans’ fatigued vision has gotten his Barca birds all mixed up, as he spends most of the zoo jaunt flirting with a flattered but uninterested peacock. Derrie Catton, the oldest one here by a considerable distance (except the zebu), has paired up with chairman Mitch Jackson – Neil’s pater, who shares the same burly build and distaste for foreigners.
The trip took several hours, but would have been well under one if it hadn’t been for Neil’s unquenchable zeal for zoos. Every time we thought we were heading for slumber, Neil would instead cajole us to another cage. If that trip proved to be meandering, the night was to be worse. As a treat for beating the Shifnal Shitmunchers in our previous game, Mitch was treating us to a delicious supper at a restaurant he fell in love with several years ago.
However, locating the place proved exceptionally difficult. As we plodded along, still a tad tired after a post-zoo power nap, we began to wonder if this elusive eatery was akin to Harry Potter’s Room of Requirements – we began visualising each other as food, Liam Dixon becoming a tough piece of greying gristle and Matt Palmer a plump slice of pork. Eventually, Mitch conceded this restaurant must have either closed or had been in Bridgnorth the whole time. We settled in at a fish joint but we were more interested in shots than sharks – Ash and the rest of the boys flooded the bar, Mitch’s motto “the more you drink, the more you save” echoing around our ears like post-flight poppage.
Ash has endured some dangerous and disastrous relationships over the years, but his blossoming pursuit of paella proved fatal. After disappearing to the toilet for an uncomfortably long time, we eventually found the midfield maestro face-down in his own filth, a frenzied brown stream of pints and Pollock. If that night was drunken, the following day would be sobering for Getafe – the Colonels weren’t in despot mode when they came to the Nou Camp, and we got to enjoy a 6-1 mauling from Neil’s favourite team. Well, we thought it was his favourite team…maybe he was overstimulated, maybe it was the seafood platter still circling his plentiful stomach, but the ‘chant’ he sang sounded like a Medieval war cry than the theme tune of a football team.
It was no secret at the time that Palmer and I were looking for love (I hasten to add not with each other, although years later Palm would become attached to a member of our team). After failing to charm a succession of Spanish fillies, I settled upon a busty but basic casino worker. With junk in the trunk and ex-husbands on the payroll she seemed the ideal type of woman to educate me. I had a few one-liners ready but Palm’s persistence paid off, his complimentary cry of ‘DAYUMMMM’ filling the room and her womanly heart. They married but I believe Palm struggled to raise children that were not his own. I wish them well, respectively, although the marriage and divorce had a devastating effect on the photos he’d taken.
Alcohol proved to be the drink of choice while on the tour, and once we’d finish passing drills we’d move straight on to the shots. Ash, Liam and Frazer never seemed to be shotless but always seemed to be shitfaced, their intake so uncontrollable they even felt cunted on Kaliber. My own flirtations with the Devil’s dew drops resulted in me insulting a vast array of tourists from the top of an open-top bus, as well as gyrating furiously in the face of a clearly terrified and aroused Neil. Even our chairman didn’t behave, Mitch bluntly and brusquely telling a Romanian peasant to “piss off” as she dared offer him custody of her goat.
There were some notable absences from the trip – Jon Giddings refused to board after a transfer request from Legia Warsaw was denied, while Chris Caddick missed the flight and Austins spent the three days in a Spanish jail minding a bull beater – but the boys in Barca stole babes, balls and a whole load of beers.