Mind! I don't mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country's done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Hughes was as dead as a door-nail.
Redknapp knew he was dead? Of course he did. How could it be otherwise? Redknapp and he were rivals for I don't know how many years. Redknapp was his sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole assign, his sole residuary legatee, his sole friend on Match of the Day, and sole successor. And even Redknapp was not so dreadfully cut up by the sad event, but that he was an excellent wheeler dealer on the very day of the funeral, and solemnised it with a celebration.
The mention of Hughes' demise brings me back to the point I started from. There is no doubt that Hughes was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate. If we were not perfectly convinced that Hamlet's Father died before the play began, there would be nothing more remarkable in his taking a stroll at night, in an easterly wind, upon his own ramparts, than there would be in any other middle-aged gentleman rashly turning out after dark in a breezy spot -- say Shepherd's Bush Churchyard for instance -- literally to astonish his son's weak mind.
Redknapp never painted out Old Sparky's name. There it stood, weeks afterwards, above the manager's door: Sparky Hughes. The former manager was known as "Sparky" Hughes. Sometimes people new to the club called Redknapp 'Arry, and sometimes Sparky, but he answered to both names. It was all the same to him. But never call him Wheeler Dealer, 'Arry was not a F*****g wheeler dealer he was a F****** football manager. And he wasn't a tax cheat either.
Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Redknapp! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; his jowels saggy and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and didn't thaw it one degree at Christmas.
Now let's all hope for visitations from the Ghosts of Christmas Past Bankruptcy, Present Futility and Future Relegation!