How to Score (On and Off the Pitch)

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Chapter 67

Chapter 67

Jimmy Anderson’s funeral was a well attended affair with hundreds standing outside St. Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh paying their last respects to the man who dared to believe in his dream and shaped a team that did the impossible.

Bradley read the eulogy to Jimmy’s closest friends and family along with the Scotland squad.

In contrast, Kevin McNair’s funeral the following week attracted less than a dozen mourners. He wasn’t popular, but you would have thought his former team mates, including Bradley would have attended. Archie was there, though. Just out of respect because he knew the real McNair. He was still a shit, but nobody understood him like Archie, who carried on managing Bradley’s affairs and his business empire. He also moved to Mijas to make it more convenient.

Hamish Aitken was arrested at Edinburgh airport on suspicion of murdering Kevin McNair. The Met Police had received a tip-off from someone with an eastern European accent telling them that Aitken had followed McNair out to the toilets and murdered him before the anonymous tipster had a chance to pull him away. Aitken swore his innocence, but it wasn’t enough to save him from a life sentence.

Ludo and Marek never got to Prague. Instead, they stayed in London and used the money Aitken had given them to set up a shop selling eastern European foods in Hackney, east London.

The following year was a busy one for weddings. Bradley’s brother Sam married his Kate before they emigrated to Canada where he had been offered a job teaching English in Toronto. Martine and Carlos finally tied the knot later that year and settled down in Carlos’ apartment in Mijas.

Brian and Lucy took that cruise they had promised themselves. It was a fourteen night Caribbean explorer that left Southampton two weeks after the last ball of the World Cup had been kicked. When they docked in Bridgetown Barbados, Brian had a surprise for Lucy. Upon disembarking the ship, Lucy noticed what looked like a wedding taking place. The vicar was there and she thought she recognised the man standing at the front. It looked like Bradley. Then it clicked as Brian led her up the makeshift aisle to the altar.

Luckily, she didn’t say no and was delighted to become the latest Mrs. Gardner. Bradley and Jessie had flown over for the weekend to be best man and bridesmaid.

Scotland went on to win the 2024 Euros, but lost in the semi-final of the 2026 World Cup which was a huge disappointment to Bradley and furthered his worries that the only way now was down.

He stayed with Barcelona for another four seasons before being forced to retire after a bad leg break sustained in a La Liga game against Valencia. The perpetrator of the vicious tackle was none other than Argentina’s Mendoza who Bradley had fallen out with during the 2022 World Cup Final. Mendoza had now enjoyed his revenge for that day, but didn’t last too long with Valencia who were forced to sell him back to an Argentinian team after he received hundreds of death threats from irate Barcelona fans.

Before he retired, Barcelona won every title and cup on offer.

This meant that he could concentrate on those important things that Jessie reminded him of when he returned from that World Cup. He had now funded six schools in and around Jaipur with the help of Deepak’s grandad Drew Robertson, who was overseeing the construction work. This meant he needed to fly to Scotland and Spain occasionally which gave him the perfect opportunity to visit his other grandchildren in Aberdeen.

By the time he retired from playing, Bradley had amassed a fortune of over £250 million which he was putting to good use.

Some of it was spent on a lavish wedding for him and his Jessie back in Essex so all her family could attend. It was a glorious day in August and the sun shone brightly on the huge marquee that had been erected for the wedding. All in all, there were over two hundred guests; mainly family, but a great number of friends and players who Bradley considered to be close, genuine friends.

As much as Bradley thought he should have had his brother or his dad as best man, he decided on Archie who had been there for him always, unlike his dysfunctional parents. Brian didn’t have a problem with this, Archie’s best man speech was likely to be much better than his.

So, it had been a year of four weddings and two funerals.

Having accepted that his playing days were over, he could happily spend the rest of his life helping others, and enjoying married life with Jessie in Spain. They also bought a place in Florida so they could take their children (when they arrived) two or three times a year. They went on to have two boys and a girl. One of the boys showed a talent for football, but the other one was completely different. More studious and serious. You never get two the same.

It had been an adventure while it lasted; lots of great moments and some not so good. Particularly with his family who he had finally forgiven. He was glad everyone was moving on with their lives, including him.

As the late, great Jimmy Anderson had said, ten years ago, people would laugh at the thought of Scotland winning a trophy. He had helped Scotland laugh at those who mocked them all that time ago.

He lay on his favourite sun bed on the terrace of his villa and raised a glass to the Heavens.

‘Thanks Jimmy.’

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