FRIENDS AND LOVERS: SHIN TSUBASA

PHANTOM MANAGER SYNDROME

Disclaimer: Captain Tsubasa belongs to Yoichi Takahashi. This work of fiction was created solely out of love for the characters by a fan, for other fans. The lyrics at the beginning of the chapter belong to the song "Vanilla Twilight" by the amazing Owl City.

The stars lean down to kiss you,
And I lie awake I miss you,
Pour me a heavy dose of atmosphere.
Cause I'll doze off safe and soundly,
But I'll miss your arms around me
I'll send a postcard to you dear,
Cause I wish you were here.


JMHMJMHMJ JMHMJMHMJ JMHMJMHMJ JMHMJMHMJ JMHMJMHMJ JMHMJMHMJ

There he goes again. Coach Mikami mused as he observed Misugi.

Ever since the training camp began, the National Junior League trainer had been observing the players to try to get a feel for the dynamics between them. He wanted to know which of them clicked together, what their motivations were and what the best method to inspire them was. He also wanted to see if any complications arose between themselves, especially since they had been rivals only recently.

As far as he could tell, everyone was very excited to be part of the camp, and as far as he could tell, everyone was getting along well.

Only one thing bothered him.

Misugi Jun.

Actually, Misugi himself was not a problem; on the contrary.

Mikami 's past experience with talented boys from wealthy families (i.e. Genzo) had him expecting the 'Glass Ace' to be a thoroughly conceited and spoiled loudmouth.

He was pleasantly surprised to find that the former Musashi captain, for all his cleverness and skill, was in fact a modest, polite, and reserved young man. He only spoke when he had something truly important to say. He was also a fast learner and applied himself diligently to any task assigned to him. In short, he was a perfect student, and Mikami was extremely happy that Katagiri-san asked him to join the program.

So what was the problem?

Coach Mikami's concern regarding Misugi lay in a small but worrisome detail: he caught Misugi, several times a day, turn his face towards the right, as if to talk to someone, even though he was alone.

I wonder why he does that?

The coach found it disconcerting.

Teenagers are too old for imaginary friends. But what if he's feeling lonely because he's the only one here studying to become a trainer? Also, he's the only one from team Musashi who was picked for this camp. Could it be that he's missing his old team mates? Have I been keeping him so busy that he hasn't had a chance to befriend the others?

Mikami dismissed such thoughts as being foolish and unnecessary. After all, Misugi-kun is old enough to take care of himself. Besides, I have more important things to worry about. Like how I have to find the perfect starting team; my ideal 'dream team'.

He had been trying many different combinations, looking for the best arrangement. Naturally, the players did better when they were paired with members from their own teams back home. But they had to learn how to play perfectly with new members as well. As it was, they were still unable to.

A few days passed, and the coach was no closer to solving either of his dilemmas.

After he turned in for the evening, he sat at his desk reviewing the tactics he had used.

He set players up against their past teammates and he paired them with their once opponents during training. He was pleased that even though they were still unused to each other, most everyone was now able to play well together. No one made mistakes, and their teamwork was good. But their performance was still pretty mediocre. None of the combinations he tried seemed especially effective.

Despite his close observations of the boys' styles, there was something missing, a certain touch that once achieved would make the team excellent.

To find the perfect combination I need to also know more about their personalities, not just their preferred partners, positions, and tactics. He realized.

That was easier said than done. Being the head trainer meant that there was an invisible wall between him and the players. They had to 'behave' in front of him, and that meant he had no way of getting to know them intimately.

Mikami felt his apprehension growing.

He hadn't been able to figure out the cause for Misugi's strange behavior either.

At the moment, I don't know what more I can do to enhance players' performances; but I should at least be able to help Misugi. But how am I supposed to talk to him about something that he's obviously doing unconsciously? It will embarrass him. Not to mention me.

Then an idea suddenly came to Mikami that will solve both his problem of getting to know the players, and of lessening Misugi's solitude, which he was sure was the reason behind the young man's conduct.

What if I move Misugi into the players' dorm?

Other than the trainers, Misugi was the only camp member with a private room. Mikami had made this arrangement to ensure his trainer-in-training would have the quiet he needed to study. However, he realized that this set-up could have contributed to any feelings of loneliness the young man might have. It's probably just one more thing that sets him apart from the others and might be a barrier to Misugi-kun making friends.

Following that reasoning, Mikami pondered the benefits of asking Misugi to sleep in the players' dorm for a while.

It will provide the others the opportunity to get to know him and hopefully stop him from looking for non-existent people to talk to. If he's really doing it because he's lonely, I can solve that problem without having to face the awkwardness of talking to him about it. More importantly, moving him in with them puts him in a better position to observe the players. He'll be with them in their down-time when they are less relaxed, thus enabling him to provide me with the personal details I need.

Satisfied the plan would enable him to hit two birds with one stone, Mikami went to bed.

The next morning, he summoned 'The Glass Ace' and told him of his decision.

"I'd like you to get closer to the players and report back any useful information about them," he instructed. "Of course, I don't mean which players snore and which ones talk in their sleep," Mikami joked.

"I think I understand. We're looking to see if there might be possible golden duos, right?"

"Exactly," the coach elaborated, impressed at how easily Misugi caught on. "I believe that there is a direct connection between clicking together as people and clicking together as players. It's no coincidence that Hyuuga and Sawada are friends who play well together. Misaki Taro and Oozoro Tsubasa also naturally fell into place as best friends the same way they instinctively became the golden duo. I'd like to know which players here seem to get along easily, which ones are bonding personally. That way, I'll know to observe their playing more and see if they have potential to be a good combination. Alternatively, it would also be useful to know which ones don't get along as well because it might affect their performance together. I'm certain this knowledge will provide me with what I need to help the team get assimilated quicker."

"I see. But won't they find my sudden presence strange? Won't it inhibit them, especially if they know why I'm there?"

"Not if you tell them that you're there as part of your training; to make sure they are all settling in well and have everything they need." At this suggestion, he saw Misugi look a bit concerned. "You'll be doing that too, by the way," he added quickly. "It will probably be useful and that way you won't be lying."

Misugi still looked a bit doubtful, and Mikami suddenly had an inkling of what could be bothering his trainee.

"I'm not asking you to spy on them. Just tell me anything you think might be useful. I trust your judgment and won't compel you to share anything you don't want to," Mikami reassured him.

At these words, Misugi relaxed completely.

"Thank you, coach. I'll do my best," he promised with a smile.

I was right, Mikami thought, regarding the young man as he left.

Misugi-kun was worried that the information I'll ask him to report might cause problems for the players.

In his experience as a professional trainer, Mikami had seen some assistants be excited to have such an assignment. They had have jumped at the opportunity to get as much "dirt" on the players in their attempt to prove how knowledgeable they were. He had had to give long speeches about what he was and wasn't interested in.

But Misugi-kun's different. Even though he's not a member of the league, he respects the others and doesn't want to cause any trouble for them.

What a team player. The coach thought, his respect for the young man growing even more.

The plan seemed to work. At first, Misugi's reports held only inconsequential information given directly from the players as feedback. Ishizaki, for example, complained regularly that the food rations were too small. Misugi had passed on the message with a smile. But as Misugi spent more time with them, he was able to give more astute observations. Like how Hyuuga and Matsuyama seemed surprisingly at ease with each other, and how Jito and Soda had a similar sense of humor.

Thanks to his observations, and the combination plays that were applied as a result, the team quickly became very cohesive. It seemed that the ice was finally broken.

Coach Mikami was ecstatic. The boys' teamwork improved tremendously. And he had gotten another idea of how to bring the team even closer to each other once they arrived in Europe.

Of course, it would only work if Genzo agrees, but I'm sure he will. He's matured greatly in the past three years.

The icing on the cake was the fact that Misugi, whom the coach came to care for very much, seemed happier. His odd inclination of looking for an invisible person on his right seemed to disappear.

Only one week was left of the training camp. Mikami still hadn't come up with his 'dream team' but the players were now so well integrated, that he was confident no matter who was chosen, they would all play together perfectly. Beside's which, he had asked Misugi to write down his version of the perfect starting team and was really looking forward to see what he would come up with.

He is said to be a genius, after all. The coach thought, gazing at Misugi affectionately. Jun was sitting on a bench, writing in his notebook when Mikami saw him turn to his right, and yet again start to make a comment to thin air.

He's doing it again!

This time however, Coach Mikami was close enough to see the poignant look that appeared on Misugi's face when he realized that no one was there. The young man looked like he lost his best friend.

Now sadness and guilt were added to Mikami's feeling of wonderment at this phenomenon. He helped me get to know the others so much, provided me with invaluable information that resulted in everyone playing together as if they'd done so forever, and yet, I've been unable to find out what is troubling him. All the time I've spent with him and I still don't know why he does it. I didn't even bother asking him because I feared it might create awkwardness. What if it's serious? What if it's psychological? Could it really just be a habit?

"I call it Phantom Manager Syndrome," a voice interjected Mikami's thoughts, answering his unspoken question. The coach glanced away from Misugi and saw Matsuyama standing next to him, looking up at him knowingly.

"Excuse me?"

"I wouldn't have said anything, but I see you've noticed it too and I can tell you are worried about him. Don't be, Misugi is just suffering from Phantom Manager Syndrome."

"What's that?"

"Nothing serious. It's just a syndrome that affects players who either have a strong bond with their Manager, or are used to depending on them, or both. After being separated from them, they still act as if their managers are there, out of habit. I realized he had it the first night he spent in our dorm."

"But Misugi-kun hasn't been a player for years and he's only played once this year in the qualifying match. He hasn't had a manager in a long time," Coach Mikami argued.

"Well, in his case, it's probably the 'Phantom Girlfriend Syndrome', or the 'Phantom Devoted Friend Syndrome', I'm not sure what category his Manager fits now," Matsuyama explained. "Either way, off of the soccer field, I've never seen him once without Aoba Yayoi by his right side. It makes sense that he's having a hard time getting used to her not being around."

"I see. Very interesting theory," Mikami commented, impressed, "Anyone else you know suffering this syndrome?" he asked curiously.

Matsuyama quickly replied no, and excused himself to get back to practice.

That's odd.

Later, however, Mikami discovered why Matsuyama, ex-captain of Furano, left so abruptly.

He noticed that as the Hokkaido native washed his face after practice, he held up his hand to receive a towel no one was there to offer him.

And it clicked.

Phantom Manager Syndrome, huh. Mikami mused, as he watched the flustered young man go and get his own towel.

I guess it takes one to know one.

Author's note: Of course we know Tsubasa would suffer the most from this. Unfortunately, he was injured and couldn't make it to camp, or I could have made fun of him. Oh, well, there's always the next fic ^_^. This story was inspired by Kay-Mika's one-shot, Learning. Btw, I totally made up the 'sleeping arrangements' here. I have no idea if Misugi (or any other character for that matter) actually has his own room at camp or not. If anyone can tell me, and what the source is (manga or anime, which chapter or which episode), I'll be very grateful. It will help provide me better information so I can write more accurate fics. I might write a sequel to this if anyone's interested. This is my first Captain Tsubasa fic, so please let me know what you think!