Date: 7th October 2007 at 4:50pm
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We’ve got 5 signed copies of The Kick Off – the great debut footie novel by Dan Freedman – to give away to Vital Football members.

The novel, for 7-13 year olds, is the first in a series following the fortunes of potential Premiership star, Jamie Johnson. A page turner and a highly amusing and energetic read, The Kick Off draws in adults and kids alike. It also contains drills to help young players improve and has even been backed by Steven Gerrard, who says it’ll make kids ‘want to get out there and play.’

It’s the perfect book for any footie mad kids and if you want a chance to get your hands on a signed copy simply send your answer to the question below to

Stevie G thinks it’ll make kids ‘want to get out there and play’, but who is the other England star quoted on the cover of The Kick Off?

The Kick Off, published by Scholastic, £4.99 is available in all good bookshops and online at Amazon: For more information, visit

About the author:

Dan Freedman is one fan many of us would love to emulate. A football fanatic, he has worked at the FA, toured with the England team and has just published his first book, The Kick Off which has won fans throughout the world of football – Steven Gerrard and Owen Hargreaves have even put their names on the cover!

The Kick Off could be the footie fans follow up to Harry Potter, it’s a story about football, school and growing up and the first in a series of books which will follow the fortunes of flame-haired teenage winger, Jamie Johnson.

Dan gave an interview about his writing and his career at The FA, and what tips he had for fans looking to work in football…

What did you do at The FA before you started working with the England Team?

I worked in the Customer Relations Team which meant that if anyone wanted to get anything off their chest, they came through to me! I got a fair bit of abuse as you can imagine but it was also a great way to get to know what the fans were thinking – and they never held back! Some questions were harder to answer than other though, like the time when a very irate young man rang up to ask why the hell England weren`t picking Zinedine Zidane!

How did you get that job and have you got any tips for anyone else who`s like to work in football?

I started getting my CV together when I was still at school. I volunteered to help out on magazines, papers and at TV and Radio stations. That meant that by the time I was in my 20s I had a decent CV. Then the luck came in, I contacted The FA on the off-chance they may have an opening literally at exactly the time that they were looking to recruit.

So luck plays a part but you can also get the ball rolling yourself. My advice would be get in there early, use any contacts you may have, and work for free at the start if that`s what it takes. If you`re any good, they`ll soon make sure they try and keep you.

How long did you travel around with the England Team for and what was it like?

I basically lived and worked with the England team for five years, from just before the 2002 World Cup until now.

For anyone who`s mad about their football, like me, it was a great experience with some unforgettable memories. There were some negative times like when the fans turned on the players in Croatia last year. That was very scary and at times I wondered how far it was going to go. There was also that friendly with the racial abuse in Spain. I was sat in the press box watching middle class men spit their venom at our black players. I couldn`t believe that it was happening in this day and age.

But mostly it was a collection of once-in-a-lifetime moments. I was lucky enough to go to two World Cups. How many people can say that?

In the last one in Germany, we had Ray Winstone out with us as you might remember because he was working with the fans out there. I ended up watching the penalties against Portugal shoulder to shoulder with Ray and his best mate Boo Boo (I have no idea). Utterly surreal but brilliant times.

So tell us about the players then. Who are the good guys and who are the ones you didn`t like?

Well firstly I have to say that I never tried to be mates with the players. I wanted them to respect me for the job that I was doing, which was to go give them an opportunity and a platform to express their views without any of the agendas that other sections of the media might have had. I think they appreciated that. I can count on the fingers of one hand, the amount of times that any of them refused to do an interview with me during my five years working with them.

In terms of personalities, I always got on well with Owen Hargreaves. Because of his background, he`s a little different to the other players. He`s very knowledgeable too. When we had a day off during the last World Cup, he said to me: “Why don`t you go to France for the day – it`s only an hour drive away.”

I`ve got great respect for Stevie G. It`s so clear just how much he cares about everything he does and that`s great to say. Wayne Rooney – or Wazza as he`s known – is a good character too. He`s very open and approachable and has got a cheeky side. Crouchy too. I sat up and had a good chat with him one night in Germany. I think the players appreciate it when they can get an objective viewpoint from someone else, because although I never tried to be mates, I was also straight with them. Maybe they respected that.

To be honest, I think most fans have a pretty good idea about players` characters.

What do the players think of us, the fans?

To be fair to them, pretty much all of them know how important the fans are. If they come across sulky occasionally, that might be because they have issues with the media that are asking them the questions but if I ever asked them to do something for the fans (an interview, signing etc) they would always say yes. People like Joe Cole and David Beckham, simply love their football and that`s what connects them to the fans.

A couple of quick examples:

At the 2002 World Cup, one of my colleagues was speaking to a friend at home in England. She was saying that Robbie Fowler was in the same room. All of a sudden Robbie picks up the phone and starts having a chat with this person he`s never met. He was on the phone for a good ten minutes.

Also, Rio once said to me that he loves playing and knows how lucky he is but at the same time, he can`t wait until the day comes when he`s just a fan again, travelling around the world watching England, cheering them on. Lots of things separate players from the fans – the money, the huge media coverage, the amount of games they play, security – but we know that, to use a football phrase, at the end of the day, we all love our football.

So, now you`ve left The FA to write children`s football books. Tell us about that.

It all started a few years ago when I wanted to buy a football novel for a football mad boy. But there wasn`t one, not a proper novel. That seemed strange to me, all those kids out there who loved football, but no football novels to read. So, I thought about and decided to try and do something about it. And, a lot of hard work and a few years later, here we are. The Kick Off was published a few weeks ago. It`s the first book in a series following the fortunes of Jamie Johnson, a prodigiously talented left winger.

So are you writing about the things you`ve learned from working in football?

Absolutely, there are a training drills in the book, plus lots of the tips that I have picked up from players and coaches that I have met along the way. What`s been nice is that everyone in the game has been really supportive, right up to the very top. Sir Alex Ferguson was kind enough to say it was a brilliant idea and that I could give him a call when I`m writing the second book, which comes out next summer. I`ll certainly be taking him up on that offer.

The Kick Off, published by Scholastic, £4.99 is available in all good bookshops
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