Tucuman Rising E9: El Siambon & Richard Kiel’s Keyhole Surgery
I wake up the morning after our excellent win against Godoy Cruz with a hangover, and the usual sense of near suicidal dread. Except on this occasion, rather than because I’ve bought 7 life-size cardboard cutouts of Nicolas Cage, it’s because my de-facto girlfriend Carmen had revealed to me that her father was a local gangster who had inadvertantly caused me to crash the car with her inside whilst trying to put forward a thinly-veiled threat to our chairman.
I mean, I don’t even think Sol Campbell would back himself in this job.
Whilst my conversation with PLP was relatively forgettable, I remember suggesting to him that his son, who I believe is on the books of Boca Juniors, could do well to advance his career with a move to England. Rather than suggesting Man United or Arsenal as a landing spot, I suggested Rushden. And I’m pretty sure when he realises their status, he may change the accidental murdering to real murders. So I say goodbye to Carmen and disappear quickly, making a phonecall to Beavis from the clapped out Land Rover. He tells me to meet him in town, and I speed by the coffee shop he’s at and pick up the keys to a chalet at El Siambon, a country & golf club about 45 minutes out of San Miguel de Tucuman. I instruct Hans to watch the house, allowing him to live out his paranoid CIA fantasies for the week to check for PLP visits. I relax in the hills formulating a plan for our away game against Independiente Rivadavia de Mendoza.
Part one is to drop German Lux and bring back Navarro (who I have also realised is my player/Assistant Manager). Part two is the same as part one. Part three is win. It’s not Tiki-Taka but it’s simple enough even my players will understand it. I send the instructions through to Genar and Linton to brief the players and travel down to Mendoza myself, arriving just in time for kick-off. The TV people aren’t pleased given the match is televised, but I send them Hans to talk for 3 minutes about the Bermuda Triangle.
The game starts at a frantic pace and for once we make the early running, as in the 3rd minute Delgado spots the keeper out of position, runs onto a through ball from Guillermo and heads up and over into the far corner from the edge of the box with our first attack. Remarkably we double our lead in the 13th minute as Guillermo links up with Pico and strides into the area to make it 2–0.
We’re playing like a dream and Delgado makes it 3–0 with another header, and from then on it’s like a training game. I don’t bother with a halftime team talk and I regret this straight away a we look like Ali Dia’s slightly less coordinated cousins when they get a goal back and dominate through to the hour mark. I bring on Begbie and El Bivouac to add some physicality and it sees us through precisely 3 minutes before its 3–2 and I’m spitting pure nicotine and hatred at my stupid players.
It’s a good job that I’m a genius, as we switch to the away 3DM formation on 69 minutes and on 70 minutes the commentary reads “Bevacqua takes a shot…GOAL ATL. TUCUMAN!!!!!” closely followed by El Gigolo tapping home a rebound in the 74th minute. It’s now 5–2 and the penalty we add in injury time to make it 6–2 almost brings my heart rate back down to normal. It’s a massive win.
I speak to Hans after the game and he tells me there were no visits to the house from anyone in the aftermath of the PLP introduction. I don’t know what I was expecting from a man who accidentally tried to kill me. I consider going back home but I fancy another week at El Siambon so I bid the players goodbye and drive back to the hills. I message Carmen and she joins me on the Tuesday night — and I quiz her about her father. She’s pretty quiet about the whole thing, saying that her father is quietly impressed by the job that I’s doing and isn’t even hugely annoyed about the fact I’ve slept with both of his daughters. All he wants is promotion apparently. Don’t we fucking all.
And how better to continue our charge towards La Primera than with a fixture back at the Jose Fierro against Defensores. I consider bringing in El Bivouac but decide against it, opting only to swap Demichelis and Begbie Pisonero. Adolfo is fit again too, so he comes onto the bench. We are Locked, Stocked and fully fucking Loaded.
Defensores, in line with their name, set up like Jose Mourinho and Craig Levein had a defensive baby. When they eventually step out — Bang — Cabrol Cross, Pico Header, 1–0. 26th Minute — Rodriguez cross, Pico tap-in, 2–0. Barreto getting injured in the 30th minute is the only blemish on a terrific start and El Gigolo gets dumped out on the left wing. Cabrol then gets in on the act by pinging in a glorious free-kick from 30 yards for 3–0. Delgado, Guillermo and Pico could all have made it worse but it remains the same to half-time.
I don’t make the same mistake as the last game and go in and deliver a team talk of average consequence, but I also decide to give Adolfo and El Bivouac the keys to the attack for the second half. Adolfo lasts 2 whole minutes and breaks down again. It’s a 10 man half, and we treat it like a pressure game, dropping deeper and looking to counter. It works brilliantly as Cabrol tees up El Bivouac for 4–0, but we spoil things slightly by having Corbalan sent off, then conceding in the 90th minute. Nonetheless we are very fucking good right now.
We’re already 7 points clear of second place in the pseudo-league we are now in. And I still can’t work out what it all means. It may be similar to the Spanish Segunda B format, with a promotion mini-tournament at the end. Likewise, we may have to sacrifice a goat and pray to a wickerman statue of Maradona.
I hit the phones and call my old friend Miguel Pablo — but he doesn’t answer. Apparently he fights crime now. A phonecall to Boycie leads to a voicemail which lasts for 2 minutes of him chanting “JAAAAA-VAN, JAAAAA-VAN”, which is very funny but ultimately meaningless for the information that I want. I even call Fyfie, but he suggests playing 7 at the back and 6 wingers. I’m lost until I reach out to our man in Canada — Mr Sandford. He takes 48 hours to research and he basically explains that if we win this mini-league, we’ll get anywhere between 1–3 games which could end in promotion if we win them. Average points are only relevant for relegation seemingly.
This puts my mind at ease as we get to travel to our favourite steampunk powerplant cricket pavilion at Arrecifes for our next game. On our coach trip down we watch some more of the Nicolas Cage back catalogue, and I tell the team that I expect no less commitment than Nic puts into every role. I also suggest that no one employs his accountant. They nod sagely, excluding Bressan, who starts making fairly distressed phonecalls to the COO of his beetroot business but I don’t question it. I’m forced into changes with Sylla coming back in along with Oliva.
It’s a cagey start that bursts into life on the quarter hour mark. Mancuso gets on the end of a Rodriguez cross to head us into the lead, but we go to sleep straight from kick-off and they equalise. We are far from our best so when Begbie gets injured I switch to the away formation and bring on Demichelis with Rodriguez stepping in alongside him. It doesn’t do much, other than to hand them a 2–1 lead in the 43rd minute after some slack marking.
Experiment over, I revert back to our usual formation and apologise to the boys at half-time, imploring them to dig deep. It looks like we’ve done it in the 48th minute but Guillermo misses a one-on-one which I’d put the Bressan Beetroot fortune on. Delagdo then misses a chance before Pico does what Pico does, finding himself in the box with time to make it 2–2 in the 55th minute.
On the hour I throw my final dice, with El Bivouac and Dolgetta replacing Delgado and the completely fucking impotent Oliva. It’s end-to-end until Bressan in solidarity with Corbalan decides to commit GBH on an Arrecifes attacker and gets his marching orders. Navarro makes a spectacular save from the resulting free-kick but its backs against the wall stuff. Wave after wave of green fire forwards but our midfield put in the work, shielding Sylla in particular who is shite, allowing us to pick up a point.
I’m not overly concerned. We are miles ahead in the group and when we get back to the Jose Fierro we head to El Carne Masiva for steak and agave. I make a toast to the boys, explaining how proud I am of them and how no one thought we could have achieved as much this season. I can see from their smiles that they aren’t expecting this given my usual ‘hit them with the Carrot, then hit them with the fucking stick’ approach to coaching.
I’m also very aware of the fact that we play Central Cordoba de Rosario in our next game. They’ve taken 3 points from 6 games and bear all the hallmarks of a side that are shitting themselves at the prospect of a Jose Fierro buzzing with tanked up Ultras. So we arrange with several local bars to hand out free beer when we turn up the night before the game. When I say we — I mean Genar, Milton, Beavis and myself dressed as The Blues Brothers and we tour about 15 bars — with every single one of them playing ‘Soul Man’ on our arrival. Waking up the next day is somewhat unpleasant, but I think it might be the catalyst for an incredible atmosphere and performance. So much so, I switch to our attacking lunacy formation and load the team with strikers — meaning a well deserved start for El Bivouac and a start for Adolfo.
It’s not an understatement to say that for the first 25 minutes we are fucking dogshit. We create nothing and it doesnt look like 1st vs 8th until a Cabrol free-kick is nodded down by El Bivouac into the path of Demichelis running in from the edge of the box. He barely breaks stride and finishes with aplomb to make it 1–0. That’s more of less the sum of our creativity in the first half and I lose it at half-time, calling the players out and suggesting full-time will be thoroughly unpleasant if they don’t pull their fingers out.
Who else but Walter Pico answers my call immediately, dribbling forwards and finishing from the edge of the box to make it 2–0 in the 48th minute, and then we extend our lead through Guillermo in the 63rd minute after an assist from El Gigolo. Despite Cordoba getting a goal back, El Bivouac rounds off a terrific individual performance by netting in the 86th minute to give us another ruthlessly efficient 4–1 victory.
We hit the town post-game, ending up in El Agujero Sucio and decide to do a pirate night as the bar seems to have run out of everything other than rum. Close to closing the squad are very merry indeed and mount a raid of the DJ Booth, putting on ‘Shipping up to Boston’ by The Dropkick Murphys and the club breaks out into a shanty off — with limbs bloody everywhere. It’s at this point that I spot PLP in a booth off to the right, staring at me and Carmen doing a jig that’s heavy on the petting. He raises a glass to me and I reciprocate, as he beckons me over.
I sit down with him and he asks me about my intentions with Carmen. I explain that I’m pretty happy with our casual fun as Tucuman takes priority and I’m still a new man in the country, and I’m spending most of my tie travelling to away games. He looks me up and down with thinly disguised disdain and says:
“I am well aware of the travel involved. In fact, I have paid for around 70% of your away trips. And this is is why I have decided that the next time you travel down to Buenos Aries, you will deliver a package for me…or else I will remove Carmen and Atletico Tucuman from your life”
I look over at Carmen, who smiles as her father puts a hand on my shoulder and raises his glass to her. I pull a grimace like Richard Kiel having keyhole surgery on his scrotum with no anaesthetic.