‘You were right Archie. That boy can play alright. Bit raw, but he’s got a natural talent and he’s quite bulky for a fifteen-year-old. He could do well in an attacking midfielders’ role; he can run and seems to have a good reading of the game. What do we do about signing him?’ Fraser Ingram asked him.
‘Well, he’s a free agent so if you want him, show me a contract and I’ll discuss it with him and Drew. What about accommodation, work visas, all that kind of stuff? He’s under age so it might be best if we put him up with Mrs. Colquhoun if she has room.’ Archie replied.
Agnes Colquhoun had a large house in nearby Balerno where she put up some of the younger players at Hearts. She’d seen a load of them over the years and since being made a widow some years ago she loved the company. She was a season ticket holder at Tynecastle and enjoyed talking football with her charges over dinner, looking after boys from all over the country, and sometimes the world. She especially loved it when she got showered with birthday and Christmas cards from most of the lads she had looked after over the years.
‘I’m sure she would love to look after Deepak. I’ll get the club’s HR on the case. What do you think Drew will do after this? Would he want to stay here, or is he likely to go back to India? My guess is he will be itching to get on that plane as soon as possible.’ Fraser asked.
‘Aye, I think you’re right Fraser. He doesn’t seem happy being back here and I think he wouldn’t have done it if it wasn’t for Deepak. Apparently, he didn’t want Deepak to come. Didn’t want him to have anything to do with football and cursed Bradley finding him in the first place. He’s got skeletons in Scotland and he’s happier back in India. While I think he won’t be delighted about Deepak signing, I wouldn’t expect him to block it. At the end of the day, he could see his family alright back in India if this works out well.’ Archie said cynically.
They continued watching Deepak go through his paces and run rings around some of the Under 17s squad players who had been rounded up for this session. By the end of the day, Fraser had seen enough to convince him to sign the boy. Not since Bradley Gardner himself had passed through this club had he seen such a natural talent. This could be another big pay cheque for the club and once he was signed up, he would be speaking to the Scotland Under 17s coach as well. He qualified to play for Scotland through his grandad, so there was every chance he would love to play for them.
At the end of the next day’s sessions which if anything, showed Deepak’s talents off even more, they were ready to offer him a deal. HR had drawn up the contract and included all the clauses you need when dealing with under age players. As he was only fifteen, he would need to be in full time education and fit his training and games in around that. It wasn’t easy, but it could be done. It would be more difficult for Deepak as he hadn’t had a proper education so far and would be well behind academically in a class full of fifteen-year-olds.
Fraser called a meeting in his office for five o’clock that evening between Deepak, Drew, Archie and someone from HR to discuss the contract.
‘Right, good afternoon everyone, thanks for coming. You all know why we are here and I am delighted to say that we at Hearts would love to offer Deepak a full time contract at the club.’ Fraser opened.
Deepak’s face lit up and he punched the air with glee. ‘That is wonderful, Mr Ingram sir. I am so grateful to you. When can I start?’
‘Hold your horses, Deepak.’ Drew interrupted. ’There’s lots of talking to be done first. ‘We have to make sure it’s a good deal for you and you have to think long and hard about the consequences of signing.’
‘So, what’s on the table Fraser?’ Archie asked, trying to calm things down.
The representative explained all the relevant points in the contract offer including salary, bonuses, education, accommodation and so on as the others listened intently, making notes as they went along. Basically, the salary on offer was peanuts because of his age, although those peanuts were the equivalent of a year’s wages back in India.
They went through every aspect of the deal and at the end of the meeting a few things had been changed and some of the numbers increased. Drew, Archie and Deepak needed to go back to the hotel to discuss it and see what the right course of action would be, promising to get back to them first thing in the morning.
They all shook hands and headed off in their own directions, Deepak skipping down the path to the car park where Archie’s car was parked.
Nothing was said until they reached the hotel bar where Archie ordered tea and sandwiches for them. It was going to be a long session he thought, although as it turned out, not as long as he expected.
‘Where does he sign, Archie?’ Drew said before the refreshments had even arrived.
‘Wait a minute Drew, you were the one back there saying not to be so hasty. Why the change of mind? What’s the panic? We’ve got some negotiating to do first.’ Archie told him rather testily.
‘I know, but this is a one shot deal for Deepak. I can’t stand in his way and I know you’ll make sure he’s looked after. There’s no down side apart from the fact that his family is going to miss him terribly. If he can put up with that, then I’m happy for him to sign. It’s not as if he’s going to get a better offer at his age. I’ve seen loads of talented fifteen-year-olds in my lifetime that have great potential, but never make it. Even if he only gets a few years out of this, it will still set him up for life.’
Archie understood what Drew was saying and told him so. They still had to go through the process and make sure everything was right with the offer, whether he wanted to or not. It was Archie’s job to do this properly for everyone concerned, not just Deepak.
‘Right, let’s go through the training report, starting with his physical abilities. First thing they noticed was that he was a bit overweight for his age. Carrying a bit of a spare tyre with him which isn’t good. What do you feed him on? Chips and curry sauce?’ Archie asked.
‘Well, he eats healthily at home; mainly curried vegetables and rice. No alcohol, obviously, just water. I admit to taking him out for a haggis supper the other night which he enjoyed. Maybe he needs to sit down with the club’s dietician before he does become addicted to chips and battered haggis.’
Together, the two of them waded through the report and agreed it looked pretty good overall. Now, down to the money side of the deal. They called Deepak over to join them. He had been wandering around the hotel admiring the décor and casually chatting to other guests and the desk staff.
‘Deepak, do you realise what is on offer here? Is there anything that you don’t understand? If so, let me know now.’ Archie told him.
Deepak looked at the contract as Drew explained that his reading wasn’t so good and they would need to read it out for him. Once they had done that and answered the couple of questions that Deepak asked, Archie thought they were almost there. He had asked him how he would feel being thousands of miles away from his family while he plays for Hearts, and disappointingly for Drew he said he wouldn’t mind at all.
With everything all agreed, Archie called Fraser and told him they were ready to sign first thing tomorrow and arranged to meet in his office at nine.
‘Well Deepak, this is it. You’re on your own now. Make me proud.’ Drew told him. ‘The club will look after you and deal with any problems you might encounter. Archie here will become your agent and best friend so don’t give him any trouble.’ Drew tried to smile.
Deepak was beyond excited. It had always been his dream to play professional football, now he was going to get his chance. He knew it would be hard work, lots of training, putting up with the rubbish weather and eating the right foods, but it would be worth it. He wanted so much to emulate his dear grandad and make him proud. No way would he let them down.