How to Score (On and Off the Pitch)

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Chapter 33

Bradley had returned from his impromptu trip to Glasgow for the World Cup draw and settled back into his training routine for the upcoming league games. This was a busy period for Arsenal as they were still in the two domestic cup competitions, the Premier League and Champions League so the games were coming thick and fast. Sr Cantonelli had decided to rest Bradley for some of the easier games and use him sparingly in the Champions League games as at his age, it would be easy to pick up a lengthy injury which is something nobody wanted. So, he found himself substituted after seventy minutes in some games, sixty in others, and the full ninety when needed. It was going to be a long season and there was a World Cup at the end of it which he didn’t want to miss.

By April, they were in the semi-finals of the Champions League and FA Cup, but had been knocked out of the League Cup by Manchester United which was actually a blessing in disguise as it meant fewer games to compete in. The Premier League title would be sewn up with a home win against Tottenham, their fiercest rivals, at the weekend. The whole of North London was talking about it with excitement. It was a foregone conclusion that Arsenal had the league trophy in the bag; in fact the bookies had stopped taking bets on them a few weeks earlier.

On the day of the big match, the streets surrounding the Emirates were thronging with supporters eager to celebrate another Championship win with the bonus that it would be won by beating their close neighbours. Brian had gone with one of his best clients, a huge Arsenal supporter who would no doubt be putting more work Brian’s way after this.

At half time, Arsenal were winning 2-0 and the home crowd were in good voice. Bradley had been having a great game, as usual, and created both goals. It sent a shiver up Brian’s spine whenever the fans started singing Bradley’s name, he couldn’t believe a son of his could be so worshipped.

When the final whistle went, Bradley had managed to score and the end result was 3-1 to Arsenal. Another title won, much to the delight of everyone at the club. Celebrations were kept to a minimum as they had an important Champions League semi-final second leg to play away to Bayern Munich on the Wednesday.

Brian took his client up the West End for dinner and celebratory drinks whilst Bradley returned to his apartment for a quiet night in watching more football. During his autograph signing session after the game, he had been kissed by a pretty young girl wearing an Arsenal shirt. Their eyes had met and there seemed to be a bit of a spark there. He had never had a serious girlfriend before, so he wasn’t sure what it was that made him still think of her hours after she had kissed him. He put it down to heat of the moment stuff and tried not to think too much about it as he settled down with a bottle of mineral water in front of the TV. No training tomorrow, so he thought he might go and see his dad in the Isle of Dogs. He had passed his driving test first time recently and had taken delivery of his first car, a shiny new Audi TTS Roadster which he had always liked. It wasn’t the usual Premier League footballers’ choice of car, he parked his next to his team mates’ Lamborghinis, Ferraris and Porsches which didn’t faze him one bit. He knew what he liked.

The drive to the Isle of Dogs on a Sunday morning took no time at all. It was a good opportunity to drive in London when the streets were relatively car free. He thought about letting his dad know he was on his way, but decided it might be a nice surprise to just turn up unannounced. It was a nice sunny spring morning so he had the top down as he drove through West Ham territory towards the old docks. He was enjoying driving around town, it was a novel experience for him and he wondered about driving up to Scotland when he had to report for the pre-tournament friendlies that would be coming up soon.

Bradley parked in the underground car park beneath his dad’s apartment and took the lift to the 15th floor. As he knew the security number, he could still surprise him when he arrived. He rang the doorbell and heard footsteps approaching the door. When the door was opened, it was Bradley and not his dad that was taken by surprise. She was the girl he had seen his dad with at a couple of games in the past. What was she doing at his apartment dressed in a silk dressing gown?

‘Er, hello. You must be Bradley.’ Lucy stuttered. ‘We didn’t know you were coming. Come in.’

‘Who is it?’ He heard his dad shout out to Lucy.

‘It’s your son, Brian. It’s nice of him to come and see you, isn’t it?’ She blushed as she closed the door behind him.

‘Bradley! What are you doing here? I didn’t know you were coming over. I suppose you are wondering who this is.’ He said, pointing at Lucy. ‘This is Lucy, she’s a good friend of mine. Been helping me through the divorce, problems at work, you know the kind of thing.’ Brian explained.

Bradley was speechless. This must have been going on for months, he thought as he removed his shoes and jacket. She seemed nice, bit young for him but very pretty with a nice figure. Not that Bradley noticed those kind of things on a woman until yesterday’s encounter with that fan.

‘Nice to meet you, Lucy. I’d like to say dad’s told me all about you, but I can’t unfortunately. This is a bit awkward then. Tell me more.’ He said as he sat in a chair.

Brian explained how he had met Lucy on the night he had left home and was staying at the Travelodge. She was a great listener and really did help him out emotionally. The rest had just kind of followed on naturally.

Bradley listened intently to their story and decided to accept the situation for what is was, as his psychologist had suggested. Brian had left out the bit about Lucy working as Becky the stripper at Toppers, he thought it best not to give his son all the gory details.

As it turned out, they all got on fine and despite having a hangover after last night’s partying with his client, they all headed to a local restaurant for dinner after Brian and Lucy had got showered and dressed.

Well, thought Bradley, this is a turn up for the books. At nearly fifty, he didn’t think his old man had it in him, unlike his mum who seemed to be the frisky one allegedly. He accepted that Lucy was probably good for him, but wondered what she was getting out of the relationship. It seemed she wasn’t working at the moment, he had asked her where she worked before but she was elusive about that, and being much younger than his dad it could only be one thing. She was a Gold Digger.

He would have to keep an eye on her and make sure his dad wasn’t conned.

After an enjoyable dinner during which Bradley asked her a couple of times where she had been working and got nothing back, they decided to go back to the apartment for a coffee before Bradley had to head back to North London.

They held hands a lot, which was a bit freaky to Bradley, but the way she looked at him was re-assuring; didn’t seem to be interested only in his money. He thanked them for an enjoyable day and promised to do it again soon then took the lift down to the car park and drove home. He wondered if his mum knew anything about Lucy. Would she even care? Probably not his business to tell her, they were grown-ups. Let them sort it out amongst themselves, he thought as he sped down Limehouse Link.

Big game coming up in Munich. Must focus on that first and foremost.

The Arsenal team flew out to Munich on the Tuesday morning raring to defend the 2-0 lead they had from the home leg. They were nearly in the Champions League final which would be a first for most of this team, unlike Bayern Munich who had won it the previous year. At least it was only a short flight to southern Germany; some of the away games they had to endure this season were nightmares of inefficient eastern European airports and decrepit stadiums full of hooligans. He was glad to be out of the group stages and get to play decent teams with good standards. Bayern Munich was one of them.

In the end, the game turned out easier than they had hoped for. The Germans must have had an off day as Arsenal ran out comfortable 2-0 winners for an aggregate 4-0 win, taking them to the final against Juventus in Madrid next month. They had tried to mark Bradley out of the game but his trickery won the day as he skipped past their defenders like they weren’t there all through the game. It was a game he had enjoyed immensely.

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