The Apprenticeship

Vienna Barnes is given the opportunity of a lifetime when she is offered an apprenticeship to work for her favourite football club, Sunderland AFC.

Sunderland AFC are one of the biggest clubs in the North East. After pulling off the greatest escape in Barclays Premier League history, the Black Cats are back in action, and sitting nervously towards the bottom of the table.

Just as Vienna arrives at the club, a bombshell is dropped, and owner Ellis Short sells the club to a mystery new owner. This new owner is determined to keep themselves a secret from the footballing world, and the media are therefore forced to keep possibly the biggest secret and scandal in footballing history.

Soon, all begins to fall apart at the club, and the new owners drive Sunderland into the ground. Thinking on her feet, Vienna steps in to offer her help in any shape or form.

With problem after problem unveiling, will Sunderland AFC still remain intact by the end of the season?


1. 'Happy Birthday sweetheart!'

A loud bang from downstairs wakes me abruptly from my deep sleep, and I sit bolt right up in my bed. My hands reach to protect my eyes from the harsh morning sun's blaze that is peeking through my curtains, and I yawn deeply.

I suddenly catch the faint smell of burning, and rush straight for the door. As I jerk the door open, a large ball of smoke launches straight into my face and I cough violently.

"Mum?! What's going on?!" I yell, carefully making my way towards the staircase.

It won't look good turning up to A&E on my birthday after falling down the stairs, so I am taking no risks.

"Oh shit, she's awake" I hear my Mum whisper.

"I'm eighteen Mum, not eighty. I still have perfect hearing you know?"

"Of course you do Vienna. You might as well come downstairs then"

The smoke begins to clear and I slowly make my way down stairs, observing my surroundings carefully as I reach the foot of the kitchen. Stood by the oven, looking as though she's not been hit by lighting twice, but nearly 20 times, is my mother. What she's holding I will never know, but as I move closer I discover a rather burnt cake in my Mum's hands.

"You know how our oven is, but I tried my best! Happy Birthday sweetheart!" She smiles, gently placing the burnt cake down and opening her arms towards me.

I let out a deep sigh and trudge towards my nervous looking mother, wrapping my arms gently around her and mumbling a 'thank-you' into her short, jet black hair.

"Right you" Mum giggles, "All your stuff is packed I presume? Your train is at 9 o'clock tonight so we'll need to get you there at about 8 ish, okay?"

"Yes, yes I know" I groan, swiftly walking back up towards my bedroom.

Today is the big day. I'm leaving Nottingham for the North-East, with my best friend Megan. It's funny actually, we both have the same surname but we're not related. I guess that's one of the reasons why we became so close, I really do consider her to be my sister. Therefore I cannot think of a better person to live in Sunderland with.

About six months ago I took a risk and applied for an apprenticeship with my favourite football club, Sunderland AFC. Hundreds applied. Seriously. Maybe even thousands, I'm not sure. After months of travelling back and forth from Sunderland, and numerous interviews with people I'd never even heard of, I, along with nine other people from all around the country, was offered the position. I am still not one hundred per cent sure what the position is officially, all I was told is that I would be performing a number of different tasks throughout the company.

All I know is, I'm working for my favourite football club and living with my best friend in a city that's like a second home to me. That's pretty sweet if you ask me...

My phone begins to vibrate and Megan's name begins to flash repeatedly.

"What's up?"

"...What's up?! We're moving to Sunderland and you're asking me what's up?!" Megan teases.

"Yeah I know. You got your stuff ready?" I ask, nervously checking my suitcases.

My anxiety has been so bad recently because of the move, that I have been checking my belongings over and over again. The last thing I need is to forget something, or lose something that I desperately need. The one thing that I always check for is my passport. Yeah I know I'm not actually travelling to somewhere like America, or somewhere in Europe. I need photographic evidence to prove who I am, else I'll travel all the way there to most likely be rejected.

"Yep. I've looked for a couple of jobs too, so I might go look about tomorrow, see what's happening"

Megan applied for the same job as me, but she was rejected quite early on. It kinda sucks that we can't work together, but she still decided to come with me.

"Sweet. Well I gotta go, but I'll meet you outside the train station at 8. Is that okay?" I ask.

"Yeah yeah that's fine. I'll see you then" She giggles, and swiftly hangs up the phone.

With a gentle sigh I climb back into bed and switch the television on. My room looks pretty bare now, and that actually scares me. There's a couple of old college folders, and books left under my desk, and the odd photo dotted here and there. Apart from that, you'd question as to whether anyone actually resides here.

As to where Megan and I will be living, it's...nice.

We'll be living in a block of flats just on the outskirts of the town. Luckily, it's about a 5-10 minute walk from the stadium, so I won't be jumping on numerous buses and going to god knows where. But hey, who knows, maybe as time goes by I can get to see the high end of the club. I could be off to meetings and meeting club officials, executives and all sorts.

The flat itself is pretty small. Two bedrooms, a living area, and a kitchen. I guess you can't really expect anything else. We managed to buy a couple of kitchen utensils, cutlery, that sort of thing. Then there's our beds that we moved up a few days ago. Finally, and possibly the best addition to the flat, our bean bags. Two eighteen year olds don't have a hell of a lot of money, so instead of buying furniture for now, we've got two cute little bean bags. Red and white in colour - no pun intended.

'According to Sky Sources, Sunderland owner Ellis Short is soon to sell the club' 


'Sunderland chairman and owner Ellis Short is reportedly set to sell up the club in order to pursue other career options in America, our sources have told us. Although nothing has been officially confirmed, you can follow this story on our website'

"Mum!" I yell.

My head is absolutely spinning. The majority of the time, when Sky Sports News tells you something that their 'sources' have informed them, it's true.

If this was a year ago, and I wasn't employed by the club then I probably wouldn't mind. I think majority of the fans would trust Ellis to find a suitable successor, but we all thought Paolo Di Canio was a perfect manager when he first came in...that turned out well didn't it?

Soon enough, my Mum's feet can be heard slowly making their way up the stairs. She's the sort of woman who likes to take her time. I swear, if there was a fire in my room and I yelled for her to come and help me, she would still find the time to make a cup of tea, and take around half an hour to get up the stairs.

"Yes?" she sighs, peering round the door of my bedroom. Surprise, surprise, she's holding a cup of tea.

"Are you for real right now? Have you not seen this" I jump out of bed and fling my body towards the television.

I swear my Mum deliberately tries to wind me up, as if I wasn't stressed enough as it is.

"Vienna what's the problem?"

"Ellis is meant to be selling the club! They've not said anything, there's nothing from the club itself never know these days" I groan, running a hand through my tangled bed hair.

"Oh for goodness sake, if there's nothing from Sunderland I wouldn't believe a single word" Mum reassures me, "Now come on, come downstairs. You do want presents don't you?!"

"Well, if you're offering" I tease, and quickly follow my Mum downstairs.

She leads me into our living room, where both my Dad and brother are sat lifelessly staring at the television. There's a few presents and envelopes by one of the sofa's, apart from one envelope that my awkward Mother is holding so tightly, I'm convinced she's going to rip whatever it is.

"This is from all of us!" she smiles, handing me over a pale pink envelope, "All the family. Us, Grandma and Grandad, everyone".

I'm very lucky in that I have such a big family. Two aunties and uncles, eleven cousins, one set of Grandparents, family friends...and that's just on my Dad's side. My Mum's side of the family is a different story. She only has one cousin, no siblings, and her parents died a few years back.

"Knowing you Vienna, you're probably going to want to sit down before you read that" My Dad jokes.

Without a second thought I rip the envelope open and delve inside to find a cheque, and I clasp it firmly in my fingers as my eyes gaze over the bold writing.

To: Miss Vienna Charlotte Barnes

Four thousand pounds only.

"Four...thousand...pounds!" I stutter.


"Grandma the whole family, even your cousins that we don't really see anymore. Aunty Valerie worked overtime to try and get a bit more money. Dad and I have been working extra shifts, and even your brother contributed a little" My Mum explains.

I can't even take in most of what my Mum just said, I'm in too much shock. My family aren't the richest of people, so to receive such a large amount of money is unbelievable. I'm overcome with a sense of pride that my family have been able to come together to help me in something that I care about so much. I mean, I don't have stack loads of money, so without this I was seriously questioning how I would survive in the North East.

"Thank you. I just, wow"

"Just promise us you won't spend it at the club shop!" My Dad jokes, "Or on junk food and alcohol!"

"Well I do need some form of food. How are Megan and I supposed to survive?" I laugh.

"Come on you, enough of that. You're seeing Henry in an hour remember?" Mum reminds me, "Now come on, go get ready"

She gently shoos me out the room and upstairs towards my bedroom. I throw my wardrobe doors open and examine the small array of clothes in front of me. I'm not a particularly girly girl. So my wardrobe isn't full of dresses, and the latest fashion trends. Just, what I like, and what I want to wear. But there must be something in here.


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