Wings of a sparrow, p.1
Wings of a Sparrow, p.1Dougie Brimson
Wings of a Sparrow
Copyright © Dougie Brimson 2013
Dougie Brimson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1998 to be identified as the author of this work.
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All names, characters, places, organisations, businesses and events are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
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If I had the wings of a sparrow
If I had the arse of a crow
I’d fly over L*t*n tomorrow
And shit on the bastards below.
This book is dedicated to the memory of Rob Cooper, who sadly died without warning in November 2010 as a result of a heart disease called Cardiomyopathy.
He was just 25 years old.
Rob Cooper, as you will soon see, is also the name of the central character in Wings of a Sparrow. The reason for this is that I offered the opportunity to name the main man as a prize in an auction to raise money for the Cardiomyopathy Association.
The winning bidder, Lee England, generously requested that I use Rob’s name in his memory - and by way of thanks, I have named one of the other key characters after Lee.
I would like to thank the following people, without whom this project would almost certainly never have been finished!
Full details of Dougie Brimson’s previous books can be found at
Chapter Twenty One
Chapter Twenty Two
Chapter Twenty Three
Chapter Twenty Four
Chapter Twenty Five
Chapter Twenty Six
Chapter Twenty Seven
Chapter Twenty Eight
Chapter Twenty Nine
Chapter Thirty One
Chapter Thirty Two
Chapter Thirty Three
Chapter Thirty Four
Chapter Thirty Five
Chapter Thirty Six
Chapter Thirty Seven
Chapter Thirty Eight
Chapter Thirty Nine
Chapter Forty One
Chapter Forty Two
Chapter Forty Three
Chapter Forty Four
Chapter Forty Five
Chapter Forty Six
Chapter Forty Seven
Chapter Forty Eight
Wings of a Sparrow
‘Oi! Cooper! You fat twat!’
Rob Cooper stood, ball balanced in his right hand, and ignored the comment shouted at him. He had more important things to focus on.
To his front, at the other end of the stadium and bathed in the lengthening shadows of a May afternoon, lay the massed banks of the Rose End. A sea of yellow shirts and eager faces providing a wall of noise, it forged the perfect background to a late spring Saturday afternoon at United.
To his rear lay the enemy. Rabid, retarded and clothed in blue and white. Rob couldn’t even bear to think their name, let alone speak it. Vermin came close, scum was closer.
‘Cooper! You arsehole!’
Rob smiled to himself as he thought about them. He had followed United all his life and so knew better than most how deep the hatred ran. Forget all that Old Firm and Merseyside bollocks, this particular derby was where real venom could be found.
He glanced over his shoulder. Not enough to see them but enough to let them think he had and a warm glow of contentment welled up in him as the level of vitriol directed at him cranked up yet another notch. Rob loved the fact that his hatred for them was reciprocated, but on this occasion they had extra reason to detest him. This was the final game of the season and they had come into it needing a win to stay up. Instead, thanks to his inspired goalkeeping, they were clinging on for a scoreless draw and the point that would give them a nervous few minutes waiting for news of results elsewhere.
Rob’s eyes were drawn in the direction of the fourth official who had walked out to his position between the two technical areas and was fiddling with his board. And there it was - two minutes. It was do or die, all or nothing.
He dropped the ball to the floor and rolled it forward with his left foot. His natural instinct was to hoof it upfield but instead Rob followed the ball out of his area, tapped it forward again and then broke into a trot.
Within seconds, he was running upfield until the challenges began to come. A drop of the shoulder saw him pass the first with ease, then a pull-back and swerve left the next for dead. And so it continued as he worked his way through the midfield and across the half-way line. Dodging desperate lunges with ease as he headed toward his own personal holy grail. The crescendo of sound was pouring off the Rose End, so loud he could have sworn it was actually slowing the ball down.
And then he was there, on the left hand corner of the opposing penalty box. He stopped dead, counting the seconds down in his head until, with barely ten to go, Rob hooked his right foot under the ball and sent it off on its way.
That’ll do he thought, as it followed a perfect arc toward the top right-hand corner of the goal. That’ll do nicely.
Even as he realised that the ground had fallen silent, the entire crowd holding its collective breath, that silence was punctuated by the sound of the ball hitting the inside of the post. The metallic clang was closely followed by the sizzle of the billowing net and the thump of the opposing keeper hitting the floor, his anguished groan half pain, half recognition that he’d just conceded an injury time goal and doomed his team to relegation. If there had ever been a finer collection of sounds in football, Rob couldn’t imagine what it was.
Then the world exploded.
Rob began running. First toward the madness of The Rose End and then at the last second he wheeled away from them and the grasping hands of his teammates and sprinted back along the touchline. Back to where the scum were now drenched in abject misery. Misery he had not only inflicted but wanted to enhance. The very holiest of football fan grails.
Within seconds, he was standing in front of them giving it as large as he p
‘That’s my fucking dance, you arsehole.’
Rob turned to see ex-England striker Peter Crouch standing in front of him, hands on hips and a face like thunder.
‘Crouchy,’ he laughed as he carried on dancing. ‘Someone said you were playing today but I wasn’t sure ’cos I’ve seen fuck all of you.’
‘Stop doing my dance you fat twat,’ said the lanky forward as he pushed Rob menacingly in the chest.
‘But I’m better at it than you,’ said Rob as he continued.
‘Stop doing my fucking dance.’
Before Rob could reply the referee appeared in front of him and after rummaging around in his pocket, pulled out and held up a red card.
‘You… Cooper… off.’
Rob stopped dancing, horrified.
‘Me? What for?’
‘Your dancing, it’s shit. And you stole it from Crouchy. Go on, piss off.’
Rob glanced across at Peter Crouch, who was already doing his infamous robot dance. Almost immediately the referee started to laugh maniacally as he clapped and jigged around to some imaginary music like a deranged clockwork monkey.
Jane Cooper stood in the doorway of her bedroom and sipped quietly on her early morning tea as she stared down at her sleeping husband.
For a second she tried to work out what he might be dreaming about, given that he was so restless, but then she realised that she didn’t really care. Instead, her thoughts returned to the one question which haunted her on a daily basis. For no matter how hard she tried, or indeed how often, she still couldn’t quite understand why or how the young and handsome man who had swept her off her feet 18 years ago had somehow morphed into the bulbous, irritating slob who lay before her.
Inevitably, as it always did at these moments of quiet reflection, her thoughts turned to Brian. Brian Grove. She had loved him more than she had ever loved anyone in her entire life - and for the millionth time she considered how different things would have been had she left Rob and run away with him. He’d begged her to go and she had almost agreed - but in the end, she’d bottled out. Not for Rob’s sake, but for the sake of Charlie. He’d been barely five when she had enjoyed her all-too-brief affair, but she had known all along that if she was going to leave Rob it would have meant leaving her son behind. And although she and Brian had talked and dreamed, Jane had known in her heart that it had never been an option, so instead she had settled for second best; not quite loveless, but certainly devoid of the passion she had experienced with Brian. All these years later even the thought of it gave her goose bumps.
With a shake of her head and a silent curse to whatever God was responsible for her life, she turned and walked silently back down the stairs.
Two hours later, a noise resembling a hippo rolling along a corrugated iron roof shook Jane from her doze and Rob burst through the living room door.
‘It’s half nine. Why the bloody hell didn’t you get me up?’ he wailed. ‘You know the new edition's out today.’
Jane watched as her husband finished wrestling the United shirt over his head and ran out into the hall.
‘Charlie!’ she heard him yell up the stairs. ‘I’m off to the printers and I’ll be back in an hour. Make sure you’re ready or we’ll have to miss the cafe.’
Then, with a slam of the front door, he was gone.
With a sigh, Jane reached for the remote and turned on the TV.
‘Good morning darling,’ she said aloud to herself. ‘You look beautiful today. How did you sleep?’
Oh how she loved Saturdays.
After Vicarage Lane and his bed, The Red Rose was Rob’s favourite place in the world.
Barely a stone’s throw from the United turnstiles and, at least when the sun was in the right place, genuinely in the shadow of the ground, it was a proper lads’ pub. Or more specifically, it was a shit hole. Not a place any sane man would ever take a woman he actually thought anything about.
For decades, The Rosie, as it was universally known, had been where the home fans drank before making the last-minute dash across to the ground - and if the building could have talked, it would have been able to tell tales of great days, sad days, lock-ins, lock-outs and even the odd riot. Tragically, thanks primarily to fact that no one ever went there except on match days, it was now boarded up. These days it served as nothing more than a desperate reminder of days gone by, to be filed past on the way into the ground or a meeting point. No more, no less.
For the hundredth time that morning, Rob stared across at it. He was so desperate for a pint it hurt, but all he could do was send a silent curse in the direction of Gary, the former landlord. What sort of bloke buys a pub next to a football ground and then sells it during the close season?
He took a drink of lukewarm water from his bottle and returned his attention to the business in hand. Selling copies of Wings of a Sparrow to the United supporters streaming past him in the direction of the ground.
A combination of comment, interviews and politically incorrect humour, it had somehow survived and prospered in the face of the online onslaught which had killed off most of its rivals. It consumed all of his spare time, caused him more stress than he could measure and occasionally cost him money, but it had also given him a much-needed focus.
Rob almost flinched at the memory of Jane’s affair. He had found out by accident, a simple case of two and two making four. But the thing that had shocked him the most was that he hadn’t cared. At all. The love, passion and romance had been sucked out of their marriage long before that and had been replaced by a life of familiarity and co-existence. As a consequence, when he’d realised what was going on he had kept that knowledge to himself. Why rock the boredom boat?
There had been plenty of times when he’d wanted to throw it in her face, if only to strip off the holier-than-thou mask she donned most days, but for reasons he’d never truly been able to fathom Rob had always stopped himself. Maybe it was a fear that she’d up and leave and destroy the status quo. Maybe it was a reluctance to embarrass her. Who knew?
The only thing he was sure of is that if she hadn’t been screwing Brian the paramedic then she’d never have allowed him to take on Wings of a Sparrow - and by the time her lover had seen sense and returned to his own wife, it was too late for her to do anything about it. She’d moaned of course. Moans that were now heavy with bitterness and regret at what might have been, but Rob didn’t care. He had his passion, and it came in the form of an A5-sized magazine. It had given him more than he could have ever imagined.
Not just access to the club he loved and more laughs and mates than he could ever have thought possible, but also his son. It had given Rob his son.
He glanced across and smiled at Charlie, who was busily selling while trying to chat to two giggling teenage girls standing beside him like pre-pubescent groupies.
Charlie was his life, his victory. That’s right, victory. Despite Jane’s best efforts, his son had grown up to be like his dad in so many ways it was scary - and much as Jane loved him, she hated that.
‘Wings of a Sparrow! The fanzine they tried to ban!’
The two of them shouted, cajoled, abused, joked, whatever it took to shift copies. It’s what they did and what Rob in particular was known for and known as; the fanzine bloke in Vicarage Lane. He was a Z-list celebrity football whore and, truth to tell, revelled in the recognition as well as the acknowledgment that he produced something which was tangible and which entertained people. Shallow for sure, but he didn’t care. He loved it. Not that he’d ever admit that to anyone else.
‘Wings of a Sparrow! New edition today!
Yet again Rob glanced across at Charlie, now devoid of the groupies who had wandered off i
And involved he most certainly was. Charlie had written a number of items for Wings of a Sparrow when Rob had been short of content and they’d been so well received that he’d actually dropped hints of a possible career in sports journalism. Given that he’d also followed in Rob’s footsteps when it came to a lack of skill with a ball, that at least was something to be proud of - and even Jane had acknowledged that there was at least one positive to come out of the obsession, albeit grudgingly.
The voice snapped Rob out of his daydream and he turned to see two policemen standing in front of him. He smiled and handed each a free copy, which they instantly began to flick through.
‘How’s the filth business going?’ asked Rob as he continued to sell copies to eager customers.
‘Not too bad,’ replied the taller of the two. ‘Same old-’ he paused and looked up from the small magazine with a shake of his head. ‘How the bloody hell do you get away with this?’
‘What?’ asked Rob without breaking away from his selling. ‘Nothing in there that’s not true.’
The policeman returned his gaze to the fanzine. ‘So the average City fan is a Jeremy Kyle reject-’
‘Well known fact.’
‘-who if he hasn't slept with his mother, sister-’
‘It's actually why they support City and not United. Inbreeding impacts on the ability to apply reason,’ said Rob with a smile.
The policeman looked up and stared blankly at Rob as he continued.
‘-or Dog, prefers the company of other small animals.’
‘Your point being?’ said Rob, stone faced.
The second policeman let out an involuntary laugh and held out his copy for his colleague, who also laughed at what he was being shown.
Wings of a Sparrow by Dougie Brimson / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes