How to Score (On and Off the Pitch)

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Chapter 57

It was 5 a.m. in Mijas by the time Scotland had finished beating Chile and everybody in the Gardner’s villa were having a great party. Deepak, Barry, Carlos and Archie were analysing the goals and moves whilst Jessie, Martine and Sharon were clearing up the mess of plates and glasses rather tipsily.

No doubt it was a late one for them, but well worth it as they looked out of the kitchen window and watched the sun come up over the hills to the sea which glimmered in dawn’s early light. All they wanted to do now was crash into bed, but the men had other ideas and were still discussing the best points of the game. It wasn’t until Archie called a halt to proceedings around thirty minutes later, that they all agreed it was time to get some sleep.

Martine and Carlos walked back into town as everyone else headed for their rooms where they wouldn’t surface again until lunchtime the next day when the men decided to replay the match on TV once more, much to the annoyance of the ladies in the room who promptly got themselves some breakfast and marched out on to the terrace to soak up some sun, washing away the excesses of the previous night.

The TV coverage of the tournament was almost 24/7 and Scotland’s performance drew the most attention. Chile weren’t that bad a team; they had qualified second behind Argentina and ahead of Brazil in the South American group, so they came to the game with a good reputation. The way Scotland had destroyed them was a shock. Chile admitted they had no way of reining in Bradley and his team the way they played. They could have beaten anybody on that form without breaking a sweat.

Deepak especially was loving every minute. Not only watching his hero play so well in the World Cup, but he was excited about being in Spain, playing in the Scottish Premier League and following in his grandfather’s footsteps, and being able to send some money home to his parents to improve their life. Archie had told him all about the schools that Bradley was going to fund in Jaipur which delighted Deepak. He thought it was very kind of him to do this and he knew his friends back home would be so grateful for being given a chance to better their lives.

Today, they were going to go down to the beach in Fuengirola for the day to see a typical Spanish seaside town. Deepak had never seen a beach before moving to Scotland as Jaipur is many miles inland, so this particularly interested him. He wanted to see how the British people enjoyed themselves for two weeks a year, escaping to the sunshine of the Costas for cheap beer, cheap food and sunburn. He couldn’t understand why the British insisted on lying in the sun all day until they got burned, then walking around proudly the next day showing off a most unsightly red and stinging body.

And their capacity to drink large quantities of beer was something else he couldn’t get to grips with. Having never touched alcohol, and was unlikely to do so, he was baffled why they would want to drink so much of this stuff that they either fell asleep or got up to some stupid antics which would involve putting themselves in an otherwise dangerous situation like jumping off a rock into the sea. Strange people, he thought.

The food was nothing to get excited about along the beach. Carlos’ food was much better than the sausage, egg and chips that was available in almost every café in town. What was the point of going somewhere exotic if you were only going to eat the same food as they ate at home? Part of the fun of foreign travel was sampling the local cuisine and customs. That much he had found out when he first arrived in Edinburgh and enjoyed a battered haggis supper. So different to what he grew up with in India.

Still, that was their choice and he respected their views. It just wasn’t for him. He would stick with what Carlos was cooking up and after last night, he was looking forward to his adopted country’s next game against Cameroons.

After a couple of hours strolling along the Paseo Maritimo Rey de Espana, they headed a couple of blocks in to find somewhere decent to have lunch. Carlos knew someone who had a restaurant in Calle Asturias and they wouldn’t have to eat off the menu; his friend would give them some real local food.

Sometime later, they finished their lunch of fresh octopus, langoustines, squid and rice, and settled the bill. It had been a fantastic spread and hadn’t cost that much considering the amount of food they got through. The owner, Rafa, had joined them for lunch and he and Carlos spent most of the time reminiscing over old times and how much Fuengirola had changed over the last twenty years or so. They spoke Spanish so Deepak didn’t have a clue what they were saying, but he was aware that they found it funny as they would burst out laughing raucously every few minutes.

Walking off their superb lunch, they all staggered back to the beach to find a pavement café for coffees before heading back to Mijas. As they were walking along Calle Asturias, Archie heard a voice call his name.

‘Hey, Archie! What you doing here?’

‘Kevin. How nice to see you. I’m staying at Bradley’s for a couple of weeks for the World Cup. Did you see the game last night? Pretty good, eh?’

Archie should have realised that this was where Kevin McNair lived nowadays and when Carlos suggested Calle Asturias a bell should have gone off as that was where Brian got friendly with McNair the Christmas before last.

‘Yeah, great performance. Glad Bradley picked up some tips from me’ McNair laughed. ‘Come and have a drink in my local. It’ll be good to catch up.’

Archie was put on the spot. He wanted nothing to do with McNair; he was trouble and not a particularly nice person to socialise with, but how could he get out of it?

‘Just a quick one, then. Got things to do this afternoon’ Archie replied as they all followed McNair into the Bar Asturias where he introduced everyone to the barman and ordered drinks for everyone.

‘Got a result in yesterday’s games, Archie. Nice little treble which paid out €200. It pays to study the form’ he laughed.

They all sat in a quiet corner of the bar where Archie and McNair swapped banter and anecdotes while the others sat awkwardly sipping their drinks and making polite chit-chat. Everyone knew this McNair was bad news and they couldn’t wait to finish their drinks and get away from him.

Finally, after an hour, they managed to make their excuses and leave McNair to his drinking session alone. On the way back to the car Archie apologised profusely for getting them involved, but at least they now knew what he was like and how he managed to charm his way into Bradley’s dad’s affections that time. Carlos also apologised for taking them to that street where there would be a decent chance of bumping into McNair, even though he didn’t know him personally.

It was all forgotten by the time they got back to Mijas, even the bit where McNair had tried inviting himself back to Bradley’s to watch the Cameroon game with them and have a real party. The look of horror on everyone’s’ faces told him that this wouldn’t be happening any time soon.

McNair pulled himself back on to his favourite bar stool and called the barman over.

‘See that Indian boy in here earlier? He’s going to be bigger than Bradley Gardner, you mark my words.’ McNair slurred drunkenly. ‘Got real talent, see. Give him a couple of years and he’ll be signing for Barcelona after they sell Gardner on. Wait and see.’

Another beer later and McNair had passed out on the counter, as he was prone to do most days. The barman cleared up the mess around him and left him to sleep it off, as usual. He noticed a small wad of notes in McNair’s shirt pocket and couldn’t resist lifting a €50 note carefully while he was asleep. It was a decent tip and one which he was worth with all the crap he had to put up with from him. He wouldn’t notice it; he never did. When he woke up and looked at his money he would just stare at it and tell himself he had spent it all on cheap booze that wasn’t as cheap as he thought.

There’s one born every minute, as they say in Britain.

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