This fiction is initially inspired by this tweet from Andy Burnham. And my own immediate response to it.


 [The first Chapter One of Atkinson – Football Flatfoot is available here]

 Chapter 1 – The Proposition

Sticky Liverpool days before the autumnal cool. Business was drying up. I’d just filed my final report on Pulis for Peter Coates. He was worried about him. With good cause. It had taken me four days to get the stink out and nothing was getting those images off my retinas. Someone had to give him a job soon. Coates said he’d ask around. He better.

I was Liverpool’s leading football detective but I had nothing new. My in-tray was emptier than Simon Mignolet’s net. I needed something. The door opened and there he was. Tall with those baby blues.

Burnham. Andy Burnham. He drew a lot of water in this town. He’d put it all on the line and got results.

He was a good guy but we had history. Back in 01 he’d been part of a committee that had denied me planning permission to expand my dog shampooing emporium “Chihuawow!” and the business collapsed not long after. That would have been my ticket out of this filthy business and out of this filthy town with its café bars, pigeons and sham of an independent cinema.

I didn’t expect to see him again. But there he was. Burnham. His hair tight. Tighter than a jar of pickles. Burnham.

“I need answers.”

“Go to a Select Committee hearing.”

“Smart, Atkinson, smart mouth. Maybe I should push for a Judge led inquiry into falsifying work permits for ponytailed Eastern Europeans.”

I tried to keep it together. I didn’t do that shit any more. Voronin was the only one and I’d had my fingers burnt there. My torso and calves burnt too. That bear had body hair like a brillo pad.

“Looking at Chilcot it’d take decades to report.”

“You’re dirty, Atkinson.”

“No dirtier than a sticky fingered Blue reading United We Stand.”

“Those days are long gone.”

They’d had their fingers burnt too. Burnt real bad.

“So that’s what you want? Me to take down the Moyesiah? I’ve got the file.” I threw the Manilla on the desk. It boomed like a John Cross scoop – loud but ultimately hollow. “It’s all in there. The debts run up in Matalan. The photographs of him packing his lunch in a Sunblest bag, the children calling him Moyesy. I got his used rollers in a Waterloo lock up and I got eight centre forwards testifying exactly how he ruined them. You want it, I got it. But he’s got some strong backers these days. They got deep pockets. You want to go toe to toe with them, Burnham? You think Liam Byrne has the stones for that?”

“I told you. I just want answers.”

“To what, Burnham?”

“The biggest question of them all. What will it take for Scousers to get back properly behind the England team? What lost them in the first place?”

Long pause. I whistled through my teeth. The sound of a Merseyrail train stuck between stations.

“And you come to me?”

“None better.”

“You already know this, Andy.”

“I want something thorough. I don’t want the obvious.”

I wasn’t sure. Club versus country had cost me my first wife, the use of my left thumb and a nomination for the 1994 Mercury Music Prize.

“You want me to tell you about Liverpool’s feeling of disenfranchisement? You want to talk about John Barnes? You need me to tell you about South East bias in this country? You want to talk about Roy Hodgson? That fucking band with its three fucking songs? Martin Samuel’s face!? Come off it.”

“Is that all it is? That’s it?”

“Look at United.” He flinched. “Look at them. Their lads are hardly behind the England set up either. And there are people in this city who like to see the country do well.”

“So it is a myth?”

My shoulders sagged. He pressed home his advantage. “You know it isn’t a myth. And you know it isn’t just Hodgson. How much will it take? We’re a bit short since that thing in Falkirk.”

“This is party business?”

“It could be. I’m not sure yet.”

“Christ. I’ll do it pro bono.” It never did you any harm to have the Labour Party on side in this city. And we all owed Burnham a favour. “Now if you can see yourself out, I’ve got a border collie to shampoo in fifteen minutes.”

End Of Chapter One

Where can Atkinson go from here? How does he investigate the big question? Why is Andy Burnham asking? And will he bother writing a chapter two? All this will become clear in the next few days. Stay tuned.