Dunfermline Colts’ season continued to be very successful and going into the last game of the season, they were already assured of winning the league as they had won every game except for a 1-1 draw with Aberdour who were lying in second place, some four points behind.
The final game of the season was upon them and it was a home game against Rosyth who were well known for being more physical than skilful, their coach instilling in the players that it was better to stop teams than to try and outscore them. It was a sunny Sunday morning in April and there were more parents than usual to watch them play, then collect their medals after the game in a presentation laid on by the league. There was to be a celebratory party afterwards for all the boys while the parents all mingled together and extolled the virtues of their own sons and toasting their success with cheap wine, beer and sandwiches.
Martine and Sam had come along to watch this one having not attended many of Bradley’s games during the season. This again gave Bradley the incentive to put on a good show to impress his Mum and brother. Dad, however, had not missed a game, home or away, all season. Watching your son perform in all weathers was not for the faint hearted. Brian remembered when he played how his father would always go and watch him play and how much he valued Dad’s support. He was determined to do the same for his son.
As expected, the game had a physical edge to it with Rosyth determined to kick their opponents up in the air at every opportunity, especially Bradley who they were targeting relentlessly. Fortunately, Bradley was too good for them and managed to avoid most of the high tackles that were going in, much to the delight of the Colts’ supporters but not so much by Rosyth’s followers who were jeering every time Bradley got the ball. It didn’t seem to bother him as much as his family and once or twice Brian noticed that Martine wasn’t entirely comfortable with the abuse her son was getting.
It was after another late tackle that the referee decided he would not tolerate Rosyth’s dirty play and send off one of the main protagonists, which led to much abuse from Rosyth’s management and fans. Two minutes later, another Rosyth player was given a red card for head-butting one of the Colts players then all Hell broke loose with Rosyth parents running on to the pitch to remonstrate with the officials using some industrial language. At one point, the referee was threatening to abandon the game and award the points to the Colts, but things settled down and the final score was 4-0 to the champions, with Bradley scoring two.
Traditionally, players and supporters of their opponents were invited to share sandwiches and tea with the home team, but on this occasion the hand of hospitality wasn’t extended to Rosyth’s travelling support and they left straight after the game. At least the referee joined them and apologised for letting the game get out of hand. He was all for sending off at least three more Rosyth players, but feared for his safety if he had done that.
The events of the game had obviously left Martine shaken and she was in no mood for a party. She made her excuses and left with Sam to return home, leaving Brian to chat with other parents, discuss the highlights of the season and generally try to forget about that day’s opponents and their thuggish parents. They had some celebrating to do and when Bradley was named Man of the Match, Player of the Season and Players’ Player of the Season, then there were many reasons to celebrate.
Their final record for the season was: Played 18, Won 17, Drew 1, Lost 0, Goals for 124, Goals against 9, which was a tremendous achievement. The fact that Bradley scored 48 of those goals was even better. They had also won the League Cup quite easily as well so the final haul of medals for Bradley was huge and he proudly wore them all the way home and in the house for days on end. Martine was proud of her son’s achievements, but wasn’t entirely happy with the atmosphere at some of his games. She wouldn’t let on to Bradley though.
That night, Bradley spent over an hour on the phone to his Grandad giving him a blow by blow account of the match, including all the abuse he was getting from Rosyth’s parents. Grandad told him that they were booing him because he was so good and they were jealous that you weren’t playing for them. This lifted Bradley’s spirits no end and he made a point of telling his Mum what he had said in an effort to cheer her up.
He went to bed that night absolutely buzzing with excitement and pride. He was good at something he loved and couldn’t wait to get older and play professional. He knew he shouldn’t be wishing his life away, but he was impatient for more success and glory.
His parents were more pragmatic; they knew that so many boys show a lot of promise at that age but fizzle out as they go through their teens and probably only one in a thousand will make it to the top. That was long odds, but they were at least pleased he wasn’t doing too badly at school, just in case.
At least now the season was over they could go on holiday. Each year, they all travelled as a family to Florida which they had been doing for the last five years. It had become a kind of tradition and a good chance for all the grandparents to spend some quality time with the boys. Brian’s sister’s family always tried to make it, although they weren’t so well off which meant they wouldn’t be able to make it this year. That made Brian feel guilty at times and although he had offered to help, his sister wasn’t having any of it.
Now Sam and Bradley had something other than football to look forward to and eagerly started to pack their cases. They were due to fly to Orlando the following week and Brian was doing all the last minutes checks to make sure the holiday went smoothly. Martine was the Disney nut and it never failed to amuse Brian how excited she got as her annual pilgrimage to the House of Mouse drew nearer. She always cried when they were leaving Disney World on the final day. If anyone had brainwashed the boys, then it was her as they got equally grumpy when they had to go home.
As for Brian, he enjoyed visiting Florida and although he wasn’t as mad on Disney as his wife and kids, he was happy to make them happy. One year, they had even gone twice in an effort to make them bored with going there, but it backfired miserably with the boys and Martine expecting to go twice a year, every year. It wasn’t a cheap holiday what with expensive flights and park tickets, so it was accepted that once would be enough. Brian also liked to get away later in the year for a more relaxing break like Greece or Spain; somewhere he could recharge his batteries and get a last taste of sunshine and warmth before the Scottish winter set in.
Their Globespan flight to Orlando’s second airport, Sanford, was the worst part of the journey. Stuck in a cramped Boeing 757 for nearly ten hours wasn’t his idea of fun but the one hour’s drive from Sanford to Disney World was the best bit for him. He loved driving on the roads in the States in those big gas-guzzling Pontiacs and Chevrolets, and used every excuse while they were there just to drive it. ‘Just popping down to Wal-Mart, anybody want to come with me?’ was a regular excuse, plus he insisted on driving to the various parks each day rather than using the very efficient Disney resort buses, much to his wife’s chagrin.
This time, they had been offered a Nissan when they got to the Alamo car rental desk. Brian was not amused; he hadn’t flown 4,500 miles just to drive a car he could get at home. No, he insisted, I want an American car, please. His protests drew some tutting from his family who just wanted to get to their hotel, but it paid off as Brian waved the keys to a new Chevrolet Impala with a huge smile on his face. They located the car, loaded their baggage into the spacious boot, and hit the road.
It was a drive they had done many times before so they arrived at Disney World within the hour and didn’t get lost. Martine and the boys were getting more excited with every mile that past and when they drove through the big archway welcoming them to Walt Disney World the screams of delight could be heard for miles. The grandparents would be arriving the next day on the flight from Gatwick and they would be hiring their own car which disappointed Brian as he would have happily picked them up at the airport.
The holiday was another great success; the weather was a perfect 84-88f for the whole fortnight and everybody had a wonderful time on the rides, eating American food and swimming in their pool at the end of the day to cool off. They had a routine that they would normally stick to each day; breakfast at Cracker Barrel or one of those breakfast buffet places along Route 192 where the food has been hanging about for days but you could get ice cream and cakes to go with the egg and sausage which made the boys deliriously happy. Then they would head off to the parks and take it in turns to pick somewhere for lunch, although it was always Casey’s Corner’s hot dog place when in the Magic Kingdom, Mexican Pavilion for nachos in EPCOT and a turkey leg the size of an ostrich in Disney Studios. After a full day of entertainment, it would be back to 192 to hit one of the dozens of family restaurants for dinner. Bob Evans, Chilis, Dennys or pizza were the favourites.
The only problem with all those calorie laden meals was that they averaged an extra two stones in weight between them by the time they had got home.
Bradley’s training regime would be a struggle when they were back.