How to Score (On and Off the Pitch)

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Chapter 13

McNair poured himself another beer as he studied the form for the upcoming Euros in Germany. Scotland looked to be one of the favourites to get to the semis at least, and he regretted being turned over by McInally when he welched on his bet. Nobody was going to give him those sort of odds any more so he would just have to place his bets on his William Hill account like any other punter.

On the plus side, he hadn’t heard from Ludo or Marek for months and guessed they had moved on or moved back to Prague. Either way, that suited McNair as he didn’t want anything to do with them after some of the stories he had heard.

His betting was just about covering his bills along with a couple of part time coaching jobs he had on the go with local amateur clubs. He still had his contacts and he still had his fan club at Diggers whenever he felt like being hero-worshipped.

He noticed that Bradley Gardner had enjoyed an excellent season with Barcelona and he was being tipped to lift the Euro trophy in a few weeks. Odds weren’t great at 3/1, but he had a punt on it nonetheless for old times’ sake. It was annoying how Bradley had failed to return his calls and apparently blocked his number, but he couldn’t blame him after the way that he treated him. Jealousy played no small part in his view as he tried to think of other ways to get in touch with him. If only he could persuade him to influence the outcome of a bet. Not fixing matches, that was too obvious, but time of the first corner, first yellow card and missed penalties could be quite lucrative, as he had found when offering inducements to players at lower league clubs in Scotland. It was cheap to buy a player trying to live on £250 a week. A nice crisp £50 note for getting a booking, kicking the ball into touch at the right time and that sort of thing. McNair could always make money on these bets, but the bookies had started to get wise to him and either reduced the odds or refused the bets. He would have to change his tack.

Walking to his local pub to watch the opening game of the tournament, he went over his bets again. At 1/3 for the hosts to beat Slovenia in Berlin wasn’t very generous. However, the opening games tended to be fraught affairs with neither team wanting to make a mistake so he had gone for a 0-0 draw at 8/1. He felt moderately confident as he offered the barman a £5 note for his pint and found an empty seat at the bar where he had a good view of the game before it started to fill up.

With five minutes left to play, McNair was grinning from ear to ear. The score was still 0-0 and it didn’t look like either side was going to score anytime soon. His £50 stake was about to become £400 plus his stake money. By now, he wasn’t even watching the game, just focusing on the time counting down in the corner of the screen and listening to the crowd whistling to encourage the referee to blow for full time.

The clock was showing ninety-three minutes played.

‘Come on ref, blow the fucking whistle!’ McNair muttered under his breath.

Finally, thirty seconds later, the referee blew for full time to a chorus of boos from the home crowd and a massive cheer from McNair.

‘Large Lagavulin, please mate.’ McNair said to the barman. ‘And another pint of heavy.’

That was a great start to the tournament, he thought as he downed the Lagavulin in one. Only another fifty odd more matches to go and he would be minted if his luck continued.

He took out his phone and checked his balance on his betting account, smiling contentedly when he saw it update. He was going to have a good night tonight. Maybe even pull a bird to share his kebab, he laughed.

Just as he was about to take a mouthful of beer, he felt a tap on his shoulder. He nearly spat his beer out when he turned around and saw Ludo and Marek either side of him.

‘Ludo. Marek. Fancy seeing you in here. What are you up to? Did you ever find out what happened to Mr McInally?’ He enquired.

‘Mr McNair. Good to see you again.’ Ludo replied looking just as menacing as he always did. ‘Yes, we found out what happened. We have dealt with the person responsible. Do you still gamble on football matches? We might be able to do some business.’

‘Er, not really Ludo. I packed it in when Mr McInally had his accident. I just have a few small bets now and again to keep me interested. Sorry, can’t help you with that.’ McNair replied cautiously.

‘That is a pity. I understand you were quite good at predicting scores. Marek and I now have our own contacts who like to take on big bets. Boxing mainly, football also. I was hoping you could help us.’ Ludo gave McNair that steely gaze which only meant one thing: Go with them or end up in hospital. What choice did he have?

‘Well, I’ll bear that in mind, Ludo. Give me your number and I’ll get back to you if I change my mind.’ McNair bluffed.

Ludo gave McNair a business card with his number on it. It read Lothian Specialist Contracts and had a small picture of a limo in one corner with his name in the centre. Gangsters with business cards? He thought. Whatever next.

‘I look forward to hearing from you Kevin. I really do.’ Ludo threatened as Marek grabbed his shoulder and squeezed it hard. ‘As does Marek.’ He smiled before turning round and leaving the pub.

‘Shit!’ McNair thought. He had hoped to have seen the last of those two when McInally got bumped. He would have to find a way of not messing with them. He didn’t want to start offering football tips again, as violent as McInally was, he was no match for these two nutters. Might be time to leave town, he thought as he finished his pint and left the pub, looking furtively around outside to make sure Ludo and Marek weren’t still in the vicinity.

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