How to Score (On and Off the Pitch)

By Andrew Playle All Rights Reserved ©

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Part 2: Chapter 1

EDINBURGH – JULY 2015

A chilly haar breezed in from the Firth of Forth as the blackened Range Rover pulled into a spare parking bay down near Leith docks. The driver waited a few minutes before exiting the vehicle and walking over to the disused warehouse where he unlocked the padlock and entered, making sure he hadn’t been followed.

Ten minutes later, a wiry, dark-haired man in his mid-thirties pulled the warehouse door open and after giving a quick glance around outside, pulled it shut again behind him.

‘Kevin. Good to see you again. What can I do for you?’ Came a voice from the corner of the warehouse.

Hugh McInally was one of a dying breed. An off-radar bookmaker. He occasionally had a pitch at Musselburgh and Kelso races, but the big money was to be made by taking bets that no High Street bookie would ever contemplate.

‘I’ve got some info that might make you and me a lot of money.’ Kevin replied.

‘Really? What would that be then?’

‘What price would you get for Scotland to win either the Euros or the World Cup within the next ten years?’ Kevin asked.

Hugh laughed at him loudly. ‘Are you serious? I’d offer you 1000/1 but I wouldn’t take any more than £100 from you. I assume you have info that might affect this bet?’

‘I do. If you are serious about taking £100 at that price, I’m in. Although I would recommend laying it off unless you want to lose a lot of money.’ Kevin said.

‘I think I’ll be the judge of that, Kevin. Come on then, tell me a story. Then I’ll decide if I’m laying it off or not.’ Hugh pressed.

‘Right. Well, as you know, I’ve just retired from playing for Hearts and in my last season there they brought this kid in from Dunfermline, only sixteen, but boy could he play. He took my shirt which pissed me off, but the thing is, there are a handful of other lads coming through who are almost as good as him. It’s like a golden generation. These kids are seriously good and they look after themselves. No booze, no fags, nothing. Quite scary, really. Thing is, if this lot stick together and keep improving, Scotland is going to be a serious contender for a cup in a few years’ time.’ Kevin explained.

Hugh thought for a few seconds, weighing up what he had heard and working out if the unthinkable could actually happen. He guessed he was referring to that Bradley Gardner kid at Hearts. He could certainly play, and he looked like a good prospect, but what did McNair mean about a load of other boys coming through?

’So, if what you’re saying comes true, Scotland are going to win the Euros or World Cup in the next ten years because of this crop of talented, healthy boys who are going to be superstars, is that right?

‘Exactly. I’ve been around in football long enough to know natural talent when I see it, and I saw it in droves. There’s a buzz of excitement going around amongst the coaches and those in the know. So, if I’m right, you’re going to pay me £100,000 in the next few years. Is that something you are comfortable with?’ Kevin was getting cocky which wasn’t advisable when dealing with Hugh McInally.

‘I reckon I can get decent odds to lay some of this off, but if you’re wrong, I’ll come looking for you, okay?’

‘You won’t regret it, Hugh. I know what I’m talking about.’

Hugh pocketed Kevin’s money and told him to leave it to him. This would need some thinking, he thought. Even if he didn’t lay it off and the impossible happened, there was no way he was going to weigh out £100,000 to Kevin. He had the money, but not the inclination to lose such a large bet. After a while, he made some phone calls and managed to get some decent prices to lay off some of the bet, despite the cruel laughs he was getting from his fellow bookies. They thought he had lost his mind.

EDINBURGH - JULY 2018

Hugh McInally was watching the World Cup in Brazil with interest. More interest than he would normally devote to a football tournament, and that was usually a lot. As Scotland marched through to the final, he licked his lips with glee. That has-been McNair might be right. This lot did look like they could win a major trophy and he was glad he took the advice and layed off some of the bet. In fact, he had got odds of 2,000/1 and one mug bookie gave him 5,000/1 so Hugh lumped £100 of cash on that bet which stopped the bookie laughing quite so loudly. If Scotland did win, still a big if, then he stood to make best part of £700,000 which would be nice. He might even make Kevin McNair a better offer than the one he was about to make to him, although he knew he wouldn’t get the full pay out from his bookie friends. They weren’t that friendly.

He had sent two of his goons to find McNair and bring him in for a chat.

‘Ah, Kevin. Good to see you again. Are you getting excited about us winning the World Cup then?’ Hugh smiled as McNair was pushed into a chair in Hugh’s lounge.

McNair looked nervous. He knew what was coming and he was praying that it wouldn’t involve violence.

‘See, I told you they would come good Hugh. I hope you got on board, we’re going to make a fortune.’ McNair started sweating.

‘Well, you see Kevin, that’s where I have a little problem. I didn’t share your optimism 100% so I only laid some of it off. So, if we win today, I won’t be able to pay you the full amount, do you understand?’ Hugh stared icily at McNair without blinking.

‘But you took the bet in good faith, I’m depending on that £100,000 to set me up. If you didn’t lay it off then that’s hardly my problem.’

‘Ah, but you see Kevin, it is your problem as I don’t have that sort of cash lying around and I don’t like being made to look a mug. But I’m a fair person and yes, I did take your bet in good faith, so here’s the deal. I’ll buy your bet from you for £10,000 before the final kicks off.’ McInally offered.

‘But I needed the £100,000. I understand where you’re coming from Hugh and I obviously don’t want to upset you, but couldn’t you go higher? I really need the money.’ Kevin started to panic. He knew he couldn’t press McInally too much or he would end up with nothing except a good kicking.

‘You drive a hard bargain, Kevin and I understand your problem. Tell you what, as I like you, I’ll make it £15,000 then you can fuck off. It’s a good offer; the chances of us winning the World Cup by beating Brazil are still pretty thin. You know what us Scots are like, always snatching defeat from the jaws of victory; best runner-up in the world. Imagine how you would feel if Scotland does lose? You’ll be kicking yourself that you didn’t take my offer. So, do we have a deal?’ Hugh offered his hand to shake on it.

McNair didn’t have a choice. He reluctantly shook Hugh’s hand and watched as Hugh opened his safe. He counted out the money and placed it in a bag for him before looking at his goons and asking them to escort Kevin back to town.

They drove him to Cowgate in the centre of Edinburgh’s party district and pushed him out of the car without saying a word. Kevin was going to watch the final in the Three Sisters pub which was huge, but already filled to overflowing with hopeful Scots willing their country to victory. McNair didn’t care what the result was now he had some cash, even though it was less than he wanted. In many ways, he had a lucky escape.

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