How to Score (On and Off the Pitch)

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Chapter 4

Everything was settling into a nice routine for Bradley and Jessie. They were seen as the golden couple in much the same way that David and Victoria Beckham were when he was at the top of his game. Jessie had no designs on starting up her own fashion business or launching a range of perfumes, that wasn’t what she was interested in. She didn’t know anybody who ran their own business; all her family were working for someone else. It was a class thing, she supposed, so no need for her to go all entrepreneurial. She didn’t see the need to be successful in her own right, she was there to support her darling Bradley who looked after her well and she was happy with that. Her one reservation was that she was a bit wary about Bradley’s family.

Her potential future mother-in-law had issues, although she was dealing with them, and his dad was becoming more and more remote living the Californian dream. She had only met Martine a couple of times, once at her house when they had turned up unannounced and caught her in bed with Bradley’s old coach, then the last time was when Martine had joined them at the villa for a few days.

She couldn’t say they got on; quite the opposite in fact. They say that a son is a son until he finds a wife, and Jessie guessed that Martine saw her as that someone who would take him away from her, especially when she needed him the most.

His dad was another story altogether. Living with a former stripper from a rough council estate in north London who promptly got shot at in an armed robbery in Los Angeles, and changed from being a boozy, curry-loving life and soul of the party type, to being a withdrawn hippie and she felt that he had lost interest in Bradley. It didn’t seem to bother Bradley none; he was wrapped up in his football and her so as far as he was concerned, the outside world didn’t matter. He was totally unfazed like that.

So, here they were, snuggled up on the sofa with a cup of tea watching the draw for the European Championships that were to take place in Germany next summer. Bradley usually got all excited with live cup draws and this one was no exception. His eyes were fixed on the 52” TV in their lounge as the balls were pulled from a bowl by some footballing dignitary and a former professional player.

Scotland were second seeds for this tournament which made a nice change from previously when they would be ranked fourth seeds, thus ensuring they had to play three teams better than them and that was if they qualified in the first place, which wasn’t often.

He seemed delighted with the draw; they were in the same group as Croatia, Belgium and Norway which meant they had avoided the traditionally big names like Italy, Spain, France and Germany. Bradley started texting his Scotland team mates with the news and they were all excited to be going and fancied their chances. The bookies also fancied their chances as Scotland were a paltry 5/1 to win the tournament.

There would also be some pre-tournament friendlies to be arranged which couldn’t be done until the draw was made. That would mean at least one trip back to Scotland for him which would enable him to see how his mum was doing. It was difficult to get away from Barcelona now the season was in full swing and they didn’t like their players just popping over to Scotland for a break.

As he was pouring another cup of tea for himself, his private phone started ringing. This phone was only for use by family and close friends, including Archie the agent. He wondered who could be calling him at this hour as he picked up the phone and looked at the screen which told him it was a call from a withheld number.

‘Hello?’ Bradley answered.

‘Bradley? It’s Kevin McNair. Remember me?’

Bradley remembered Kevin alright and not for any good reasons. He used to deliberately kick him up in the air during training sessions at Hearts to the extent that the manager had to pull him off Bradley sometimes. After he had effectively taken Kevin’s role off of him, his career nose-dived and it was widely known that he bore grudges.

‘Yes, I remember you. How did you get this number?’ Bradley asked.

‘From Archie Burns. He’s an old mate of mine from when he used to be my agent. Bumped into him the other day at some football event in Glasgow and your name came up.’

‘Right. So, what can I do for you Kevin?’

McNair started to explain how he was working as a form expert for a bookmaker in Edinburgh and he was looking for Bradley’s inside knowledge about any young players coming up that he might be interested in following, what was going on at certain clubs, any gossip on Premier League players and that sort of thing. Bradley wasn’t particularly interested and was not happy that Archie had given him the private number.

‘Listen Kevin, you didn’t particularly like me when we were together at Hearts, I know you still bear a grudge that I took your shirt, so why the Hell would I want to help you now?’

‘I hear what you’re saying Bradley, but let’s let bygones be bygones. We’ve both moved on and I don’t bear any grudges nowadays, I just want to move along and do something useful which is where you could help. I’m not asking for money or anything like that, just want your advice.’

Bradley hesitated for a few seconds before telling McNair in no uncertain terms that he wasn’t interested and he would appreciate it if he never called again on this number. He clicked the ‘end call’ button on his phone and threw it on the sofa. It was bound to be something more complicated and less legal if McNair was involved. Bradley realised that he hadn’t heard the full story from McNair.

He had to explain who Kevin McNair was and why he didn’t like him. Jessie understood; she wondered why there weren’t many more players’ feuds going on. She started to massage his neck to de-stress him as it had obviously had an effect on him. He finished his third cup of tea and decided to call it a night. Jessie cleared away the cups and followed him into the huge bedroom where she could really remove all that stress.

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