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How to Score (On and Off the Pitch)

By Andrew Playle All Rights Reserved ©

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Blurb

HOW TO SCORE – SYNOPSIS There was no doubt that Bradley Gardner could play football at a high level. What went against him was that he was born and raised in Scotland which didn’t have a great track record for winning trophies or staying healthy. As the two were connected, he had to find a way of succeeding despite of this. When your parents create yet more challenges, it becomes even more difficult. As he progressed as an outstanding footballer and made the right headlines, his parents’ behaviour resulted in numerous embarrassing situations that Bradley got caught up in. Bradley finds out about the bad side of the beautiful game along the way. Match-fixing, shady bookmakers and people pretending to be his friends when they are out to screw him over. He needs protection which comes in the form of Archie Burns, his unlikely agent, who has to steer him away from the bad bits and keep him on track to success. Can he influence a generation of Scottish footballers and help them win the World Cup? Nobody thought so, which made him more determined than ever to achieve the impossible. What are the odds on that happening?........

Part 1: Chapter 1

JULY 1998 – Edinburgh Royal Maternity Hospital

‘Mr Gardner? Delighted to tell you that you have a little boy weighing in at 7lbs 6oz and he’s in perfect health. Congratulations!’ The nurse beamed at Brian Gardner who was matching her beaming smile with one of his own.

‘Can I see them yet?’ Brian enquired.

‘Of course. Come this way’

The nurse led Brian to a private room where his new born son and darling wife were recovering from the ordeal. Before entering the room, he meticulously scrubbed his hands with the cleaning gel that was dispensed next to the door. On entering the room, he saw his wife, Martine, sitting up in bed holding a bundle close to her. Brian gazed lovingly at his new son, then at Martine who had delivered him. He was the happiest man in Edinburgh as well as being extremely proud of his wife for giving him another son.

They already had one son, Sam, who was almost three years old and although Brian and Martine would probably have liked a daughter to complete the set, they were equally happy at the safe arrival of another boy.

‘He’s perfect!’ Brian exclaimed. ‘Thank you darling.’

‘You’re welcome Honey! He’s adorable and thankfully it was a fairly easy birth this time.’ Said Martine.

‘Well, with two boys in the family, at least one of them might end up playing for England.’ Brian said optimistically.

‘But he has just been born in Scotland so he will have to play for them, surely.’

‘I won’t mind, but he does qualify for England through his parents,’ Brian laughed.

Sam had been born in Colchester Essex and they had all moved to Edinburgh a year ago for work. They were living in a very nice street in Stockbridge while Brian worked as head of sales for an international IT software company. He had been headhunted for the job and as they both fancied a change, they packed up and moved without a second thought. Brian had been to Edinburgh many times on business and loved the place. So much history and a superb pace of life. Perfect place to raise kids.

They were still very English at heart though having been born and brought up in East London before moving to rural Essex after they had got married. Edinburgh was going to be a much better place for them all to grow up in. Although his comment about his new born son playing for England was a bit tongue in cheek, he was like many dads when it came down to this. Still, the chances of either of them making it big were unrealistic so as his thoughts drifted back to the real world, he was just celebrating the fact that he had two healthy boys who he would support whatever happened.

His wife and son were allowed home after three days and Brian had adorned the house with ‘Welcome Home’ banners and other decorations. They soon settled into a routine and together they planned for the future with excitement and hope.

Their parents hadn’t been so keen on the idea of Brian and Martine moving to Scotland as they were both only children and they all missed their grandchild terribly. Now there was another grandson to miss, they constantly dropped hints that they should move back to Essex so they could all be near to each other. That clearly wasn’t going to happen so for now, their parents would have to come to Edinburgh as often as they liked. They had a big enough house; one which they wouldn’t have been able to afford if they had stayed in Essex, so it made a lot of sense to him.

As the years passed, Brian and Martine fell more and more in love with Edinburgh. The boys were doing okay at school; Sam showed more academic flare while Bradley was only interested in sports. They attended the local primary school which proved to be a happy time for both boys, but when it came to senior schools Brian and Martine weren’t entirely happy with their choices.

One evening, after the boys were in bed, Brian and Martine discussed their options for secondary schooling. They both agreed that they might have better opportunities outside of Edinburgh as the better schools were mainly fee-paying and even with Brian’s generous salary, was not something they could afford easily.

They had been looking at schools a bit further out of Edinburgh which would mean moving, but they were outgrowing their Stockbridge house and could do with buying a five bedroomed place so the boys could have their own room now they were getting older. They ruled out a number of areas and settled on two finalists. North Berwick lay some ten miles to the east of Edinburgh, had a fairly decent train service and was the village of choice for wealthy Edinburghers who commuted to town from there. It had a lovely beach with spectacular views and some cracking golf courses, even though Brian didn’t play golf. And of course, some very good schools which was the very reason they were looking.

The second option was a new town that was being built on the eastern side of Dunfermline across the Forth Bridge in Fife. Duloch Park was a massive new estate which would double the size of the ancient capital of Scotland. It was only twenty minutes by train to Edinburgh across the iconic Forth Rail Bridge, had great views of the bridges and Edinburgh itself, and brand new schools and amenities. Brian and Martine would get a lot more house for their money as well, which is what finally made the decision for them.

So it was in the summer of 2006 that they found their ideal new home in Duloch Park and moved over the bridge to the Kingdom of Fife. They fell in love with the house immediately. The boys had their own bedrooms and there were two extra spare bedrooms for guests. As well as the large garden, they had a double garage and drive for their cars; something they never enjoyed in Stockbridge as it was an older house and they were reduced to off-street parking which attracted a number of vandalism attacks on their neighbours. They had found their perfect home and spent the next few years adding to it by way of a conservatory and extension to the kitchen and utility room at the back of the house.

Road links were superb; the M90 ran past Dunfermline as it headed towards the Forth or up north which would take them to such lovely places as Perthshire with its dramatic scenery and the Highlands. They could be in Inverness in three hours or Glencoe in less than four. There were numerous bus routes into to Dunfermline, a shopping centre with a 24 hour Tesco, a library, numerous family restaurants and a large garden centre all within walking distance.

As they had moved during the school summer holidays, Sam had plenty of time to get used to his new surroundings before starting at senior school at the end of August. Both the boys loved their new environment immensely and soon made new friends. Bradley, obviously, had wasted no time in finding a football team he could play for, eventually settling for Dunfermline Colts and joining their under 10s team who played at nearby Pitreavie, a huge sports complex where Dunfermline Athletic trained. They had excellent facilities as well as a social club for the adults and a golf club next door.

Bradley had to attend trials with the Colts before he was signed. They were one of the top kids’ teams in the area and their standards were high. Once they saw what Bradley was capable of, even though he was at least a year younger than his team mates, there was never any doubt about signing him up. They tried him out in a number of positions and decided that the playmaker role playing just behind the striker would be best for him. Brian never missed a game or a training session whenever Bradley was playing and it was with great pride that he watched his son, who would surely play for England one day, outplay older and bigger boys than him.

After his fourth trial game for the Colts, the manager came up to speak to Brian.

‘Mr Gardner? Stuart McVie. I’m the manager of the Colts. Your Bradley can play a bit. What’s his history? Where has he played before?’ Coach asked.

‘Hello Stuart, call me Brian. Bradley hasn’t actually played for a team before. We lived in Edinburgh and he only played for his school occasionally. One of the reasons we moved here.’ Brian replied.

‘We’re very impressed with him. His positional sense, the way he’s not afraid to take on players and he has a good shot on him. Surprised no team in Edinburgh spotted him. Anyway, we’d be delighted if Bradley wants to play for us. We play in the Dunfermline League every Sunday morning and we are the defending champions. We like to make it fun at their age, but it’s useful for them to learn how to work as a team and we encourage this. Would you be happy for him to sign, Brian?’ Coach enquired.

‘I like the look of the club, good set up and obviously well coached. Let me talk to Bradley and see what he thinks. What’s your number? I’ll give you a call tomorrow.’ Brian smiled.

Brian took Stuart’s number and they shook hands. Bradley came running off the pitch once the game was over looking like he had enjoyed himself.

‘What were you talking to Coach about, Dad?’ Asked Bradley.

‘He’s impressed with you. Wants you to sign for them. How do you feel about that?’

‘Yeah! I’d love to. I’m getting on well with the other players, some of them go to my new school and they are going to look after me. Can I play for them, please?’ Bradley pleaded.

‘Of course you can, son. I’ve said I’ll phone Stuart tomorrow to let him know. Well done by the way, you impressed me as well as your coaches.’

They made their way home, Bradley skipping with delight and dribbling a pine cone along the pavement as they walked. Brian couldn’t wait to tell Martine and Sam about Bradley’s success and how impressed everybody was with him. Bradley glowed as he heard his proud Dad tell everybody the great news.

He felt top of the world. He loved playing football and now he would get the chance to play in a proper team rather than the odd turnout for the school. He had learned that his new school had a decent team and his new friends would make sure their teacher knew about Bradley.

The family spent the remaining days of the school holidays exploring Dunfermline and the area surrounding it. Dunfermline was the ancient capital of Scotland and parts of Robert the Bruce’s body were interred at the imposing 12th century Dunfermline Abbey which stood out on the skyline. There were cobbled streets surrounding the abbey along with the Great Glen, a magnificently large area of grass and woodland on several levels. Within the Great Glen was a café and a museum dedicated to the life of Andrew Carnegie who came from the town and after emigrating to Pennsylvania in the mid-19th century to escape the poverty stricken upbringing he had survived, and went on to be a billionaire who gave most of his wealth away to numerous good causes, including libraries for everyone.

Dunfermline was indeed a delightful place to live, on par with Edinburgh, but on a much smaller scale. Another day trip was to Pitlochry in Perthshire where they explored Faskally Woods, the Falls of Killiecrankie and Pitlochry itself which was a very touristy town set in the Perthshire hills. To think all this beauty was less than thirty minutes’ drive for them was amazing. They vowed to use their weekends visiting more places like this and enjoying what the real Scotland had to offer.

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Chapters
1. Part 1: Chapter 1
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