How to Score (On and Off the Pitch)

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Chapter 35

Brian thought about what to say to Bradley as he dialled his number. He would have to come clean, not that it was anybody’s business what he got up to, but he remembered the havoc caused when Martine was caught out.

‘Hi Bradley, its dad. How’s things?’ Brian opened.

‘I’m good, dad. Looking forward to the next game and the two finals. Think we’re going to clean up this year.’

‘Look, the reason for phoning is to let you know there’s going to be another revelation in the press tomorrow. It’s stupid, but they seem to think this stuff interests their readers.’ Brian explained.

He told Bradley the whole story about Lucy being an ex-stripper and getting in an altercation in the pub with a couple of his colleagues and how somebody must have told the gutter press some lurid story about them.

Bradley just listened as his dad made excuses for embarrassing him. To be fair, it wasn’t anything to do with anybody else and he didn’t think it would be interesting enough for the public anyway. It was annoying coming so soon after his mum’s escapades got into the papers, but this time he wouldn’t let it affect him.

‘Okay, well it’s done now. I’ll have a word with Archie and see what he thinks. I’ll let you know.’ Bradley assured his dad before hanging up. He was quite proud of the fact that he didn’t throw another tantrum and protest that he had been embarrassed by both parents now and if they lost the cup finals it would be his dad’s fault.

He left a message on Archie’s phone and sat down to watch TV. Bloody parents will be the death of me, he thought as he watched playbacks of West Ham games that season to get some pointers on how to play against them. The FA Cup final was coming up on Saturday and he wanted to be properly prepared for it. He reckoned he had a plan to beat them and would run it past the manager in the morning.

Archie called back thirty minutes later and they spoke at length about his dad and the journalist. Archie had laughed about it at first and didn’t think it would warrant many inches in the papers tomorrow. He told him not to worry about it as he would speak to someone he knew at another leading tabloid and put another side to the story.

Bradley had almost forgotten all about it when the intercom went signalling that someone wanted to see him.

‘Who is it?’ He asked.

‘My name is Ron Hughes. I’m a reporter with the Daily Star. Have you got a few minutes to discuss a story I’m printing tomorrow about your dad? It would be good to get your side of the story.’

‘I’ve heard what happened, it’s a nothing story and I’ve got nothing to add so I think you’d better bugger off before I call security.’ Bradley warned him.

‘Aw, come on Bradley. You’ve got a big game coming up and our readers will want to know you won’t be affected by this like when your mum got caught. Just a few minutes, I promise.’ Ron persisted.

‘No comment. Now fuck off!’ Bradley told him before releasing the intercom button. He watched out of the window to make sure this reporter had gone before calling it a day.

At training the next day, his mind was on other things. The story had been front page news in the Star and as other papers found out about it they all published their own version of events, including Bradley’s response to the journalist who visited him last night.

Sr Cantonelli took him to one side.

‘I am sorry to see your parents’ behaviour is distracting you again. We have been watching your father recently and have grown concerned about his influence on you. Could you keep him at a distance for the next couple of weeks? Until the finals are out of the way, I want you to be 100% focused on the game, do I make myself clear?’

The manager had never spoken to him like that before, they had always had a great relationship. They had really done it this time. He was annoyed that it had come to this.

‘Don’t worry, boss. I’m not taking any notice of it and I can assure you I am fully focused on these last two games. I’m not going to let him distract me and I’m sorry it’s come to this.’ Bradley promised.

‘Good. That’s what I wanted to hear. Now go out there and concentrate on beating West Ham this Saturday.’

Bradley re-joined his team mates in training, forgetting everything else as promised.

His dad wasn’t going to have it easy at work. When he arrived at his office he was called in to see his boss immediately. He could guess what this was about. He walked into his office and sat down, noticing the pile of newspapers on his desk.

‘What is the meaning of this latest revelation then Brian?’ He said while pushing the pile of papers across his desk.

‘It’s nothing, Ian. Press just being mischievous again. It goes with the territory when you have a famous child or parent unfortunately. I wouldn’t worry about it.’ Brian replied.

‘It may be nothing to you, just like your marriage, but it’s plastered all over the papers who you work for and that gets us a bad name. I don’t care what you do in your private life, but when it becomes public and has potentially damaging repercussions for this company then that’s when it concerns me. I’ve already had upstairs on my back demanding to know what it was about.’ Ian reddened as he spoke.

‘Look, I’m sorry this has got out, but you need to hear my side of the story before taking any action. Yes, my girlfriend is an ex-stripper. She left the job not long after we met. She has been good for me while I have been going through my marital problems. In fact, you could say she has been a Good Samaritan. I don’t know what I would have done without her shoulder to cry on. My son has met her on numerous occasions and he doesn’t have a problem with her, and I don’t see why the company should have a problem. It’s the gutter press; they will have forgotten all about it tomorrow.’ Brian protested.

Ian stared at him for a few seconds before making his decision.

I’ve been advised to suspend you for two weeks or until this blows over. However, I like you and you are a good department head. Losing you would cause more harm than good in my opinion so I’m going to give you a written warning instead. It will be along the lines of not damaging the company’s reputation directly or indirectly and if you do, it will be instant dismissal. Do I make myself clear?’

‘Of course. Thanks for not suspending me Ian. It wouldn’t have been the right way to go.’ Brian sighed.

‘Now, are you going to give up this Lucy and find a more respectable girlfriend?’ Ian dropped a bombshell on him.

‘Well, I wasn’t thinking of that, no. I have no intentions of giving her the push. We get along well and as I have said, she has been helping me cope with things. Why would I give her up?’ Brian protested.

‘You need to satisfy them upstairs as well as me, Brian. We can’t have you going around with these women. It doesn’t look good. Please tell me you will finish with her.’

‘No, sorry I won’t finish with her. I know where to draw the line here and if you insist on me dumping her then I will be forced to get HR involved. You can’t sack me for going out with an ex-stripper.’ Brian was getting more annoyed.

‘We will see. I will report back to them and see what they want to do. Meantime, you’re on a warning.’

Brian said no more as he left Ian’s office. The bastards, he thought to himself. How dare they dictate who he goes out with? If they choose to sack him then he will take them to the cleaners. That, in itself would be far more damaging to their wonderful reputation than one of their employees dating an exotic dancer. He was now in such a foul mood that he wanted to get out of the office for some fresh air and a strong coffee. He had a friend who was an employment lawyer and he thought it would be a good idea to give him a call.

As he exited the lift into the lobby, he noticed a gathering of journalists and photographers camped outside. He hadn’t noticed them this morning when he arrived so they must have just got wind of events. Brian tried to push his way through them saying ‘no comment’ to all their questions, but they pursued him along North Colonnade towards Costa Coffee.

He tried to ignore them but there were too many of them. It was a nightmare so he abandoned his quest for fresh air and coffee and walked back to the office, the gaggle of paparazzi still trailing behind him with their endless questions.

Unbeknown to most of the paparazzi, there were a series of underground malls and corridors underneath Canada Square where you could easily get lost if you didn’t know your way around. He took the lift down two floors and exited into one such mall, thankfully devoid of press. He managed to get his coffee and sat at the back of the café out of sight as he dialled his lawyer friend’s number.

As he suspected, the company didn’t have a leg to stand on should they dismiss him. He would love to vigorously fight them if it happened. This improved Brian’s mood no end and he returned to his office with a steely determination to fight them. When he arrived back, Ian called him into his office once more. This time he wasn’t alone. He recognised Jackie from HR and the Head of Compliance, David something or other. This looked serious.

‘Brian, you know who these two people are, I assume. I have spoken to the board and they are not happy with your intentions to carry on seeing this woman. I need to ask you one final time, do you intend to pursue this relationship and suffer the consequences or are you going to end it and issue a formal apology to the board for the embarrassment you have caused?’ Ian stated.

‘Ian, I have no intention of ending the relationship with Lucy Green. Yes, she has got a name as I’m sure you are aware after reading all those tabloids. I also need to advise you that I have spoken with an employment lawyer who has stressed that I can’t be dismissed on these grounds. Should you choose to take this action then you should aware that I will be fighting it vigorously. Now, what is your decision? Do I stay or do I sue?’ Brian said with determination.

Jackie from HR looked uncomfortable. She knew Brian was right and he had called their bluff. It was the turn of David from Compliance to speak.

‘Your actions have damaged the reputation of this company. That alone is a sackable offence and we as a company are perfectly within our rights to do so on these grounds. We have also discussed this with our lawyers and based on their recommendations, we have no option but to dismiss you immediately.’

Jackie squirmed in her chair. She was hoping it wouldn’t come to this. She could understand Brian’s reasoning and loyalty towards his girlfriend, but rules were rules and the company wouldn’t stand for this sort of publicity. She looked at the others then slid an envelope across the desk to Brian.

‘I suggest you go through this carefully, Brian. If you have any questions then please get in touch with me. In the meantime, I have to ask you to clear your desk of your personal effects and you will be escorted off the premises. Sorry to have to do this, Brian but you leave us no choice.’

Brian said nothing more and left Ian’s office to collect his things. Bastards! All those years of success he gave them and this is how they repay him? They would be sorry once he’d finished with them and got another job. He had been head-hunted regularly but always turned them down as he was happy with the company. Not now, though. He would go home and get on the phone. First to his lawyer friend and then to those head-hunters.

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