Bradley met up with his Dad and brother at their latest hotel near Lyon where their match against Spain was played and where the Scotland team were staying. They both hugged Bradley and told him how proud they were of Scotland’s performance, especially his. He phoned his Mum who was in tears, and told her they would be home soon. This was good and bad news for Martine, she had missed her sons badly and had been watching Bradley’s games on TV, not always alone though. She had taken the opportunity while Brian was away to hook up with Bradley’s old coach Stuart as she had missed his affection and sexual prowess.
Stuart had figured that he had nothing to lose now if it came out, and as him and his girlfriend had broken up recently, he too was in need of affection. He hated betraying Bradley and Brian for that matter, but he had his needs and luckily Martine had the same needs as him. Now the boys were coming home, their cosy evenings together would have to come to an end again.
Bradley went back to his room to get washed and changed into his Scotland suit and tie while Brian and Sam sat in the bar waiting for him, reminiscing over the events of the last couple of weeks and looking forward to a World Cup jolly in Russia in two years’ time.
One by one, the Scotland players entered the bar area to be greeted by cheers from the fans and frantically being grabbed by reporters and TV crews wanting to interview them about their amazing exploits. Bradley was one of the last to arrive and he received the biggest cheer of all. Even the hotel staff were congratulating him and asking for autographs as he fought his way through the crowd to sit with his Dad and brother for a bit.
The rest of the evening was spent mingling with other parents and wives, with Brian getting some stick for being English, all in good spirit though. They spent a long time talking to the Scotland captain about Bradley’s performances and how the whole team seemed to have benefitted from his positive mental attitude.
‘In my day, they would all be on their tenth beer by now.’ Laughed Dougie. ‘It’s amazing how none of the boys are interested in getting pissed after all they had done.’
‘I know. Bradley’s never even thought about drinking or doing anything to abuse his body, unlike a lot of his friends where we live. I’m glad he’s had a good influence on his team mates. Do you think he has any faults or anything he can do to keep improving?’ Brian asked.
‘Nothing. He needs to keep doing what he’s doing and working hard to improve, if that’s possible.’
‘Nice to know. What do you think his next step is team-wise? Should he stay at Hearts for another season?’ Brian enquired.
‘I think we all know the answer to that. I’ve played in the English Premier League for years and it’s the only league worth playing in at that age. If you are good enough, you are old enough and clubs are desperate for home grown talent. I think he will be moving on this summer, probably one of the big clubs in England. I’d love him to come to West Ham with me, but I don’t think we are going to be able to compete with the big clubs.’ Dougie replied honestly.
With that, Dougie excused himself as he was needed for an interview with BBC Scotland, shook Brian and Sam’s hands and wished Bradley luck with whatever his next step was. Brian decided it was time to speak to the manager to see if he could recommend an agent for Bradley. He spotted Jimmy Anderson across the bar laughing inanely with what Brian assumed was his family and a couple of the senior players. He made his way through the crowds to hover discreetly next to Jimmy.
‘It’s Brian Gardner, isn’t it? Can I get you a drink? Least I can do after your son’s display.’ Jimmy greeted him.
‘Nice to meet you at last Mr Anderson. I’d love a beer if that’s okay.’ Replied Brian.
‘It’s Jimmy. And yes, it is very much okay.’ Jimmy laughed. ‘Your son isn’t bad. Does he take after you?’
‘No chance. I played amateur when I was younger but I got an injury which put an end to any thoughts I had of making it big. He’s just a natural, I guess.’
‘Well, I’m glad he is. He’s made my job much easier. I notice from your accent that you probably aren’t from north of the border. Why didn’t you want him to play for England?’ Jimmy asked.
‘Wasn’t up to me. Bradley is born and raised Scottish. There wasn’t anything I could do to influence him. Just pointed out that he would probably have a better chance of excelling in a Scotland jersey rather than England’s. After this tournament I think he now knows I was right. England bottled it when it mattered, as usual. No passion or spirit, unlike Scotland.’
‘Well, I’m not concerned about England’s failure, not like most of my fellow Scots. I’m only concerned with what Scotland do and I think I’ve silenced the doubters once and for all. If Bradley is committed to achieving success in the dark blue, then that will suit me fine. I will do whatever I can to make it happen.’ Said Jimmy.
Brian and Jimmy got on well and after a couple more beers, Brian asked him about getting an agent.
‘I know a couple of good ones; not greedy like some of them, but will keep Bradley’s interests at the forefront of whatever they do. Give me your number and I’ll get them to give you a call.’
‘Thanks Jimmy, really appreciate that. I think after this all settles down there’s going to be a bit of activity when we get home. I’d like it if someone could deal with it who knew what they were doing.’ Said Brian.
Well, that was that settled then, Brian thought. He looked forward to speaking to the agents when they returned home. In the meantime, there was a party to enjoy.
Spain went on to win the tournament for the third time on the trot, beating a fancied Belgium 1-0 after extra time. By the time the competition had drawn to a close and France cleared up the mess left behind by the thousands of fans from all over Europe, Bradley and his family were on their way to Florida for a quick ten days recuperation and fun before the new season began. Brian had taken his phone with him as there were things to sort out regarding Bradley. He had spoken to one of the agents that Jimmy recommended and liked what he had to say. He promised they would meet up as soon as they returned from holiday for a proper meeting to discuss the numerous offers that Hearts had received after the Euros. He was also in regular contact with Rory MacMillan, the Hearts manager who was fielding a lot of calls about him.
There was no doubt someone was happy to meet the £25million release clause; there were apparently eight teams who had said they would pay it, so now it was time to sit down and see which club offered the best opportunity for Bradley.
With all this going on, Brian couldn’t relax on holiday. He was deflecting as much as he could from Bradley, he was still only a boy after all, but he would have a chat to him on the plane home and see what he wanted to do. He knew Bradley loved playing for Hearts and had made a lot of friends there, but he also knew Bradley was ambitious and needed to test himself regularly at the top level of the game. He could only do that playing for one of the big teams in England which narrowed the choice down a bit. It was the wrong time to go abroad, that would happen later on hopefully, but it would be too much of a culture shock at his age.