When Stiles Stilinski thinks back on his childhood, he remembers always being outside with his friends kicking around a football. He remembers asking for a new kit every Christmas and birthday; he wanted them all, no matter what the team. He had Beckham’s from Manchester United, Zidane’s from Real Madrid, and Fowler’s from Liverpool. Back then, the crest on the kit didn’t matter. Back then, all he wanted was to play.
Now, at age nineteen, he was the next big thing, according to The Guardian. It was surreal, not being able to turn on Sky Sports without hearing his name mentioned along with the names he grew up idolizing. ‘Stiles Stilinksi scores a brace against Sunderland, ensuring them another three points!’, ‘Stilinski, Liverpool’s number 24, scores against Manchester City this weekend, putting Liverpool at the top of the table for the fifth week in a row’, ‘Stilinski scored with an assist by Liverpool Captain Steven Gerrard yesterday...’.
Stiles couldn’t believe that this was his life. In reality, he felt like he was still in the Academy, playing for the Under 21’s with the friends he grew up with. He started at the Liverpool Academy when he was ten, then had tryouts for different teams when he was fifteen. He ended up staying at Liverpool, even though he was also scouted for Newcastle and West Ham, because it felt right to remain at Liverpool. Now, he was in the starting eleven consistently. It happened a year ago, when Stiles was called up from the U-21’s to sit on the bench for a match. With Luis Suarez out on a ten-match ban again, along with Daniel Sturridge and Fabio Borini injured, that only left Philipe Countinho as a striker. Stiles was only supposed to warm the bench; instead, he made his debut in the 76th minute, then scored five minutes later, giving Liverpool the lead and gaining them three points for winning the match.
That was then, though. Now, Stiles started regularly and was officially on the First Team and signed a new contract with Liverpool not even three months ago, making ten times as much as he had been before. It felt like the Twilight Zone, like he was living some other person’s life. So, when he was sitting at home, alone, minding his own business by watching Sky Sports on mute, his jaw dropped when he happened to watch the scroller at the bottom of the screen: ‘Stilinski to be called up for the England National Team’.
“What the fuck?” Stiles said to himself just as his phone rang. He looked down at the ID, tensing when he saw that it was Brendan Rodgers, the Manager of Liverpool Football Club. Stiles let it ring one more time before he answered.
“Stiles,” he said, hoping he didn’t sound unsure.
“Stiles, it’s Brendan,” his manager said. “I am calling because I just got out of a meeting with Roy Hodgson.” Stiles gulped. Roy Hodgson was the manager of the England squad, and if they had a meeting together and Brendan was calling him then -- “I wanted to talk with you before I approved your call up during the next International Break.” Stiles’ heart was beating so fast and hard that he was almost positive that Brendan could hear it. He was going to be called up to play for his country, at age nineteen! It was practically unheard of, considering he wasn’t even on the England U-21 team and never had been.
“Alright,” Stiles said as he licked his lips and waited for Brendan to continue. He fidgeted, his fingers drumming against the table in front of him as his eyes cast over the TV once more, his name still flashing across the stream. He was definitely living in a Twilight Zone.
“I want you to think long and think hard about what I am about to ask you, Stilinski.” By using his last name, Brendan had Stiles’ full attention; Stiles knew that he meant business. He stopped moving, even held his breath before Brendan continued. “I want you to think about how many days you usually take to recover after a match, the strain it puts on your body, and if you really think that you could still perform to the best of your abilities if you play for England as well as Liverpool.”
Stiles couldn’t help himself. He jumped into the air, pumping his fist in the air. He was being called up for real, it was really happening. Not only does he have a spot in the Liverpool starting eleven, but he would be playing for England as well as they geared up for the World Cup Qualifiers. Stiles had to stop jumping up and down in order to remain calm enough to answer his manager. It wasn’t a question for him, really. He would do it. He would play beside the likes of Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard, and Joe Hart. Stiles cleared his throat, nodding his head as he attempted to look serious in hopes that it would transfer to the sound of his voice.
“I think that I would be able to, sir.” Stiles was proud of himself, his voice didn’t break once and he swore he heard Brendan laugh. “I want to play for both.”
“Thought as much. You’ll be getting a call from Roy within the hour. I’ll see you at training in the morning, don’t be late.”
“Yes, sir,” Stiles said. Brendan hung up and Stiles was free to scream to his heart’s content. The first thing he did was text his best friend, Scott McCall, who also played on the Liverpool side. Instead of saying something coherent, Stiles typed out aughskalgjaald;salksalgdssklda and hit send. He knew he’d be getting a call soon if Scott wasn’t busy. While he waited, Stiles screamed again. He wouldn’t be the lone Liverpool player on the England side, which made it less intimidating. The Liverpool captain, Steven Gerrard, was also the England captain, so Stiles could ask him about any questions he had. Along with Steven Gerrard, four other LFC players were on the England side, and would most likely be called up. Stiles knew that the next International Break would consist of a qualifier match for the 2014 World Cup, and a Friendly match. International breaks always happened during the regular playing season, for usually one or two weeks at a time. During this time, no League matches were played. It would add extra matches for everyone that played during these breaks, adding more strain to their bodies. Stiles would have to be careful, because he was prone to fatigue and minor injuries.
As if on cue, Stiles’ phone rang. He assumed it would be Scott, that he would get to share his news, but instead it was an unknown number. Stiles’ eyes widened; it had to be Roy Hodgson. Roy was a former manager of Liverpool, but that didn’t mean he gave Liverpool players any kind of special treatment. If he was calling Stiles up for the squad, that meant he believed that Stiles had it in him to be able to help England make it to the World Cup, and possibly win it.
“Hello?” Stiles said, answering his phone.
“Przemysł Stilinski?” Roy asked, butchering Stiles’ first name, which was never used. Stiles made a face, but held back any comment that he wanted to make about the usage of his first name.
“You can call me Stiles,” he said instead, as lightheartedly as possible.
“Stiles, this is Roy Hodgson-”
“Hello, sir,” Stiles said, cutting him off. He was practically climbing the walls with anticipation. Stiles sat at his kitchen table, his leg bouncing idly as he ripped up little bits of napkin, making a pile while his phone was situated between his shoulder and ear.
“I don’t suppose you’ve been watching the telly, have you?” Roy asked him.
Stiles shrugged, his eyes darting towards it as he licked his lips. His name flashed across it once more.
“I’ve not been,” he feigned.
“That’s -- Well, Stiles, I’m calling you up to join the England squad.” Stiles grinned, he couldn’t help it. “I’ve talked it out with Brendan, and he believes you are up to the task.” Stiles wanted to run around his flat and into the street to tell everyone. “He tells me you’re prone to injury-”
“I’ll take good care of myself, sir,” Stiles assured him. “I won’t let you down.”
“Don’t push yourself too hard, and tell someone if you’re hurt, you hear me?” Roy said over the line. Stiles nodded his head, knowing that Roy was referencing his captain, Steven Gerrard. He was known to not tell anyone when he’s been hurt because he wanted to play. Stiles knew better, knew it was better to be out for the short term instead of for almost a full season. If he got a major injury he’d lose his starting position.
“I will, I promise.”
“We’ll be in contact with your agent, I just wanted to tell you myself. I will see you during the break.”
“Thank you for the opportunity, sir,” Stiles said, dazed. Roy hung up and Stiles sat there with his phone pressed against his ear. “Holy mother fucking shit.” Stiles got up, made a circle around his living room as he tugged on his hair, trying to think of what to do next. He decided to text Scott again, with Call me. Freaking out. If that didn’t get Scott to call him soon, then he’d go over to his house and knock down his door, girlfriend or no. Sighing, Stiles grabbed his car keys. It was early enough in the day that he could make it out to his dad’s and back at a decent hour, and he’d like to tell him in person. Stiles wanted to see the look on his father’s face when he told him that Stiles had made the England squad.
Training happened every day, except the two days they got off after a match. There was not only recovery training, but fitness and technical. Stiles ran around 10km a day after normal training got out, then did some weight training to build more muscle. He was lean and fast, but he wanted to be able to tackle more efficiently. He had the habit of sliding, but not being able to sufficiently get the ball away from others while doing so.
He couldn’t concentrate as they did drills, couldn’t take his mind off of the fact that he’d be joining the England squad in less than a week. They were leading up to a big fixture: Liverpool vs. Manchester United, and he couldn’t afford to be so careless during training if he wanted that starting position. There were a number of strikers, forwards that Brendan could choose from. Stiles didn’t always start, but he had the last three matches. He wondered if Brendan would choose not to start him in order to keep Stiles from injury.
Stiles had to make sure he started against Manchester United. Not only were they Liverpool’s biggest rival, but Stiles had yet to play against them. His first year, he hadn’t even been on the bench for the match. It was one of the biggest fixtures of the year and he felt like he deserved the spot. He was in the top ten in the league as far as goal scoring for the season, up there with the likes of Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney, both of whom he would be playing against if he started. So Stiles stayed after training ended to train extra. He wasn’t the only one either. Lucas Leiva was in the gym with him, along with Martin Kelly, who was also prone to injury. Martin would be one of the call-ups he would be joining on the England squad, and he was also one of the youngest on the Liverpool side with Stiles, being twenty-two.
Brendan stopped by the gym an hour or so after training officially let out, his eyebrow lifting when he saw Stiles running on the treadmill. Stiles gave him a smile that he hoped was confident. He wanted to show that he could be on both, that he deserved to be on both teams. He was young and inexperienced still, but he made up for it with determination to succeed.
When Stiles finally got off the treadmill, he soaked through his shirt completely. Panting, he made his way to the locker rooms to shower before heading home. It was basically empty, so when Stiles was done he just about jumped out of his skin when he saw Brendan sitting by Stiles’ locker number. Stiles had a towel wrapped around him, his body still dripping wet from the shower.
“You’re starting this weekend,” Brendan told him. Stiles almost smiled but stopped when Brendan put his hand up like he wasn’t finished. “I want you to show me and the fans that you can do both. Give me a full ninety minutes, show me you can handle it, otherwise I am going to tell Roy to have you warm his bench.” Stiles clenched his jaw in order to bite back any sort of retort. Instead, he just nodded his head. “Good,” was all Brendan said before he walked out, leaving Stiles alone with his thoughts.
He rarely ever played a full ninety minutes, he always seemed to lose steam around eighty minutes, after running around so much. Either that, or he was brought in late in the game in hopes that he could bring the team back from being down a goal, to even the playing field. He was Brendan’s chess piece to be played at the most opportune times. Stiles had to make sure that he would be ready to face Manchester United, and to be able to play the entire match.
The night before matches, Stiles always goes over to Scott’s. They have dinner together, usually out since neither of them cook, then play video games until they pass out early. Going out to dinner doesn’t sound like a chore, and it never was until Stiles moved up to the first team. Now whenever he went out he was hounded by paparazzi. He didn’t understand, since he wasn’t a movie star or anything; but he was treated like one. They even took his picture when he went clothes shopping and to the store down the street. Once, he was in the hospital overnight, and when his dad came and got him the next day, there they were with their cameras shoved in his face as he tried to walk with crutches. He loathed the paparazzi, but he was beginning to learn how to ignore them. He wore sunglasses, even if it was dark out, so they wouldn’t get as much money for his picture. No one wanted to see his half concealed face, with a hood up and his hands shoved in his pockets like a hooligan.
He and Scott still went out, though. Their favorite place was a sushi joint nearby Scott’s flat. They sat in the back where it was quieter with less foot traffic. They were only disrupted three times during the meal, which was actually low for the normal pre-match dinner. Stiles had his own bed at Scott’s, a spare room with a toothbrush just for him in the bathroom. Their ritual started before they were both on the first team, back when they both lived with their parents. Stiles’ dad lived outside of Liverpool, and sometimes couldn’t drive him into town before Stiles got his license, so he’d drop Stiles off at the McCalls’ the night before. It seemed wrong, breaking that tradition now.
“You know, I’m glad I’m not starting tomorrow,” Scott said as they played Call of Duty: Black Ops. Stiles grunted as he concentrated, but then ended up getting killed by some twelve year old somewhere.
“Why?” Stiles asked, belatedly.
“That is a shit ton of pressure that I don’t want,” Scott said, wide-eyed. “ManU? I mean, at least we’re going to be at home and not away, but still.”
Stiles shrugged. He wasn’t that nervous, or so he kept telling himself. If he thought too hard about it, he’d psych himself out.
“I’d rather play them away first, you know?” Stiles said as he spawned again. “But playing them at Anfield is going to be good. I’ll have the Kop to get me going.” Stiles loved the fans, loved how they chanted not only his name, but had a song for him and everything. They had songs for all the greats like Stevie G, Xabi Alonso, Jamie Carragher. The Kop only made up songs if they loved you, if they believed in you and the fact that Stiles had a song about him within the first few games he played -- that gave him all the confidence that he needed.
“Still, I’ll be yelling at you from the bench,” Scott joked. Scott played in the midfield, where there was a harder time to get a starting position because of the amount of people on the team who were signed for midfield. Liverpool played in a 4-4-2 formation, meaning that there were four defenders, four midfielders, and two forwards on the field, along with the goalkeeper. Sometimes they played in other formations, but that was the standard that Brandan tended to use. Scott was a defensive midfielder, so he tended to hang back more, but that also meant that he fought for his spot with Lucas Leiva, who had been playing for Liverpool since 2007. Stiles’ technical position was central forward, but he could play as a right wing when they had two forwards on the field at the same time.
“I better be able to hear you over the Kop,” Stiles said as he stuck his tongue out. Whenever he thought about the Liverpool fans, about the section in Anfield stadium where they sat, he thought about his father bringing him to matches when he was younger. It was always a treat for his birthday, to be able to go to a match with his father. They always sat in the Kop, the fan section that sang the loudest and the proudest for their team. Now, playing for Liverpool, Stiles always pointed up to the stand whenever he scored, grabbing hold of his shirt in order to bring the crest up to his lips so he could kiss it, showing them his admiration for not only the club, but for the fans themselves.
“Yeah, you’ll hear me,” Scott said as he nudged Stiles’ shoulder with his own. They only played for another ten minutes before they gave up for the night, yawning and stretching out across the couch lazily. They had an early kick-off time, 12:45pm, so they had to be at Anfield two hours prior to that. Stiles liked to arrive even earlier than that, to avoid a lot of fans before the match. When he arrived, he always put headphones in as he walked from his car to the stadium to avoid signing autographs and taking pictures with fans. He did that after matches, win, lose, or draw. If he stopped to talk with them before, he got distracted. Scott always stopped, though. He liked getting to the Stadium even earlier just so he’d have time to sign and take pictures before getting ready in the locker rooms.
In the locker room, Stiles felt the tension filling the room as everyone arrived. Stiles set his bag down on the bench in front of where his kit was hanging against the wall, with his name and number facing outward so he could see it. He pushed down the nervousness that decided to settle in his stomach. The match itself was important, not only to their standings in the table but because of the deep seated rivalry between the two clubs. Stiles wanted to win, he wanted to show everyone that he could go up against the Red Devils and come out on top.
Before matches, they went through the game’s tactical game plan, then changed into training kits so that they could go out onto the field and warm up. After they were stretched and ready to play, they made their way back into the locker room to get ready for the actual match, changing into their kits. Usually there was playful banter in the tunnel before a match but not against ManUtd. The two teams met up in the tunnel leading up to the pitch, players jumping, warming up more and stretching as they waited. Stiles concentrated on his breathing, his hands on both of his hips. His friend, Isaac Lahey, was starting along with him in defense, playing the left back position. He stood behind Isaac as they waited, the seconds counting down to kick-off. Stiles’ eyes cast over the Manchester United team. They looked intimidating and surly, if Stiles was being completely honest, but then again, Liverpool probably did too. What with Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel standing next to each other in front of Stiles and Isaac, both of them covered in tattoos. Stiles wished he could pull off full sleeves, chest, and back tattoos but he didn’t think he could. They looked like two forces to be reckoned with, and Stiles would be afraid to come up against the two defenders if he was playing for another side.
As if on cue, Stiles heard the music pick up and the line start to move. The song You’ll Never Walk Alone not only blasted through the speakers around Anfield stadium, but every single Liverpool fan was singing it at the top of their lungs. Even though Stiles was still in the tunnel, he could hear them. When it was his turn to walk down the stairs, he reached his hands up to tap the famous ‘This is Anfield’ sign that hung just before the stairwell. It was a tradition for not only him, but the likes of Steven Gerrard and other Liverpool players who bled Liverpool Red.
Stiles joined his team out on the field in a straight line, his gaze falling across the crowd, their scarves lifted into the air as they continued singing. Before he knew it, their straight line was moving, and everyone began shaking hands with the other team, offering them each a quick ‘good match.’ It showed good sportsmanship, but Stiles still felt the overall feeling of the match darken. Liverpool and ManUtd were neck and neck on the table, with only a point between them and an even goal difference. If Liverpool won this match, then they’d be four points ahead of United, but if United won then they’d be two ahead of Liverpool. Stiles couldn’t fuck this up.
He wasn’t paying attention to whose hand he had been shaking, but their grip was tight in his hand as he tried to pull away. His gaze focused on a central midfielder named Derek Hale. They were practically the same height, but Derek had more muscle than Stiles did. Where Stiles was lean and lithe, Derek looked as though he spent his extra training hours lifting weights instead of running until he couldn’t feel his legs. Stiles’ jaw clenched as he managed to get out a quiet “Good match,” but he was met with cold eyes, so his voice caught in his throat.
As the two teams separated to get in their places, Stiles walked towards the center of the field where he and Steven Gerrard would do the kick off together. Stiles rolled his shoulders, jumping slightly to rewarm-up his leg muscles.
“Don’t let him get to you, lad,” Stevie said to Stiles as he watched Derek Hale make his way towards his starting position. Stiles turned his head, his eyes squinting against the sun. “He’s stirring you up.”
“Wanker,” Stiles hissed. Stevie laughed, a hint of a smile tugged at the corner of his mouth as they both waited for the whistle to signify the start of the match. Steven was the one to kick off, passing it to Stiles, who in turn passed it back towards midfield. With the game underway, Stiles tried not to think about anything that wasn’t the game at hand. Keeping possession against Manchester United was always hard, but under their new manager, Gerard Argent, the team lacked the verve that they had possessed the twenty something years that Sir Alex Ferguson had given the team in his time as a Manager. With a new Manager came hardships that United wasn’t used to, but Liverpool knew well with having four managers in the past five years that this was something that United would have to get used to. But Stiles hoped that they could use this to their advantage. For the first time in years, Manchester United wasn’t at the top of the table. Playing United at home, at Anfield where Liverpool was known to reign over their opponents, Stiles pushed down his fear of defeat.
The referee was one that Stiles knew well. Howard Webb was most known for the 2010 World Cup final when he denied a red card to a player who kicked another in the chest, knocking him to the ground. The thing about football was there were no replays and there was no stopping the clock. The clock continues to roll even when people get injured. Howard Webb didn’t see the blatant foul, so couldn’t call it. In turn, it left a bitter taste in the mouths of those who believed the call he made to be wrong. He was also known not to be neutral when it came to Manchester United. Webb also seemed to have it in for Liverpool, with not calling fouls when they were there along with calling Liverpool out on every infraction.
Stiles knew as soon as he saw who the referee would be, that their would be an uproar from not only the fans, but the team itself. Now, with the match underway, he didn’t have time to think about biases or unfairness. All he needed to do was concentrate on getting the ball and getting a goal. It only took a few minutes of running to realize that he was being tagged, followed around the pitch to make it hard for him to get the ball. It wasn’t just anyone that was tagging him, though, it was Derek Hale. Did Argent think him that much of a threat that he had Hale give up his position just to shadow Stiles around the pitch? Stiles’ blood boiled as he made a run for it as a lob pass was sent his way by Stevie. He managed to get a touch on the ball, land it to the ground safely, but then suddenly Stiles was on the ground thanks to Hale. It was a tackle, but not illegal. Hale had gone for the ball but left Stiles in his wake.
With Manchester in possession of the ball, Stiles got to his feet with the help of Daniel Sturridge, the other forward on his team.
“I hate that guy,” Stiles muttered before he took off towards the ball once more. If Hale wanted to play dirty, Stiles would play dirty. The next time that Hale got the ball, Stiles slipped in behind him and stole it right from underneath his nose, using a quick, cheeky back heel kick to send it to Stevie who wasn’t far away from them.
“You piece of shit,” Hale spat after the play went elsewhere away from them. Stiles hadn’t stopped moving, but Hale was still trailing after him. “Are you even of age?”
“Fuck off,” Stiles called out. He couldn’t get near the goal with Hale tracking him so closely, along with one of the United defenders by the name of Vernon Boyd, stopping him like a brick wall every time he got the ball.
After thirty minutes had passed, the scoreless game was at a standstill with even possession. Stiles was frustrated. All he wanted was to tackle Hale to the ground. He didn’t know what had crawled up his ass and died, but the way Hale was glaring at Stiles you would think he did something to personally offend him. As a forward, Stiles usually waited for a ball to be passed to him. His job was to remain open, to be ready to score within the blink of an eye, but being tracked made it next to impossible to be open.
Stiles found his opportunity in the forty-third minute. He knew before his foot connected with the ball that it would be a goal. It was off a corner kick, given by Stevie. Stiles was pushed back, almost outside the box that lined the goal scoring area. He watched as the ball bounded into the group that massed together right in front of goal. Daniel Agger headed the ball towards the goal, but it bounced off the goal post and came flying right towards Stiles.
It was a knee-jerk reaction, but Stiles’ instincts were perfect. He barely registered it as a goal before he had his teammates piling on top of him. He managed to burst it through the throng of players and somehow got it past the goalie. Stiles burst from his teammates, running towards the crowd where he knew his father’s seat was. He no longer sat in the Kop, but held a spot smack dab in the middle of the field so that Stiles could run to him whenever he scored. Once Stiles got there, he kissed the crest of his kit, showing his love and loyalty to his team, his eyes meeting his father’s. His teammates joined him, Daniel Agger lifted him into the air by wrapping his arms around Stiles’ middle. It was short-lived, and Stiles got pats on the back along with short pecks on the cheek from Steven Gerrard and Martin Skrtel.
Stiles swelled with pride as he made his way back to his starting position. After a goal was scored, the players returned to their positions when the whistle first blew, only this time the opposing team got to kick off, giving them the advantage. Stiles locked eyes with Derek Hale, then smirked. Hale looked livid, which made Stiles even happier. No one could stop him, not even Derek Hale.
Before Stiles knew it, the whistle blew, and the first half of the game was over.
The players made their way off the field, back down the tunnel, and into the locker rooms. On the way there, Stiles found himself walking down the tunnel next to Derek Hale. He wanted to heckle him, goad him, but Stiles was too tired. He needed that ten minutes of rest if he was going to make it the full ninety minutes. He had to make it through the entire match. With Hale tracking him over the field, Stiles was running more than he normally had to and it was exhausting him. They glared at each other one last time before both headed into their own locker rooms.
Once in there, Stiles was met with the pungent smell of manly sweat. He was used to it, and was covered in sweat himself, but that didn’t mean it didn’t make his nose scrunch up at the stench. He sat up on one of the physio tables where one of the physios waited for them. His muscles were sore and tense from running, and if he was going to make it through the match he needed her help. She gave him a small smile as he grabbed a water bottle and began downing it as she massaged his thighs.
Brendan Rodgers entered the locker room with his hands on his hips and a serious look on his face that had Stiles’ breath stop. He thought they were doing rather well, considering he had just scored his sixth goal of the season and it was only October -- they were only three months into this year’s fixtures. Brendan looked straight at Stiles, which had him even more worried.
“Good job out there, Stilinski. Hale is giving you hell and you just showed Argent just how sly you can be. Keep it up.” Stiles hadn’t been expecting praise, so he couldn’t do anything but nod as he rested his head back and drank more water. His chest was heaving from running so much. “We need to keep up the momentum in the second half,” Rodgers said as he looked to the rest of the team. “Some of you are dragging. I expect more goals and to come out of this match with three points.”
Before he knew it, the team was being dismissed. He walked back on the field, following Stevie and Daniel Agger. His muscles were sore, so he stretched them as they waited for the second half to kick off. If tension was high in the first half, then it was lethal in the second. Tackles became harsher, and the referee wasn’t shy about booking players for yellow cards. Daniel Agger was the first to receive one, for a harsh tackle on Nani, a forward for Utd. Nani stayed down, and from across the field Stiles could tell that he was angry. Daniel rarely got carded, and he was mad because, to him, Nani was playing up a soft tackle by clutching at his ankle.
“Get up and play some fucking football!” Danny yelled. Stiles could hear it at the other end. Steven, as captain, was talking with Howard Webb about the call, pointing at Nani. Things got heated when play restarted, and Nani ran without a limp. He was perfectly fine, and had dove. Danny hadn’t deserved the yellow card. Moments later, within the blink of an eye, Robin Van Persie scored on Liverpool, making the score 1-1. Stiles ran his fingers through his hair, anger rising to the surface. If play hadn’t been disrupted, it wouldn’t have happened.
“Bullshit,” Stiles mumbled as he spat at the ground, his hands on his hips as he walked back to his starting position. As he walked, Derek Hale bumped into him. Stiles reeled, shoving Derek’s arm. “Get the fuck off,” Stiles hissed. Derek lunged forward, as if to attack, making Stiles flinch, but nothing happened.
“Let’s see how you do now,” Derek said as he walked away. Stiles almost went after him, but hands on his shoulders stopped him. It was Stevie, dragging Stiles to the center of the pitch where they’d kick off together.
“We got this, Stiles,” Stevie told him, though his voice was grave and his demeanor hard. “Don’t let him get to you.”
“Too fucking late,” Stiles said.
“You watch it, too,” Stiles said with a smirk. He knew his captain well. He grew up watching Steven Gerrard play. Stiles couldn’t remember a time before Stevie was on the pitch. He had already broken into the first team by the time Stiles started paying attention to the players. Now, Steven was in his mid 30s and would be retiring soon. Steven was known to tackle harshly against United, especially if Liverpool were down.
Once more, they were off, running down the field with the ball in their possession. Stiles glanced at the clock, seeing that there was still plenty of time left to score again. They wouldn’t come out of the match with a draw. As soon as Derek Hale had the ball, Stiles was on him in seconds, sliding across the grass, nicking Derek’s boots instead of the ball. The whistle was blown, and Stiles cursed. He fouled Derek, who was on the ground glaring at Stiles. Both of them got to their feet, then bounded into each other’s personal space. Derek’s face was right up against Stiles’, their foreheads practically touching.
“You little piece of shit fuck,” Derek raged, his hands carefully in fists at his side. Stiles grit his teeth as he refrained from touching Derek. He knew if he did, he’d have a yellow card. Hands grabbed at Stiles, pulling him away from Derek, but he pushed them away. Derek, too, did the same, pushing the likes of Boyd and Ryan Giggs off of him only to come back towards Stiles. Stiles didn’t even know who was holding him back, but as soon as he heard the whistle, he knew he was in trouble. He stopped moving immediately to glance over at Howard Webb, who was reaching into his back pocket to retrieve the yellow card. Stiles shook his head, looking to Derek with his jaw dropped.
He received his yellow card, while Derek received none. There was an uproar on the field as Daniel Agger shouted “Fucking unfair call!” and Steven tried to calm Stiles down putting a hand to the back of Stiles’ neck. There was pounding in Stiles’ ears, his blood pumped angrily through his veins as the free kick against Liverpool was given, giving United the advantage.
Within minutes, United scored again. Stiles felt like falling over where he stood. They were down 1-2 because of him, it felt like, even though he hadn’t been anywhere near the play when it happened. Somehow, Lahey let Nani through him. As they made their way to kick off once more, Isaac was pulled out of the game, replaced by Martin Kelly. Brendan Rodgers was not happy, and Stiles could practically feel his manager stare him down from where he was on the field. Stiles had to get a grip on himself, he had to score again.
He got three shots on goal in five minutes, with seven left on the clock. Liverpool had most of the possession, and Stiles was feeling lucky. They were pressuring United hard, but eventually time ran out. There was only one minute of stoppage time, for Stiles’ short brawl, but that was it. The whistle blew, and the game was over. Liverpool lost, Stiles hadn’t been able to bring in the brace needed to make it a draw. Manchester United got the three points for the match, leaving Liverpool with zero.
Stiles felt numb as he walked towards the tunnel. Around him, players were shaking hands with each other, showing good sportsmanship, but Stiles wasn’t in the mood for it. He offered his hand limply to those who approached him, but he avoided Derek Hale at all costs, glaring at him as he made sure he kept his distance. Scott was in front of him, clapping him on the back, bringing Stiles out of his revelry of loathing.
“That was some goal!” Scott said with a smile. Stiles didn’t feel good about the goal, not when it didn’t bring in a win.
“Don’t,” Stiles said as he locked eyes with Derek. “Let’s go.”
Derek’s stern face was too hard to look away from, and before Stiles knew it they were shaking hands once more.
“Good match,” Derek said, his voice dripping with disdain. Stiles sneered, his shoulders shrugging.
“Congrats on the three points,” Stiles said sarcastically. The corner of Derek’s mouth turned upwards, but he didn’t say anything else before Stiles turned and walked down into the tunnel with Scott following behind him.
“Dude, you guys have it in for each other or something.” Stiles scoffed at Scott’s obvious statement. “I mean, I thought you were about to start hitting each other on the field when you tackled him.”
“He’s a fucking asshole,” Stiles said as they walked towards the locker room. “And I hate him.”