How to Score (On and Off the Pitch)

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Chapter 5

Much to Jessie’s disappointment, Bradley had invited all his family to spend Christmas with them. The Spanish league had a Christmas break of two weeks during which time the players were expected to relax and recharge their batteries and keep fit at the same time. Bradley loved that idea and wondered why it wasn’t something that the English or Scottish Premier League hadn’t adopted instead of cramming as many games as possible into that period and risk injury by playing on hard, frozen pitches.

Jessie had expressed her doubts about his plans, but he quickly dispelled them and promised her it would only be for a few days over Christmas and then they would have the rest of the time to themselves. She gave in and hoped he would be true to his word.

Martine, Sam and his girlfriend Kate had accepted and were looking forward to it, but when Bradley asked his dad if he and Lucy would like to join them, he wasn’t very enthusiastic about the idea. He was uncomfortable with the thought of him and Lucy being in the same room as Martine for starters. That could be very embarrassing for everyone. Also, he was so busy at work that he couldn’t afford to just fly off to Europe for a week, just like that. Anyway, he continued, he and Lucy were going to some C list celebrity’s place for Christmas dinner and couldn’t possibly cancel, he huffed as he ended the call leaving Bradley in a bit of a mood.

‘Well, that put me in my place.’ He told Jessie as he got off the phone. ‘I get that he doesn’t want to be in the same company as my mum, but choosing to have Christmas dinner, a family occasion that this family could use right now, at some celeb’s house is really taking the piss.’ He raged.

‘Don’t worry, it’s probably for the best, Bradley. At least your mum and brother will be there. And they can meet my mad parents as well. That’ll lighten the mood.’ Jessie assured him.

She’s right, Bradley pondered. Sod him and his tarty bird. They were going to have a good Christmas without them and set about making arrangements with Carlos their property manager in Mijas who would organise it all. He asked Jessie if it would be alright to invite Archie as well as he was on his own and didn’t have any close family. She told him it was a great idea and she would invite him personally. He could liven up any party.

Carlos was delighted to hear from Bradley and told him he would arrange everything, just let him know how many people were going to be staying and flight times and he would sort out transport from the airport as well. Bradley asked him what he was doing for Christmas and he told him sadly that he had no plans and would probably spend it on his own like he did every year since his beloved wife died. Bradley wasn’t having any of that, he asked if Carlos would like to spend it with them as he wasn’t going to let him be on his own, and to his delight, he accepted although he would consider it a working holiday and would be happy to do the cooking etc. while they were all there.

So, that was Christmas all sorted and they both looked forward to spending a great Christmas with their families and close friends in Mijas where the weather would be considerably better than in the UK. Barry and Sharon were doubly excited even though they would have to forego their usual family Christmas in Loughton. Going to Spain for the holidays was something they could only dream of and now, thanks to their daughter, they were going to enjoy Christmas without doing all the cooking and waiting on their boisterous family.

There was only one La Liga game left to play before the winter break, that was away to Las Palmas whose home was in the Canary Islands and was the furthest trip they would have to make in the league that season. Unfortunately, Bradley picked up an injury which limited his contribution to a mere twenty-five minutes before being stretchered off, but having scored two goals before being injured, it wasn’t going to make a lot of difference to the final score which was 4-0 to Barcelona.

The flight back was painful for Bradley; he had his foot in an icepack and flying at altitude was making it swell further. By the time they had landed at Barcelona’s El Prat airport he could hardly walk and was carried off in an ambulance to see the club’s doctors for an assessment. Bradley was more worried about the injury messing up his Christmas plans than anything else, but he was pleased to get the injury checked straight away whilst the rest of the team packed up and headed off for their break.

After numerous x-rays and manipulations of the foot in question, the doctor had some good news for him. There were no broken bones, just a deep bruise which would fade in a week or so if it’s rested completely. The winter break had come at a perfect time then, he thought. He had thought about driving down to Mijas but it was a twelve hour drive on roads not known for their safety record so flying was going to be the only option. The club had offered them the use of their private jet which would at least mean that he wouldn’t feel so much pressure as a private jet flew much lower than a commercial one.

He hobbled across the stadium car park into a waiting car that would take him home so he could put his foot up. He wanted to be over the worst of it in a couple of days so he would stay at home rather than risk another flight.

Jessie was worried when she saw him limp into the villa on crutches.

‘Oh my God! What have you done, Bradley?’ She fretted.

‘Don’t worry, it’s deep bruising and it will be okay in a few days with complete rest.’ Bradley re-assured her.

She fussed around him like a mother hen and helped him on to the sofa where she put his foot up on a pillow on top of a leather stool, then made him a cup of tea. He told her all about how they had won 4-0 and he scored two goals, but she was more concerned with how the injury happened and did the perpetrator get sent off? He told her it was just one of those injuries that footballers expect nowadays. Their boots are made of thin, lightweight leather which offers no protection if someone comes in with a heavy tackle. The Las Palmas defender who was guilty of making the tackle couldn’t apologise enough and Bradley was fairly certain it wasn’t intentional. The player even came into their dressing room after the game to check on him.

At least he had the next three weeks off and his foot would be healed by the time their families arrived.

Time for the Christmas of a lifetime, he thought.

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