The forgotten managers of the Premier League roundtable
Join us as we are granted exclusive behind the scenes access at the regular support meetings of all the forgotten managers of the Premier League. In Episode 1, Rafa Benitez is brought along to join the group.
INT: A large, dimly lit boardroom. Late evening.
Recently departed Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez is sat, tied to a chair at the head of the table with a blindfold covering his eyes and his mouth gagged. It is removed, the rope is untied and he opens to eyes to find a bunch of familiar faces staring back at him.
Alan Pardew: Welcome, Rafa, to the forgotten Premier League football club managers er… club.
Rafa Benitez: What? Alan? Where am I?
Alan Pardew: We can’t tell you that. Let me introduce you to our regulars, not that I need to. Haha. We’ve got Tim Sherwood with us…
Tim Sherwood stands up and without saying a word gives the Adebayor celebration salute.
Rafa Benitez: Nice gilet.
Tim Sherwood: It's not a gilet. It's a coat.
Alan Pardew: And Big Sam has been joining us since leaving Everton.
Big Sam: *indiscernible grunt*
Rafa Benitez: [pointing at a pint glass filled with pale liquid in front of Sam on the table] Is that a pint of…
Big Sam: Apple juice.
Rafa Benitez: …
Big Sam: It’s apple juice. Has anyone even checked this guy for a wire? A hidden camera? I’ve been stung before.
Alan Pardew: No, that’s a good idea, actually. [signalling to the back end of the table] Iain, come and search this man.
Iain Dowie lurches up from the far end of the room, walks over, lifts Rafa Benitez up by his armpits and gives him an excessively firm pat down.
Iain Dowie: All clear boss.
Alan Pardew: Thank you, Iain. You can return to your seat. Where was I… Oh, we’ve got our treasurer, Harry Redknapp.
Harry Redknapp: Awright Raf. Good to see ya.
Alan Pardew: And of course Alan Curbishley, one of our longest serving members.
Alan Curbishley sits asleep in the far corner of the room. He has two badly drawn eyes drawn in marker pen over his closed eyelids.
Alan Pardew: Yeah. He’s been coming to these for a while. Who else have we got… Tony Pulis.
Tony Pulis nonchalantly tips his Stoke City baseball cap.
Pardew: And Mark Hughes…
Mark Hughes flings his hands up like he's protesting a refereeing decision, mutters something about how he shouldn't even be there and crosses his arms in a huff. Starts chewing gum really, really aggressively.
Alan Pardew: And last but certainly not least, Craig Shakespeare.
Rafa Benitez: Who?
Alan Pardew: Craig Shakespeare.
Rafa Benitez: Craig… Shack-spur?
Alan Pardew: SHAKE-SPEAR. LIKE THE PLAYWRIGHT.
Rafa Benitez squints at Craig Shakespeare, takes off glasses, blows on lenses, rubs them with a cloth.
Alan Pardew: He used to manage Leicester City.
Rafa Benitez: [putting glasses back on] Oh! You mean Nigel Pearson?
Alan Pardew: No not Nigel Pearson, after him.
Rafa Benitez: [visibly confused] Michael Appleton?
Alan Pardew: Forget it. Forget it. Sorry Craig.
Craig Shakespeare abruptly gets up, flings his chair to floor and runs out of room crying. A slam is heard down the corridor.
Big Sam: Wimp.
Alan Pardew: Great. Great. A great start to today’s meeting everyone. Well done everyone. He won’t be back for weeks.
Rafa Benitez: Where am I, Alan?
Alan Pardew: I told you, Raf. Like the secret to getting the very best out of Hatem Ben Arfa, I simply can’t disclose that information.
Big Sam: We’re in a secret boardroom underneath Selhurst Park. Steve Parish used to let us use it rent-free on the condition that whenever a Crystal Palace manager was sacked one of us would step in and keep them up, before inevitably being sacked ourselves midway through the next season.
Alan Pardew: SAMUEL! That is sensitive information you are dispensing to a new member!
Big Sam: What? It happens every other fucking year Al.
The rest of the group murmurs in agreement.
Big Sam: Who amongst us has managed Crystal Palace?
Everyone raises their hand apart from Rafa Benitez, bemused, Tim Sherwood, who respectfully salutes instead and Alan Curbishley, who is asleep. Tony Pulis raises Iain Dowie’s hand for him.
Alan Pardew: [scanning the room] Harry you haven’t managed Palace.
Harry Redknapp: Course I 'av! I’ve managed everyone. It was in the 80s, you just don’t remember. Back when they were in the third division. Only went and got them up, didn’t I?
Alan Pardew: That was Bournemouth, Harry. You were managing Bournemouth.
Harry Redknapp: … was I?
Alan Pardew: YES.
Harry Redknapp: What about when I…
Alan Pardew: Jordan, Harry. The Jordan national team.
Harry Redknapp: Oh yeah… yeah. We beat…
Alan Pardew: Bangladesh 8-0 in your very first game. I know. We all know. Everybody knows.
Rafa Benitez: Sorry to interrupt but can somebody just tell me why I am here?
Alan Pardew: Rafa, you’re here because we want to… how do I put this… diversify.
Alan Pardew clasps his hands together and grimace-smiles like David Brent.
Tim Sherwood: Foreign managers. Pfft. What do they know. When I was at Spurs after AVB I had those boys playing much better football.
Alan Pardew: Tim, not now. Rafa, we just thought now that Newcastle have let ya go you’ll be out of the game for a little while so you might want to join our meetings. You know, where we help each other deal with unemployment and talk through the ways each of us can get back into the game.
Rafa Benitez looks visibly awkward at this point. He starts tugging his suit sleeve as he speaks.
Rafa Benitez: Oh, but… I’ve actually only been out of contract for a few days and I’ve already had about ten job offers.
There is a stunned silence from the rest of the room. A long beat or two passes.
Rafa Benitez: Some of them are Champions League clubs.
Mark Hughes: What! You? The Spanish Waiter!?
Tony Pulis throws his cap on the floor. There is a small duckling resting on his head. Realising it is now exposed he pulls a West Bromwich cap from his kitbag and gently puts it on, hoping nobody noticed the duckling.
Big Sam: Ha! It’s not international management though, is it. It’s not England.
Rafa Benitez: Well actually, Spain have sounded me out about taking over from Robert Moreno…
Big Sam: Oh fuck off. He’s lying. Stop lying.
Alan Pardew: [banging a gavel, he has a gavel for some reason] ORDER. SILENCE. STOP IT. EVERYONE STOP IT. [calmly now] Rafa, is this true? Are you telling us the truth?
Rafa Benitez: I mean… guys. I’ve won two La Liga titles. The FA Cup… Europa League… the Coppa Italia… I’ve won the Champions League with a back four that had Djimi Traore in it. No offence but I don’t belong here. I’m leaving.
Rafa Benitez slowly gets up and leaves without saying a word. The rest of the room remains in complete silence bar the occasional snore emitted from Alan Curbishley in the corner.
After a long silence, Big Sam clears his throat.
Big Sam: Hasn’t taken Bolton Wanderers into Europe though, has he?
He has a long sip of 'apple juice'. Let's out one of those sounds dads do to let you know they are refreshed.
Alan Pardew: [visibly fed up] Lads. We can’t keep doing this. I’ve been out of work over a year now. Poor Alan, the other Alan, the lesser Alan over there is coming up to his 10th anniversary. We just… we can’t… we need to…
Tim Sherwood: Al why don’t you do the dance, that always cheers you up. Do the dan-
Alan Pardew: I’M NOT DOING THE FUCKING DANCE TIM. FUCK OFF. FUCK THE DANCE. I’M NOT DOING IT. YOHAN CABAYE IS OUT THERE IN GOD KNOW’S WHERE, DUBAI OR FRANCE OR SOME SHITHOLE, AND HE NEEDS ME. I KNOW HE NEEDS ME. I CAN FEEL IT AND I CAN’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT.
Alan Pardew crumples into his own arms and starts sobbing uncontrollably.
Tony Pulis: Christ, Alan. Get it together. The best centre midfielder I’ve ever managed is still Dean Whitehead.
Harry Redknapp: Fackin hell. Really? Let me tell you about a young lad I discovered in Croatia who went on to be a world beater.
Tim Sherwood: Juande Ramos signed Luka Modric I think, ‘Arry.
Harry Redknapp: Naw, not 'im. I’m talking about Niko. Niko Kranjcar. Couldn’t speak a word of the Queen’s when I found him but that right foot of his was magic. Triffic player. Triffic, triffic player.
Alan Pardew, still hunched over, slowly begins to massage his temples with his fingertips.
Big Sam: I think we’re done here. Curry anyone? Cheeky Balti? Tone? You had dinner yet Tone?
Tony Pulis: I have but I could eat Sam. You know me.
A small quack of excitement is heard from underneath his cap.
Big Sam: Vamos. Iain, you in? I know you’re a big madras fan. A cheeky bev to go with? [enacts bringing a pint glass to his lips]
Tony Pulis raises Iain Dowie’s hand for him in response.
Big Sam: Settled. We’ll go in separate cars. I’ll see you at Bengal Garden in five. Sparky see if you can wake Alan. Tim, you stop off for a few can- cartons of apple juice.
Eventually, everyone leaves the room bar Alan Pardew, who has remained slumped onto the table. He waits for the sound of the last car engine to fade into the distance before pulling open the draw beneath him. He takes out a photograph and looks at it, longingly, as night rolls in around him. A single tear crawls down his cheek and drops onto the glass cover of the frame. It’s Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse, in Newcastle shirts, with their arms around one another.
Alan Pardew: Soon, Alan. We’ll be back soon. The Premier League will once again know the name: Alan Scott Pardew.
To be continued.