How to Score (On and Off the Pitch)

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Chapter 16

All the plans were in place for their last home game of the 2015-16 season. The party had been organised, the press and TV were there in abundance and all the tickets had been sold weeks ago. The team were either looking forward to their holidays or playing in the Euro 2016 finals, especially Bradley. In total, there were six Hearts players going to France this summer; the two eastern Europeans they had bought earlier in the season played for Slovenia and Croatia, and there were four Scots. They were all told to report to their countries’ training camps a week after the cup final so nobody wanted to pick up an injury before then.

This meant that the Hearts team played a cagey last game at home to Kilmarnock, but they still won 4-0 with a brace from Bradley making him top scorer for the season. Another award for his ever-growing trophy room at home. He hoped to add a major one this summer if all went well. Scotland had a relatively young team and whilst the press were expecting a good performance from the boys in blue, they agreed it was probably a tournament too soon for any great success. They had potential though; masses of it. Bradley’s influence on Scotland’s younger players was proving successful in keeping them away from the booze and looking after their bodies. Clubs in Scotland were reporting an increase in talented young players who were committed to training and working hard to achieve success. Now they’d seen Bradley do it, it gave them hope that they could emulate him.

When the final whistle went, the crowd went as wild as they did twelve months ago. To win the league two years on the trot was incredible and a lot of it was down to a seventeen year old. It was good that he hadn’t got carried away with his success and kept his feet on the ground, thanks to his manager and his parents.

As the team eventually left the pitch, Bradley spotted a face that he hadn’t seen for a while. It was Kevin McNair, his old nemesis who was now retired and trying to do some promotional work in football. He was only 32 when he had to hang up his boots and he now carried a bit of resentment and bitterness around with him. He was doing his UEFA badges and hoped to get a job in football on the coaching staff eventually, but he was finding out that he wasn’t the most popular ex-player out there. He did come up to Bradley and congratulate him through clenched teeth though. Bradley noticed that most of the team didn’t want to know him. He had read a few interviews with McNair in the football press and some of them weren’t very complimentary towards his former team mates, Bradley included.

He wasn’t going to let McNair spoil his day anyway. His career was over; Bradley’s was still on the rise.

Bradley and his Dad spent the evening celebrating his league winner’s medal and looking forward to the upcoming Euros which would start in a month’s time. As Bradley needed to report for international duty on the 1st of June for a series of warm up friendlies, this meant that he wouldn’t be able to get a holiday in as he only had thirteen days until he had to report. They decided to rent a cabin up in the Highlands and spend a week up there just relaxing and unwinding after the hectic season. At least he didn’t have a cup final to play; that would have given him no time at all to rest.

As it turned out, a week in the Highlands was just the ticket. The weather had been unusually nice and Bradley felt much better afterwards. It was only a three hour drive rather than the usual ten hour flight to Florida which was a bonus.

He was working out in the local gym in between times and was in good shape by the time the 1st came around and Brian drove him to Glasgow to meet up with the rest of the squad. Brian had to travel to France on business next month and had deliberately arranged to be in the right city where Scotland would be playing their group games. He wouldn’t see Bradley again now until after the tournament or whenever Scotland got knocked out, and wished him every success; even against England, he laughed as he drove out of the car park.

The drive back to Dunfermline gave Brian some time to think about things. Whilst he was absolutely delighted for Bradley’s success, he realised that all the adulation and fame could have a bad effect on one so young. He was coping with it now, but it would only take one piece of bad news or a nasty press write up and his attitude could change. At the back of his mind, he hoped that Martine’s indiscretions wouldn’t come to light. He had no idea who she had been sleeping with, but it wouldn’t take a genius to work out who her son was and it would only take one of them to go to the press and there would be trouble.

He was also concerned about the amount of extra work he was doing lately. After having it out with Martine, he promised to cut down his travelling and spend more time with her, something he hadn’t really been able to fulfil as well as he wanted. With Bradley earning far more than he could ever hope to, there was less pressure on him to bring in as much money nowadays. Bradley had been very generous with his salary, offering to buy his parents a new house, new cars etc. but he didn’t want to have to rely on his handouts. He would speak with his boss and see if they could come to a compromise. However, it was Martine’s shenanigans that he was most worried about.

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