The Lost Shoe Diaries - Part 1

‘Visions of my head on a Spike as Saipan nightmare revisited”


One phone call can change your entire life. I had a sharp reminder of that this morning when I was on the M8, on the way to Fota Island, our base for the coming week.

I was in the Hyundai Equus – a mighty piece of machinery, by the way, if you’re ever tempted, available in Sedan, Limousine and Midlife Crisis Class.

Anyway, I had the roof down, the sun on my face and Derek Warfield singing Sellafield Tiocfaidh Ar La on the stereo. You could say that all was well with the world.

And then, like I said, a phone call.

“Where the f**k are you?” the voice said. It was, let’s just say, a senior staff member in the association. I run a relaxed office, but it was the first time he’d ever addressed me so informally.

“Wait t’ll I turn off the music here,” I said. “I’m just approaching the turn-off for Cashel. Is Roy happy with the set-up? Give me his mood on a scale of One to Vesuvius.”

I’m a gas man sometimes.

He said, “I think you should pull into the hard shoulder.”

“The hard shoulder?” I said. “What’s going on?”

“There’s been a bit of a f**k-up with the arrangements for the team.”

Body temperature

I think in that moment my body temperature dropped by about 20 degrees. Everyone remembers what happened the last time we sent a squad of footballers to a strange island in the middle of nowhere where they speak English with a sort of comic dialect. But Fota was supposed to be different. I promised. No more Saipans.

“What kind of a f**k up?” I asked.

“Like I said to you, I’d nearly prefer if you pulled in off the road,” he said.

“I’m not pulling in off the road. What’s going on? Did the footballs arrive?”

“The footballs arrived without a bother. There’s no end of footballs. We’re tripping over the things.”

“Is it the training pitch? Don’t tell me there’s syringes on it, is there?”

He chuckled to himself. “If only it was just that!” he said.

Second Captains

Suddenly, I was very worried. “So what is it?” I said.

“Now, don’t lose the head.”

“Tell me! What’s the f**k up?”

“We sort of booked the wrong island.”

“Okay, repeat that. I’m hoping it was a problem with the signal.”

“There’s nothing wrong with the signal. Like I said to you, we booked the wrong island.”

“So when I asked you to book Fota Island…”

Send joyriders

“The buck stops with me. I want you to know that. Although I don’t see how it would benefit the association were this to turn into an exercise in finger-pointing.”

“When I asked you to book Fota Island…”

“I booked Spike Island. ”

“Spike Island?”

Spike Island! They sound a little bit like each other, don’t they? Although that’s where the similarities end!”

“Hold on, isn’t Spike Island where they used to send joyriders in the 80s?”

“It’s interesting you should say that, because I saw it mentioned a while back on Reeling in the Years. I think that’s how I had the two confused in my mind.”

My career flashed before my eyes. I never thought I’d hear myself say this but I suddenly felt a strange nostalgia for 2002.

“So what’s it like?” I asked, with a due sense of dread.

“It’s not great,” he said, “if I’m being honest with you.”

“I take it there isn’t a five-star spa resort on the island.”

“Not that I can see, no – but there’s a fort.”

“A fort?”

“I think that was the actual prison, because the rooms are like cells. The players will have to room on their own, though. There isn’t space inside in them to turn a boiled sweet over in your mouth!”

“Oh, Jesus! Is there a football pitch on the island? Tell me there’s a football pitch!”

“There’s a bit of a field. Goats are eating it. I chased one or two off. They went back on as soon as I had my back turned. Oh, they’re not a bit afraid!”

And that’s when I lost it. “How could this happen?” I roared at him. “I thought you recceed the f**king island this time?”

“Like I said to you, there’s nothing to be gained from scapegoating individuals.”

“Scapegoating individuals? I’m the one who’s going to have to go on Six One tonight and explain to Bryan f**king Dobson how this has happened again! God knows what Roy Keane is going to say when he…”

My body temperature suddenly dropped another 20 degrees.

“Jesus, what’s Roy saying?” I asked. “Tell me he can see the funny side of it this time.”

“The thing is,” he said, “we haven’t actually told the team yet. They think we’ve stopped on the island to visit an old historic ruin. They don’t know it’s where they’re sleeping tonight. We thought that might be best coming from you.”

The bar

“Oh, did you? Well, if you f**king think I’m going to walk the f**king plank for this f**k-up like the last fella…”

And that’s when I heard it - low sniggers, followed by a roomful of laughter. Ten, maybe 20 people.

“We’re only pulling your chain,” he said. “We’re in Fota. Head for the bar. We’ll have a pint on for you.”

I have a feeling it’s going to be one of those months. – PAUL HOWARD

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