How to Score (On and Off the Pitch)

By Andrew Playle All Rights Reserved ©

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Chapter 23

During their drive down the A1, Bradley and his Dad listened to the Sports Radio station for news of any transfer activity, management changes and the like. This kept the conversation flowing for the eight hour drive south. Suddenly, there was breaking news on the radio.

‘We are just getting reports that the President of FIFA, Serge Billancort, has been arrested at FIFA headquarters in relation to an alleged bribery incident which has just come to light. It is thought that the World Cups in 2018 and 2022 in Russia and Qatar respectively, were won by illegal means. More on this later.’

The station went back to the studio to discuss this revelation as Brian and Bradley listened intently.

‘I knew those votes were rigged.’ Brian interjected. ‘That Billancort is as bent as a nine bob note. He’s been taking bungs from most of the FIFA members and now he’s been caught. Good job.’

‘I wonder if this means that those tournaments will be switched now. If I got picked, I wasn’t fancying playing in the heat of Qatar or in Russia for that matter.’ Bradley replied.

This top news kept them busy for the rest of the drive and made it fly past effortlessly. By the time they reached Highbury, the latest news was that the World Cups affected would be removed from the winning country and FIFA would assess which alternatives would be best. The Russian World Cup was only two years away so it would need to be relocated to a country that had the stadia and infrastructure already in place. Qatar were understandably indignant at the suggestion that they had acted illegally and they had gone to the considerable expense of building eight new stadiums.

One of Arsenal’s representatives met Brian and Bradley at his new apartment with the keys and paperwork. He showed them around the complex and left them to get settled in around an hour later. Bradley was given his number to call any time if there was a problem. As Player Liaison Officer it was his job to fix anything and cater for his needs. Nice touch, thought Bradley.

The apartment had been fully kitted out with large TV, plates and cutlery and bedding for the huge bed in the main bedroom, so to Bradley it was just like moving into a 5 star hotel. The club had even left him a club mobile phone already programmed with all the numbers he would need including the management team and players. He turned the phone on and immediately had over twenty messages from players and management welcoming him to the club and they looked forward to meeting him at training. Another nice touch.

The next morning, a taxi arrived to take Bradley to Arsenal’s training ground while Brian had arranged to meet a few friends for lunch while he was sorting out his transfer to the London office. It was a hot, sunny day so he had arranged to meet his friends down by the River Thames in one of the stylish bars on the South Bank.

All his friends wanted to do was talk to Brian about his son and how much they were looking forward to seeing him play in the English Premier League soon, especially the Arsenal supporters amongst them. Nobody wanted to hear about how they were all moving back to Essex and his internal move, such was the excitement of knowing the Dad of one of the most talented players around.

Bradley arrived at the training ground thirty minutes after leaving his apartment which he was missing already. He was met by Sr Cantonelli at the gates and welcomed him to the club properly. He showed him around the complex and eventually they came upon a training pitch where some of the players were warming up, and introduced them individually to Bradley. He knew most of the players already having watched them every week on the TV, so he shouldn’t have a problem remembering their names or their style of play.

He was keen to get started so he headed for the changing rooms to find his very own locker with his kit all ready for him. He had been handed the number 18 shirt for this season as number 10 had already been allocated to the captain, Gilles Renout who originally came from Marseille and was a French international who he had met briefly during the Euros. The squad were due to have their team photo taken later that day; they were only waiting for Bradley to arrive so that he could be included.

Changing quickly into his training kit, Bradley walked out of the changing rooms and onto the pitch full of internationals and superstars. To be a part of this was unreal. But he was sure going to enjoy it.

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