James sat at the foot of the bed with the revolver in his hand. He ran his hand along the cold, hard metal of the barrel and looked up to the ceiling.

Three league games played, 11 goals conceded; he took every single one personally, each trudge back to the centre circle from the heart of defence a dagger twisted into his back. “No” he thought, “not today. Saturday will be different”. He put the gun back in it’s special place – in between Jonjo Shelvey’s autobiography (he knew all 358 pages off by heart) and his framed photo of Alan Hutcheson in the second drawer, and rolled into bed. For once, he slept peacefully. He was completely oblivious to what lay in wait for Old Tiffinians FC.

His routine was the same, he was absurdly meticulous in that way. It started with a kiss for his imaginary girlfriend at the door, tapping the frame of the door on the way out, and finishing with the obligatory comment about Tom Nichols’ peculiar outfit choice for the day.

Preparation was perfect.

Kick-off. Passing was crisp, challenges were won and the first half was flying by. Tim Robini was purring on the touchline as the purps’ vaunted passing game was in full flow. Peake was dominating the aerial exchanges, and the returning Lamble was having some joy down the left flank.

James looked across at the rest of his back four. There was an unerring calm about them; passing, tackling and clearing with purpose. It was all going so smoothly, Shene had yet to really penetrate the line, and the defence was standing resolute. Half time was on the horizon, and after so many false dawns it seemed, finally, like the 2s were back in business.

35 minutes played, 0-0. The game was perfectly balanced. On a knife edge. A tight and tense affair.

The 2s walked in prepared for a stirring half time team talk from stand-in skipper Forsyth, “bit of a tough last 10 minutes there lads, we don’t deserve to be 4-0 down…”

Full time… A spirited response but a further 3 goals conceded on the counter-attack despite completely dominating possession. Pain, heartbreak, despair. Had it all just been a bad dream?