How to Score (On and Off the Pitch)

By Andrew Playle All Rights Reserved ©

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Chapter 3

EDINBURGH – DECEMBER 2019

Kevin McNair didn’t have much reason to stay in football once he had retired from playing for Hearts. He was offered coaching roles which didn’t pay much, but he wasn’t really interested in them. He needed to earn proper money and he busied himself thinking of hair-brained money making schemes that would make him rich.

When he retired, he took stock of what assets he had, and it wasn’t as bad as some players he knew of. His house in the upmarket Morningside suburb was paid for and worth at least half a million, he wasn’t married, didn’t have any kids that he knew of, and a few grand in the bank which wasn’t paying much interest. Illegal activities to make money weren’t on the radar. The nearest he got to that was placing bets with Hugh McInally and after he got stung by him on the last bet, he wouldn’t be bothering with that again.

Back in the day, when footballers retired they usually bought a pub or a sports shop to keep some income rolling in for the next thirty years or so. That was when they earned the same money as the fans, more or less. Nowadays, even young players like Bradley Gardner were earning millions per year and would never have to worry about choosing a new career in their thirties. Buying a pub or a shop wasn’t an option either. Pubs were closing down at an alarming rate and independent shops just couldn’t cope with the big stores and retail parks which had ensured that the High Streets of the UK were now filled with charity shops and Pound stores. No future in either of those options, so it had to be something creative.

He was sitting in his lounge with a beer thinking up his latest scheme when the doorbell rang. He wasn’t expecting anybody and as he didn’t exactly have a large circle of friends it was unlikely to be someone he knew.

Nobody was more surprised than him when he opened the door and Hugh McInally was on his doorstep.

‘Hugh, er, what a pleasant surprise. What’s up?’ Kevin asked cautiously.

‘I felt bad about stiffing you on that bet last year, although you had a result in the end when we didn’t beat Brazil. Have you got a minute? I might have a proposition for you.’

Kevin felt uneasy when McInally said that. He wasn’t one to be messed with or crossed and he wondered how he was going to be able to refuse his offer without getting his kneecaps broken. That was McInally’s usual way of doing business.

He invited him in and asked him if he wanted a beer or anything, which McInally politely declined. What he had to say wouldn’t take long.

They sat down in Kevin’s lounge and Hugh stared at him icily.

‘Do you still keep an eye on things football related, Kevin?’ McInally broke the silence.

‘Not so much, to be honest. Been offered coaching jobs but nothing stood out so I’ve just been drifting along, you know.’ Kevin replied guardedly.

‘Pity. I need someone who can be, how shall we say, an expert on predicting match results and to see if there are any more child prodigies coming up through the ranks that we ought to keep an eye on, that sort of thing. I thought maybe you could fit the bill. It would be a proper paid job, like. All cash, share of the bets, commission only sort of thing. Would you be interested?’ McInally offered.

This had taken Kevin by surprise. It sounded above board, apart from being paid in cash and dodging tax, and it was something he could do with his network and experience. Hugh could be violent though so he would have to make sure he didn’t upset him with his predictions.

’So, I would go through the fixture lists, analyse the teams, spot where the High Street bookies have made a glaring error in their prices so you could have a punt? And you want me to come up with another ‘Scotland win World Cup’ bet that comes along once in a lifetime? I could give it a go.’ Kevin replied after giving it some thought.

‘That’s pretty much what I am looking for, yes. I’m not as clued up on football as you are, but that’s where the big money bets are and I want a slice of it. It’s all legal as well.’ He laughed. ‘Let me know what tools you need and I will sort it out. Oh, and just to let you know now we are business partners, I did lay off your bet. Got a few laughs at the time, but they are squealing now. Do you think Scotland can win next year’s Euros?’

‘Definitely Hugh. If not this one, then most certainly the 2020 World Cup.’ Kevin assured him.

‘Good. Let’s hope so as I stand to make a small fortune next July and you might well get a bonus out of it.’ Hugh laughed once more.

Once McInally had left his house, Kevin slumped onto the sofa and thought about what he had just agreed to. It was almost certainly something dodgy, it meant that his ‘bonus’ could be a large wad of £50 notes or it could be a spell in hospital, and it meant that he could pay his bills. He had no other option but to accept McInally’s offer and try to make the best of it. He would need to get out there and do some serious scouting and to study the form when it came to betting on games. Football was an unpredictable sport when it came to betting; upsets happen all the time which is why the bookies generally win. How many six game accumulators are shot when the favourites lose to some no-hope club that shouldn’t even be on the same pitch? Giant-killing it’s called, and usually happens in the cup games where Kevin had a good record for highlighting those cup games where an upset was possible. He would have to work his magic for Hugh now, and the upcoming third round of the English FA Cup was coming up in a couple of weeks.

Time to study that form.

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