How to Score (On and Off the Pitch)

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Chapter 47

It was a scorching 36 degrees in Los Angeles as the Scotland team checked in at LAX for their flight back to rainy old Scotland. There were quite a few press around the airport on the day because this was when the last four teams left in the World Cup were scheduled to leave giving the paparazzi a great opportunity to photograph some of the world’s best footballers, Bradley included.

Eventually, they were through security and herded into a private lounge for their 90 minutes wait until the flight boarded. The mood was relaxed and cheery. Much cheerier than their new friends in the Brazilian team who were in the same lounge. This was a surprise to Bradley as they had just won the World Cup, but as he found out when he spoke to one of their players, there was so much expectation that they were going to win easily that the end result was a disappointment to the Brazilian people. He expected their manager to get the sack even though they had won it. He thought that the manager, Silvio, had another job lined up anyway, probably in England so he wasn’t too worried.

Bradley’s new friend was Brazil’s star centre forward Agosto who was playing for Inter Milan currently. There was a good chance that they would meet again during the Champions League that would commence again soon, so with a hug and a handshake, they waved farewell to each other as their respective planes were boarding.

During the course of their conversation, Agosto had introduced him to Silvio who seemed a very relaxed and amiable person. You could see why the players all got along with him. It was only when the Scotland flight had taken off that the penny dropped. If he heard right, Silvio was about to be sacked and would be turning up in the English Premier League. The story that Italy were going to approach Sr Cantonelli for the national team job meant that Arsenal would be looking for a world class manager. Who better than the manager who had just won the World Cup?

Putting two and two together, he was sure he had the answer right as he settled back in his seat for the five hour flight to Newark. He wasn’t going to mention anything about his guess to the other players in case it got out into the press. He had developed an unhealthy dislike of journalists; well, tabloid ones anyway. The least they knew the better.

After a while, Bradley was sound asleep with his headphones on. It had been an exhausting three weeks, but highly enjoyable. Now, he had the new season and possibly a new manager to look forward to. But most of all, he was looking forward to seeing Jessie.

The Tennant household had been partying since the final whistle. Even though Barry wasn’t a fan of Scotland, he had got caught up in the mood amongst the English who were supporting them after England produced another dismal performance. Barry had even been tempted by some battered haggis he had seen in his local chip shop that had been brought in for the occasion and the huge number of ex-pat Scots living in London. He wasn’t impressed, preferring his local saveloys instead, but at least he could tell Bradley he had tried it. He was a big fan of Malt Whisky though, which was kind of flying the flag for them.

Jessie was getting excited about seeing Bradley again. She had missed him terribly and couldn’t wait to hold him again. She knew he had to fly back to Glasgow and would watch his homecoming on the news unless she could find a way of getting to Glasgow airport. Luckily, her dad came to the rescue and bought her a one way flight to Glasgow leaving that evening so she would be there to meet him in the morning.

She was thrilled to pieces and couldn’t thank Barry enough. He had also booked her a room at the Travelodge at Glasgow airport so she wouldn’t have to travel far. Jessie wasn’t used to flying, especially on her own but Barry had got all the details and told her exactly where she had to go so she would be fine.

They got into Barry’s taxi and headed off to Stansted airport for her flight which was thankfully on time and would get her to Glasgow airport in just under one hour. She gave her dad a big hug and a kiss and thanked him for making her day then waved to him as she went through security.

She only got a one way ticket as she knew Bradley had his car up there and would be driving back soon. It would be a scrum when they arrived but she had to be there. The drive back would be romantic as well, although she didn’t know Bradley planned to see his mum on the way. That would be nerve-wracking for her.

As Bradley’s plane descended slowly towards Glasgow, he got all his stuff together ready to disembark. He was still exhausted but glad to be home. He wondered what the reception would be like as it was only 6:30 in the morning Glasgow time. He suspected there would be a decent, happy throng of diehard Scotland supporters waiting and would insist on photos. Why not? They deserved to be happy. Scotland as a nation had badly underperformed for decades. Now, they had a team to be proud of and they should be happy.

Their flight touched down on the drizzly runway at Glasgow airport right on time and Bradley smiled when he saw a huge banner hanging from the terminal building welcoming home Scotland’s heroes. The short taxi to the terminal seemed like an eternity to the passengers who were all keen to get off and meet their loved ones, Bradley included although he didn’t think anybody would be there to meet him.

They were ushered through immigration faster than normal but for the extensive handshakes and back slaps for the team from the immigration officials who were far too cheery for this hour of the morning. Once they were all through and had collected their baggage, they were asked to form an orderly line out through customs into the arrivals hall where there would be a few fans and press waiting for them. That proved to be an understatement as a wall of camera flashes and cheers greeted the first few players through.

Everybody wanted to shake their hands and thank them for the adventure, and the press wanted quick interviews with the players and management team which wasn’t really practical and a bit tiresome after a twelve hour journey in a piece of tin.

The biggest cheer was reserved for Bradley. Luckily, Jessie had managed to fight her way to the front of the crowd and waited eagerly to see his face when he spotted her. Security had to step in and keep things moving so everybody could get through as Bradley emerged. The flashes grew tenfold as the paparazzi fought for a few soundbites from their new superhero.

It was then that Bradley heard his name being screamed in a Cockney accent. It couldn’t be, he thought as he scanned the crowd. It was! He rushed over to grab Jessie and hugged and kissed her passionately which got the assembled press interested. Had Bradley got a girlfriend? Their readers would want to know all about her so it was their duty to surround the couple and get some facts.

Bradley and Jessie weren’t interested in them, only each other and completely ignored the repeated requests for interviews and photos. With the help of a couple of team mates, they were ushered through the crowd to the bus waiting outside to take them back to Hampden Park for their de-briefing and pick up their cars. They knew that the press would be waiting for them there as well, but it gave Bradley time to phone his agent to get some advice on what to say to them.

He was advised to say as little as possible, not to give her identity away unless she wanted her family home to be besieged by photographers and fans, and to politely decline any offer of exclusive interviews until his agent had screened them first.

This seemed to do the trick and half an hour after arriving at Hampden Park, Bradley and Jessie were in his car heading for Dunfermline to surprise his mum. Jessie was obviously unaware of this little diversion, but Bradley tried to put her mind at rest.

It was a ninety minute drive to Dunfermline outside of the rush hour and Bradley told Jessie all about his adventure in the US; how his dad and girlfriend surprised him by turning up unannounced, and Jessie told him all about her dad supporting Scotland instead of England and how he held a party on the day of the final for all the neighbours. They laughed all the way to his mum’s, arriving around ten in the morning. He held her hand as they walked up the path in the continuing drizzle that had welcomed him home after the sunshine of LA.

He thought it was a bit funny that her bedroom curtains hadn’t been pulled at that time of the day, but he guessed mum might not be feeling that good. Her health had been suffering since dad left and he had heard she was hitting the bottle a bit hard lately. Turning the key in the lock quietly, they giggled as they entered the hallway and put their bags down.

‘Mum? Your baby boy is here!’ Bradley shouted up the stairs. He could hear movement at first, then Martine shouted down the stairs to hang on a minute. They stood in the hallway looking at each other and stealing kisses. He was so pleased to see her and show her off to his mum as she appeared on the stairs looking a bit dishevelled in her dressing gown.

‘Bradley! How lovely to see you. You should have told me you were coming. Who’s this young lady then?’ Martine asked.

‘Mum, this is Jessie. She’s my girlfriend and she flew all the way up to Glasgow to meet me at the airport. Jessie, this is mum. You can call her Martine.’

‘Hello Jessie, nice to meet you. Your accent sounds familiar, you’re not from round here, are you?’

‘No, I live in Loughton with my parents. I didn’t realise Bradley’s mum was from the same part of the country.’ Jessie said. ‘He told me he had always lived in Scotland.’

‘That’s true. He was born here; his dad and I are from east London originally. Guess I haven’t lost the accent. Come on, let’s have a cup of tea and I’ll get you some breakfast. You must be starving.’ Martine offered.

As Martine started fussing around in the kitchen giving Bradley the occasional hug, they heard a noise from upstairs and all looked at each other.

‘Who’s that upstairs? Is Sam home?’ Asked Bradley.

He could see Martine’s face redden as she made some excuse about noisy plumbing. What happened next left Bradley speechless. Coming down the stairs was his old coach Stuart, looking equally red faced and embarrassed.

‘Hello Bradley. Congratulations on your performances in the World Cup. We are all proud of you.’ Stuart said.

Bradley found himself looking for the right words to respond, but couldn’t find them.

‘Well, I’d better be going, got coaching to get to. Take care Bradley, all the best and don’t be too hard on your mum. It’s not what it seems, okay?’ Stuart told him as he closed the door behind him leaving Martine to explain why he had been upstairs.

‘He’s right, it’s not what it seems Bradley. Stuart and I have been seeing each other now and again, but it’s just for the company. I get lonely in this big house and I have needs, okay? So don’t judge me.’

Bradley didn’t know what to say. Jessie was looking more embarrassed than Martine and thought about saying something then changed her mind.

‘Nice to see Stuart after all these years.’ Bradley said calmly. ’I’m not going to judge you mum. I know it’s been difficult for you. ‘Dad’s got a girlfriend as well. He brought her out to LA for the final. I’ve met her a couple of times before and she seems okay. Lot younger than him though. And she used to be a stripper apparently.’ Bradley explained.

‘I know. I’ve been reading the papers and keeping up to date with his news. Good luck to her. I wish them every happiness together.’ Martine spat bitterly as she poured the tea.

The rest of the morning was spent in a bit of a strained atmosphere. Lots of small talk and tea, but Martine was more interested in Jessie than anything she had done. She was at least grateful that nobody brought up the subject of Stuart any more.

Although Bradley was thinking of staying the night before driving back to London, he decided on a change of plan and after lunch he announced that they should be making a move as they had a long drive back down south. Deep down, Martine knew he didn’t want to hang around there too long and that made her a bit sad. Bradley had told her she must come down and stay with him soon. She could visit all her old haunts in London and see old friends. Martine couldn’t think of anything less appealing to her at the moment. She just wanted to be left alone with her wine and lovers. A shopping spree in Oxford Street would be the last thing on her mind.

They hugged as Bradley and Jessie left, Martine was pleased to meet Jessie and told her to look after her little boy as she tearfully waved them off. When she closed the front door, she wept uncontrollably. How had her perfect life come to this? As usual, when she felt this way, she headed for the fridge and pulled out a new bottle of white wine. Her old friend vino would help her feel better, she thought.

Bradley was much quieter driving back to London with Jessie. She tried to coax him out of his embarrassment by saying it was perfectly normal and he shouldn’t be too ashamed of his mum, but it wasn’t working too well. By the time they pulled up outside Jessie’s house after an eight hour drive, he was feeling a bit happier, and when Barry ran down the drive to meet them his mood improved another couple of notches.

Back to normality, he chuckled to himself.

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