How to Score (On and Off the Pitch)

By Andrew Playle All Rights Reserved ©

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Chapter 62

Bistro Lucia was starting to pick up business-wise once again after the Polish versus German fracas the week before. There had been a number of other games played since then that had gone down well with the diners and the tills were still ringing. That Mediterranean cruise might have to be upgraded to a Caribbean cruise at this rate, though Brian as he and Lucy cashed up after another long day.

Brian was still unhappy deep down that he couldn’t be in Australia to see his son perform at the World Cup. He sensed that he was going to lift the trophy and would have given anything to be there to witness it; to share in his glory, but it wasn’t to be. He would have to watch it on the TV like everyone else. At least now England were out it would mean that he didn’t need to be torn between them and Scotland any more. He would be backing Scotland through to the final. It would mean less England supporters in the restaurant now they weren’t involved, and no self-respecting England fan was going to support their neighbours in the north. Brian wouldn’t have normally, but he was excused this time. Hopefully, he would be able to celebrate with Bradley when he returned.

For the Scotland versus Spain match, there was a decent mix of Scots and Spaniards in the restaurant and both sets of supporters were looking forward to a decent game. A place in the final against Argentina or Germany was awaiting the winner and with only three games left before the end, Brian was pleased that they could still get a full house in the restaurant which would be financially very welcome. Lucy was getting rather tired of it all though and was spending more and more time in the kitchen rather than enduring the raucous atmosphere in the front of house. Not long now and they could enjoy a break which she was looking forward to immensely. She had never worked so hard in all her life, even when she was dancing which was hard work in itself.

Lucy had never particularly enjoyed being an exotic dancer; she was quite shy and didn’t like the unwelcome attention shown to her by the dirty old men who would watch her on the stage whilst rubbing themselves off. It disgusted her, and she was glad Brian had taken her away from all that. For now, she was very happy with her life and from time to time wondered if Brian was ever going to pop the question. She would quickly say ‘yes’ as soon as he did.

‘Cerveza, por favor!’ McNair shouted to the barman once more as the clock ticked towards the seven o’clock kick off for the semi-final. The barman once again placed the beer on the bar in front of McNair along with his usual bacon sandwich with brown sauce, scarcely getting thanks from him.

He bit into the sandwich which would soak up some of the beer, his third of the morning already, and checked his betting slip on his phone once more. His bet had been placed with his High Street bookie online and he was confident of another win with Scotland triumphing 2-0 at odds of 5/1. He had placed another bet on this game which had better odds. Bradley to score both goals at 8/1. He had dreamed about this game and was sure it was a sign so he had placed €500 each on both of the bets. If they both came in, he would stand to win €9,000 which would do very nicely.

When half-time approached and Bradley had already put the Scots 1-0 up, he was feeling very pleased with himself. The scene was set for a very lucrative day, especially if his side bet on the other semi-final came in. Then it would be the big one where he scooped the biggest win of his life, as long as that dodgy bookie in Edinburgh kept to his side of the deal, which he doubted. In many ways, he wasn’t looking forward to collecting those winnings, fearing he would be in for a repeat of the treatment Ferraro dished out to him. He would have to go mob-handed if necessary.

After another couple of beers, he was ready to celebrate with Scotland winning 2-0 and only seconds remaining. Bradley Gardner had indeed scored both goals and McNair’s mind was racing with ideas of what to do with the €9,000. Then, much to his horror, Scotland were awarded a late penalty which Bradley was getting ready to take. Replays showed that the referee had got the decision wrong which incensed McNair.

‘Miss it, you manky little bastard!’ McNair muttered to himself as he broke out in a sweat. Of course, Bradley had no intention of missing the penalty and fired it into the top corner just before the final whistle blew with the game finishing 3-0 to Scotland. McNair was incensed. That little shit had just cost me €9,000, he thought as his faced reddened and his mood changed dramatically from delight to disgust. The fact that his other bet had come in didn’t cheer him up as he had only won €200 on that game. He would have to make up for it in the final game.

‘Another fucking beer!’ He snarled at the barman who just smiled and wondered how his favourite customer could fail to be happy at his country beating Spain by such a margin. He was truly a strange person, this McNair.

Carlos couldn’t believe what he was seeing. His beloved Spain had played well and didn’t deserve such a beating, especially as the penalty shouldn’t have been allowed in the first place. Not to mention Bradley’s goals which were offside, which everyone except the referee could see. It put him in a mood similar to McNair’s, but for different reasons. Martine had never seen Carlos in such a mood; he was always so easy going and happy, but this result had shown her a different side to him, especially when he decried her son’s performance. It had clearly upset her so Sharon had taken her and Jessie outside to the terrace where they could escape Carlos’ bad mood and leave him to argue the toss with Archie and Deepak.

Archie too, was concerned at Carlos’ attitude. He had never seen this side of him and it had taken him by surprise. Eventually, things calmed down and Carlos apologised for his outburst, begging for forgiveness. Martine was a little reluctant to merely accept his apology and was quite frosty with him for the rest of the day. She was naturally happy that her son had helped Scotland to the final, but deeply disappointed in Carlos’ behaviour.

The mood prevailing in the Gardner household gradually improved as the day wore on with Carlos falling over himself to make amends for his behaviour and Martine making the most of it, while Jessie’s parents prepared to head home to Essex as they had a family wedding to attend the following weekend which meant it would just be Archie, Jessie and Deepak left with her and Carlos. Hopefully, things wouldn’t get quite so heated when Scotland met Argentina in the final at the weekend.

Lucy was thinking exactly the same thing. Only one game left now and as long as Scotland won it, there shouldn’t be any trouble in her restaurant and they could get back to normal opening hours and a more placid bunch of customers. She had told Brian loads of times how unhappy she was with how things had gone, despite the money they had banked, and wasn’t going to be happy repeating the experience again.

Just to make sure there wouldn’t be any trouble for the final, they had refused to take bookings from Argentinians or Scots that they didn’t know. It was to be regular customers only and that was that. The rest could go and watch the game on the big screens that had been erected in Broadgate, Trafalgar Square and Canary Wharf. There were a few days of normality before the final which would give Lucy some relief.

McNair finished his umpteenth beer of the morning and decided to go for a walk along the promenade to clear his head. He wasn’t happy at all and cursed the referee for giving such a soft penalty, Bradley for scoring it, and the Scotland team as a whole for screwing up his winning bet, whilst kicking an empty plastic bottle along in front of him. He would just have to make up for it in the final.

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