AN: So... yes, this is a thing. That I wrote. I just really wanted to post it just in case anyone else like me is desperate for some (hopefully well written) Bald and Other John Green stories.
For the record (almost) the entire story is and will be exclusively from Other JG's point of view. For whatever reason I find his character much more accessible than Bald John, who's a bit of a closed book. Also I could find no record of Other John's backstory, so I drew from the history of a real footballer from the 1950s who was called John Bennett.
UPDATE: I've heard quite a bit that this is a strange thing to write a fanfiction about. And on one level I completely understand what people are saying. Certainly the source material is unorthodox. But equally I love writing this story, mostly because these characters are a blank canvas. We have the situation, certain bits and pieces of backstory, and that's it. The rest, including almost all of the characterization, is open to interpretation. I really enjoy the freedom that allows me.
And on a broader note, I've never understood why there isn't a tv show about a premier league football club, because that would make great television (Footballers Wives doesn't count). In the meantime, anyway, there's this. Enjoy!
When John Bennett entered the Swoodilypooper stadium for the first time, he had mixed feelings about his situation.
This was not what he had imagined for himself when he dropped out of sixth form to join the Liverpool junior league. A Liverpudlian born and raised, he used to have visions of rising quickly through the ranks to become the next great striker of his home team, which also happened to be one of the greatest football clubs in the world. But life has a habit of not turning out the way people dream, and it was no different for John. He had always been the star of his school's football team, to the point that he had come to believe that he might really be one of the best players of his age. The realization that he was not – not even close – had been a difficult one. He played solidly average in the Liverpool junior club, but he had never been good enough to see very much playing time, and eventually he came to accept the fact that playing in the Premiership was not a realistic goal. So there he was, being traded to the Swindon Town Swoodilypoopers. Seeing as they widely considered the worst side in Britain, John was having trouble getting excited about this new team of his. The silver lining that kept his spirits high was that he would soon be playing football again. And a lot of it. It was better, he told himself, to be in the starting line-up on a bottom league team than to sit idly on the bench in Liverpool. For John, the drive to play football would always be stronger than anything else.
And so he endeavored to greet the world with a larger chin, and to join his new team with enthusiasm – however terrible they might well prove to be. He walked determinedly onto the pitch to meet his new coach. They had met briefly once before when John had been officially traded. This coach was also named John and was also new. And as the new manager one of his first orders of business had been to trade three members of the Swoodilypoopers in order to acquire John. This added a sense of pressure and expectation that John wasn't particularly comfortable with. It had been a long time since he had been in a starting line up, and he was sure to be rusty. Even so, he couldn't help but feel excited as he looked out at the other players who were already on the pitch and warming up. John had been delayed picking up his new kit, so he still hadn't met any of them. When his coach saw him emerge from the tunnel he quickly jogged over to him and clasped his hand warmly.
"Welcome, John!" John Green said brightly.
"Thanks," John replied. His new coach was certainly energetic, and John found his excitement to be strangely infectious.
"I really think you're going to like it here with the Swoodilypoopers," his coach said as they began to walk around the perimeter of the pitch. The stadium didn't even begin to match the awesome size and majesty of Anfield, but it was comfortable and intimate. With its low tiers and close stands, it was an ideal stadium for a fan; not one of the seats was far from the action on the pitch.
"I'm building a team here based on heart, leadership, and a little bit of moxie," John Green said. "We've got no illusions here, John. We know we're the bottom of the league. We may well be the worst team in Britain, but that's going to change. In four years I plan for us to be in the Premiership, and I believe that you're going to be instrumental in getting us there."
"I'm excited to do my part, Coach," John replied. He knew that was the kind of thing you were supposed to say. In truth he was excited to do his part, but he didn't put much stake in the inspirational albeit completely ludicrous goals of the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed new manager. Every manager from the Championship down dreamed of coaching their team to the Premiership, but John thought that the Swoodilypoopers had about as much chance as getting to the Premier League as he did of getting recruited back to play in Liverpool's starting line. John was all for ambition, but aiming for attainable goals was a lesson he had learned the hard way. Even so, he kept his opinions to himself as his new manager continued to walk with him around the field.
"I'm trying to build a strong team here, John," he was saying, "and I need a strong pair of strikers in order to get the points we'll need to get promoted. So with that in mind there's someone I'd like you to meet." His coach pivoted away and waved over a member of the team who had been warming up on the other side of the pitch. "John!" he called.
John had time to think 'another John?' before this third John came into clear focus. And as quickly as that, he was done for. This other John was so remarkable in so many ways that John marvelled at how he had failed to notice him until now. The second thing John Bennett noticed about this man was how tall and built he was – both of which were relatively unusual in a footballer – but the first thing John noticed about him was his moustache. Perfectly bald, his moustache was the only hair on his head, and what he lacked in quantity of hair he more than made up for in quality. John did not think he had ever seen anyone as beautiful as the man now walking towards him. The only thing better than his moustache were his eyes. A blue so cold they were nearly grey, it wasn't so much their colour but the light behind them that John found enticing. This bald John had a reserved look about him that might have come across as stern or even angry were it not for his eyes. His eyes were smiling even when his mouth was not. Immediately John decided he preferred this other, more subtle version of a smile.
"John," said John, "meet John."
"Hi," Bald John said in American accent that had all the hallmarks of having been softened through living in the UK, "I'm John Green." At this John did a double take, looking between his coach and his new teammate. They didn't look related, but they were both American and it seemed like a bit of a strange coincidence. John didn't need to ponder this oddity for very long.
"There's no relation," Manager John explained. "We just happen to both be named John Green."
"Well," Bald John replied, "Coach says it's a coincidence. Some of us have a theory that he only chose to manage the Swoodilypoopers in the first place because I was on the team. Your recruitment has only reinforced this idea. We think he might be collecting Johns." At this Bald John smiled in earnest and John felt his stomach somersault, "you can call me Bald John Green if you want to avoid confusion. Everyone else does."
Bald John Green held out his hand for John to shake. For a moment John thought about whether there was a polite way to decline shaking his hand – he did not think it would be a very good idea to touch him. But after waiting for a heartbeat longer than was polite, John realized that he had no choice. He reached out and shook Bald John's hand. If Bald John felt the same current of electricity run through his hand that John had, his face gave away nothing.
Perfect, John thought miserably, that is just what I need right now. As if his life wasn't difficult enough, all John needed now was to go and develop a crush on his new teammate who he'd known for all of 30 seconds.
Bald John did not appear to notice the war raging inside of Other John. "So," he said, his eyes still alight with fire, "what do you say we play some football?"
It was without doubt the most incredible practice John could ever remember having. If he had not already been convinced that there was something special about John Green, he was convinced within a few minutes of their first practice together. For such a tall and strong man, his movements were never clumsy or off-target. He was one of the most precise, powerful players that John had ever encountered. In fact he was so good that John thought he must have been accidentally traded to the wrong team. Isn't this supposed to be the worst team in the country? What are they doing with a player like this on their team?
When Coach John divided them into two teams to play against each other, he made sure to put John and John together on the same line.
"I want to see how you play off each other," he instructed them before blowing his whistle to begin the miniature match. If Manager John had been concerned about how they would play together, he didn't need to be. How they played was unlike anything John had experienced. Their connection on the field was instantaneous. John felt rather than saw his bald co-striker. He could pass behind him to where he knew Bald John would be without ever needing to look for him; he could anticipate the distance that Bald John would move in the seconds it took for the ball to reach his feet and compensate for that in his passes. When Bald John had possession, John could feel a pass coming moments before the ball had left Bald John's feet. They both instinctively knew when to cross, when to shoot and when to pass. It was like… magic.
By the time their scrimmage was over (the Johns pummeled poor Picard Smith to a 7-0 victory), Manager John was beside himself.
"They're finishers!" he yelled to anyone who would listen. "The Johns are FINISHERS!"
"Nicely done, Other John." Their keeper – he believed the team called him Fat Lucas – patted him so firmly on the back that John nearly fell over.
"Not sure how I feel about this new nickname," John said to Bald John as three more players walked past him with greetings of 'Other John'.
Bald John laughed. "It could be worse," he said, "you could be bald." With a smile, he moved a little closer to John as they walked and looped his right arm around John's shoulder, allowing his hand to run up into John's thick hair – which, John's thought uncomfortably, was probably still damp with sweat and grease. When John felt the other man's hand wind its way into his hair it took all his willpower to refrain from sighing in pleasure.
This is bad. Footballers tended to be quite physical with each other, John knew. Hugging and touching in moments of celebration were common. All of this John had already experienced firsthand. He knew that Bald John's seemingly intimate gesture was nothing more than a way to welcome him to the team. But even so, he wished to God for it to stop.
In his previous teams he had quickly gained a reputation as someone who did not like to be touched. Even during celebrations John had a tendency to be a bit physically distant. He figured as a closeted player it made more sense to avoid physical contact altogether, just to avoid ever raising an eyebrow. It wasn't like he had ever been attracted to one of his teammates, and he knew it was ridiculous logic, but it worked for him. But this… This was different. This was much, much worse. John deliberately side-stepped far enough away to cause Bald John to drop his arm from off of John's shoulder without being too anti-social. Bald John looked mildly puzzled but not hurt or offended, so John allowed himself to breathe a sigh of relief.
This is really, really bad. Honestly, John thought, it was bad enough being gay and trying to make it as a professional footballer in the first place, but developing a crush on his probably married, guaranteed to be straight teammate was exceedingly inconvenient.
Their coach was still brimming with excitement when they all emerged from the showers to gather in the locker room half an hour later.
"I have a really good feeling about this season, Swoodilypoopers," he said with all the pride of a pushy pageant mother. "You guys are just all heart, and we're going to get promoted this season, gang. I can feel it. Anyway, that's enough from me. I'm sure you'll all want to give Other John a Swoodilypooper welcome down at the pub tonight. See you bright tomorrow morning lads for our morning warm-up and tactical practice before our next match tomorrow afternoon. Have a good night!"
As John began to gather up his things, it became clear to him that people did indeed intend to head to the pub.
"Alright then, OJ," John heard a distinctly London accent call out to him.
He turned to see a man John thought might have been called Cutherbert saunter up and placed an arm around his shoulder, right where Bald John's had been earlier. It didn't elicit anything close to the same reaction in John. "We've seen what you've got on the field, now it's time to see what you've got in the pub." Cuthbert laughed loudly at his own joke, but it was more endearing than obnoxious.
Before John was even given a chance to protest he found himself surrounded by half a dozen Swoodilypoopers, who seemed positively determined to get him to drink a pint with them. Eventually he caved and found himself at the local pub with a pint of lager in his hand. He laughed with the rest of them as a teammate called Ginger Rampage (considering the ridiculous nicknames some of the other players seemed to have, John thought that there were definitely worse things he could be called than 'Other') began his impersonation of their manager.
"Just you wait," Cteve was promising him, "it's proper legend, mate."
And Cteve was right – Ginger's impression of Coach John Green was pitch perfect. Ginger, it turned out, had a wicked sense of humour. They all did. John was quickly coming to realize that he had, quite by accident, found himself a part of one of the funniest, kindest, and most ridiculous football clubs in the country. But they were not, John was also surprised to find, a joke. They took their football seriously, they loved the game and their fans, they loved the competition and the thrill. They loved to win, but more than that they loved to play. And for a brief moment, John thought he might be able to see what their manager saw in this team. He saw a team that had all the passion and drive necessary to make it to the top of the league, maybe even the top of the following league. This idea gave John a genuine thrill. As he glanced over at Bald John, reclining in the seat opposite him, John thought that maybe – just maybe – Swindon Town might have what he had been looking for.
AN: I don't dare hope for reviews but if you felt like writing one, that'd be ace! xx
See you at the next chapter!