‘The winter is hard in England’, thought McDuff, as he looked in on his players warming up before the big match. There wasn’t a great deal of stretching, or indeed any physical activity of any kind, but gloves and scarves (or snoods, so he’d heard) were being donned uniformly. He thought back on his youth in Aberdeen and reflected that the dark months must have been much warmer then.
Anxious looks ensued. A rustle of paper from just outside the door alerted McDuff to the presence of the players’ agents, who were flicking through their clients’ contracts to see if there was any way that they could be weaselled out of the game. They need not have worried. An epidemiological singularity occurred at that moment, as each of the star players was suddenly struck with an acute virus, the symptoms of which included hyperventilation, vomiting and syncope. Like so many Victorian ladies, their constitutions failed them at the eleventh hour. One after the other they expressed their wish to lie – to lie down.
McDuff had seen it before. He clicked his fingers at the bewildered youth squad. ‘Boots on lads,’ he said. ‘You’re going on’.
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