How to Score (On and Off the Pitch)

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Chapter 66

Jessie expected Bradley to be buzzing when he finally returned home to Mijas, but she was disappointed to see that he had become withdrawn and unhappy. It couldn’t have been just Jimmy’s passing that was bothering him, but she resolved to give him time. He would open up to her when he was good and ready.

Bradley too, didn’t know why he was so down. It was like the last few weeks had drained him emotionally and despite winning the World Cup, other things had taken over and taken the edge off their success. He was delighted to see Jessie again after all that time apart and held her close outside the VIP area of Malaga airport where she and Carlos had gone to pick him up.

When they got back to his villa, he was pleased to be home and the first thing he set about doing was making a cup of proper tea and taking it out to the terrace to join his mum, who was already there.

Eventually, once he had unwound from his journey, Bradley opened up to Jessie. He had realised why he wasn’t as happy as he should be.

‘When I was a little boy, I had a dream to win the World Cup. It was the highest honour in the world to captain that winning team. I aspired to achieve that. Now, I’ve done it. There’s no way of exceeding that and achieving higher success. I got the Player of the Tournament, the Golden Boot for highest goal scorer, FIFA Player of the Year again and now this.’ He explained as he tossed his winner’s medal over to Jessie. ‘What else can I do now? I’ve reached the top and now I have to stay there. The only way I can go now is down, and I don’t like that thought.’

‘But you did it, Bradley. You got there when most kids give up their dream. You’ve made a generation of children realise that they can do it too. Not to mention making Scotland proud to have you as their son. And what about the schools you’re setting up in India? Couldn’t that be a dream to aspire to? You won’t be playing football for ever.’ Jessie told him.

Bradley thought about it for a moment and realised that she was right. It wasn’t just about him and how he felt; it was what he was doing off the pitch that mattered, like the schools in India, finding players like Deepak and giving them a better standard of living, influencing the children of Scotland to eat better and look after themselves, giving them a target and making a lot of people proud. People who would have never expected this day to come. It had given them belief that they could achieve better things. The light had come on. He had things to do that weren’t related to him kicking a ball around.

It was time for him to enjoy his success and share it with those around him.

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