â€˜Nice colour Stevieâ€™ nods David Roberts, attempting a smile through the furrows channeled across his brow as a cleanly-shaven Steven Dunlop administers a final lick of scarlet paint to the weatherboarding at Predictorship HQ in Church Langley.
â€˜Iâ€™m happy with it Dave,â€™ acknowledges the Benfica man with a wry smile. â€˜and Iâ€™m thinking of putting an eagle in the middle, what do you think?â€™
The Chairman runs his eyes across the neighbouring houses which have also succumbed to Stevieâ€™s enthusiastic brushwork and gently wrests the can of Dulux from his grasp to steer him indoors for a nice cup of tea.
Janet Roberts, 4th in the table and still in with a shout for the FA Cup, seems to have been thinking along similar lines and the kettleâ€™s whistling away as she lays out the beetroot savouries on a doily, adjusting her verdant curls. The last week has taken itâ€™s toll on the runaway table topper and Janet listens with concern as the crest fallen leader pours out his heart:
Well, well, well… probably my worst week football wise in history, a lowly 4 points in the Predictorship, my “home” team Man U go out of the Champions League after being 3-0 up and my “adopted” team Benfica lose their first game since November and say adeus Europa. Only a top notch set of Predictorship selections can save my footballing soul now.
A desperate cry from the heart but it wasnâ€™t to be. John Collins itâ€™s rumoured is riding into town this afternoon. The Millwall man, now equal on points at the top, is riding shotgun with a moustachioed Mark Young (a man with nothing to lose after sliding yet another point down the table away from FA Cup finalist, the Moonerazzi) and Ted Warland wearing a mean look and an even meaner pair of two-tone western boots. Collins, having snatched a bunch of silverware from the Church Langley vaults only weeks before, is determined to hold the trophy aloft by fair means or foul and Warland â€“ sore from his Cup defeat by the Moonerazzi this week is a formidable accomplice. They wonâ€™t be giving their booty up easily and are intent on settling a few scores.
Meanwhile, hearing about the impending stand-off and being a little short this week, Matt White has turned up at the Roberts to offer his support and cadge a meal or two into the bargain. With a creditable 7 points (given the average score of 4.89 for week 34) and swapping places with the Chairman to rise to 9th in the table, itâ€™s a generally acknowledged truth that the success has gone to stat-manâ€™s head as he panders to the every whim of the troubled man at the top.
Stevie D hasnâ€™t been the same since Normanetta No-Mates equalled his score last week and, following her haul of three correct results (for 0-0s at Wolves, The first milestone is reached on Monday, when you reach a point where lucky Jupiter is just a month away from your romantic sector and by Wednes best-horoscope.com he’ll be just 4 weeks away. Blackburn and Liverpool) and 6 points to Stevieâ€™s 4, he reacted to the gleeful womanâ€™s taunts by ravishing the young maiden on the crazy paving.
Matt eagerly directs the assembled Predictors into their positions: Top scorer Gareth Jones with 8 points and 2 correct scores for the games at Aston Villa and Wolves (and also Predictor of the Week for the Aston Villa â€“ Chelsea result) â€“ is determined to see fair play and eagerly takes up his position behind the wheelie bins at the corner of the cul-de-sac; the â€˜242â€™ five: Chris Butters, Gabe Bevilaqua, Saleel Sathe, Matt White and David Roberts, all battling to move into the fifth placed spot, peep out of the velux windows, vegetables in hand; Ralph Hannah â€“ the only player to predict a Portsmouth win against Tottenham squats down behind the stable door of the neighbours caravanette; and Dave Taylor â€“ the only player to predict a Burnley win at Hull, shifts nervously under a blanket in the back of the Robertsâ€™ Mini Cooper.
The Enfields cruise past the filling station into the estate and the Predictors fall silent. Even the harsh wind blowing the leaves around the empty streets drops to a whisper as if sensing the battle ahead.
â€˜Thereâ€™ll be no crocodile tears here…â€™ leers Young, raising his umbrella to the Lion on his left. Collins nods his appreciation and spits a red mouthful of beetlenut into the pavement as Warland reaches into his back pack, ready to strike. But Stevie”s got other plans. He quietly turns the engine over on his Goldwing as they pass by and snakes around the corner to cruise up behind them.