Archie Burns was waiting in the car park at Riccarton by 9:50 and talking to one of his players about a possible move to Rangers. He promised he would call him later to talk about it as Brian and Bradley pulled into the space next to Archie’s.
It was the first time they had met, but Archie recognised Bradley straight away.
‘Morning Bradley, good to meet you. Getting excited? You should be!’ Archie opened. ‘And you must be Brian. Delighted to meet you too. Now, I know us agents haven’t got a great reputation, but I can assure you that’s only because the clubs I deal with end up paying me good money to look after their assets, and nobody wants to pay me huge chunks of a transfer deal when it has already cost the club a great deal of money.’ He explained.
With the introductions over, they made their way to Rory MacMillan’s office making small talk on the way. Rory was ready for them and had ordered teas and biscuits. Healthy ones, of course. He greeted Archie like a long lost friend and exchanged banter for a couple of minutes before they all sat down to discuss the offers on the table.
‘Right, well can I start by saying to Bradley how much we have enjoyed his presence in the team? It was no coincidence that with him we have had a very successful couple of seasons. We all know that he is destined for bigger successes than he can achieve here so the reason for this meeting is to see where he can achieve those successes. Are you okay with that Bradley?’ Rory MacMillan explained.
‘Yes, boss. I’ll be sorry to leave here though, I’ve really had a great time and thanks to you, I’ve become a much better player.’ Bradley replied.
‘Pleasure working with you, now, let’s get down to business. There has been a total of twelve clubs expressing an interest in buying you. Only five of those have placed a firm bid of £25million, which as you know, is your Minimum Fee Release Clause. That’s a trigger for Hearts to accept those offers, which the club has done. The five clubs are spread across Europe, and are namely Tottenham, Arsenal, Atletico Madrid, Schalke and Marseille. Before I go through the individual merits of each club Bradley, are there any of those names that you wouldn’t want to play for?’ Rory asked.
In a way, Bradley was disappointed that Real Madrid and Barcelona, arguably the two biggest names in the game, hadn’t put in a firm offer. It transpired that both clubs had a transfer embargo and frustratingly for them, were prohibited from being involved.
‘Well, I can speak a bit of French and Spanish, so Atletico and Marseille would work. The weather’s nicer there too.’ He laughed. ‘I wouldn’t consider Schalke to be a big club and I would prefer Arsenal over Tottenham if I was to be honest.’ Bradley explained.
Rory nodded sagely. ‘That’s a good start. Now, let’s look at the options. Atletico, Arsenal and Marseille have excellent youth facilities and a good reputation for playing youngsters who have come through the ranks. So let’s take Schalke and Tottenham out of the equation. Out of the other three, I would probably recommend looking seriously at the Arsenal offer for a number of reasons. Personally, I don’t think you are ready for a move to a big European club, not yet anyway. Secondly, Arsenal are familiar territory; they play a similar game to you and the manager has also got an excellent reputation working with young players. You would learn a lot from him. Thirdly, they speak English and this will be an enormous advantage for you, believe me. This doesn’t mean you have to accept their offer, you have to speak to all of the five clubs and hear what they have to say first before deciding. That’s the rules. The good news is that Archie will talk to them on your behalf and report back to you with his recommendations. Happy with that, Bradley?’
‘Very happy, boss.’ Bradley replied.
’Okay then. The next steps will be that Archie arranges a meeting with the five clubs to discuss terms and he will let you know how he gets on. Rory added.
It was time for Archie to speak. ‘Bradley, I know this is a big, big decision for you to make. One which will affect you for the rest of your playing career, so it has to be right. If there are any doubts in your mind about any of the clubs on the table, then you have to tell me now before it’s too late. Do you understand?’
‘Yes, Archie. I fully understand. I’ll go with what you and coach think is best.’ Bradley replied,
‘Good! Let’s get cracking then. I’ve got some calls to make.’ Laughed Archie as they shook hands and left Rory’s office.
Bradley’s head was spinning. He imagined himself playing at the Emirates in front of 60,000 supporters every week against teams like Manchester United and Chelsea. Imagined scoring the winning goal for them week after week. Enjoying the adulation that would be coming his way. Although, he did still fancy playing in Spain one day.
As he had been playing in the Euros, Bradley was excused training for another week but that didn’t stop him getting into his training gear and joining his team mates for a kick about. They had heard the news about his impending move away and after his performances for Scotland in France, they weren’t in the least bit surprised. The kick about was abandoned as they all gathered around Bradley and asked what it was like playing in such a big tournament, hoping secretly that one day they would get their chance to do it as well. Eventually, Rory took over the training session and had to ask Bradley to go home and rest for a couple more days. He had a lot to think about and he wanted him in peak condition for when he did move on.
The minute Archie got back to his office, he phoned the young player he was talking to before Bradley arrived about a possible transfer to Rangers. Once he had dealt with that, he went through his list of contacts at the five clubs and armed with the written offers from each club, he set about calling them to see what they were offering.
The whole process took more than three days once he had spoken to all five. Decision makers were away on holiday, in meetings or as was the case with Schalke, unwilling to talk to an agent. This was normal and it was usually at clubs where they couldn’t afford to pay high wages or fees.
At the end of the project, Archie was left with three satisfactory offers, one offer which was nowhere near what they wanted and Schalke who asked him to pass on their generous offer but insisted it didn’t go through an agent. Arsenal were looking favourites at this point, so he thought it was time to speak to the Gardner family.
‘Brian? It’s Archie. Just to let you know I’ve spoken to all five clubs and I am ready to report back my findings and recommendations to you and Bradley. Would it be okay if I came round later to see you both?’ Archie enquired.
‘Hi Archie, yes of course. I finish work about five and can be home by six so any time after then.’ Brian replied.
‘Great. I’ll be there about sevenish. See you later.’
Brian was almost as excited as his son as he weighed up the possibilities. He also contemplated moving the family back to Essex if Bradley decided on joining Arsenal or Tottenham. He couldn’t bear the thought of not being able to watch him play week in week out as he had done for many years. There was a possibility of a transfer at work which would relocate his job to London and this would suit him well. He was sure that Martine would be keen to move back as well, especially after her dalliances with other men. If she wasn’t in the area, then it would be less likely for her behaviour to become common knowledge. He wasn’t even sure that she wasn’t still carrying on with another bloke. She had seemed a bit distracted again and he generally knew what that meant. No, another fresh start would be just right.
Archie arrived just after seven and brought a bottle of Champagne with him. Although Bradley was now of age, he wouldn’t be joining in the celebrations with anything stronger than Ginger Beer.
‘Good evening Brian. How are you? Good to see you again.’ Enthused Archie.
He was ushered in and told to make himself comfortable in the conservatory where they and Bradley could listen to what Archie had to say. Brian liked Archie from the start. He was up front and seemed like a good negotiator. He wondered what sort of deals he had been offered.
Archie went through each offer in turn, explaining the merits or detractions from each offer without prejudice. He wanted Bradley to decide which one was best for him rather than which deal would make Archie the most commission. After three hours of intense discussion, it looked like they had come to a decision. Although Atletico Madrid and Tottenham were offering the best basic salary, Arsenal was going to be the move that made most sense and would be better for Bradley in the longer term. All the offers were good; the lowest was £60,000 per week and the largest was Marseille at £100,000 per week. Arsenal’s offer was somewhere in between but had better add-ons like goal bonuses. They also offered Hearts 10% of any profit made by Arsenal should Bradley be sold on at a later date. That would obviously be the offer that Hearts wanted him to accept as well.
Brian took two glasses from the cupboard and popped the Champagne. Archie declined the glass as he was driving and he was strict about that sort of thing. Plenty of time to celebrate when he didn’t have to get behind a wheel. He had taken that view since one of his players had been killed by a drink driver some time ago. He did take up the offer of a glass of Ginger Beer with Bradley though, and the three of them raised their glasses to toast his future with Arsenal. Archie would speak to Arsenal to arrange a meeting with Bradley and deal with Hearts’ side of the deal.
The deal took a couple of days to go through but once everything had been agreed, Bradley got the call from Luigi Cantonelli the Arsenal manager, asking him if he could fly to London to sign the contract and meet him and the players. The club had a private jet which would fly up to Edinburgh airport with Sr Cantonelli on board so they could travel back together and talk. It would be there at 4pm this afternoon, he was told. That didn’t give Bradley much time to get packed so he rushed around chucking some overnight things in a bag ready for the taxi that had been ordered by the club to take him to Edinburgh airport.
Sr Cantonelli had told him that he would be unveiled live on TV the following morning as they viewed him as a major signing for the new season. Although Bradley had already done a number of interviews, this would be the first major one he had done on live TV so he got butterflies at the prospect of it. Sr Cantonelli sounded very friendly and welcoming on the phone and he was looking forward to meeting him on the plane soon.
They did indeed get on well; once on the plane Sr Cantonelli enthused about the role Bradley would play at Arsenal. They had been looking for a young playmaker for a while and had been keeping watch on him for the last season or so. Once they saw his performances in the Euros, his mind was made up. He had to have Bradley at the Emirates.
When they arrived at London City Airport a car was waiting to whisk them to the Emirates stadium so Bradley could have a look and get the feel of the place. He had been to London many times and was always fascinated at how everybody lived on top of each other, all squeezed into tiny flats and houses, not like Dunfermline. He watched out of the window whilst talking to Sr Cantonelli at the same time. They had arranged for him to live at a nice two bedroomed apartment on the site of the old Highbury Stadium some two minutes’ walk from the Emirates. They would show him around later and help him move his stuff down from Scotland.
He was impressed at how everything had been taken care of so he didn’t have to worry about a thing. This was standard practise when the club bought a new player, especially one from overseas which Bradley wasn’t technically, although to him, Scotland was a different country.
Bradley loved the stadium tour and meeting some of the players. They came from all over and he got a good feeling after talking to some of them. These were players he had only seen on TV and he had marvelled at their skills in the past. To think he would be playing alongside some of his heroes was beyond amazing.
Once he had seen his new apartment, Sr Cantonelli suggested to Bradley that he got an early night ready for the press conference and signing in the morning, then he should return to Dunfermline to collect his things and move into his new apartment, ready to commence pre-season training with the rest of the first team squad. They had a tour lined up in Italy and he would be expected to partake in this.
The live signing and interview on TV went well with Sr Cantonelli waxing lyrical about the club’s delight in signing the hottest young player they had seen for many years and telling the assembled press that he expected great things from the team this season now he had secured Bradley’s signature.
Once the formalities were over, Bradley was taken back to London City airport for his flight back to Edinburgh on the club’s jet. He was loving the treatment and was excited to get home and tell his family all about it.