How to Score (On and Off the Pitch)

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Chapter 43

Saturday July the 14th 2018 was going to go down as the most historic date in Scotland’s history, win or lose. The country had been partying for a month watching Scotland’s heroics in the US, not that they needed an excuse. Shops and businesses (except the pubs, who saw this as a windfall never to be repeated) were closed for the day and thousands of Scots had bought last minute flights to California for the final which was to be held in the famous Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles.

Brian had tried and failed to get through to Bradley to see if he could get a couple of tickets so he and Lucy could be there to watch him. No devoted father should ever have to miss an occasion like this, witnessing your son taking part in the final of the biggest competition on Earth. He wasn’t allowed to speak to Bradley so he tried to get tickets through other channels, finally coming up trumps through his contacts at Arsenal who understood his problem and came up with two excellent tickets. He paid a fortune for two return flights to LA as seats were at a premium with the large number of Scots heading out there, most without a ticket; they would be happy to watch the game in a bar and celebrate wildly afterwards.

Brian had asked Sam if he wanted to go but he said he would prefer staying at home and watching the final with his friends locally. Fair enough, Brian couldn’t afford it anyway, he thought as he and Lucy boarded the British Airways flight to Los Angeles. He had been forced to buy the last two business class tickets which had cost him an eye-wateringly huge amount, but nothing was going to stop him supporting his son.

Who would have thought it, he mused as they were handed a glass of Champagne each while the pilot was waiting to taxi to the runway. Here he was, sipping Champagne on the way to watch his son compete in the biggest game on earth for the smallish, least likely country at the tournament. This would go down in history and he was going to be there for Bradley, win or lose. He couldn’t contain his excitement and could only wonder what was going through his son’s mind at that moment. Did he want his dad to be there? He hadn’t made any effort to get him there, maybe he wasn’t keen on him going to support him. No, that wouldn’t be it; he’s just been too busy and concentrating on his game.

He settled back in his extremely comfortable seat as the Boeing 747 hurtled down the runway with a 10 hour flight in front of them. Brian and Lucy chinked glasses and smiled lovingly at each other.

In the few days leading up to the most unlikeliest World Cup final ever, the press were all demanding interviews with Scotland and Brazil’s players and management team for their readers. It had generated a huge amount of interest in the world’s press, not just the sports pages either. Human interest stories abounded and by the time the final came around, everybody had heard of Bradley and his colleagues. They even had good luck messages from the Pope, the President of the USA, Prime Minister of Great Britain and other world leaders. These would all be framed and included in Bradley’s scrapbook collection which by now measured quite a few volumes.

Jimmy Anderson did his best to keep his young stars out of the limelight so they could concentrate on training for the big game. He had been successful to an extent, but did notice a number of interviews with his players’ families and friends which had obtained by the tabloids back home. So far, there was nothing detrimental to worry about and at least Bradley’s parents were nowhere to be seen and were keeping a low profile. The last thing he needed was another distraction from the Gardner family who were growing ever more embarrassing, not just for Bradley, but the whole Scottish team.

Bradley was maintaining a very relaxed attitude towards the hype. Training was going well and they had bonded as a team better than anyone could have hoped. Together, they would work out a way to beat the best team on the planet, whilst hoping for a large dose of luck coming their way as well. They would surely need it against players that were admired and revered by the Scotland team.

Lucy and Brian arrived at their hotel exhausted after their long flight. The weather was fantastic compared to the cloudy London they had left behind. As they checked in, the receptionist politely asked them the reason for their stay.

‘We’re here for the World Cup final. My son plays for Scotland.’ Brian told him.

The receptionist looked quizzically at Brian.

‘Your son plays for Scotland? Wow! That’s amazing!’ He replied enthusiastically. ‘Which player is he?’ He continued before looking at the signature and spotting the surname. ‘Are you Bradley Gardner’s parents?’ He exclaimed.

‘Well, I’m his dad, but this isn’t his mum. Long story.’ Brian replied.

‘Oh my God! This is incredible! He is my favourite player. I can’t believe I’m checking in his dad. Could I get his autograph, if it’s okay?’

‘I’ll see what I can do. I haven’t seen him for weeks so once this is over I am hoping we can get together for some quality time.’ Brian replied.

‘That would be awesome Mr Gardner. By the way, I see a suite has become available for the time you are with us. Would you like a complimentary upgrade?’

‘That would be wonderful, thank you very much.’ Lucy’s face lit up like a Christmas tree. She’d never been out of the country before, apart from their recent holiday in Greece, now she was being treated like a princess staying in a suite in Beverly Hills! She would have to keep this guy happy, she thought as the receptionist gave them a key card each and summoned the bell boy.

‘I hope you have a wonderful stay Mr Gardner and er, Miss Green. If there’s anything I can do for you, just dial zero and ask for me. My name is Arturo Perez, at your service.’ He finished.

Brian and Lucy were escorted to their suite by the bell boy who told them all about the area and the hotel facilities on the way. When he had finished unloading their relatively small amount of baggage, he bade them a pleasant stay as Brian stuffed a $10 bill into his hand.

Lucy was in tears; she had never seen such luxury before. It was such a long way from her scruffy, damp flat in London.

‘Oh, Brian. This is just wonderful. It’s a dream come true for me. Look at this bed, you could fit ten people in it!’ She squealed.

‘I hope you’re not getting any ideas.’ He laughed.

Lucy laughed with him and pulled him to her. She looked into his eyes and said thank you to Brian before kissing him long and passionately. They fell on to the huge bed and Lucy began to remove his clothes, without breaking from their kiss.

They christened the bed before heading into the shower which was similarly amazing for her. She wouldn’t want this to end, that’s for sure.

Arturo the receptionist’s roommate was a budding journalist on the Los Angeles Tribune and he thought his friend might be interested in a scoop that would make him some money. He called Ernesto the minute he finished his shift.

‘Hey Ernesto! Guess who I checked in to the hotel this afternoon?’ He said excitedly. ‘Only Bradley Gardner’s dad and his girlfriend. What’s it worth to get an interview with him?’

‘You’re kidding me! Have you seen all the stories about his dysfunctional family? That would be a great scoop to get. How you going to arrange it?’ Ernesto asked.

‘They will be going out to dinner soon, get yourself over here now and I will introduce you.’

‘Wow! That would be great. I’m on my way, Buddy!’

In less than ten minutes, Ernesto ran into the hotel lobby to be met by Arturo.

‘Where are they? Have they left yet?’ Ernesto asked enthusiastically.

‘No, must still be in their room. I gave them a suite so they’re probably just enjoying it for now. I reckon they will be down soon though. Unless you want to go to their room.’

‘I could do, but I would prefer it if you are around.’

‘Wait a minute. That’s them coming out of the elevator. Come with me.’ Arturo led his friend towards Brian and Lucy.

‘Mr Gardner? Miss Green? How is your room? I hope it’s to your satisfaction.’ Arturo asked.

‘It’s fantastic, thanks Arturo. Really appreciate the upgrade. We won’t want to leave next week.’ Brian replied looking at Arturo’s friend standing next to him.

‘Hi Mr Gardner, Miss Green, I’m Arturo’s friend Ernesto Gonzalez. I’m a reporter with the Los Angeles Tribune and I am so pleased to meet the father of the best soccer player in the world. You must be very proud of Bradley.’

Brian looked at him guardedly. The last thing he wanted was to attract more press coverage.

‘Nice to meet you, Ernesto. I hope you’re not wanting an interview, Bradley doesn’t even know we are here and I don’t want any more lurid tales hitting the papers.’

‘No, no, no! The Tribune is a serious newspaper, we aren’t interested in gossip like some papers. I’ve seen all the bad press you have endured recently and it would be a great honour if you could put the record straight in my paper. I promise you that nothing gets printed until you are happy with the content. Can I take you both to dinner and talk over some great pasta? There’s a place a couple of blocks from here that do the best linguini in California. Do we have a date?’ Ernesto persisted.

Brian looked at Lucy who just shrugged. It wasn’t her decision, but she was looking forward to a quite romantic meal in Beverly Hills.

‘Okay, Ernesto, but no bad publicity please.’ Brian replied.

‘That’s a promise, sir. Arturo will come with us to stop me from asking any difficult questions; he’s a huge fan of Bradley, as am I. We can’t wait to watch him on Sunday. I just want to talk about his soccer, nothing else. Come. Let’s eat!’ Ernesto led them all out of the door into the hot bustling streets of LA.

As promised, Ernesto didn’t mention Bradley’s parents ‘off-field’ antics once. He heard about Bradley’s happy childhood, of holidays spent in Disney World with his family before they imploded and how his football (Brian couldn’t call it soccer) talents blossomed from an early age.

Brian enjoyed talking about Bradley’s career and the pasta was as good as Ernesto had promised. Lucy learned a lot about Brian and Bradley as well which was useful. They found Ernesto and Arturo were great company and typical of most Americans in that they were genuinely hospitable and warm, giving advice on where to go and what to enjoy. The evening flew by and before they knew it, it was 11pm and time to go. Brian thanked Ernesto for a wonderful evening and looked forward to the draft copy of the interview, as promised.

Lucy and Brian headed back to the hotel and Ernesto and Arturo walked back to their apartment, happy that they had enjoyed a splendid evening and Ernesto had bagged a great interview that would impress his bosses.

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