The Team Talk
by Harry Moore.
I am H.L. Moore and I am an sports fiction author. The Team Talk is one of my finest pieces of work and will no doubt be a huge box office hit once it hits the big screen. I am soon expected to become a New York Times best selling author. My inspiration is the legendary, creative mastermind Mr Jeff Kinney.
The championship playoff final, the game where you end up 170 million pounds richer and get away days at the likes of Anfield, Old Trafford and the Emirates or the game where you can plunge into financial deficit and end up having to walk through somebody’s back garden to get to Luton away. The difference between a win and a loss is huge.
27th of May 2019. Aston Villa. Derby County. Head to head in the biggest game in English football, both financially and in terms of reward. One moment can change the whole dynamic of the season. 46 games over a long, hard, gruelling season come down to this. For some it is the heartbreak of finishing third and just missing out on the automatic places and for others it’s the joy of sneaking in 6th and giving yourself a chance at making it into the big time. The clock had struck 45 minutes and the referee had blown the whistle after two minutes of added time had been played, boo’s echoed from the stands to the west that were covered in claret and blue, whilst on the other side of the great Wembley stadium the white and black of stands of Derby County serenaded in pure delight. The score was 2-0 to the Rams at the half way point and the Villa fans were not happy about it one bit. All it took were two defensive mistakes from Aston Villa, one from Axel Tuanzebe and another from Glen Whelan, both of them gifting opportunities to Martyn Waghorn and Jack Marriot.
The down-heartened Aston Villa players entered the dressing room with pure sorrow. Anwar El Ghazi walked in and threw his boots at the wall, tears building up in his eyes. Neil Curtis stood up, the goalkeeping coach and one of Dean Smith’s main men.#
‘Get yourself together, Anwar,’ he bellowed.‘C’mon lads take a seat and get some fluid down ya; we have another 45 minutes to change this,’ Villa captain Jack Grealish calmly pronounced in his thick brummie accent. The players listened and took their seats in the changing room. Aston Villa manager Dean Smith stood up and circled the lads a few times, like a lion circling its prey.
‘Boys, what I have just seen out there is nothing short of absolutely disgraceful. Totally and utterly pathetic. This is not some preseason game or a kick about with your mate’s, lads; this is people’s lives, people’s livelihoods. At the end of it all, it will be alright for you lot, you’ll go home to your stunning wives, girlfriends, heck some of you will even go home to see your kids and God knows whether that will be before or after you pick up your 20, 30, 40, 50 grand or whatever you earn at the moment. But lads, this isn’t about you, it’s about those people who are sat in the stands cheering your names, they work hard every week, 9-5, to pay their hard-earned money to come and see you play the sport you love to play. It’s time to step up, start taking risks. Tammy, you’ve shown me nothing of the Tammy Abraham that we’ve seen all season, not once. Anwar, on your day we both know that you can beat any man, it’s just all about having that confidence. Confidence is everything. I trust you all as players, otherwise I would not have signed you. There is something in all of you that inspires me as a coach and that is the reason that we are all here today’.
45 minutes more were played that afternoon, but it was a whole new generation of Aston Villa fans who would go on to learn about that day in May 2019. Names like Tammy Abraham, Jack Grealish and Tyrone Mings were to be forever written into Aston Villa folklore. For years the fans will sing their songs, the newspapers will write their names and the pundits will rave about them in their articles, but what people don’t know, and only a few will ever know, is that it was Dean Smith who won it. Dean Smith and his team talk.