Mariya writes: Early June: the inter-season. As usual I’ve come up the coast from Burgas to spend a few days with my half-brother, Grigor — aka manager of FC Farul Constanta.
And we’ve come to our usual restaurant. We like the fish and the pleasantly dry Fetească Neagră.
‘Well, Grigor,’ I say, once we are seated at our usual table, ‘You’re looking well on it. You’re looking healthy. Younger too. And exuding confidence.’
‘Well thank you. I suppose having kept the club up. in their first season in Liga 1 — without difficulty too — hasn’t done me any harm. No thanks to you, it should be said .’
‘That’s a rather barbed comment, Grigor.’
‘Well, may I remind you that a year ago, almost to the day, you sat in that seat and told me that I would be out of my depth in Liga 1? You told me I should give up football management, buy an allotment, and grow potatoes.’
”Oh, Grigor, you always take everything so literally.’
‘Well, that is what you said. “But an allotment, Grigor.”‘
‘Do you really think I thought you should turn to digging an allotment. For one thing, there you really would have been out of your depth. You’d be hopeless at digging an allotment. You need to bring in an assistant manager, at least. probably a Director of Winter Vegetables too.
‘But you seemed to have run out of energy. You feared you might not be up to the challenge of Liga 1.
‘So I decided that you needed something to rile you. You’re always at your best when you’re fighting against something.
‘One of nature’s contrarians. It was a racing certainty that if I told you that you weren’t up for the challenge, you’d take it on — and prove me wrong.’
‘Well, Mariya, let me tell you that it’s a racing certainty that when the waiter brings the bill, I’ll instruct him to hand it to you.’
‘Very well, Grigor. Then we shan’t be having a dessert. But let me ask you one thing. How did you keep them up?’
‘I splashed the cash. On goalkeepers especially. £135k on Cosmin Dur-Bozoanca and a further £55k on Robert Popa.’
‘I think at this point I’m supposed to express sceptical amazement that you spend so much on goalkeepers and then you’re going to tell me yet again abut that Mr Clough and — what was his name, Peter Stilton? You know, the first million-pound goalie.’