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?

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9. "Well, that really is an offer I cannot refuse"

Hey guys!

So I just wanted to give you an update on things.

I just started university, and my hours are crazy! I have so much work to do, so I don't think I'm going to be able to post new chapters as frequently as I would like.

With regards to this chapter, I was going to delay the whole bombshell of Ellis selling the club until a few more chapters ahead. But hey ho, let's get the ball rolling.

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"The fourth goal this afternoon was scored by number 18, Harry Kane!"

I eagerly look towards the scoreboard as Sunderland are now level with Tottenham. Own goal's come once in a blue moon, unless you have no clue where your own goal is. So it's always a bonus when the opposing team secures you a much needed point.

The minutes slowly tick by and we're into extra time. Both sets of supporters desperately hoping their side will secure them that important three points to shoot them up the Premier League table.

I curse under my breath as Tottenham win a free kick in the attacking area.

"Come on Mannone!" I cheer, standing up on my feet along with the majority of the crowd.

A thunderous 'ooh' sweeps through the crowd as Vito Mannone saves Etienne Capoue's free kick, and it seems evermore likely that this will be the final score.

The final minutes come to a close, and with that, the game. We all stand to clap the player's off the pitch and make our way back into our VIP room. I guess it's going to be a lot of standing around now that the game's over, I just hope Margaret hurries back as soon as she can. Anna looked fucking hammered, and I don't fancy holding her hair back whilst she's puking.

Everyone seems to be engaged in small talk, and I catch James out the corner of my eye. He smiles and does an awkward wave, as I try desperately to look at other objects around the room.

Please don't come over to me.

I really don't want to talk to you.

Please.

Shit he's coming over.

Shit.

"Cracking own goal, don't you think" James asks

"Yeah" I shrug, hopelessly, "I'm just glad we got a point to be fair"

It's not that I don't like James. The way he opened up to me about his fling with Anna just makes me a little, weary of him. He seems pretty friendly. I mean, he's the only one talking to me really. Just something about him doesn't seem right.

"You don't talk much, do you" He smirks, pulling down his red beanie over his jet black hair.

"I'm just...erm" I stutter, nervously trying to justify the reasons why I've kept myself so distant from the rest of the group, "Not very confident around people I don't know"

"I don't bite" He chuckles, his eyes scanning my face.

I gently shrug at James' comment, much to his delight because he continues to laugh at my awkwardness.

I tell James the first thing that comes to my head in order to get out of this dreary conversation, and I quickly leave the room in search of a toilet. My mind wanders aimlessly and I gaze at Sunderland AFC's history through the photo's dotted around the corridor. Photo's of Dean Whitehead and Craig Gordon bring back early memories for me as I continue strolling through the long corridor.

"That's just, wow"

Sudden footsteps on the wooden floor make me freeze in shock. As a strong American accent fills the hallway. The voice seems so familiar, I just can't put my finger on it.

"You're sure that's the offer you would like to put in for the club?" The voice says, and I quickly hide behind a wooden cabinet filled with old trophies.

Apart from the annoyingly loud sound of my nervous breathing, and the clicking of heels that are slowly making there way towards me, the silent tension allows my mind to contemplate who the American man is.

I swear a light bulb flickered on somewhere. I don't care where, but it happened.

"Ellis!" I gasp, quickly moving a hand towards my mouth as I realise what is happening.

All those rumours on Sky Sports News were true. About Ellis, the club, everything. Ellis Short is selling Sunderland.

"Hang on a second sir" Ellis announces, as a long pause breaks out in the hallway, "Hello? Is someone there?"

I can't come forward. No way. There's no possible way I can step out in front of, not only my boss, but the owner of the club, and act as if I didn't just hear him say he was going to sell Sunderland.

I hold my breath and wait anxiously.

"Never mind sir, I thought there was someone else here with me" Ellis apologises, "I'm really not sure about this. Sunderland is such a huge part of my life"

My heart begins to race as I struggle to control my breathing. I can't actually believe this is happening. Ellis Short is the foundation for this club. I'm struggling to work out what Sunderland will come to without his leadership. What will I come to.

"Oh my word" He exclaims, nervously laughing, "Well that really is an offer I cannot refuse"

A thought suddenly pops into my head, as Ellis begins to finalise contract signings. I can either stay silent, and let this new owner waltz in and take over my one source of true happiness. Or I can do something that could possibly end with me getting fired.

Fuck it.

"Ellis..."

I step out from behind the cabinet and watch as Ellis' face falls to the floor in shock.

"I'll call you back" He sternly demands, before placing his phone back into his suit pocket, "What the hell do you think you are doing?"

"I'm so sorry!" I plead, desperately trying to make Ellis see my side of the story, "I was just coming to find a toilet and I overheard your conversation"

"My private discussions are nothing to do with you!" He angrily whispers, as we both realise that the other apprentices are just a short distance away, "Who the hell are you anyway?!"

"My name's Vienna Barnes...sir. I'm one of the apprentices you hired"

I scan Ellis' face as his expression suddenly softens.

"Ah, Vienna" He smiles, "You seem very dedicated to Sunderland. I think that's what we like most about you. Yes, I think you'll go far"

"Oh wow, thank you sir"

"However" He declares, his tone of voice changing dramatically, "It still doesn't take away from what you just heard...How much did you hear?"

"...Pretty much all of it, sir" I nervously answer, tugging at the ends of my sleeves.

My body jumps as Ellis curses loudly. Anxiety fills my body and I begin to nervously shake as I feel a panic attack coming on. My chest begins to tighten, and a move a hand up to slowly pat the space.

"Please, sir, I'm so sorry I didn't mean for any of this to happen!" I beg, the words tumbling out of my mouth and an alarming rate as the panic builds to an almost unbearable level.

"Alright Vienna" He breaths, running a hand through his hair in disbelief, "What's done is done, there's no use worrying about it"

Ellis' words are comforting, but I still feel an unwelcoming sense of fear as he finds the words to sort the situation.

"I imagine that you already know you must not, under any circumstances tell anyone of this" He warns, waving a patronizing finger in front of my face, "Do you understand? If this gets out to the media, from you directly, this will be damaging for Sunderland"

I nod my head rapidly in response.

"Can I ask you something, sir?"

"What is it?" He sighs.

"Why do you want to sell the club? I always knew you to care so strongly about Sunderland, so...why sell it?"

I always knew Ellis Short to be one hundred per cent committed to Sunderland. He always sets out with the view to make Sunderland the best we can be. Ellis never saw Sunderland as a business opportunity. In my opinion, he saw it as a opportunity to make a great club, even greater. It'll be so hard to see him go.

"I think everyone knows that my heart has been with Sunderland since the moment I put pen to paper on that contract" He explains, "Times change, people change. There are other opportunities available for my back in America"

"That's understandable, sir" I sigh, as another thought pops into my head, "What about the offer?"

Ellis shoots me a confused expression, and I take that as a hint to continue the conversation.

"You were talking on the phone to someone. You said something about them making any offer you can't refuse" I explain.

"That really is something I can't discuss. Really, I can't. That amount of money is something I can't turn down. I'll be continuing my work back in America, but I just feel as though if I don't leave now, I never will"

I am in complete disbelief. I always thought that Ellis was with Sunderland for the long run. He's meant to care about this club and he is willing to sell up to some mystery bidder for an 'unbelievable' amount of money. He doesn't care about Sunderland at all, he cares about the money.

"You are unbelievable" I say, through gritted teeth, "You don't care about us at all, you only care about money!"

"I won't even try to explain this to a little girl. I should fire you right here, right now" Ellis warns, stepping closer.

I grit my teeth as I stare into the eyes of a completely changed man.

"Do it"

Without giving him a second to reply, I turn on my heels and make my way back to our VIP room. I can feel my heart pounding through my football shirt, as I pause outside the door, taking in a deep breath. As I open the door, I awkwardly meet James.

"Oh, there you are. I was just coming to find you" He smiles, "Everything okay? Did you find a bathroom?"

I should tell James about the inevitable future of the club we now work for. How everything we know is one massive lie...and how I've probably just lost my job.

"No, I couldn't find one. This damn place needs a map or something, it's absolutely huge" I joke, laughing sarcastically.

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