Little's Losers

Little's Losers by Robert Rayner

Book: Little's Losers by Robert Rayner Read Free Book Online
Authors: Robert Rayner
forwards, three midfielders, two defenders.” He repeats, thoughtfully, “ Five forwards.”
    Miss Little nods. “Let’s try playing in a 5-3-2 formation. We have to attack, and we have nothing to lose.” She beckons Mr. Sutton over and says, “Playing 5-3-2 means playing in an attacking sort of way, doesn’t it?”
    Shay’s granddad gleams with excitement. “We played 5-3-2 all the time when I played for Newcastle Wanderers in the old English First Division. We had Bernie Hunter and my old friend Tommy Green on the wings in those days. They were flyers. They’d bring the ball down the wings like lightning, and in the centre waiting for their passes would be the three inside forwards. That was the way to score goals. Why — I remember once we were playing Manchester Albion. That would have been in — let’s see — 1966. No — 1967. Yes, 1967 — and we were two goals down, with only fifteen minutes left to play, and … ”
    Miss Little gently interrupts him, “Please, we have to get back on the field. Can you help us get organized in a 5-3-2 formation?”
    â€œOh. uh, right … ” says Mr. Sutton. “Well, Toby and Linh-Mai, you’re the two fullbacks. You stay back and protect Brian in goal, like you’ve been doing.”
    We nod proudly.
    â€œJulie and Silas, keep playing midfield with Shay. Your job is to control the midfield space. Close it down when St. Croix have the ball. Open it up by making space for yourselves when we’re in possession.”
    â€œHow?” asks Julie.
    Mr. Sutton explains. “As soon as we get possession, you and Silas move up and support the five forwards. You’ll be like extra strikers. Shay will hang back so he can be an extra defender if necessary. He’ll also keep the ball while you and the forwards make space for yourselves. So use your height — especially you, Julie — to get the ball to Shay. Shay — you know what to do. You do too, Steve, up front. You can roam where you like but keep your eye on Shay. You know what I mean.”
    We’re hanging on Mr. Sutton’s every word. We look like a real soccer team getting advice from our coaches.
    â€œNow, twins — you have three strengths,” says Mr. Sutton.
    â€œWe do?” they say, and giggle.
    Mr. Sutton goes on, “Use your three strengths. First, you have your outstanding speed. Use it to fly down the wings with the ball and then get it into the centre, where the inside forwards — you, Steve, and Jason and Nicholas — will be waiting. Second, twins — you kick with different feet. Jillian, you kick with your right foot, and Jessica, you kick with your left foot.”
    They stare at each other in surprise. The foot they use for kicking is the only difference between them — and it’s taken a real soccer player like Mr. Sutton to spot it.
    â€œYour third strength is — you look the same,” he says. He grins, and goes on, “so switch sides whenever you like, so the backs marking you don’t know which one of you is coming at them and which foot you’ll pass or shoot with. You’ll be the Interchangeable Twins.”
    The twins giggle delightedly.
    â€œJason and Nicholas, play just behind Steve, going for goal when you can. That’s all. Over to you, Madam Coach.”
    We all look from Shay’s granddad to Miss Little. Her long blond hair is hanging in soaked rats’ tails and her big, round glasses are covered in raindrops.
    â€œAnd remember, children … ” she prompts us.
    â€œThe kindergarten rules,” we supply.
    â€œAnd?”
    We chant, “Grace and dignity, dignity and grace; doesn’t matter if you’re top, nor who sets the pace. What matters most is not who wins, but how you run the race. So conduct yourself with dignity, dignity and grace.”
    As we head out for the second half, we see

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