Phil Jones: The Greatest Man That Ever Lived
All characters and events in this piece – even those based on real people – are entirely fictional. Obviously.
In the away team dressing room, Manchester United are toasting another victory. Assistant manager Mike Phelan praises the team on their performance. He was particularly impressed with Phil Jones, a player who has only been with the club a few months, and goes to have a chat with him soon after…
Mike Phelan: Good game, son.
He reaches out to give him a pat on the back.
It’s like you’ve been here five years.
Phil Jones: Thanks sir, although I don’t need the praise. It’s easy this football lark.
PJ: Yeah. Easy. You want me to tell you a secret?
MP: What’s that?
PJ: I wasn’t half trying. It was great fun, though. The look on their faces. Huffing and puffing, trying ever so hard to get the ball. You know, I was preparing to go all Joker on ‘em. “Why so serious” and all that.
MP: Don’t know what you’re getting at, son. You know, arrogance in football takes you nowhere. Humans make mistakes – they’re full of flaws – just look at what Ando’s wearing. You’re a good player with plenty of potential. Don’t let one or two games get to your head. You stay grounded, and look towards the next game. You understand?
PJ: You ever seen the Dark Knight, Mike?
MP: I beg your pardon?
PJ: Bit long, don’t you think? I mean, great film and all, and Christopher Nolan knows how to make a good movie, but it drags on towards the end. And there was too much chit chat in it. I want less of that, and a bit more kapow, you know. Smash his face in Batman, what you waiting for?!
MP: Were you even listening to me, son? You need to sort out that attitude of yours. Like I said, arrogance takes you nowhere.
PJ: Calm down, sir. You know, all that talking…have you ever considered auditioning for the next Batman film? You’d be perfect what with all that yapping you do.
MP: Eh? There’s something wrong with you, Phillip. Don’t get so smart with me. You don’t know who you’re messing with.
PJ: I’m fine. I’m not the one shouting at a man trying to put his boxers on.
Phelan, embarrassed and slightly baffled, surveys the changing room. He then sighs as he sees Michael Carrick moving sideways, crab-like.
MP: Alright, lad. I’m going to sort that out. Michael’s doing that thing again. But remember my words – the wise words of Mike Phelan, your father figure, your go-to-man – lose the arrogance. It ain’t gonna take you anywhere.
Phelan turns away…and then turns back. He takes a deep breath.
I need to tell you something.
PJ: What’s that?
MP: I happen to think you’re the greatest to have ever lived. And not just in a footballing sense. You’re the greatest man to have ever lived. Ever. You’re like some sort of omnipotent being. Like Paulo Maldini merged with Chuck Norris merged with Green Giant from the sweetcorn adverts.
Phelan takes another deep breath and stares into Jones’ eyes.
I see the way Jonny Evans looks at you. With envy. And lust. Pure lust. I don’t even blame him. You play the game effortlessly. Like a young Mike Phelan. But better. You’re good at right back, even better in central defence. Can even do a job in midfield.
PJ: I can play up front too. But the gaffer insists letting Rooney play there. Imagine it, though. Imagine me. Playing as a striker. I’d make Wayne look like Marlon Harewood. Make Hernandez look like Des O’Connor. Make Michael Owen look like, well, Michael Owen. I’d strike fear into any defence. We’d beat Barcelona every week. Imagine that.
MP: But you mustn’t let the world know of your God-like talent. Just play half-arsed and you’ll still reach the levels of Rio Ferdinand. You’ll captain your club and country one day. Become renowned as one of the best centre halves in the world. Make fun of Piers Morgan’s weight on your Twitter page and sell t-shirts. Your life is mapped out for you. When you turn 57 and you’re finally past your peak, you can do anything you want. Watch Batman endlessly. You know what I’m talking about, the good ones with Danny DeVito.
PJ: And do more.
PJ: Yeah. Football is just too easy, you see. I want to do something else. I want to restore peace in the East. Rescue a cat. Tell Michael McIntyre that, frankly, I don’t find him funny. Cover a Sinatra song but do it better. Beat Vidic in a staring contest. Do it all, you know. I can be greater than you, Mike. Be the King of the Kings. Me, Phil Jones, the greatest man that ever lived. Imagine that.