Because it’s the international break and we’re bored, the writers of Cartilage Free Captain have been experimenting with machine learning and recurrent neural networks. The Reccurently Generated Football League is an outgrowth of that experimentation: a collection of generated fictional English football club names. The stadiums and blog names are also recurrently generated. This is a fictional biography of a fictional football club generated by a computer. For science.
There he goes, walking home under the shadow of Stree Chin: Pat Wendy, ponytailed fiftysomething Oklahoman, veteran, chronic wanderer, soccer philosopher, a humble dreamer among dreamers, and manager of Sunfield & Deatic Football Club.
There he goes. He’s heading home. Home to a weathered Coachmen Miranda parked outside the entrance gate to the Athecres Ground. Tonight home is a threadbare couch for him, a bed for his fellow traveler and daughter Moon who is visiting from Arizona, a table with an old brick of a laptop where Wendy spends his nights writing his autobiography. A fridge full of cream ales and hummus containers. A poster of Vermeer’s Woman Reading a Letter. A cd player. A stack of cds. A shelf full of books on art and philosophy and football. An old cat asleep on the passenger seat. A view to Athecres, and beyond that, the saffron sparkle of St. George’s Channel at sunset.
When the S&D board approached Wendy about the managerial position, he was coaching community college soccer in Tucson. A copy the textbook Wendy wrote, mimeographed, and bound for the Personal Health and Fitness 101 class he taught at the college, titled Discourse on Turning the Wheel of Soccer, became a sort of cult favorite among futheads, and was passed around among football league backroom staff. An S&D physio lent his weathered copy of Discourse to the club’s director of marketing, who mentioned it in passing to S&D board chair Mae Blum. Blum asked to borrow the book. A week later, with the club newly promoted but suddenly without a manager, she was on the phone to Arizona, offering the job to unknown American Pat Wendy, the man who dreamed in soccer.
Risky decision-making was not without precedent for S&D. The club was formed in crisis and under trying conditions. In the mid-1940s Sunfield Scholars FC and Deatic AFC were rival clubs in a north Pembrokeshire town with a population more interested in rugby than football. Sunfield’s team was made up of students from the rural Sunfield School; Deatic AFC fielded a squad composed of workers from the Deatic slate quarry cut into the grassy slopes of Stree Chin. With the Welsh mining industry cratering and Sunfield struggling to field a full squad, the chairs of the two teams met at the Sun and Stone pub in Athecres and hashed out a merger. The new club would be called Sunfield & Deatic. It would be a home for those who wanted to play despite the prevailing sentiment that football would never find a real home in rural Wales. The Athecres Ground, built into the towering, derelict bowl of the Deatic quarry, would be a place of pilgrimage for the dreamers, for anyone who thought they might just make it, albeit against long odds and bitter winds.
The club built a small but robust academy from the scaffolding of Sunfield School; through player sales to larger clubs and the continued support of a small but rabid following, S&D undertook a complete rebuilding of the shabby Athecres Ground. Fit snugly into the nest-pocked, mossy embrace of the old Deatic quarry, the rebuilt Ground took shape over several years, while S&D’s squad played home matches in a lower league rugby stadium a county away. Last season S&D made an improbable run through the Championship playoffs to promotion. But with that run came increased attention, and S&D’s manager was hired away to a job with a bigger club on the continent, and so, with a new stadium to open and a team without a manager in its first season in the RGPL, Mae Blum took a flyer on an unknown Oklahoman with a long gray goatee, a motorhome, and ideas about intention, energy flow, and defensive positioning.
And so Pat Wendy put himself, his cat, and his books in his motorhome (Moon stayed in the States with her mother), and his motorhome on a slow boat to Europe, and arrived in Athecres in time to open training. He parked the old Coachmen in front of the stadium and hasn’t moved it since. When he goes home from work he doesn’t have far to walk. Though it is small, the Athecres Ground—shrouded by dusk and cradled in the bluestone arms of Stree Chin—feels like a dream. And dreams, Wendy knows, are where the dreamers are.