Gardening Leave, part 2

All of what follows is a lie. But you knew that.


Alan Shearer is buried up to the neck in a vegetable patch. Only his head is visible, and that partly, as a rhubarb leaf obscures his right eye. A pigeon pecks the ground nearby.

He blows the rhubarb leaf out of his eyes.

French-Tunisian, I said. Came through at Clairefontaine, then Lyon, then Marseille, I said. Favourite food, borscht. Favourite song, ‘Making Plans For Nigel’. Favourite flavour Skittle, orange. Occasionally has a recurring dream about paperclips that hum. Hates Playdoh.

It appears he is talking to the pigeon. The leaf falls down again.

I know they hadn’t actually asked about Hatem Ben Arfa, but I thought: get in there quick. There’s an elephant in the room, Alan, and you need to kill that elephant. Nobody cares about a dead elephant.

He blows the leaf out of his eyes.

Then I introduced myself. Hello. Firm handshakes. Alan Shearer, former England captain. They didn’t look as impressed as I thought they would.

The leaf falls down.

I don’t like interviews.

He blows the leaf out of his eyes. The pigeon hops a few inches closer.

I don’t like them. I never had to do an interview before. Nobody ever asked me how many goals I saw myself scoring in five years. Kenny didn’t ask me what my strengths and weaknesses were. He knew. Nobody asked why I wanted to sign for Newcastle. They knew. Didn’t have to do an interview for the telly. Sit here. Fine. Look there. Also fine. Describe this goal. Easy. He’s kicked it, Gary, and it’s gone in the goal.

People think I’m stupid. I know they do. I know they do because I can see them. Hansen shaking his head while I’m talking. Lineker doing those fish faces when he’s out of shot. Lawro pissing in my shoes for a joke. I know.

Does it matter if I don’t know the offside rule? Or if I accidentally suggest that a 4-4-3 might be the best option for the squad? I know how to do it. See the ball. Kick the ball. Celebrate. Repeat. More than anyone in the Premier League.

I don’t what went wrong, sir, no. As far as I’m concerned I did everything right. We just didn’t score more goals than the opposition, again and again. Iain did a stand up job. Damien was unlucky. The lads were brave. They wanted it. We were unlucky.

The leaf falls down. The pigeon stretches its wings for a second, and fluffs its feathers.

I like being told what to do. Run there, Alan. Wave to the crowd, Alan. Score goals, Alan. What do you see yourself doing in the game, Alan? I see myself scoring as many goals as possible, sir, thanks for asking. My long-term plan is to continue to score as many goals as possible, because it’s always been my firm conviction that the team that scores the most goals will, more often than not, end up the winner. And that’s what my teams will do, sir.



I’ll be straight with you, sir. Goalscoring is the only thing I know. Goalscoring is the only thing I’ve ever needed to know. I rose to the very top of the game by being very, very good at kicking the ball into the net, and my plan is to stand near others and shout at them and inspire them to do the same. Football is a simple game. England is a simple country. I am a simple man.

He blows the leaf out of his eyes. It falls straight back down again.

(shouts) He pissed in my shoes!

The pigeon, startled, flaps away. After a moment, gentle rain begins to fall.