"There are too many ways of breaking a footballer's leg. Too many, that is, from the footballer's point of view. Others may find the freedom of choice encouraging."
Third Division Athletic has been an unlucky club for ages, but things are about to get much worse. Danny Matson, Athletic's top scorer, is out for the season after a scuffle inexplicably leaves him with a ruptured Achilles tendon. The team's manager, Jimmy Lister, is convinced that someone is intentionally kicking the team while it's down, and he hires Nick Duffy to get to the bottom of it.
Duffy has always been a worrier. He frets about his weight, about his burgeoning relationship with constable Carol Lucas, about his promiscuity with both men and women, and about the AIDS epidemic sweeping through London. This latest case gives him an opportunity to focus his attention elsewhere, on a list of suspects ranging from trophy-hungry supporters to hardcore skinheads bent on whitewashing England.