Thursday, 30 December 2010

Fell Running

I've had such a buzz out of running on the hills in the last three months. I love it. It's hard, especially uphill. But, once you're up there on the flat, you feel like you're flying. I like it in the mist best. Shapes looming out at you.

I want to 2011 to be the year I took part in fell races. I will need to train for months to make sure I'm not just walking most of it, arriving at the finish line when everyone else has driven home. But I'll get there. There's a fell race in May round here. That'll be my target.

I'm really missing it now. I've had this stupid calf strain for two-and-a-half weeks and it's still not 100%. But I reeeeeeeeeeeally want to go up on the fells on New Year's Day.

So... I'm going for a quick three-miler now. Nice and slow. If I come home unscathed, I'll go on the tops on 1st January.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Elizabeth Beresford

The creator of the Wombles, Elizabeth Beresford, died over Christmas.

When I was a boy I didn't read. But I did watch The Wombles on TV. I worshipped them. Especially Tomsk. My grandma made me a Tomsk and I loved him. I had the Wombles LP, including Remember You're a Womble, etc. One of the first presents my wife bought me was a Tomsk.

I loved them so much that I wrote to the author. And she wrote back. It was hand written. She was glad I liked Tomsk, she said. He was one of her favourites too. That letter meant the world to me. My dad framed it for me. It was amazing: a real author had written a special letter to me.

I get letters from my readers. Not as many as Elizabeth Beresford will have got, but I get a few. When I answer them I make sure I take my time and make it personal. I hand write it. And every time I do it I think of Elizabeth Beresford and what she did for me.

My daughter started reading the Wombles in November. She loves them too. We were planning to write a joint letter to her.

Friday, 17 December 2010

2010 THE END

This is my 100th blog of 2010. It might be the last. It might not.

I did my last school visit of the year today. A small school above the Calder Valley in Old Town. I talked about my books, but mostly encourged the children to talk about what they like to read.

I am looking forward to this holiday. Twenty-five days off without having to speak in public.

Don't get me wrong: I love school visit. And I love talking to children. But I've done four days a week for fifteen weeks this term and I'm shattered. I need a break. Like lots of us do, adults and children.

The only other reason I'll blog is after the Hot Toddy race on 27 December. I have been training for it all year. Twice a week. I did it in 52 minutes last year. My revised target for this year is 45 minutes. I wanted to do it quicker, but I did my calf in last week and am still hobbling, so have lost the last fortnight's training. Oh well.

Next year it's fell running.

Thank you to all the schools and libraries and readers and parents who have been in touch and invited me in this year. I have loved it.


Friday, 10 December 2010


This is Jordan.

Jordan sent me a letter to say he liked my books.

It was such a nice letter that I wrote back to him, saying if he wanted I could come into his school.

Then his teacher emailed me and we sorted it out.

I went to see him yesterday. And his classmates. He went in goal for the penalty shoot out thing I do. He was very good.

There was a lot I liked about Jordan. He was funny. He made his classmates laugh. He was a good keeper. And, with his school being only a mile from Elland Road, he was a huge Leeds United fan.

Thanks for a nice morning at your school Jordan!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Workshop with Reluctant Writers

I did a session with nineteen year-sevens today in Port Talbot. They had been identified as reluctant writers, boys and girls. It was great fun.

Here's what we did, having put them in teams:

One: reading

I did a quiz with them about things you can read about football (newspapers, magazines, books), as well as encouraging them to talk about what they like to read. For each correct answer they were awarded a penalty. They took penalties. I kept score.

Two: creating characters

They chose a celebrity (footballer, reality TV person, singer) and created a profile of them, finding five nice things and five not-so-nice things about them. They used books, newspapers, magazines and the internet. The idea was to create a character they could use in a story later. They presented their profile and were awarded between one and five penalties. They took penalties. I kept score.

Three: what, who, when, where, how, who, why?

They planned something unpleasant for their character. Kidnap. Murder. Etc. Then they asked the above questions. What happened? Who did it? When? Where? Then why and how? This helped them create a story. They worked up the story then presented it. They were again awarded points, equalling penalties. Then they took penalties.

By now I had a final score. The winning team won a nice price. Cash.

The librarians said they'd really enjoyed it, had produced surprisingly good work and had behaved.

It was a great day and I thank Port Talbot Libraries, especially Paul Doyle.

There are more free ideas for school and library activities on my website at

Friday, 3 December 2010


I am still loving writing this book about football and WWI.

While I was adding some pictures of the settings that George (my co-author) sent me, I was listening to a WW2 fighter pilot talking about the experience.

At the end of the interview he was asked 'How do you want to be remembered?'

He replied 'As someone who did his duty.'

And it struck me that that is what George and I have been talking about. Our character's duty during trench warfare and, after, to his football talent.

Duty. Does it sound like a good title?

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Writing a New Story

I've been having a great day: I've started a new story.

The National Literacy Trust is runningPremier League Reading Stars in schools from 2011. I have been involved in designing the scheme and writing the materials for it. One of the things they have asked me to do is write a ten-part episodic cliffhanger story to be read at the end of each session.

I've decided to bring my Football Academy and Foul Play books together in the story: Danny Harte meets Jake Oldfield and together they save the world. Something like that.

And I'm loving it. It is great to be writing about Danny again. He's my favourite character.

I am just at the planning stage now. I need ten 700 word chunks, each ending with a dramatic cliffhanger. Then I'll start writing on Monday.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Opening a Library

I was asked to open a library at Leesland school, Gosport, last week. I went to talk to the children and we played my Football Reading Game. It was fun.

It was all going really well, until I was standing on a shaky table in the new library, holding a pair of long sharp scissors, watched by 250 children. That was when they asked me to speak.

I told them why I like libraries. Because when I got into reading, age 17, the libraries in Leeds fed my passion for books and took me to countries all over the world, first in the books, then on trains and in boats. Because the books I borrowed from them and read in their reference library have given me ideas and thoughts and knowledge and thrills and doubts and hates and loves and have, I am sure, helped make me a much happier person than I would have been without them.

I also told them that I use my local library now and that, without it, I could never write the books I write, because I borrow books about wars and sports and countries and spies and a hundred other subjects.

And I felt almost tearful up there in front of these 250 children, especially when I cut the ribbon.
I have not done that before. And I have to say thank you to Leesland School for giving me that honour.

As I expect the children who go through that school will never forget their exceptional school library, I will never forget being asked to be there when they first got to see it.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Beatrix Potter was a Leeds Fan

There's a new blog out. It is about football and is written by a group of children's authors.

What football team does your favourite children's author support? What do they think of things going on in football today? How do they get their weekly football fix?

Please take a look at And please tell anyone about it who you think might be interested. We want comment, debate and lots of friction.

So far Dan Tunstall, Helena Pielichaty and me and on it. But we're lining up lots more.

(By the way, it's not true about Beatrix Potter. Sorry.)

Thursday, 18 November 2010


I've started the WWI children's book I am writing with George Myerson. We have been sorting out a structure for a few weeks. Today I did 1500 words.

I am kind of happy with it. But it might not be the right thing. It is hard to tell. I am sending it to George to see what he thinks. Then I will be clearer.

I have never written fiction set in the past before. Therefore, it is bound to be deeply flawed. That's why it is good working with George. I suspect we will work out several changes - large and small - that need making before I move on from chapter one. But, once we are happy, I will get stuck in.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010


I've had a good day in Llanelli, south Wales. Tomorrow it's Swansea. Thursday Cardiff. A hell of a week that ends in Portsmouth.

I love doing events, but I miss my wife and daughter a lot. When I am away I work hard in the evenings, so I can spend more time with them when I get home.

Last night I finished a toolkit for the Premier League Reading Stars scheme, which will move into schools next year. I did that on trains from Essex to Llanelli.

Tonight I have finished the final draft of a new novel for younger children. I am sending to my agent in the morning. I have loved writing it.

Tomorrow I start a new book about WWI.

Sunday, 14 November 2010


I had a great run this morning. Up into the hills behind my house, ascending 1000 feet. To Stoodley Pike.

My target is the Hot Toddy, a 5.8 mile hilly road race on December 27th. I started running round then and did it in 52.00 minutes. This year I want to knock 10 minutes off that. I did it in 45.40 recently. But 42.00 is probably beyond me. We'll see.

I love running. This morning it was misty on the first bit of the tops, then the clouds were blown away and I got to see the whole of Calderdale winding down towards Halifax.

And since I braved off road routes, things have been even better. I was always afraid of running off the tarmac because my left knee is knackered. But so far it has held up to gentle fell running. It is amazing to be able to run for an hour knee-deep in mud and water, not seeing another person. I love it. I don't think about anything at all.

Next year, if all goes well, I'm going to do a fell race. I may come last.

After a run I feel great, then tired, then great again. I swear it gives me more energy when I'm writing or talking to school groups.

Six weeks to go. Forgive me if I go on about it.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Trophy Cabinets

This is a new series in my blog - about trophy cabinets at professional football clubs.

Today, I'm featuring Portsmouth. This was what I found in theirs. A thimble with a picture of Harry Rednapp.

Saying that, I should be careful. Nowhere in the country have I had better events. Brilliant audiences. Lovely people. Great book sales. Spectacular organisation.

Thank you Portsmouth. I'll be back next week and the week after.

Being Danny

It's very odd. Two days ago I stop living the life of a football detective through Danny Harte... and today I find myself doing what Danny would do.

We were wating outside Fratton Park to do an activity. Me and several librarians. It was cold. Nobody had arrived to let us in. We needed to get inside. And quick.

Suddenly, was possesed by Danny. What would he do? He'd get in.

So, I managed to push the gates open a little. Then I removed the unlocked padlock and slid the bolt open. After that I was able to pull up the bolt fixing the gates to the tarmac.

Bingo. We were in.

I have to admit, I was proud of myself. Of course, there was nothign illegal about what I was doing. It was for the greater good.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Killing Your Characters

I have just finished the last edit on the last Foul Play novel, Own Goal. And, have, therefore finished writing Danny Harte.

It took me nearly twenty years of trying to get my first book deal with Puffin. And it was Danny Harte who did it. He was the character who meant I could be a full time writer.

When children ask who is my favourite characters it is always him. When they ask if he is based on me, I say that he is based on what I wish I had been like when I was fourteen.

In the first draft of Own Goal Danny sat on a bomb to stop it going off and killing Charlotte. He died. But none of the people who read my first drafts liked that, so he lived on. And I'm kind of glad. I have this idea that he might join the police and that I might write adult crime fiction about him.

But today I say goodbye to Danny Harte... and I turn my mind to a twenty-year-old man called Jack, who is about to find himself in the trenches at the Somme.

Monday, 1 November 2010

What I'm Doing

I am writing a WW1 book with another author.

It's new for me. My books, to date, are contemporary and have a football background.

We are using a real story, but fictionalising it. This is the new thing. We know lots of facts and lots of people who were there, but not the content of their conversations and the details of their relationships.

So, now I'm plotting. Trying to stick to the story, but also trying to include regular cliff hangers, character development, excitement, etc. All this without corrupting the essential story.

By the end of the week we should have a solid plot. Then I'll need to do the edit on Foul Play 5, which I'm really looking forward to. All while reading up on Ukriane, Poland and Norway for the new series for 2012, The Squad, which Puffin are publishing.

I'm learning.

Dark Matter

I read Dark Matter by Michelle Paver this weekend. Brilliant book.

I've had a love-hate relationship with Michelle Paver's books. She is next to me on the bookshop shelves. You'll sometimes find one of my titles holding up dozens of up her six Ancient Darkness books. But I'll read the Ancient Darkness ones now. There are dozens of them there for a good reason.

Dark Matter follows a 1937 Arctic expedition to Spitsbergen, to four months of sunless darkness, one man left on his own. Except he is not on his own. It's chilling, thrilling and beautifully written.
I think the publisher are pitching it as a young adult/adult book. Either way, it's great.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Meeting Joshua

This is Joshua - and me. Joshua lives in Leicester. He wrote to me a few weeks ago, saying he liked my books.

Because I was in Leicester yesterday, I dropped into his school. Humberstone Junior. It was one of the best moments of being an author so far. I was taken to his classroom where I was revealed as a surprise guest. Then we all did a couple of sessions of my Football Reading Game.

It was really good to meet him and the rest of the children in his school. They made me very welcome.

Thanks for writing to me Joshua. Thanks Humberstone. And thanks Joshua's dad.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Brian Clough

Lots of Leeds fans hate Brian Clough, but I quite like him. Anyway, I was walking round Nottingham with my family today and we ran into him!

I saw him at Leeds once, when he was Forest manager. He was giving a young player a debut. The player was nervous, so Clough put his arm round him and walked him round the perimeter of the pitch, making him look all the Leeds fans in the eye. I thought that was genius. The player played well. Clough helped him overcome his nerves.

I saw him another time, at a Leeds-Forest reserve game. He was a bit worse for wear that night, but still an entertainer.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

A Quick Note

Wicor Primary in Fareham, Hants, is a great school. I went today and was really inspired by the corridors full of books and loads of exciting activities and ideas going on.

Thank you, Wicor. You are doing a great job.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Staffordshire Libraries are Fab

I had a great day with Stafforshire Libraries yesterday. I did events in Shenstone, Burntwood and Lichfield Libraries.

And it was excellent. Good audiences. Lots of dads with sons - and daughters. And mums. And... I sold 20 books. I wanted to know why it was so good. So I asked. I had no illusion that it was to do with me.

It was because:

* the library staff took posters round to all the local schools to advertise a range of author events they're doing, hoping to engage head teachers with what they were trying to do

* they talked to children and families who use their libraries, to encourage them to come along

* they had posters up in all the libraries

* they mentioned it at local Beavers meetings, etc.

* they got a mention about it in the local papers

They worked really hard to get an audience!

I used to put on author events in libraries. It was my job. It's a hard job drawing an audience for a lesser known author, like myself. So I know they've worked hard.

I am very grateful. Thank you Staffordshire.

On the way home I listened to Boro v Leeds on the radio. And we won! What a day.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Premier League Reading Stars 2011

Had a good meeting at the National Literacy Trust today.

Jim Sells wants me and Diane Baker (extraordinary teacher from Basildon) to work up a toolkit for Premier League Reading Stars in schools.

We talked it through over spag bol, courtesy of the Premier League.

The plan is to devise ten sessions that can be used in schools to encourage football-loving children who aren't so into books. The best bit is that, working with Diane, I'll learn about what will and won't work in school settings.

We've got six weeks to do it. We'll use some of the ideas that worked so well for PLRS in libraries and some of the ideas Diane and I have used in her school.

If you have any ideas, please do get in touch.

Friday, 8 October 2010

This is where it all starts

I am at an exciting point in my writing life. Planning a new series. I am reading about spies, watching films about spies and planning a trip.

This is Tromso. Within the Arctic Circle, not too far from Russia. This is where it all begins. The story.

But first - and this is the bit that keeps me awake at night because I am so excited - a trip there. In the dead of winter.

I love my job.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Shout About Books

Had a great two days in Lancashire doing four Reads United events with Helena Pielichaty, author of the Girls FC series. It was part of their Shout About Books festival.

Lancashire Libraries are great. They deliver their book prizes and this amazing festival, as well as an annual county read promotion. And Lancashire is a BIG county. Almost as big as next door Yorkshire!

They sorted out great theatre venues, a bookshop (along with book buyers!) and four lots of 200 children. The children had all been visited by librarians in advance, so that they could tell them about our books and show them our websites. They also looked after us brilliantly with lifts and lunches,etc. And it ran like clockwork.

And the library is running a really good football fiction promotion, which you can read about in my blog on

In all it was a great couple of days. Thank you Shout About Books!

Friday, 1 October 2010

Good Week

It's been a good week.

One, I signed a contract with Puffin for a brand new 9+ series. Two books. More information to follow soon. But it's going to involve an icy trip to the Arctic Circle in February.

Two, I got some royalties. I've not really had that before, so it feels great. That means (a) the books are selling okay and (b) I can afford to go to the Arctic Circle, with my family.

Three, I have just (ten minutes ago) finished a book that I wrote during September. It is is a short novel for children, 12,000 words long. Because I had time to write it without a book I needed to do, I thought I'd go for it. It is only at first draft stage. Now I need to read it to my daughter, let my wife critique it and also show it to Mrs Baker of Ghyllgrove Junior School, Basildon and my neighbour, Nikki. Both are great for giving honest and spot on advice.

The shocking news is: it's nothing to do with football!

Next, I would like to go out on my bike, but it's chucking it down. I think I'll go anyway...

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Football Writers 2

I spent two days at Ghyllgrove Junior School, Basildon last week. I go there three days in every term to work with a group of year sixes.

The children we work with are called the Football Writers.

Sixteen girls and boys.

Last year’s group wrote a short novel together.

This year the children want to script, plan and produce a book trailer for one of my books. We chose my forthcoming fifth Foul Play book, Own Goal, which is out in May 2011.

That gives us a deadline.

We started by looking at book trailers on YouTube. Charlie Higson’s The Enemy. The Spook’s Apprentice by Joseph Delaney. And another couple.

The first thing that struck me was that, as soon as the kids saw the trailer, they wanted to read the book. It showed the power of book trailers, I suppose.

During the first day we created storyboards of the book trailers we’d seen to help us design one for my book.

Then the children looked at a guide to making short films, seeing all the different jobs there are to do: producer, director, location manager, etc. After reading that through they all chose two jobs they’d like and wrote a letter to me saying what job they wanted, why and what made them a good person for the job.

Next – in my absence – they are going to read the book.

Then we will work together in November on how to create a compelling trailer.

I love working with the Football Writers. Each year we find new ways to read and write about football – and get the children into books. I learn so much working with them and I feed that into the work I do in schools the rest of the year.

After all that we took to the fields at the back. Eight-a-side. It was tight and tense, even interrupted by a fire drill, but my team went on to win 1-0.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Hotel room art appreciation # 1

I have decided to spend a little more time appreciating art. And where better than in some of the hotel rooms I find myself in?

This masterful piece really captures my mood.

You see what I mean?

And, when you see it alongside its companion piece, on the partitition wall to the toilet, it all starts to make sense.


The Football Writers

We started a new cohort of Football Writers at Ghyllgove Junior School, Basildon, today.

Every year I work for several days at Ghyllgrove with teacher, Diane Baker. We work with the children on ideas that we hope will make reading and writing more fun.

This year's group are great. As you can see.

Today we watched book trailers. Charlie Higson's trailer for The Enemy was the best. We storyboarded a trailer and worked out what makes the effective ones work.

Tomorrow the children are going to start thinking about a trailer for my May 2011 book, Own Goal. the plan is to work with media students from a high school and a graphics expert to produce a trailer that I can use to promote the book.

We are also going to work on a reading scheme where the group will act as a police department and solve a crime. That's a bit vague, but the children will put the flesh on the bones tomorrow.

I love working at Ghyllgrove.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Ridgeway School

I was at Ridgeway School in Maidenhead today. And it was brilliant. I worked with reception to year six. I did my football reading game with most years and they all seemed to like it.

They looked after me superbly. Two coffees, a hot choc, a lovely lunch and even a school Leeds fan, who insisted on staying in goal, as his arm bled following a nasty carpet burn. That's Leeds fans for you. He was a hero. Leeds fans worldwide would have been proud of him.

Unusually for me, I read a story to reception and years one and two. I chose Dogger by Shirley Hughes. It brought back great memories of reading Shirley Hughes to my daughter. I love her stuff.

The picture above is the World Cup wall Ridgeway did around my World Cup story.

Thanks for a great day, Ridgeway.

Monday, 13 September 2010

New Resources from the National Literacy Trust

I have been working with the National Literacy Trust to create some spectacular (because they have designed them so well) football reading resources that can be used in schools and libraries anytime.

They include:

* three brand new exclusive classroom read stories by me
* a national writing competition running for the next seven weeks
* a revamped football reading activity toolkit
* new football writing exercises
* and more...

You can find it all at:

I would be very grateful if you could pass it all on to your colleagues and networks. It would help my friends at the National Literacy Trust too.

In addition I will have 10,000 A3 posters to give to schools and libraries from 14 September. You can email me at to let me know how many you want.

Thanks, as always.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

The Willows

I had a great time at The Willows School, Rotherham, on Friday. It's a special school in a village on the rural edges of the town.

They have an excellent reading culture:

* older children are reading buddies for younger kids
* they take part in lots of reading schemes and projects
* there are reading posters and displays throughout the school
* and, like many schools, they have a driven and passionate literacy co-ordinator

Also, they looked after me very well. Five cups of tea. A lovely lunch. And a lift to and from the station.

Thanks to The Willows!

Thursday, 9 September 2010

New Library

This is the new King Cross Library in Halifax. I popped in today to talk about the launch day. I'll be doing an event on the morning of 2nd October.

It's a good library. Lots of books, lots of space. It's good to see a quality library opening in the middle of a large community.

I usually go to Todmorden Library, which as I have said before, is wonderful. In fact, I'm off there now to pick up some books my wife has ordered.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Writing and Running

Hurray! I've finished Own Goal, the fifth Foul Play book. Now it goes to Lindsey at Puffin, so she can cast her intelligent eye over it.

I feel pretty good about finishing it. My wife suggested we have a BBQ this evening to celebrate. She is at the supermarket as I speak buying charcoal, or whatever that black stuff is taht you burn in BBQs. I still have loads of beer left that I had bought in to watch England in the later stages of the World Cup.

As I have been writing the book I have also been training for a 10K race. Three runs a week, mostly.

This is my number. It's in Mytholmroyd on Sunday - birthplace of Ted Hughes. Alice's Run in aid of Epilepsy Action.

I hope to do it in under 50 minutes, which would be good for me and maybe a bit beyond me... and nothing special in the greater scheme of things.

My great focus, however, is not this race. The big one for me is 27 December: The Hot Toddy. A punishing 5.8 miles over the tops in Todmorden. I did it in 52'00 last year, my first ever race. This year I am targeting 42'00, a ten minute improvement. It is possible, so long as my bad knee holds out.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Own Goal

I've finished the third draft of Own Goal. Now one draft to go before I deliver it on Friday...

This last draft before delivery to Puffin is one I really enjoy. I read the whole book aloud in 10 page chunks over two days. It helps me weed out some of my bad writing. If I read it aloud I spot things I just don't see if I read it silently.

Such as repetition of words close to each other, sentecnes that don't flow so well and using real people's names.

One big change in between draft two and three is Danny's fate. I had to decide between keeping him alive - or not...

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Do you want some free posters?

I am having some posters printed that show my books in a footbally way. They are double sided, as you can see.

Would your school, SLS, library or whatever like some for free?

As well as promoting my books, one side has a how-to-use-the-library-to-find-out-about-football panel, as you can also see:

Please email to let me know how many you would like, along with your postal address.

Also, if you could tell others about this offer, I would be very grateful.


Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Killer Character

I am writing a story for the National Literacy Trust website (see picture). A five part story to be read over a week in classrooms.

I'm struggling.

The idea is pretty good: a Russian billionaire, that I have based a character on, comes after me as revenge for my portrayal of him.

I have done 4000 words today. 1000 to go.

I've devoted the whole day to it (except a three-hour cycling and tennis break with my daughter). But I'm not happy.

It could be one - or both - of two things:

(1) that it is in the first person and I am not used to that

(2) it's rubbish


I will show my wife. She can cut through the **** better than anyone.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Rugby stories for boys (and girls)

Lots of England footballers have written children's football. David Beckham and Theo Walcott to name two. Although it seemed to act as a curse for them, as neither made it to the World Cup finals.

Or was that a blessing?

There are - as we know - a lot of football children's books about. Pielichaty. Palmer. Coleman. Morpurgo. Freedman. Peet. Smiley. Arksey. Bradman. Etc...

But there is not much rugby fiction. I go around schools in rugby league country and where rugby union is played and often get asked about children's rugby fiction. Is there any?

The only one I know is The Flea Thing by Brian Faulkner. An excellent story about rugby league in New Zealand.

But in autumn 2011 Barrington Stoke will publishing a rugby (union and league!) novel by Tom Palmer.

Tom Palmer (above) is a rugby union England international. He has played for lots of top clubs, including Leeds Carneigie.

But it's not by him. It's by me (below).

Friday, 13 August 2010

Encouraging reluctant readers... and writers

I have been asked to do some work by the National Literacy Trust.

We wanted to build on the resources we produced around the World Cup in the summer, which led to over 100,000 downloads of a toolkit (aimed at using the tournament to encourage reading in schools and libraries) and free classroom read stories.

So, this autumn, NLT will have the following material on their website, launching in early September:

* a national writing competition where children in schools can finish a story started by me
* the toolkit, but updated so it is about all football, not just the World Cup
* eleven new football writing exercises, aimed at encouraging children to write around sport
* a set of free downloadable classroom-read stories for KS1, KS2 and KS3

The competition has several prizes for the children and their schools/libraries. They are:

* free author visits
* 200 copies of my books, signed
* one child to have a character named after them in my new series

This is a really exciting project. It will add to the quality stuff NLT have on their Reading the Game website.

If you need more info please contact me at

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Leeds 1 Derby 2

First home game of the season: first home defeat.

But it was a good afternoon out. Did you watch it? That was never a penalty. And we hit the bar twice.

The Leeds fans came up with some charming songs as the evening unfolded.

Nigel Clough got 'Your dad's a **** - and so are you. Your dad's a **** - and so are you.'

Then, after he made some amazing saves, for Leeds, Kasper Scmiechel got 'Your dad's a **** - but you're alright...'

When I got home I decided to try and get over it by running from my house to Stoodley Pike, for the first time. If you know the Pike you might be impressed. But, to be honest, I walked most of the way up.

Next game, Lincoln at home. My daughter's fourth Leeds game. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

New stuff for schools

The National Literacy Trust has just asked me to do some material for their website, to launch at the start of the school autumn term. It will include:

* a reworked toolkit of ideas for classroom and library activity based on the World Cup toolkit, Love Football: Love Reading (see image)

* reworked World Cup writing exercises

* free downloadable stories (by me) aimed at all year groups, including one in five parts that can be used over a week of acitivity

* a national writing competition to finish an adventure story

The materials will be aimed at readers, reluctant readers, football fans, everyone really. I'll let you know more when it is on its way.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Good Day

I wish every day was like today.

First, I wrote 2000 words in the Bear, a five minute walk from my house. I got Danny into a boat, rowing across Lake Como at 3 a.m. then, sadly, left him for dead. Will he survive?

Second, I went to play tennis with my wife and daughter.

Third, I did some other work. Admin. Research. Etc.

Fourth, I went on a two-hour walk in the hills with my wife and daughter. As you can see. I would show you a picture of them, but they want to remain anonymous.

Now I'm going to watch a DVD with my wife. Cranford.

This is all great. In term time I am in schools or libraries five days a week, in hotels three nights a week and on trains eternally. Even weekends can be work-centred.

Don't get me wrong. I love going into schools. I like trains. I like some hotels. I need the money. But this is better.

Until September...

Saturday, 31 July 2010


I've started doing Twitter, since I got my iphone. I asked two friends what they thought about it and they both said it was a waste of time.

Are they right?

Have look at @tompalmerauthor

And be honest. Please.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Football's Back

Tomorrow I am going to Elland Road to watch Leeds play Wolves in a pre-season friendly.

I can't wait. After the disappointment of the World Cup (except the final, which I loved, for all the wrong reasons) it will be great to get back to Leeds United.

We've a few new players. It'll be good to see how they fit in. But most off all I want to shout. It's been several weeks since I've shouted and the football is one of the few places where it is socially acceptable to shout.

I was at the San Siro last week. A bit different to Elland Road, but not much...

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Celebrity in the Bear

I did my 2000 words in The Bear this morning. I was very happy with it - which could be a bad sign...

This is a photo of the table where I typed. As you can see I have a laptop, some notes (made in Italy last week) and a large cappuccino.

It was a bit harder to concentrate today because at the next table the mother-in-law of a major political figure of the last decade was having an interesting conversation about Gordon Brown. You can see her jacket draped over the chair on the left.

I did have my new iphone with me and could have taken pictures and recorded what she said. But that would probably get me into trouble, so I didn't. But you do get to see her jacket.

Then I went home, gave my wife and daughter and lift to the cinema to see some dancing film, came home again, ate some reaheated pizza from last night and started to read the Young Sherlock novel by Andrew Lane. It's very good.

Later I am going to take my daughter cycling.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Lake Como

I am just back from Milan and Lake Como, where I was researching the fifth Foul Play book, Off Side. The story is about an Italian football club owner who also owns lots of TV channels. An entirely fictional character who Danny Harte has to come up against.

My family took a boat up the lake, searching for a good house this evil villain could live in. And this is the one we chose. We took lots of photos and I made some notes.

Imagine Danny is being chased across this outcrop. He reaches the statues you can see on the edge of the grounds. If he doesn't jump he's dead. So he jumps...

Now I just have to write it. I made a good start today in Todmorden's Bear Cafe, where I'll be every morning in the summer, writing. I did 2000 words.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010


I'm off to Milan next week to research Own Goal, the fifth Foul Play book. I need to go to the San Siro and some city centre sites for settings.

I am also going to Lake Como where my villain will live in a villa on an island. It'll be nice to go back there with my wife, seeing as this is where we went on our honeymoon nine years ago. Good to take our daughter there too.

In the book Danny is going to have to swim off the island across half a mile of lake. I like to do as much research as I can, so I'm planning to do the same. Just so I can get my facts right.

* * *

Leeds lost a friendly to Bury last night. 4-0.

Thursday, 1 July 2010


I've just ordered tickets for some pre-season friendlies and later games featuring Leeds United. Bury away. Wolves at home. Derby at home. Lincoln at home. The last one is a cup match in the evening and I'll be taking my daughter.

I love taking her to the football. She is six. She's been to Burnley away (age one), Cheltenham at home (age 5) and Blackburn at home (age 6).

The first game was probably a mistake. She was more into the Burnley mascot that the Leeds players and I was worried she might form an attachment.

She has a good record. Two wins and a draw.

But my wife has a great record: ten games, ten wins.

My record is probably something like: 700 games, 400 wins. But who knows?

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Online story

The free World Cup story I have been doing on has been going well.

2900 schools are still downloading it every day. And every school I go into seems to be reading it.

I've had lots of children, teachers and parents emailing me to say thanks.

So I wanted to say 'thanks' back. I have really enjoyed it. With only seven episodes left, it is about to get very tense...

Monday, 21 June 2010


I'm not blogging on here during the World Cup. I'm doing one on

This online story and a full events programme is pushing me to the limit...


Monday, 7 June 2010

World Cup story - chapter one

If you can't access chapter one of my free World cup story at, here is a rough not-very-well-formatted verison. Let me know if you are having any problems:

Foul Play: The World Cup Mystery
A classroom read by Tom Palmer

Episode 1

There was a knock at the classroom door just as Mrs Baker was about to start the English lesson. Danny watched her sigh, then get up off her seat.

‘Read something for a minute,’ she said. ‘In silence, please. I’ll only be outside.’

Then she disappeared into the corridor.

Danny pulled a World Cup guide out of his rucksack. He’d bought it at the newsagents that morning. It had facts on all the players, the stadiums and – most importantly – a chart to fill with scores and other statistics.

Four days to kick off.

It was Monday now. The tournament started on Friday with South Africa v Mexico. The day after that – Saturday – England were playing USA. And Danny couldn’t wait.

He had arranged for his friends, Charlotte and Paul, to come round. They’d watch it with his dad.

But what he didn’t know was that none of this would happen.

His friends would not come round. His dad would not be there. And nor would he.

Nor did he know that his dad was standing in reception. Waiting for him right now.

The noise levels in the classroom had risen as Danny was looking at the fixtures and wondering if England could beat USA.

The Americans had been sounding off on the TV, saying that they had beaten England in the 1950 tournament and that they could do it again now. Especially as England had key players missing.

Mrs Baker came back in.

‘Quiet please,’ she said. ‘I have an announcement to make.’

The room went silent. There was something in her voice. Something that suggested excitement.

‘Danny,’ she said. ‘You have to go home.’

Danny stood up, knocking his chair over. This was shock.

It had happened once before: when he was called home because his dad had been in a bad accident. He felt his legs wobble underneath him.

‘It’s nothing bad,’ Mrs Baker said in a soft voice. She knew his history.

‘What is it?’ Danny asked. ‘I don’t understand.’

‘Your dad is here. And he has some news. Good news.’

Danny frowned and gathered his bag. He caught Charlotte’s eye.

She shrugged, then smiled.

Danny started to walk across the room, edging past tables and chairs and the eyes of his classmates.

‘Shall I tell you what’s going on?’ Mrs Baker said.

‘I’m not sure,’ Danny answered, smiling at his teacher. There was something playful in her voice. As if she wanted to tell the class.

‘It’s up to you...’ she went on.

‘Okay,’ Danny said.

‘Your dad is here because he is taking you to the airport. You fly this afternoon.’

Danny stopped and faced his teacher.

‘Do you want to know where?’ she asked.

The noise in the classroom had built now. Danny felt someone tapping him on the back. He ignored it.

‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Please.’

‘Danny’s father has just been to see the head,’ Mrs Baker was talking in her classroom voice. ‘And he has arranged for Danny to have the next month off school. Somehow!’

The noise in the class exploded. Danny picked out words like ‘jammy’ and ‘lucky’ and ‘it’s not fair’ from the cacophony.

‘Why?’ Danny asked.

‘Because, Danny Harte, he is taking you to South Africa. To watch the World Cup.’

Danny had to put his hands over his ears, the class was so loud now.

‘Go,’ his teacher mouthed.

So Danny headed for the door. He looked back at Charlotte again, who waved, but looked slightly sad. Danny waved back.

Then he was in the corridor.

And as he walked towards school reception he heard the chant of En-ger-land, En-ger-land, En-ger-land coming from the classroom.

Danny had been to watch football abroad before. He’d been lucky. He’d seen games in Russia and Ghana.

It had happened because, in the last year, he’d found himself in the habit of getting involved with football crimes. Kidnapped strikers. Russian billionaires trying to kill England keepers. That sort of thing. His life had been in danger several times because of his new hobby.

He’d managed to solve three major crimes and saw himself as a sort of football detective.

But this was nothing to do with that.

He turned a corner in the corridor, a smile growing on his face.

Danny didn’t need to be a detective to work out what was going on. When his dad had had his accident, he had been blinded. As a result his life had changed a lot. But – also as a result – he’d been given compensation because the accident had been to do with his work as a fireman. His dad had said that one day they’d spend some of that money on something amazing.

This was the amazing thing. Danny knew it.

He could feel a thrill of excitement running through him.

Was this real? Was he really going to the World Cup finals?

He couldn’t wait to see his dad. To hear his plans.

But what Danny didn’t know was that this would not end up as just a trip to South Africa to watch football. It would end up as his biggest – and most dangerous – case yet. One that would push his skills as a football detective to the limit.

And it would all begin tomorrow...

Episode 2 will be published at 8 a.m. on Tuesday 8th June at Thank you for reading.

Daily writing exercise

If you can't download my daily World Cup writing story from, here it is here. Let me know if you are having any problems:

Exercise number one (for 7 June 2010)

There was bad football news over the weekend: England’s captain, Rio Ferdinand, is injured and cannot lead the team in South Africa.

Most England fans are upset at the news, but imagine how Rio feels...

He was about to live the greatest dream of any footballer: to captain his country at the World Cup. But now he will have to watch the tournament on TV like the rest of us.

Today’s writing exercise is to write a letter to Rio. Here are some questions to help you.

What would you say to him if you met him?

How could you make him feel better?

Maybe you could do a bit of research on him – in books, newspapers and on the internet – to find out what he has achieved as a footballer. You could write to thank him for what he has done for England, to remind him what a great footballer he has been.

Or maybe you could send him your favourite joke.

Or write him a poem.

You could even suggest some books he could read during the summer. Books you have enjoyed. Rio was once a Premier League Reading Star, so we know he likes to read.

Then why not send him the letter? His address is Old Trafford Football Stadium, Manchester.

Watch out for another World Cup writing exercise tomorrow.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

From one of my readers

I wanted to share this with everyone. It is by one of my readers, about his football team. I really like the photo:

Daniel Knight and Football

I like playing football because it's a lot of fun and I can easily play it with all of my friends, anywhere. I'm a member of Earl Marshall junior football club from Burngreave in Sheffield. I have been there for about 3 years since I was 5. The team I play for is very strong and it is quite hard to beat us. We are the u8s (nearly u9s) We have two teams and a squad of 20 players.There are a variety of nationalities in our team but we all get on well because we all know each other and we all love football. I play in a wide range of positions but I am mainly in defence because I can read the game from there and I can still push up when I need to.

My best friends are Curtis, Yazid, Adil, Rudi, Elliot and Nathan. In this picture me, Curtis, Yazid, Adil & Farooq are wearing our "I am England" t-shirts and they show that England supporters all look different. we are all looking forward ot watching the World Cup. If England don't win I think either Spain or Brazil will do it.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Own Goal

Eight in the morning. I am at Manchester Victoria station, waiting for a connection.

It's raining, believe it or not...

I'm just finishing off the English section of Foul Play 5. The rest of it is set in Italy, where I'm going in the summer.

And I've just thought of the title: OWN GOAL.

Kofi Danquah (from Off Side) has just put one in the back of his own net. But the title fits the book in more ways than that. Stuff to do with an Italian media mogul that I can't divulge yet.

In the cafe they are showing highlights Ireland beating Algeria last night. Good news for England?

It is nearly time...

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Leverhulme Primary

I had a good day at Leverhulme Primary school in Bolton this week. A very good school, I'd say. The teachers were a good laugh and so were the kids.

I get asked a lot of questions in schools and I have to say this school - even the year threes - had some great questions. They'd also read lots of different books.
They sent me this photo. Hello Leverhulme!

Friday, 14 May 2010

Dinner with Capello

I had dinner with Fabio Capello last night. And these two guys called Wayne and Sir Alex.

Sadly they were thirty yards away from me at the top table. But, all the same, it was pretty good.

I was lucky to be asked to go to the Footballer of the Year dinner.

The best bit was seeing Howard Wilkinson, manager of Leeds' 1992 league success. And Chris Kamara.

I was sat next to David, my agent, and a lad called Tom who does those BBC commentaries online. The funny ones you can text into.

I left before the heavy drinking started. I need to write this morning, so it was a wise move.

I started Foul Play 5 yesterday and I am really enjoying it. It's good to be writing again.

Monday, 10 May 2010


We did it. 250 miles of paths and roads. 26 hours in the saddle. 5 days.

We rode into Potters Field, London, to see our families waiting for us. A lovely moment.

Then I helped perform an opera of Off Side, the new Foul Play book. Four times.

If you were at the second performance you might have noticed my subtle text-checking. My agent - and friend - David, was texting me the Leeds score. The last one read 'We've done it!!!', meaning Leeds have been promoted. That happened just as I finished my last bit. That is why I jumped off the stage like that, then grabbed that six year old girl (my daughter) and swung her round, then danced over Tower Bridge singing loudly, if you were there and were wondering.

Thank you to everyone who supported the ride. We raised £10,000 worth of books for a Ghanaian football academy's new library.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Day Five: Tring to Brentford

Four hours on canal paths, dodging pitbulls.
Two broken wheels and two punctures.
This is Pat fixing one of the bikes. Pat has been our navigator and technician. Each day we've made to it where we need to be by when we need to be. Thanks to Pat.
We arrived in Brentford and I went to do an event at Richmond Waterstone's. Then we ate. A lot. And we felt good. Although today was hard going, we are nearly there. Nearly raised £10,000 for a library in Ghana.
And now for the last day. Along the Thames to Potters Field, for Off Side the opera.
But, more importantly, radio coverage of Leeds v Bristol Rovers. If Leeds win, we're promoted. If not, the play offs.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Day four: Northampton to Tring

Day four. Hard going.

My legs are changing shape - and hurting.

But we made it.

46 miles.

We are at a posh hotel, which is a treat. The Pendley Manor. Very nice. They kindly gave us an 80% reduction in price, supporting our charitable efforts.Thanks to them.

The three of us spent a long time in the pool and jacuzzi, trying to save our legs.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Day three: Leicester to Northampton

Another good day. We had to rush today: I had an event at Waterstone's Northampton at 1.30pm. So we set off and pedalled hard.

The highlight of the day was a pair of tunnels. Unlit. This is David and Pat before we went in. Note the tiny pinprick of light at the far end of the tunnel, just between their heads.

Inside the tunnel I took this photo of what must have been a ghost cyclist. Creepy...

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Day two: Derby to Leicester

A lovely day in the landscape between Derby and Leicester. There are no hills to speak of in this area. It was really good fun. And easy, to be honest. 40 miles polished off in less than four hours, with a few short breaks.

There were some adventures en route. I was attacked by a dog... sort of. A rotweiller went for me as I rode past. But rather than tear my foot off, it chose to put its teeth around my flimsy trainer for a second, then release me. How we laughed!
Here is a picture of me today, as we came into Leicester. I found a picture I could send to my daughter. (Hello Iris!)

The hotel in Leicester is very nice. I doubt we'll have the same problems we had in Derby.

I went to sign some books at the Waterstone's on arriving. Now we're off for a curry.
If you want to sponsor me, please go to Thank you!

The Doors

I thought you'd like to see the doors in the hotel that were booted down.

The good news is that our bikes are safe.

And now... to Leicester...

Monday, 3 May 2010

Day one: Sheffield to Derby

We made it. We set off from Sheffield United FC (where Arthur Wharton became the first professional African footballer) on a breezy morning. I had two cooked breakfasts to fuel myself up.

And here we are (right to left): David, Tom and Pat.

It was a long journey. 56 miles. But not too hilly. We had blazing sunshine and three hail storms.

Coming into Derby was a relief, though.

And the hotel is interesting... but not in a good way. In fact, if the bikes are still in the room they're being stored in in the morning, I'll be pleasantly surprised. Two store rooms on this floor have had their doors kicked in this evening!

If you'd like to sponsor me, the website is . And thank you.

Sheffield - day zero

We start the sponsored cycle ride tomorrow. From Sheffield to Derby.

We had a meal tonight and we're ready to go.

The plan is to cycle from Sheffield to London in 5 days.

From Sheffield because this is where the first African played professional football. London because that's where the latest do. I am doing bookshop events in most towns as we head south.

There's a grim air in Sheff tonight. Sheff Wed got relegated tonight, so you can understand why.

Sheffield - day zero

We start the sponsored cycle ride tomorrow. From Sheffield to Derby. We had a meal tonight and we're ready to go.

The plan is to cycle from Sheffield to London in 5 days. From Sheffield because this is where the first African played professional football. London because that's where the latest do. I am doing bookshop events in most towns as we head south.

There's a grim air in Sheff tonight. Sheff Wed got relegated tonight, so you can understand why.

Monday, 26 April 2010


I am at George Best airport waiting for the 1855 flight to Manchester. I have been in Downpatrick today with some brilliant schools. They know a lot about football over here. It's a shame that most of them support Man U!

I have been working on the words for the opera of Off Side. Off Side (Foul Play book 3) is coming out next week. We are launching it at Potter's Field, London, with an opera of part of the story. I have to narrate bits that can't be sung. That's what I'm writing.

If you want to come, here's some info:

It's not easy.

But I'm trying. And doing new things is good.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Another author

I was in Wolverhampton Library today about to do an event and a man came in while I was talking to the librarian. He was introduced to me as another writer. Paul Dowswell.

It was great to meet him. He is the author of one of my favourite books, Auslander, the story of a boy adopted into a Nazi family in 1940s Berlin. I emailed him when the book came out to say how much I loved it.

We had a quick chat and he was kind enough to lead me to WHSmith, where I needed to buy a newspaper for my workshop.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Upper Calderdale

I cycled today. Over the tops above Todmorden. Two hours. I loved it.

I was not into the idea of cycling at all for this charity thing. I was nervous, reluctant, thinking I'll do it for this, then chuck the bike in the canal*. But it was great to be in the middle of nowhere, with just the sound of bleating when I stopped. I'm keeping the bike.

There was more bleating back down in Tod, when I got home. I found out Leeds lost and was gloomy all evening... and still am.

* of course I would never do this

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Mountain Bike

I have finally bought a bike for my sponsored cycle ride to raise money for the Ghana football academy, Right to Dream.

We go in less than three weeks.

I'll be honest, I was not looking forward to cycling. I have not been on a bike for 25 years and would have prefered to walk.

But I took the bike into the hills where I live. The Pennines. And I loved it. All I want to do is get home and hit the hills again.

If you want to sponspor me, I'm at Please and thank you.

Premier League Reading Stars

I am touring the country talking at libraries on behalf of the Premier League.

Premier League Reading Stars is a scheme that uses football to encourage reading. Footballers recommend books they like. Families talk about the books. Check out to find out more.

Today I was in Sunderland, yesterday Portsmouth, the day before Preston. They've all been great. And I am pleased to report that the nations trains - if not planes - are running like clockwork.

Tonight I am in a Newcastle hotel, about to watch the Leaders' Debate. I am hoping it will be good, but fear it will be a disappointment. A bit like watching England.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Using the World Cup to encourage reading

I have finished my toolkit of ideas for schools and libraries to use to promote reading through the World Cup.

Love Football: Love Reading is available at

It is full of ideas for displays, activities and book groups. There is also a free episodic story for football fiction fans.

Please let anyone who you think may be interested know about it.

Thank you kindly.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

I had a great day today. After doing an event at Aberdeen library, I went to see Aberdeen v Dundee United.

It was a good game. End to end. In the first half hour, Aberdeen were terrible and went 2-0 down. Then, cheered on by their fans at last, got it back to 2-2.

I chose to sit in the bit between the two sets of fans. The banter was great. Lots of chanting, gesturing and a couple of fans kicked out.

This is Jon Daly, scorer of the two Dundee games.

It is odd watching football that doesn't involve Leeds. You can just enjoy the football, instead of feeling deeply anxious about every kick of the ball.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Running on Sand

I have never run on sand before - on a beach. But I did last night.

It was nice. And I have no shin pain today. Roads hurt my legs.

This is the beach I ran on.

From Colwyn Bay to Aberdeen

I am nearly at the end of an epic eight-hour trip by train from North Wales to Aberdeen.

We've just gone through Arbroath (home of the UK's most extraordinary ever football result, 36-0).

But, as I travel north, my coat is heading south, to London. I left it on the 1500 hours Rhyl to Euston. Still, I'm not going to need a coat in Aberdeen, am I?

I am in Aberdeen to do an SPL Reading Stars event and to go into some schools on Monday.

Aberdeen are at home to Dundee United tomorrow, so I'll go and see that. I've seen football in England, Ghana, Egypt, France, Spain, Belgium, Malta and Wales. But never Scotland.

I have to find a toy Highland Cow for my daughter, too.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Please sponsor me

In two months I am doing a sponsored bike ride from Sheffield to London with my agent, David, and his friend, Pat.

We want to raise money to buy books for a football academy library in Ghana. The academy does great work and helped me enormously when I was researching my book, Off Side.
Please have a look at Whatever you can give will be gratefully recieved.


Sunday, 7 March 2010


I'm in Glasgow this evening. Tomorrow I'm talking at the city's brilliant Aye Write! book fesitval. I came here last year and loved it. They run one of the very best festivals in the UK.

They have put me up in an amazing hotel. There's a 36 inch TV, a gap in the wall so you can watch live football (for instance) from the bath and two Tunnocks tea cakes with the tea/coffee. This is stylish living.

On the way up here on the train I read some more of Forza Italia. It is great and is giving me several possible settings for my next book. I am at that great stage of a book where I'm reading around, looking for characters and places for them to do their stuff.

So far Como, Milan and Rome in Italy look good. The problem is we're a bit skint at the moment, so may not be able to go. But I'm hoping we can. I've been to all those cities before, but it'd be best to go back.

If I see a place in the context of what my story is going to be it helps me get it right. It also gives me new ideas for the plot.

For instance, when I went round St Basil's catherdral in Moscow I had the idea that Danny could hide in there overnight.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Author in search of a character

On the train to Norwich last night, I read Forza Italia by Paddy Agnew, in preparation for the fifth Foul Play novel.

His book is about the ups and downs of Italian football. Lots of corruption amid some of the greatest football ever played.

I am reading it because I am looking for a villain for my book. Someone who is a menace to football and society. Someone who Danny Harte - my hero - can take on.

Any volunteers?

Monday, 1 March 2010

Save Libraries

There is a lot in the news about councils cutting services, after a new survey.

As usual, libraries are being touted as the main losers. There will be rationalisations. Efficiencies. Staff. Buildings. Books.

We need to get down to our libraries and borrow more books. We need to join if we're not members. Persuade others to join. That's how libraries judged. On their active users: people who have borrowed books in the last year.

Run 2

I did my second proper race on Saturday. 10K at Standish Hall Wigan.

I have never run in eight inches of mud before. Or across sloping fields on my hands and kness because of standing water. But it was fun.

I came 149th out of 185. Not bad for me. I did it with - mostly behind - author of a Yorkshire Miscellany, Tom Holman. He came 148th. Time 1'00'21. But that was down to the mud.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010


I am in Tamworth. In a hotel. Just starting to research my Barrington Stoke novel about rugby. Whilst listening to Radio Five, tracking Leeds v Oldham. Such a big game... if you're a Leeds fan... or an Oldham fan.

I can't imagine how bad I'll feel if we fail to win this one too. I'll tell you in two hours. But hopefully not.

Shola Ameobi recommends...

A couple of weeks I saw a picture on a Newcastle United newsletter of Shola Ameobi reading my book Reading the Game.

Anne Archer of Newcastle Libraries was very kind and got me a copy of it, along with the great man's permission, to put the picture on my blog.

I love Newcastle Libraries. That's libraries, not United. They are one of the best.

It is kind of a shame the club got relegated last season. Not because I care at all about the team, but it meant the libraries could not do the Premier League Reading Stars scheme. They always did it very well. So I find myself hoping Newcastle get promoted, which is a bit odd for a Leeds fan.

Thanks Anne. Thanks Shola.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Elland Road

I was at a meeting at Leeds United today. We were talking to the community department.

In the post this morning I got a cover of the new Foul Play book, Off Side. It's about a boy from Ghana who is brought over to the UK by a dodgy football agent.

Jim Sells of the National Literacy Trust was kind enough to take a picture of me and the book at the stadium.

It was my second visit in three days. On Saturday I watched Leeds 1 Brighton 1.

Not a good result: but always a good day out.

Premier Leaue Reading Stars

The new Premier League Reading Stars book list is available at PLRS. A great list of books recommended by footballers. As I've mentioned, I am on the list. But there's some other great stuff there.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010


Now I remember what being a Leeds fan is all about. How stupid of me to forget.

Six weeks ago we were ten points clear that the top of league one and had just won at Old Trafford. Now we have just lost to Walsall at home and are in danger of dropping out of the automatic promotion spots.

A third year of playoff fun beckons.

But who cares? It doesn't matter if your team is in league one or if it just won in the San Siro, does it? It's about supporting your team. Not like the grown man I met today in Grimsby who said he didn't support his home town team anymore 'because they are rubbish'.

I'm Leeds and I'm proud.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Tod Library

I took my daughter to Tod library this afternoon. We looked at some books and picked up three Famous Five books she'd ordered. Also a DVD.

I also got a couple of books about rugby - as I am about to start my rugby novel for Barrington Stoke. I need to know more about the technical stuff in rugby union. I've not watched it live, like I have rugby league. I start that in a week or so when I've finished Killer Pass.

When we were in the cafe opposite - The Bear - my wife phoned to say Leeds were losing 1-0. Not what I wanted to hear. Fortunately we equalised in the 95th minute. A own goal. What a fine wife I have!

Ran 10K in 51:42 today. A 25 second improvement. The Wigan race is in two weeks. I am desperate to break 50:00, but time is running out. I have four more 10K training runs left to cut the time. Will I do it?

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

The Bandaged Man

I had a great day today planning a novel with the football writers of Basildon, a group I work with at Ghyllgrove Junior here. We went out into town and looked for setitngs for murders and people we could characterize as criminals and heroes. Then we worked out a plot that includes my own murder...

Then they gave me some feedback on Killer Pass, the book I am just finishing. It has been so useful to have them read the first draft. They convinced me to drop the ending I'd put together, in favour of something else. There was a character in it called the bandaged man. But not any more.

I love days like this. Working in a school that is as welcoming and interested as Ghyllgrove Junior makes it all worth it. So thank you to them!

Sunday, 7 February 2010


I went back to Bradford today. I used to live and work there - for a decade.

Today it was to take Iris ice skating, though I stayed off the ice. I'm weak-kneed.

We went to the Wool Exchange Waterstone's and saw the empty shop sites an abandoned building sites all around it. It's a depressing city at the moment, I am sorry to say. But - on the bright side - the book shop and Media Museum and Ice Rink are good.

Did my first proper 10K training run for the Wigan race in 3 weeks. Did 52:04. Not bad. For me. I hope to break 50:00 on the race day, but it's probably too late now. We'll see.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Yossi Benayoun

Here's Yossi holding a copy of Dead Ball, his favourite children's book. It is the story of a ruthless Russian billionnaire football club owner who likes to kill footballers.

I'm thrilled Yossi decided to stay at Liverpool and not move to Spartak Moscow.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Jed Mercurio rules

I am reading my third Jed Mercurio novel in two months. Ascent was amazing. Bodies, awesome. Now American Adulterer is stunning. Each novel is brilliant, but each is utterly different. This is one hell of a writer.


Back in Wales. I did lots of writing on the train as it skimmed the English-Welsh border through Shropshire and Herefordshire.

Football Detective 4 is nearly done. Danny just has to rescue Charlotte and avoid a baseball bat that is coming his way. Oh... and the bandaged man who is on his tail.

Also read the final proofs of The Secret Football Club, due May. I am really happy with it.

When I got to the hotel I wanted to carry on writing and it was too early to eat a meal, so I asked for a cream tea. I got two giant scones, half a pound of jam, half a pint of whipped cream, four slices of malty something cake and four Welsh cakes.

That should do me for the week.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010


I had a great time at Bartley Junior school, Southampton, today. They were excellent. I went there as a prize: one of their children won me through Puffin Post.

I met their Newspaper Club before doing my events. They asked me some questions and then came up with a great title for a future book. I want to keep it a secret because it is so good. But I can reveal that the book I am writing now will be called KILLER PASS. Or have I menitoned that already?

So now I am in a Winchester hotel. Eating an M&S dinner. The room has Sky Sports News, so I've that on, plus Radio Five, of course. Big football night. I went for a walk earlier and saw a Leeds fan in a pub. Leeds play Swindon tonight. Very tough.

I miss home. And this is my first night away this week.

Reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid. It is great - and extremely popular with children.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Home tomorrow

I am spending my last night in Carmarthen. It has been good.

I have got into a strange routine after schools. Going to get my tea at M&S foodstore, then looking round Waterstone's, then doing a bit of writing in a cafe near the hotel, then watching live football.

The writing has gone well. Lots of time: lots done. I am well on target now. And pretty happy with it. We have decided on a title too. Killer Pass.

But I am missing Rebecca and Iris a lot. I need to get home.

Every day they put a hot choc in the tea/coffee drawer. I lasted until 7pm before I had it tonight.

Monday, 18 January 2010


I am in Carmarthen for a week of schools. I got a direct train from Manchester. It took over five hours. I had a look round the town. It is very nice. Small, friendly. The hotel is nice too.

All day I have been reading the first draft of Football Detective 4. To get an idea of what is wrong with the plot, the characters and the themes. There's a bit of work to do, but it's not as bad as I thought it would be. Once I've sorted all that structural stuff out I'll read it through word for word. I expect that will take a while. Some of it is pretty loose. I did so much of it on trains. Train writing needs a bit more editing.

But I have all the evenings this week to crack it. Then a couple more weeks until I submit it to the writing group.

In fact, a class of 12 children in Basildon is reading it now. I get their feedback in early February. Ghyllgrove Junior School, Basildon. They're great.

Sunday, 17 January 2010


I did the Hot Toddy route in 50:56.3 today. Over a minute quicker than last time. I felt really good afterwards.

I have entered a 10K race in Wigan on 27 February with Tom Holman, fellow author and also of the Bookseller. I hope to beat 50:00 for that. I did myself a training plan on It's a good site.

Drove to Warrington after the run to see my Auntie Margaret, my mum's sister. And family. A lovely day. Got a copy of my cousin's husband, Paul McGee's new book. He writes about confidence and his book is currently top fo the WHSmith business chart. The books is called Self Confidence.

It was nice to see my Auntie. She said she was proud of me for writing the books. That meant a lot. It is my mum's birthday tomorrow.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Another day, another car park

I am in a Manchester car park. My wife and daughter are in the Manchester Evening Post Arena watching Strictly Come Dancing Live. They were so wired when they went in. My wife was bouncing up and down more than my daughter. I would have gone in with them, but the tickets cost £5o each. Or would I...

So, I am catching up with work in the car. I could have gone to sit in a fancy cafe, but they don't have Radio 5 on in them. Leeds are losing at Exeter and our two main rivals are winning. I knew the scales would come to balance our victory at Man U.

Finished the latest Alex Rider last night. Great stuff. He is the master.

Dammit, now Man U have scored now.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Rotherham Children's Book Prize

I got some good news today. I am on the shortlist for the Rotherham Children's Book Prize. I got the call today. I am very pleased. I do a bit of work in Rotherham and it's always a good laugh. There's a big do on 2 July at Magna.

Thank you Rotherham.

Also, it is confirmed that I am doing a book for Barrington Stoke this year. I am really pleased. I have read a few of their books and loved them. I think it is quite an honour to be published by Barrington Stoke. The book I am doing is not about football! But another sport...

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Back in Scunthorpe

I am back in Scunthorpe, after a lovely weekend at home spent sledging and lying around the place. Oh, and reading the new Alex Rider novel.

I have to admit it, Anthony Horowitz is brilliant. He is such a great storyteller. I was racing through it thinking I am learning so much from this. I am not saying I am stealing things from him. That would be pointless. But I am saying that if you read a really good writer you can learn how to become a better writer. That is what I want to do. Improve. Every day.

I also read Auslander by Paul Dowswell last week. Stunning. An amazing story set in Nazi Germany. It is a tough read, definitely for older readers, but awesome. I emailed the author on his website to say thanks. He was kind enough to email back.

So I am in Scunthorpe schools all week. I was impressed that at least half the children in Scunthorpe support the local team. Many of them have another team (i.e. Liverpool or Man U, usually). But still...

Scunthorpe wallopped Derby 4-1 at the weekend. Leeds only managed a 1-1 with Wycombe.

Poor Derby, eh? It was only two years ago that I was in a Matlock school being mocked for being a Leeds fan by one class, as the class I'd worked with an hour before was outside the library shouting 'We all hate Leeds' through the door.

I must go back to that school and see those lads again. They'll be a bit quieter, I expect.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Another Nice Day

Two more lovely schools in Scunthorpe today. Crowle and Gunness. All the children were lovely.

I go home tomorrow for the weekend. To hack at the unhacked ice for hours. To see my lovely family.

Tonight I have been reactivating me on Facebook. A boy said I should. I am not sure. We'll see.

I have also done more on Football Detective 4. 1000 words. Still no title, but Chris Bulman of North Lincs libraries has had some good ideas.

My exciting life.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Nice Day

I did a day in Scunthorpe schools today. My first events for 6 weeks. It was great.

I went to Crosby Primary in the morning and had a lovely time with 150 of the children, talking football and books.

Then, this afternoon, the Riddings Junior School, working with year six. A great class to work with.

I like doing events. I think towards the end of last year I got a bit run down, what with things going on at home, and I needed a little break. Well, I've had it now. Six weeks of it. And it was really good to be back. I have four or five days a week in schools for the first half of this year. I like doing it.

And things have changed a bit now. I used to get a lot of abuse from Man U fans about being a Leeds fan. But today the Man U fans were quiet. I wonder why...

Tuesday, 5 January 2010


I am in Scunthorpe, ready for three days in schools from tomorrow.

I drove through a snowy Yorkshire. When I left Tod there were eight or nine inches of snow. There is less here. But the threat of more tomorrow. I only skidded once on the 90 mile drive. Luckily I was doing 5 miles an hour

I am spending the night finishing a story for Tom Watt who is editing an exciting collection of football stories.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Big Day

Today is a big day...

I have fifteen working days to write 17,000 words to finish the first draft of Football Detective 4. Then two weeks to rework it. Deadline day is 22 February. It is plotted meticulously, so it should be okay. Today Danny is trapped in an attic with a menacing ex-footballer at the foot of the stairs about to come up and get him...

Tomorrow I go back to working in schools after a 42 day break to look after my wife. My wife is better and all is well. Scunthorpe here I come.

But first I have to go to the supermarket, get some grit, grit my path and my next door neighbour's path, clean the rabbit out (frozen wee, etc.), get the car headlamp fixed, post some rather late Christmas presents, return some library books and DVDs...

... and enjoy being a fan of Leeds United FC.

Saturday, 2 January 2010


I've just been offered two tickets to the Man U v Leeds game tomorrow: £37 each.

This is my answer to those readers who ask if I'm rich: after Christmas there is no way I will pay Man U £74.

I'll have to watch it on ITV like everyone else.

It's snowing heavily in Todmorden. We were meant to drive to Birmingham today to watch the Grufallo. But there was no way. Tod is in the middle of the Pennines, high up. It gets good snow.

For your info, the football split here is about 30% Burnley, 30% Man U, 20% Man City, 10% Leeds, 5% Rochdale and 5% 'other'.