Chapter 40: Don’t Give Up, Kid! Part 2
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
Outside the field, Tang En was worried about Wood's fate, and on the field, Wood worried about himself, too.
He was not blind or a fool. He saw Tony Twain's sudden appearance on the sidelines and knew that this was a good opportunity to show himself. His surrounding teammates were trying hard to perform well and he was not willing to fall behind. But…
No one was willing to pass the ball to him, because if it were to be passed to him, it would only cause the team's overall performance to look bad. Everyone would not get the chance to perform. That bunch of players would normally have a few laughs together, but when it came down to that moment, who would not consider themselves first? There was nothing to be done. This was the cruel nature of professional football. One could not whine about others not giving them a chance when one did not have the strength!
Looking at his teammates—how the more they pressed on, the closer they got, and how instead, as a second striker, the more he kicked the farther away he was from the goalmouth—Wood wondered if his performance was over just like that? He thought that taking off the red jersey to return to continue be a mover, a job that did not require any skills and position awareness—as long as he had the strength he could do it—was the most suitable for an uneducated clod like him.
But when he thought of his beloved mother at home, he was not willing to admit defeat.
The more this kid kicked the farther back he went… Tang En shook his head lightly. If the striker was 40 meters away from the goal, would he still pose as a threat? This stupid kid, if he doesn't charge into the goal area, how is he going to shoot the ball into the goal? If he doesn't get a goal in, how is he going to convince others of his ability? I know it's asking too much of you especially when you've only just started playing the last two months… But even just one goal can save your career, you b*stard! Even if it means using your hand to score a goal, as long as you do it in such a way that the referee cannot detect!
Tang En looked down at his watch and did a bit of mental calculation. It was less than five minutes till the end of the match. Looking at Wood's condition, there seemed to be nothing to look forward to.
He got up from his seat with the intention to leave early. He could not say to Wood, "Don't waste your time here." The best approach was to get away from here.
Kerslake looked up at Twain. "Not watching anymore, Tony?"
Tang En shook his head in disappointment and said nothing. Then he turned and walked toward the players' corridor.
At this point, Nottingham Forest was finally awarded a corner kick though successive attacks. Except for the goalkeeper, almost all the players rushed into the opposing penalty area. They intended to score a goal to leave a good impression on the First Team manager.
Only George Wood was foolishly standing between the penalty arc and center circle, though he was 1.85-meter-tall, he did not think to join in to compete with a header.
When the corner kick was taken, none of the Forest players managed to receive the ball. The football was headed off by West Ham and flew directly to the right wing.
A West Ham player wearing the number 8 jersey stopped the ball beautifully and then turned to make a surprise attack!
The few Forest fans in the stands booed. At this time the Forest team's own penalty area was empty, with no one else except the goalkeeper.
"Damn it!" Kerslake cursed.
Upon hearing the fans booing, Tang En turned around to see what was happening on the field.
Then he saw that West Ham's number 8 was dribbling at a high-speed while all the Forest players were staring blankly on the other side of the field, not even trying to defend. Perhaps they did not feel they could catch up with him at all...
But someone appeared in his sights.
"Where did this b*stard come from?" The West Ham youth team manager did not expect that there was still a Forest defender.
He slashed through the field and chased the dribbling West Ham player; the speed of his pursuit was amazing! Looking at his swift figure, Tang En suddenly felt a sense of déjà vu, as if he'd seen it somewhere before ...
The distance between Wood and the player dribbling the ball was shortened in a flash.
"Good heavens..." exclaimed the assistant coach next to Kerslake. "His speed is really fast!"
"What's the use of being fast?" Kerslake replied. "He's not a damn defender! He's never practiced f*cking defense…."
He had not finished his sentence when he saw George, who was running at a high-speed, turn his body over and fly forward with his feet in front and head at the back. Then using the force of that momentum, mercilessly... mercilessly stamped on that dribbling player's foot! Sent flying by Wood's kick, the West Ham player with the ball flew straight over the sidelines, along with the rolling football.
"Oh my God!"
The managers of both teams exclaimed at the same time. Because in the completely empty stadium, they had clearly heard a snap just then, it had to be the sound of a bone fracture ...
The West Ham player, who was sent flying with a kick and tossed out of the field, never got up again. Instead he held on to his right leg and rolled back and forth on the ground. West Ham's team doctor had already rushed over.
The referee's whistle shrilled continuously on the field, while the West Ham players rushed to the offender in succession. But they were all stopped by the Forest players, and there was some physical confrontation between the players. It was not that they were thinking of Wood, they were actually thinking about the opposing players—ever since they saw Wood, with one punch, knock out their own team's biggest and strongest player, Eddie, and how he almost went into shock, no one would dare to mess with him again.
By the way, Eddie was that unlucky chap who was later sold off
The Forest team players thought that George Wood, who did not perform well in front of the manager, must be in a bad mood and because of that, his temper would be violent. The West Ham players who rushed up to him would be just like sheep in a fierce tiger's eyes, and they did not want a big bloody battle on their home turf.
The referee expended a lot of effort to separate both teams' players from each other. He then walked up to George Wood, who had just scrambled up from the ground and raised his hand. A bright red card flashed past his eyes. He was sent off the field.
Kerslake covered his face and did not want to watch. Even if Twain did not say anything, he knew that this kid's time at Nottingham Forest was over, completely over!
At this point, Wood had completely lost his spirit. He lowered his head, walked mechanically to the locker room, not caring about the yells of the surrounding West Ham players and manager. He also not seeing his youth team manager, David Kerslake, shaking his head in disappointment. Even when he passed by Twain, he did not stop for a second and just walked back in with his head down.
He was closely followed by the West Ham's team doctor who hurried past Twain with his team carrying a stretcher with the West Ham number 8 lying on top, in agony. Their destination was not the visiting team's locker room, but the nearest local hospital.
Tang En looked at the back views of these people, shook his head lightly, and then turned to the home team's technical area.
It was not easy to return to normal on the field, and Kerslake also had no intention of making any adjustments anymore. In any case, when George Wood was on the field, the Forest team was equaled to having only 10 players anyways. He turned and was surprised to see Twain coming back again. But just as well, it was time to lay all the cards on the table. Twain brought him in, it should be Twain to bring him away.
So, he approached him.
When he saw Kerslake open his mouth, Tang En rushed to speak first. "This really is a mess."
Kerslake nodded in agreement.
"Our quarrel with West Ham just got bigger, didn't it?" Tang En asked.
Kerslake continued to nod in agreement. This man in front of him was still being remembered by East Londoners for his curse of their First Team's relegation, and now the youth team had crippled their main striker.
"What are you going to do?"
Kerslake said to Twain without hesitation, "Tony, I think we should give him up."
"I disagree with you, David," Twain laughed. "I finally found the most suitable position for this kid."
Kerslake was a bit taken aback. He had not expected that this foul would instead change Twain's opinion on Wood.
"Able to rival a striker's speed, have a stronger body than the center back, the stamina to run back and forth from this penalty area to that penalty area for 90 minutes, aggressive tackles... Can you guess which position this is?"
The youth team manager thought about it, and then said, "Defensive midfielder."
"The answer is correct!" Tang En happily clapped his hands. "It's the defensive midfielder! It doesn't matter if he can't shoot, many defensive midfielders will not necessarily be able to score 10 goals in their lifetimes..."
"But, Tony. Wood is already... "
"David," Tang En said firmly. "Giving him another chance also gives me a chance. I believe in my vision. You know what? Although that was a disgraceful foul, and a failed defense, from there I saw all the qualities that a great defensive midfielder should have. Letting him be the striker was our fault. This responsibility should not be his! Give him another chance!"
The two men stared at each other, after a while Kerslake relented and looked away. He then nodded and said, "All right. I'll let him practice defense the day after tomorrow and start training afresh!"
Tang En smiled, "Thank you, David. I'll handle Wood." Patting Kerslake's shoulder, Tang En turned and walked toward the home team's locker room.
Kerslake called out to stop him, "Tony, why not the center back?"
Tang En gave a wave of his hands, "This way we may give our opponents a few penalty kicks every match."
George Wood was showering alone in the locker room, with the crashing sound of water. He stood motionless under the shower nozzle, letting the water spray on him.
When he saw the opposing team's number 8 got the ball and broke through, he only had one thought at that time which was to stop him. But he did not want to commit a foul, only he did not know what best to do. So he chose the simplest way, which was also the stupidest. Now that he was sent off with a red card, it was all over. He was simply not suited to play football. He just wanted to rely on professional football to make money for his mother's treatment and to support them. It was entirely his own wishful thinking.
Forget it, better go back to being a mover...
I just thought of my mom smiling at the table and saying, "My George is also a professional footballer."
His heart ached. The biggest blow to him was disappointing his mother's trust and hope.
Turning off the tap, Wood walked out of the shower and started to get dress in front of his locker. At this time, he heard the door behind him, but he had no interest in turning around to see who came in.
"You're a miserable punk. With your hair stuck to your forehead, still dripping down with water, you look just like a dog that fell into the river and got dragged out." Tang En leaned against the door frame and said in a mocking tone.
Wood stopped moving his hands, but he still did not turn around.
"Tsk tsk. You received one red card, and it's like the end of the world. Hey, little boy, is this your first red card? Your silence means you admit it's true... Should we go out for a drink to celebrate? Oh, I think professional footballers can't drink." Tang En seemed to be performing a one-man show. He asked the questions, but wasn't waiting for Wood to reply. "Look at you now... Do you want to go home? Cry for 'mummy', asking for milk..."
"Bang!" A sharp sound interrupted Tang En's words, and he was startled. He then found the door of the locker next to Wood had been dented in. The whole locker was made of iron...
"Shut your stinking mouth!"
Tang En snorted, fully expressing his contempt for this kid's threat. "If you think you can hit me, you can go ahead and try. Don't think that everyone in the world is the same as that useless thing you knocked down with a punch. Looks like you're full of energy. I'll just ask you one question: Do you still want to continue playing?"
Wood finally turned around, and Tang En found this kid's eyes were red. He did not know whether it was due to despair or anger.
"You're a f*cking liar! You lied to me, and said I could become a football star, so I lost my job to come train with you! You want to hear my answer? My answer is—f*ck you!" Wood roared furiously.
"I lied to you? Kid, you can get struck by lightning with your groundless accusation," cried Tang En. "Which idiot came to my door and said, 'I think you should sign England's best star player?' Who was it? Isn't it the man standing in front of me? What did I say? 'Never underestimate professional football, or it will punish you'. I said that, didn't I? Do you think professional football is so simple that you can be as good as a superstar player after two months of training? What kind of place do you think this is?" Tang En abruptly raised his volume, unleashed the imposing manner he used to direct matches in front of 30,000 spectators and roared, "Where do you think you are? This is the City Ground's locker room, used by the First Team! All the players here are professional footballers, and which one of them did not have to go through more than 10 years of hard training before they had this chance? You're just a damn rookie idiot with two months of training!"
While Tang En was admonishing him, Wood was unable to retort. In fact, he did not know what to say.
"Do you think this locker room is for people like you? If it weren't for turf maintenance at the training ground, some of you may not even be able to step foot in this room in your lifetime! For more than 120 years, countless men, 100 times better than a clueless fool like yourself, have used this room. Some of them were the best of professional footballers, successful and famous. Some were just nobodies who have long been forgotten. Why is there such a difference? Because the latter looked down on professional football. They did not take seriously the work that brought them honor, money, beautiful women, fame, and status. So, professional football punished them, made them become worthless with all their money, beautiful women, fame, and status all gone overnight! And now it's your turn, lad ..."
Tang En looked at the silent Wood, with an imperious expression. "You're expelled by a red card. Your terrible performance was appalling, and there's completely no potential at all. Anyone can pronounce your death sentence right away. You're finished, the match is over! But, do you concede? Have you given up? Are you willing to disappoint your mother? Answer me!"
Wood bit hard on his lips, and his hands clenched into fists. He was slightly trembling everywhere in his entire body.
"This match is over, and there's still the next match. You lost here, and you still can win it back in the next match. But if you quit here and run home crying like a baby, then I tell you, you'll never get a chance to win back what you've lost! Never!" Tang En said to him angrily as he took a step forward and got in Wood's face.
"Now, answer me: Do you still plan to play football? Do you still want to be a superstar who earns £120,000 a week?"
"Tell... tell me, how can I do it?" Wood finally spoke again, his voice trembling.
Tang En sighed with relief inside, and his tone became much softer. "Listen to me, go back. Go back to the training ground, train yourself according to the new position the coaches have arranged for you. Listen to every coach, don't talk back, don't lose your temper, and use 24 hours like they are 72. Then prove yourself again in the next match. Step by step! Don't be impatient, and don't quit halfway. You will succeed, I promise!"
Looking at Wood's eyes, Tang En added, "My credit is guaranteed by the bank, kid." Then he grinned.