Sid runs that Proper Football account on Twitter. Follow him at @sid_lambert for an onslaught of football nostalgia.
“Prick,” said the lad under his breath.
His supervisor had walked away out of earshot, onto the next task on his clipboard. God, he hated that bloke. With his stupid clip-on tie and his over-gelled hair. He looked like the result of some sort of genetic mutation between Danny DeVito and Boycie off Only Fools and Horses.
His baggy suit trousers—it was hard to get a pair to fit a skinny little shit like him—wafting in the breeze as he walked down towards the till. Why does he even work here anyway? Pricks like him should be parking attendants or tax inspectors.
The lad knew why he was here, at least. Earn a few extra quid before uni and get a discount on some sports gear before he went. Maybe even take one or two extra pieces on the sly. He’d been watching the stocktake like a hawk. Oh yes. As he’d told his mates in the pub just the other night, it’s absolutely ripe for the picking, boys. Especially the footy boots. There was at least a pair of Puma Kings just waiting for him if he could get the timing right.
He’d have to be careful, mind. Now he was on Boycie’s radar, you see. It all started when he didn’t turn up for work after the festival. His head was banging and he hadn’t had a shit in three days. There was no way he was going in. Boycie wasn’t happy.
Then when he did turn up, he’d started making mistakes. Silly stuff. Cocking up prices on the till. Bringing back the wrong sizes when people were trying trainers on. It had been a long summer. Fruit machines and football. Those early morning World Cup kick-off times were a nightmare. More than once he’d washed down a bacon sandwich with a can of Stella round his mate’s house then headed straight to work, chewing gum maniacally, hoping no one would notice.
It hadn’t worked. The only reason they’d kept him on was because he was leaving next week anyway. He could leave the sports shop with two fingers in the air, and a pair of those lovely Puma Kings stuffed in his bag.
But he was on his last warning. Boycie was looking for any excuse to tell the management to get rid of him early. They’d already moved him away from meaningful interaction with customers. He’d hoped it was to go into the storeroom doing the lifting and shifting, and sneaking out for the occasional fag when the shop was busy.
Instead, he was working the print press, putting names on back of shirts. Boycie’s last little fuck you. He knew the lad was shit at spelling. And he took great delight in squiggling those surnames as inscrutably as he possibly could. Right on cue, here he was. Shuffling towards him with that smug grin on his face.
“Right, young man. New signing alert,” he said smarmily while gesturing quotation marks with his fingers. ”It seems United have a new striker. We need 50 home shirts, 50 away shirts. Double-quick time.”
The lad didn’t even give him the satisfaction of showing his disappointment.
“I suppose you’ll be wanting the name,” said the supervisor, undeterred by the lad’s lack of interaction. He carefully removed his reading glasses and scrutinised the paper on his clipboard.
“Kenn-e-dy Ba-kir-ci-og-lu,” he said, enunciating every single fucking syllable with relish. “Now off you go.”
Kennedy Bakircioglü. The sort of name that sends panic through Paul Merson’s spine. Few of us knew how to say it. None of us will ever forget it.
We would scream it long into the nights as we bounced round the room, silently pumping our fists into the air as another managerial odyssey neared its triumphant conclusion.
We would doodle it on notepads at school, like a hopeless romantic daydreaming of the hours, days and weeks spent gazing at our beau.
And we would type it feverishly into our player search engines at the game’s outset, desperate to get there first before anyone else discovered this priceless treasure.
On Championship Manager 01/02, Scandinavia was the database equivalent of the California Gold Rush. Little did we know that buried deep within that harsh terrain were commodities so precious, that they guaranteed fortunes to whoever found them. The race was on to plunder the Viking lands and strip them of their riches.
Kennedy Bakircioglü could be acquired from minnows Hammarby for a minimum fee of around £250k and a promise that he was a hot prospect for the future. It was a promise we broke immediately. From the moment he arrived, it was clear he was a superstar.
His stats didn’t do him justice. There were few twenties, instead just a collection of sixteens and seventeens, like the clientele of your average suburban nightclub. However, within the server, Our Kennedy was bestowed with the highest possible attribute for potential. It meant that, if the conditions were right, he could become one of the best players on the planet.
As it turned out, those conditions were merely putting his boots on. Talk to any CM01/02 aficionado, and you’ll never hear a bad word about Bakircioglü. He delivered everything he promised. He was fucking incredible. Searing pace. Sensational shooting. Fearless and flawless in equal measure. He could play anywhere across midfield or attack and still steal the show. What was his best position? On the pitch with the ball at his feet. Simple game, football.
Reality wasn’t nearly so kind to the Swede. His potential faded nearly as rapidly as his hairline. He did venture as far as Ajax and Racing Santander, though in truth he did little more than make up the numbers.
Thankfully, he’s still a hero in Hammarby. Two spells at opposite ends of his career cemented his status as one of the green and white greats. Treat yourself to a trawl through YouTube sometime, and you’ll see perhaps his finest hour as a professional. Facing the mighty Gothenburg, Bakircioglü lines up a free kick 30 yards from goal. The crowd falls silent in anticipation, then erupts when the great man pings the ball into the top corner.
The melee that follows is magnificent. Fans on the pitch and Bakircioglü guzzling a beer thrown from the stands in celebration. As the roar dies down, the crowd finds its voice again to join the announcer in shouting the name of their favourite son.
Every single fucking syllable.
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