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The Nightmare Before Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature stirred, not even a mouse.

Old Man Lemsagam sat up in his bed. He thought he had heard a rattling down the corridor.

He leant over to turn the light on, only then remembering he hadn’t paid the bill and the power had been cut off.

“Bah Humbug!” he muttered as he struck a match to light a solitary candle.

Just then a spectral figure came through his bedroom door, not by opening the door but passing through, as a ghost would.

“Whooooohoooo!” wailed the man in the flat cap! He was covered in chains, forcing him to stoop.

“Al, Al. I am here to warn you.”

Old Man Lemsagam sneered “What can you warn me about Mo?” For he recognised his brother, and the man who had really owned Oldham Athletic despite not being technically suitable and fit, according to someone.

“What do you want with me, I thought you had gone back to Germany?” Demanded Old Man Lemsagam.

“”Do you see these chains Al?” Mo shook the numerous links around his shoulders. There seemed to be hundreds of different chains.

“Each one represents an unsuccessful signing or a failed manager. They weigh me down so much I am unable to walk!”

“But Mo, you did a great job. We were really proud of the job we did?” Old Man Lemsagam retorted.

“We were fooling ourselves Al, we were terrible.We had no idea what we were doing. If only we had listened to the fans at Nantes!” Mo was nearing tears ``Please, I beseech you. Change your ways. You will be visited by 3 spectres tomorrow. Listen carefully to them, lest you end up like me”

Then the ghostly figure of Mo vanished into thin air, as though he had never really been there.

Old Man Lemsagam shook his head “Bah Humbug! Everybody loves me here, I don;t need to change my ways. A bad piece of pie, that’s all that was! A bad piece of pie tumbling down my fleece. I will pay it no heed”

And so he did. He woke up next morning and strode into work.

Most of his employees cowered and bent before him, humbly saying “Merry Christmas Mr Lemsagam”

“Bah Humbug!” he replied, never bothering to look at them. Once in his his office, he called for his lickspittle “Steve! Steve! Get in here!”. In strode Steve, his misplaced confidence oozing from every pore.

“Have you sent out those Banning orders yet?” demanded the old man.

“Oh yes sir! Lot of people at the office said it was a really bad idea just before Christmas, but I’ve done this before and it worked out a treat with absolutely no consequences whatsoever. Don’t you worry about it. There is no way that tomorrow I will have to have crisis meetings with everyone telling me they told me so..I’ve done it right this time. Anyway Mr Oyston, I mean Mr Lemsagam, can I do anything else for you? I’ve got a list of 12 year olds whose Christmas’s we can ruin if you like? ”

Old Man Lemsagam smiled to himself “Get me their numbers. I’ll call them myself. I like to hear the tears in their voices.”

The day passed and eventually Old Man Lemsagam finished his wicked work, and went home. His mind was still filled with the warnings of his old Sporting Director, but he was far too arrogant to listen.

The night passed uneventfully. The Chamberpot below his bed was nearly filled, and unbeknown to him, the liquid inside began to heat up. When midnight struck, it reached boiling point and there was a loud knock on Old Man Lemsagams bedroom door.

The ghostly figure of an Oldham Athletic Supporter strode into the room. The light around him gave him a ghostly aura, but Old Man Lemsagam felt the weight as the fan sat on the bed.

“What’s that awful smell?” asked the figure, bending to look beneath the bed. “Ah! I see. I suppose we were due one” he noted sagely.

“What do you want with me, vile spirit?” cried Old Man Lemsagam.

“I am the Fan of Christmas Past” stated the phantom “But you can call me Dom. I’m here to remind you about the history of this great club and how terrible a job you are doing!”

“What do you mean? I’m doing a brilliant job and everyone loves me at the club! Get out! And don’t come back for 3 years. Here or anyone else’s house. I forbid it,” yelled Old Man Lemsagam

“Dear Lord” sighed Dom, looking to the heavens “You really are deluded. Anyway, off we pop”

And with a gesture, the pair were whisked away to far gone days. Cheering Frankie Bunn to his sixth goal against Scarborough, Roger Palmers record goal v Ipswich, the “pinch-me” season, Promotion as Champions in the final seconds, The Great Escape, followed by several years of hurt, but peppered with moments of joy. Liverpool falling foul, Everton too, more recently Fulham. Pete’s touchline dad-dance.

Then the spirit landed at an office where a deal was being done for a football club.

The pair watched from the sidelines as the events unfolded.

The dapper young man in the suit proudly looked across the stadium, spreading his arms “All this will be mine!” he boasted, as the older, wiser man nodded next to him.

“Yes that’s right. All this will be yours. This club will all be yours, and then perhaps later you can buy the stadium” But he said this last part very quietly, so that the dapper young man could not hear correctly.

“I’m sorry what did you say?” asked the younger man.

“Nothing nothing..All this club will be yours, the players contracts, the badge , the rent, everything!”

Satisfied he had succeeded in a great bargain, the younger man signed the deal. The older man laughing quietly to himself.

Dom turned to his companion on this historical journey and asked “Do you see where the mistakes have been made here?” He asked, but Old Man Lemsagam ignored him and marvelled at his younger self “I am a great businessman. This was a brilliant deal.” he boastfully said.

The Fan of Christmas Past shook his head and sighed “I hope Brad has better luck!”

With a wave of his hand, the two were back in Old Man Lemsagams bedroom.

“I’ve tried to show you where you’ve made mistakes..though to be honest, we could have been here all night. We never even talked about Clarkey, Wheater or the Manager fiascos”

But Old Man Lemsagam took no notice, simply marvelling at his younger versions suit and business prowess.

“Christ, you’re not even listening are you?” Dom once again shook his head and stood up. “Well let’s see how you feel after your next visitor”

And with that, he was gone.

Old Man Lemsagam was left alone in the dark, though he noted the smell of gently warming urine filling the air.

Just as he was about to investigate the foul odour, another figure appeared.

“Eh up Chuck. I’m the Fan of Christmas represent! I’ve sent a few messages but that toady at your office, Steve, keeps cancelling my meetings at the last second. Any road up, I’m here now so let’s get on with this. You are being a bit of an arse, and I’m sorry to say this but I don’t agree with everything you are doing at the club, and in fact I don’t actually quite like you!’

Well that was too much for Old Man Lemsagam to bear.” How dare you not like me!” He bellowed.”Don’t you know who I am? I can do whatever I like with that football club. It’s mine, and I will destroy it if that’s what I want to do. If you don’t like me, keep your mouths shut, and clap the team on regardless. That’s why I bought the club, to be adored and loved. So do that or else I’ve got enough banning orders for all 8300 fans who came to the last home game. Then they will HAVE to love me”

The Fan, named Brad, was taken aback by this. He stood up and clicked his fingers, and instantly the 2 were taken to the latest home game at Boundary Park. The sparse crowd could be heard chanting “We want Abdallah Out!” but when asked what he could hear, Old Man Lemsagam surprised Brad by saying “I can hear 10,000 people cheering my name. I think they might be chanting something bad about the previous regime too, but otherwise it’s all positive towards me”

“Ok!” Sighed Brad, and then clicked his fingers again. They were taken to a radio studio where 3 men were listening to a caller.

“Ah, this is my friend Simon. He loves me and everything I’m doing. He knows how tough it is to successfully run a club.” said Old Man Lemsagam,smugly.

“You might want to pay attention to this entire interview!” noted Brad, knowing that the old man would learn anything.

And as it was so, Brad clicked his fingers a third time, taking them to a meeting between a long established appeals committee deep in the bowels of Boundary Park, where 3 men contested their banning orders. The dark robed committee considered the evidence before them, what appeared to be an empty table, and then rescinded the bans. They did, however insist on apologies from the men and reassurances that they would never ever do these naughty things again. The 3 men stood up, looked confused at each other and then left without a word.

“See, they wont be doing that again. Lesson learned!” shouted Old Man Lemsagam.

Brad shook his head and returned them to the bedroom.

“I give up. I hope Binman has better luck.” And with that, Brad was gone.

Alone in the room with the smell of gurgling pee, Old Man Lemsagam started to think about the mistakes he had made. But then he shook his head, snarling at the world “I’m right. They should all love me!”.

He moved beneath the covers in his cold bedroom, trying to fall back to sleep, when he heard the shuffling and scraping of a large box being dragged into place.

He kept his eyes firmly shut “I don’t want to see, You are just a bad piece of pie, badly digested. Yes that’s it. Badly digested pie!”

Then he heard the voice.

“Look upon me Old Man Lemsagam!” The loud voice boomed.

“No. NO! If I don’t see you, then you can’t exist” He responded.

But the voice insisted.” I am the fan of Christmas Futures, also known as Binman! And you will look upon the error of your ways. ”

When he opened his eyes, Old Man Lemsagam was horrified to see the ghostly figure standing upon a coffin. The name on the coffin simply said ‘Oldham Athletics League Status’

“It can’t be true?” cried Old Man Lemsagam “The season isn’t over yet. My brother is going to work his magic in the transfer market, once we get Pep to quit at Man City and join us. He’s a really good mate and he will be happy to help out ”

“Good grief” sighed Binman “You are off your head. How many times are you going to repeat the same mistakes. No one is coming to save us. You just have to sell the club. Here, let me show you!”

A wave of his hand and the bedroom melted away, to a world of singing birds, beautiful skylines, sunshine and lollipops. The Sky News announcers spoke “And so Oldham compete the domestic Treble, combined with the European Champions league, and somehow the World Cup too. Who would have thought this possible a mere 3 years after Old Man Lemsagam sold the club, allowing the fans to take a golden share. The club has never looked back and now owns its own historic ground. I think I speak for everyone when I say Thankyou Mr Lemsagam, Thank You..In other news. Man U relegated again - Nation rejoices.”

The world faded away again and the pair were left in the bedroom.

Binman put his arm around the visibly shaken Old Man Lemsagam.

“So you see, if you wish to be loved and have a true legacy at the club, you only have one option. Please do the right thing. And knock it off with the bans.”

“Also, there’s a horrid smell in here, you should do something about that. It smells like boiling piss.”

And with that he was gone.

Old Man Lemsagam reached for the phone, only remembering it had been cut off because the bill hadn’t been paid.

Instead he dressed, and ran out into the cold. He saw a small Oldham Urchin and called out “What match day is this boy?”

And the small lad replied “I dunno sir, you’ve banned me indefinitely, but I reckon it’s Scunthorpe today!”

“Brilliant. Here’s a shiny sixpence, go and buy the biggest turkey for your family, and let the world know. I am selling the club!”

The young lad smiled and replied

“God bless, you Mr Lemsagam, That’s the best Chrsitmas present any of us could have wished for. Enjoy the Dubai sun.”

And so it was that a Christmas miracle occurred. The boys in blue pulled off another great escape and we all lived happily ever after.

By Robin McGrother

Thanks to Robin for giving Charles Dickens a run for his money!

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