Jones first reveals the threat of the Middleton Empire (sources)
See also: The Middleton Empire—fact or fiction?
See also: Jones warns Potts about the Middleton Empire
See also: Jones sells the Club out to the Middleton Empire
See also: Jones’s trial before the Disciplinary Court
See also: The Middleton Empire spoof
Perhaps summer 1963
1. Sometime in 1963 Jones began to tell the EMB&H—and especially Chris, its President—that the Club was under threat from a fearsome force called the Middleton Empire. (Middleton is an industrial town, now in Greater Manchester, about three miles west of Oldham.)
2. Jones first revealed to Chris the threat of the Middleton Empire when he called him to an impromptu meeting at “Davelyshome” one afternoon. Chris arrived at Jones’s house to find Jones in a very disturbed mood. It was rather like visiting a head of state whose country was facing invasion by an imperialist aggressor against whom even the thought of resistance would be laughable. They went up to “Davelyshome”, where Jones began to unfold to Chris the story of the Middleton Empire. It appeared to consist of an army of thugs commanded by a boy named Gerard, who was Jones’s cousin. They were based at Middleton, but had an ambitious expansion programme and, according to Jones, were bent on dominating the entire north of England. Jones began to illustrate the successes of the Middleton Empire by listing places which had already fallen. Among them were Rochdale, Halifax, Bradford, to name a few.
3. This is all very well, thought Chris, but what of it? Surely Jones doesn’t want me to believe that Thornton is in any kind of danger!
This, of course, was exactly what Jones wanted Chris to believe. He told Chris that he had heard from his cousin and had been forewarned of an impending attack. Only Thornton, and possibly Cleveleys, were mentioned, but Jones feared that the entire Fylde coast was at risk.
4. “But what do they do?” Chris protested, “and how do they come? By train?”
“Oh, no,” replied Jones. “They travel around on a fleet of bicycles.”
He then leaned back in his armchair, his eyes drifting towards the window, at which they seemed to stare, trance-like.
“It is one Saturday morning,” he began, as if seeing a vision. “The people of Thornton are happily going about their business, doing their shopping, et cetera, when suddenly—over the hilltops appears—a fleet of bicycles! The peace and tranquillity is shattered. The Middleton Empire has arrived!”
5. Clearly Jones had visions of the lights going out over a free Thornton—or if he didn’t, he certainly wanted Chris to think so. Chris, however, was sceptical about the whole issue. Jones had no proof that there was any truth in his story. He didn’t even have a letter from Gerard which he could produce to back it up.
6. Jones stressed that any opposition to the Middleton Empire would be futile. He therefore recommended that the EMB&H throw itself on Gerard’s mercy; this was the best possible move for the Club to make, the only possible move it could make. He felt that this way he could use his own kin-relationship with the aggressor to obtain favourable terms. At least, this way, they could be fairly certain of immunity from the blood-bath which was sure to follow Gerard’s invasion.
7. Chris was very reluctant to make any ruling on Club policy. Even after Jones used all his considerable powers of persuasion to make Chris see things his way, Chris remained unconvinced of the need to take such drastic panic-measures. To tell the truth, he wasn’t entirely sure about the authenticity of Jones’s story.
Jones must have suspected this, because as Chris was leaving the house, in a final attempt at convincing Chris he said, “I know, Chris: let’s send a telegram to Gerard—NOW!—telling him we want to talk.”
Chris suddenly began to lose some of his doubts. Would Jones really pick up the receiver of that familiar cream-coloured telephone, dial the operator, ask for Inland Telegrams, and send such a message to his cousin in Manchester?
8. While Chris was still hesitating on the point of giving credence to Jones’s story, Jones opened the door to the lounge and sought the approval of his parents to the sending of a telegram to Gerard.
His Dad (“Dads”) rejected the idea outright: “Don’t be so bloody daft, David! Whatever will you think of next?”—much to Jones’s apparent disappointment. He could, of course, have been fairly certain that parental approval would not be obtained, and that he was therefore on pretty safe ground in suggesting the telegram idea.
9. So, not entirely convinced, Chris left Jones’s house, instructing him to do nothing vis-à-vis the Club and the Middleton Empire for the time being.
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