I have to admit, I thought it was a wind-up at first. I mean, who wouldn’t?
“Herr Macintosh”wheezed the voice. “Long have we admired your work.”
“I beg your pardon?” I asked, pulling the phone away from my ear to check the number again. 0049. Where was that?
“Long have we admired your work”repeated the voice patiently. “Your columns, your match reports, even that feature where you described Harry Redknapp as a top class manager. How we laughed at that one! You may not realise it, but your ‘Football Fables’ is now on the required reading list for all Bavarian students and there is much talk of a mini-series based upon your opus ‘Everything You Ever Needed To Know About Golf’. They’re thinking of casting Andreas Brehme as the narrator, you know.”
“I’m sorry, who is this?” I laughed, glancing around for Jeremy Beadle and then feeling that familiar pang of sadness at his loss. So young.
“My name is Thomas Zacher. I am the chairman of Heidenheim. I have a business proposition for you.”
“Heidi Heim?” I burbled. “Is that a fashion label? What do you want with me?”
“We are not a fashion label, Herr Macintosh. We are a football club. A football club that needs your help.”
“Ah, right”I said quickly. “I get your drift. Well listen, I don’t write for free, not since that thing with ‘The Locker Room’. If I’m going to get savaged by the press, I want some decent money first. Or cuddles, I can be paid in cuddles. I can do your player interviews for £50 a throw, columns are double and if I’m ghosting the manager’s foreword, I need his notes typed and sent to me 24 hours before deadline.”
“You misunderstand, Herr Macintosh. I don’t want you to write about the club. I want you to manage the club.”
“Manage which bit?”
“The team. I want you to manage my team.”
“I’m not with you.”
“Be the manager, Herr Macintosh.”
“Sit in the dug-out, pick the team, make the funny hand signals that look like you’re trying to push an invisible block of ice across a table. Coach my team. Lead them to glory. Take us from the third flight to the promised land of the Bundesliga. Take our dreams, feather their wings and release them into the sunset. Do you understand?”
“Look, I’ll pay you 2,100 of your English pounds a week to be a football manager. Get a taxi, go to the airport, fly to Germany and we‘ll give you a tracksuit with ‘IM‘ on it.”
“You want me to be the manager?”
“I’ve got one question.”
“Did you really like ‘Football Fables’?”