The majority of the Scottish team had family and friends out in LA to watch the games so when the organised bus tours turned up it was a pretty crowded affair. Bradley couldn’t get out of this trip, but he was a bit put out that he was the only one on his bus that had nobody with him. He had tried phoning his dad at the hotel but there was no answer. Typical, he thought. Probably out partying with his girlfriend.
Easing the bus out of the car park, the driver started his commentary. They would be visiting downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood, Santa Monica and Venice Beach today, and he would point out places of interest along the way along with any nuggets of gossip he could recall.
Bradley settled back and enjoyed the tour. Up until then, he had only ever seen Florida in the US so this was an insight into what the rest of America looked like. The earlier stay in New England had been interesting as well, representing yet another completely different aspect of American life.
His mind started drifting to the new season with Arsenal which was only four weeks away. He would have to report for pre-season training almost immediately which left him feeling jaded. All he wanted was a couple of weeks off to unwind and recuperate. He wanted to spend that time with Jessie who he was missing very much. Apart from a couple of texts, they hadn’t spoken in ages and he just wanted to get home and see her face again. Almost like being back to normality which is something he was unlikely to see once he got home.
He had received a few texts from his agent who had said there were quite a few big clubs wanting to talk to him about a lucrative transfer to Spain or Italy. Lucrative for Archie Burns, of course, but maybe Bradley was enjoying life at Arsenal. He was being very well paid, got on well with his team mates and had Jessie nearby so what could possibly tempt him to head for Madrid or Turin? He had told Archie he wasn’t even thinking about that right now and that he would talk to him when he returns.
When he got back to their training base, Bradley headed to his room and grabbed a copy of the local sports paper on the way. What he saw in the football pages made him unhappy. Apparently, the Italian manager had been sacked for their poor performance in the World Cup and favourite to take over was his manager at Arsenal, Luigi Cantonelli. It seems that Sr Cantonelli’s success with Arsenal had not gone unnoticed and the Italian FA would do everything they could to lure him back to Italy.
That was a huge blow for Bradley; he had limitless respect for Sr Cantonelli who had helped him improve his all round game and was a master tactician when it came to big games. There was no news on who would replace him at Arsenal if he left, but the local press didn’t have the kind of information to hand that the British press had. He would have to wait until he got home before he could see what was happening. Maybe Jessie’s dad knew the gossip.
He put down the paper and tried his dad’s hotel again. This time, he got through.
‘Hi dad, what are you doing here? It was great to see you in the crowd but I wish you had warned me you were coming.’
‘I tried to get a message to you but they wouldn’t pass it on. We flew out last minute after getting a couple of tickets from Arsenal. How you feeling? Not too down, I hope. You shouldn’t be, you were brilliant.’ Brian enthused.
‘I’m okay, we had a tour of LA today laid on by the Scottish FA. It was good. I’ve got some free time now, shall I pop over to your hotel or do you want to come to Anaheim? Disneyland is just around the corner.’ Bradley laughed.
‘You’ll get mobbed in Disneyland. Come over to our hotel, we’ve got a suite!’
‘Lucky you! I’ll see you shortly then.’
With that, Bradley arranged for a taxi to pick him up and take him to his dad’s hotel in Beverly Hills. He had mixed emotions about seeing him after all that had gone on lately. Dad had changed in so many ways; no job, new girlfriend. Their relationship had changed too. Bradley had matured and grown less tolerant of his parents’ behaviour. He didn’t know whether to trust them not to embarrass him again. Maybe it was time for a clear the air chat, he thought as he piled into the back of a stretch limo.
Brian was waiting for Bradley in the lobby of the hotel. He held out his arms to greet him as he walked out of the revolving door into the coolness of the check-in area. They held each other for a few seconds as Brian kept telling him how proud he was of him. Before they headed up to Brian’s suite, his dad insisted on dragging him over to the front desk where he was introduced to Arturo who couldn’t believe his luck.
‘Senor Bradley! It is such an honour to meet you, you are my favourite soccer player of all time!’ Arturo exclaimed. ‘My commiserations on the result yesterday.’
‘Thanks Arturo. I enjoyed the game despite the result. Have to go one better next time.’ Bradley replied.
As Brian had promised, Bradley gave Arturo an autograph and posed for photos with him. This drew the attention of some of the hotel guests and staff who recognised Bradley immediately and all wanted a piece of him. After 30 minutes of signing autographs and having photos with his fans, he escaped into the lift to Brian’s suite.
‘Don’t you get fed up with that, son?’ Brian asked.
‘Not really. They ultimately pay my wages and if it makes them happy then I am more than willing to oblige. I need all the good publicity I can get, to be honest.’
There was an awkward silence in the lift. Brian realised that barbed comment was meant for him and Martine. Best not to keep that line of conversation going, he thought.
They arrived at the suite and Brian showed Bradley around the room like an excited teenager. Lucy stayed in the background after greeting Bradley, not knowing how to approach him. She hoped they could get along well eventually; her ex-husband would be really jealous being an Arsenal supporter.
Lucy rang down to Room Service for some teas and coffees as Brian and Bradley replayed the entire final between them. What was good, what wasn’t so good. It was nice to see them bonding again after everything that had happened.
By the time Bradley had to get back to his hotel, everyone was getting on just fine. Lucy had joined in the conversations with them and it seemed that Bradley liked her. She hoped so. Brian called down to Arturo to arrange a taxi for as they said their goodbyes.
Brian and Lucy still had a couple of days left in LA but the Scotland team were leaving the next day for Glasgow via Newark. No doubt there would be some kind of reception awaiting the team once they landed at silly o’clock the following day. They arranged to meet up at Bradley’s once he had returned to Arsenal in a week’s time for pre-season.
Bradley had heard all about how his dad and Lucy had met and was secretly thankful for picking dad up when he was at a low. They seemed happy together and that’s what mattered. There were no plans for the future; they just took each day as it came. He liked that. It was time for things to settle down and get back to some kind of normality. He had left his car at Hampden Park ready for his return and he planned to drive over to Dunfermline to surprise his mum and hopefully, Sam. It would be good to see them again after all the excitement.