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?


37. "He scores when he wants."

"Yeah it's nice. Not as good as the ones back at our stadium." Dean announces, inspecting our luxury box at Selhurst Park.

"Quite whining will you Dean? Come on, the lads are out!" June informs him, urging us all to step out onto the balcony to observe the two teams walk side by side onto the pitch.

Seeing as we have all finished experiencing our first little project at the company, we were all rewarded with a hospitality package for the Crystal Palace vs Sunderland game. Ellis had this planned in advance, and after a brilliant journey here with all the players we're all in high spirits for the game ahead.

After the incident with Henry back at the flat not that long ago, and kissing James for the second time, I needed some space from him. Therefore I ended up spending the whole journey talking to Will and John O'Shea, who I was in such awe of I couldn't take my eyes off him. I mean he's the captain of our club, that man is just wonderful.

The brief space from James allowed me to discuss quietly with Will my situation with James, and after going into such a deep explanation about him I came to the fairly dramatic conclusion - I don't have feelings for James. He was just a rebound after Henry, and although we have seriously bonded since the beginning of the programme, I need to tell him straight that nothing will happen between us and I need to do it soon.

I glance either side of the box and notice that we are surrounded by Crystal Palace fans, and groan quietly to myself - this is going to be a long afternoon. It always nerves me at away matches, because you're not in your home territory and are surrounded by thousands of other footballing fanatics that could do anything at any point. It's quite common to throw flares at the away fans, and sometimes during derby games, two sets on fans can be lethal towards each other. It's always a sense of pride when your team faces another local team, and when you lose to a local team the results can sometimes be devastating. Typically with Sunderland and Newcastle because they are known to have the most brutal rivalry in football history. One occasion when we hammered Newcastle, yet again, a Geordie ended up punching a horse. That's why I haven't been to a Tyne and Wear derby in a fair amount of time - I genuinely fear for my safety.

The announcer at Selhurst Park reads out the teams on each side, and after cheering for each of our players, they begin to take their places on the pitch. The whistle blows and we all stand huddle along the edge of the balcony, frantically watching our layers dart in all sorts of directions of the pitch.

Jordi Gomez darts in between the Crystal Palace players, and the fans at the away end stand to their feet, as the supporters cheer our newbie on. With a strong kick the ball flies towards the goal and is blocked bravely by the goalkeeper. The game continues on with plenty of fouls by Lee, Will and Steven Fletcher. Pity that he can get fouled but he can't actually score any goals - something he is being paid about £60k+ a week to do.

"Hand ball!" Dean, James and June yell simultaneously, along with the majority of the away fans only minutes after Lee was caught handling the ball.

Crystal Palace try a number of times to break the deadlock at Selhurst Park, but Costel Pantilimon is on fire today and blocks any shot they have near the goal, "You know, Pantilimon's doing pretty well for his first game, don't you think?" Zoe begins conversing with Chris, who agrees that since Vito Mannone was dropped from the first team after his diabolical showing at Southampton, Costel has really stepped up to the mark.

After the opposing team's striker's shot is blocked well by Costel, our players take the ball and begin sprinting down the pitch with us - causing the fans to burst with cheers and shouts of support. I grab onto Sophie's arm tightly, and Patrick Van Aanholt delivers a swift cross to Steven Fletcher who headers the ball into the bottom left corner.

"Yes!" The Sunderland supporters cheers sweep the stadium as the rest of the players huddle together to congratulate Fletcher on his long-awaited goal.

"As if that just happened." Sophie yells in my ear, trying to make herself heard amongst the thousands of cheering fans.

"You know Fletcher, he scores when he wants!" I laugh, shoving Sophie playfully.

Minutes after the goal, Van Aanholt collides with one of the opposing players and the match comes to a grinding halt. He's sat up on the pitch, desperately holding shoulder as the referee calls for Sunderland's medic team. I know he's not been with us long but Patrick is such a great addition to the team, and I think he's in serious trouble right now.

"They're bringing a stretcher on." James informs us, and he's right. Another member of our medic team comes running on with a stretcher, and Patrick is stretchered off; still clutching his shoulder in despair.

Moments later Gus brings on Wes Brown as his substitute and the match gets back under way. Connor Wickham has a couple of decent shots, and there are times when we all assumed Fletcher would give us a two goal lead before the half time whistle, but after a superb crossing from Will, Santiago Vergini misses our last chance of the first half and the whistle is blown.

"I cannot believe what happened to Patrick!" Francis gushes, engaging in conversation with Chris and Dean, "He's done so well recently."

Before I have a chance to join Sophie and June on one of the leather sofa's, James grabs my arms and requests my presence outside, "Sure." I bluntly reply, as he leads me out into the corridor.

We are soon left alone, and James doesn't hesitate in the slightest to begin questioning me about our kiss after Henry left my flat. To be honest I've been trying to block it out of my head ever since it happens, because I kissed my ex boyfriend, to then kiss the guy who I know has had a crush on me since day 1.

"What's going on with us?" He asks, adjusting yet another red and black striped beanie on his head.

This hurts so much. I've never had to let someone down before, but I have to do it. For my sake as much as his, "Nothing."

"Come on Vienna. You're telling me you didn't feel anything when you kissed me?" He questions my actions further, and I feel an unbearable amount of pressure as James puts me on the spot.

"Of course I felt something, but I've not even been single for a month; I can't get in another relationship or even think about getting close with someone yet." I politely let James know where we stand, "It was always a sense of a rebound whenever I kissed you, and I can't be that mean to you James. If we were to ever date it would literally be a rebound relationship for me, and you deserve so much better."

It pains me to see the disappointment in James' face, because I feel as though I've lead him on. I never knew I was capable of doing such a thing, but like Will said, it has to stop now before it gets any worse. The group can't cope with anymore drama's, and if we ever dated it would just be...weird. I can tell how upset James is, but he simple replies with an, 'okay, I kind of expected this to happen anyway'.

Before I have a chance to try and comfort him, by telling him that he will find someone just as good as me, Zoe pops around the door to tell us that the second half has started and we make our way back out onto the balcony to join our co-workers.

As the second half begins, I think everyone notices a significant change in Crystal Palace and their team because they start to become a worrying threat in our goal. Chance after chance is blocked and saved by Wilfried Zaha, and after managing to get the ball up into our penalty box, the goal net ripples and Crystal Palace equalise. We begin to debate on how the mystery scorer is, and after a few supporters in the main stand's can be heard discussing about an apparent own goal, the scorer is revealed as our very own Wes Brown.

"Jesus Christ why can't that man learn where his own fucking goal is?!" Francis becomes very vocal all of a sudden - I don't think I've heard him say so much before.

A couple of intoxicated supporters in the box's opposite us begin sarcastically thanking us for Brown's goal, and it only adds to my miserable mood. The only thing really keeping me the slightest bit happy is watching Seb doing what he does best - being the adorable little thing he is. He charges up and down the pitch and is always there to pass the ball to in the box. Plus his free kicks are the best in the league, so that's just a bonus really.

Will suddenly brings down another player and is given the first yellow card of the day, much to the away fan's annoyance. This is swiftly followed by another yellow card for Jedinak, and yet another two yellow cards for our very own Costel Pantilimon and Lee Cattermole. But to be honest, it's not unknown for Lee to receive a yellow fact it's normally quite a frequent occurrence.

A couple of substitutes are made, which sees Connor Wickham be replaced by the not-so-popular Jozy Altidore who fouls another player within sixty seconds of stepping foot onto the pitch.

"Here we go. Come on lads!"

The ball is intercepted by Will after Scott Dann takes a free kick for Palace, and after a beautiful cross into the box, Jordi Gomez delivers a beautiful left footed shot into the bottom right hand corner.

Once again the crowd bursts out into cheers and chants of appreciation for Jordi's goal, and suddenly all of our moods have been lifted; I even notice James smiling and joking with the lads now that we have taken the lead once again.

"What did James want to talk to you about?" June yells in my ear, as we clap Will off the pitch who has been substituted for Liam Bridcutt.

"You know when Henry came to the flat? Well, I sent Jared and Sophie up to see James just so we could get a bit of alone time and they ended up bringing him down to the flat. Basically I freaked out after Henry left, and once I got a bit of alone time with James..." I take a brief pause and collect my thoughts, "Well I kissed him again."

"Fuck sake Vienna." June sighs, "Do you like him or not?"

Our conversation comes to a brief halt as Jedinak receives his second yellow card, and Crystal Palace are down to 10 men, "Honestly I don't. I explained to him it was all a sort of rebound thing."

"It wouldn't be right if you guys got together. So I think you're doing a good thing."

The game plays out, with more and more threatening shots by Crystal Palace. Steven Fletcher scores his second goal of the afternoon after a brilliant assist by Liam Bridcutt, and that just tops off a fairly decent afternoon. I must say this is a brilliant comeback after the diabolical performance at Southampton, and I would be terribly surprised if the Janoskians had anything bad to say about this.

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