January 15: the first eleven

When Pads’ wife died aged fifty he decided he would take the hotel in Manchester they had owned and run together and hand over a room to every member of the Under-12s team he had played for 38 years earlier. It was a small boutique twelve room hotel. That would be the first eleven plus a sub. He would rename the hotel ‘The First Eleven’. Pads had an old black and white photo of the team and remembered all the players’ names, from Mini who played at centre-half, Teefy at inside right, Alf at centre forward, Macca as goalie, Slav as sweeper and so on. Then began the process of tracking them down. He had lost touch with them all over thirty years ago, so it was a complex process. One had died and one was untraceable. That left ten of them, of who four still lived in the Greater Manchester area. Pads handed over financial and management control of the bedrooms to the remaining players. In practice, it was not so straightforward. There were wives who got involved. One of the members of the under-12 eleven was now gay with a partner who worked in interior design and control of the room was given to him. This was against the spirit of the idea but it was difficult for Pads to step in. A couple of the players had fallen on hard times, financially speaking, and wanted to sell their room on the open market as soon as they had gained legal control of it. Again Pads was unable to intervene. He realised he should have had a contract drawn up with proper terms and conditions. Another player now lived in Wyoming and didn’t turn up for the opening party. When the official photo was taken of the old members of the team together again 38 years later in front of the hotel, some players wanted their wives and kids, now mostly grown-up, in on the picture. The resulting photo was a chaotic mess. Pads was beginning to regret he’d ever bothered.

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