Friday, 29 April 2011

Football Writers

I have been working with a group of children called the Football Writers since September. They go to Ghyllgrove Junior School in Basildon.

All year - supported by their amazing teacher, Mrs Baker (left) - they have been working on a trailer for my new book, Own Goal.

This is it:

I am absolutely thrilled with it. I hope you like it too.

They started by reading the book. Then they storyboarded it. Then they looked at other trailers for books.

Once they had shared the jobs of actors, directors, designers, etc., they set to work.

I am really proud of what they achieved. We took them to a cinema in Basildon and screened it there, so they could see it on a big screen.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Choosing Chocolate

When I was researching Off Side, I went to visit a fair trade community in Ghana. Part of the story was about a boy whose family were being cheated and not paid a fair rate for their cocoa beans.

One day I found myself in a school deep inside Ghana. The kids there asked me to sing some English football songs. I gave them a bit of Marching On Together and some other numbers. They wanted to know about England, about my books, about football and about my daughter,

The school had been paid for by a dividend that Divine chocolate pay the farmers to help them build schools and medical facilities. They had decent houses too. Thanks to being paid fairtrade prices.

The dividend Divine pays them means that Divine and other fairtrade chocolate costs us a few pence more. It doesn't make that much diference to most of us. But it does to them.

Please - if you're buying Easter eggs, etc. this week - consider buying Fair Trade. You'll be changing lives. I've seen it in action.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011


This Easter I will be at home for 14 out of 15 days. I go away a lot, so it's going to be great.

I have some plans of things to do with my daughter. She wants to play pitch and putt, football and go cycling. We'll do that.

A few nights ago she asked me what I used to play at with my friends when I was a kid. I said football. But then I remembered.

My friend and I used to build forts out of blocks of wood, set at either end of the room. We used to fill them with plastic soldiers. Then we'd throw balls at each others forts - to destroy them. The skill was to build a solid fort.

My daughter liked the sound of it. So I have bought some soldiers: £3.29 for 30. I can't wait.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Big and Clever by Dan Tunstall

Big and Clever is the story of a boy who is drawn into a new world of excitement and trouble by a friend at school. The boy - Tom - is at a new school and knows no-one. He feels like he doesn't fit in. Then he gets the chance to have a new identity. As a football hooligan. It is a chance he takes. This is a story about identity, fighting and drinking, but most of all, about choosing between the safe and steady comforts of life AND the excitement and danger of figthing at the football. What I love about this book is it is accurate. I used to know a lot of lads like the ones in this book and Dan Tunstall gets it spot on. That is so necessary in a book like this - and for the readers it is aimed at. The story starts with Tom as a nice son, a loving boyfriend and doing well at school. It ends in extreme - and not at all attractive - violence, at which point Tom has to choose one or other path. I have not been gripped by a books since reading iBoy by Kevin Brooks last year. In fact, the books have a lot in common. It is an outstanding book. On a par with Keeper by Mal Peet as one of the great football novels for kids. Big and Clever is published by inde press, Five Leaves of Nottingham.

Thursday, 7 April 2011


I had a great chat with a couple of year eight girls today about dads. They told me how their dads embarrass them. Singing in front of their friends. Showing extreme affection in public. Treating them like they were seven. My daughter is seven. Soon she will be embarrassed by me, maybe. I am trying to learn things so that that won't happen... as much as it could. They did a story plan about an embarrassing dad. I tried to get them to see their story from their dad's point of view. It was all very embarrassing.


I have been in Nottingham most of this week, working with Den Corrall of Quadrant C! We've been working with year sevens - on reading and writing. And it's been great. There's a real love of football here. But also a passion for stories - reading them and writing them. I want to say thanks to Nottingham. I'm glad to be coming back next week and in May. I'd also like to apologise that Leeds beat Forest 4-1 on Saturday... but no-one would believe me, so I won't. Thanks also to Den. We have discussed a lot of things to do with football and fatherhood this week. Two of my favourite subjects.

Fell Running

I have been running on the fells in Yorkshire for a few months now. It looks like I've got past the stage where my ankles get injured every other week. So it's time to sign up for a fell race. But fell races are not easy. Fell runners are usually very light. Not fifteen-and-a-half stone like me. So here's my plan. I am going to enter a fell race this summer, around my birthday. I am going to run three times a week, at least once of those in the hills, hopefully two. I am going to get my weight down to fourteen stone. I will do this by not eating three bars of choc/cakes/servings of library biscuits a day. And by running. Let's see how long this lasts...