I loved playing it – still do – but when it finally dawned on me that I might not be quite good enough to be a professional I set my mind on trying to work out if I could still be a part of the game somehow.
It seemed to me that the next best thing to playing the game was watching it so my new ambition was to become a football journalist.
I started early. You can see here my first ever published work of football writing – a letter that I sent into Shoot! magazine when I was 13! Then, while I was still at school, I did lots and lots of work experience at different, newspapers, tv and radio stations. You can also see articles I had published in the Mail of Sunday and Daily Express.
Those experiences gave me the taste of what it was like to be involved in football and the confidence to believe I could go on and achieve it.
My really big break came when, just after I’d left University, I got offered a job at The Football Association. It was a dream come true for me, just as it would be for any football fan. Imagine going into work every day at the organisation which actually ‘runs’ football. I had to pinch myself everyday that I sat at my desk.
Within two years I was travelling to the 2002 World Cup Finals, which were held in Korea and Japan. As The FA’s Editor, it was my job to interview all of the England players and report on their matches. As someone who’d grown up watching the likes of Beckham and Owen, to be living and working with them, day in and day out was a truly unbeatable experience.
As a journalist too, mixing with and getting to know the best football writers in the country was a great education.
As time went on, and my confidence grew, I ended up getting to know almost all the players that played for the Three Lions. Rooney, Gerrard, Walcott and Ferdinand were all kind enough to let me interview them, sometimes on several occasions as I set up The England Team’s first ever in-house TV channel.
And it wasn’t just England either. I wrote the FA Cup Final programmes too, which meant coming face to face with some of the top club managers and their players. As Manchester United were the most successful team in the country I worked closely with them over a number of years and there’s no doubt that three of my favourite ever interviews were those that I conducted with Roy Keane, Cristiano Ronaldo and, of course, Sir Alex Ferguson.
Since I left The FA in 2007 to concentrate on my writing, I’ve still kept all my contacts in the game and do as much freelance work as I can. Working as an Editor with the Premier League and FIFA over the last couple of years has kept me up-to-date with everything that’s happening in the game, including giving me the opportunity to interview Lionel Messi in 2009.
I realise I’ve been really lucky but I also know that there’s nothing special about me. These jobs are out there. The difficult part is working out what it is that you really want to do. Once you know that, it’s about doing everything you can to achieve it.
Frequently asked quick-fire questions
What made you want to go into writing? – I wanted to share the amazing experiences I’d been lucky enough to have in football through a compelling story that would draw people in.
Who is the most famous player you’ve interviewed? – CR7. (a.k.a Cristiano Ronaldo!) I interviewed him twice. We got on quite well.
How old were you when you started writing? – 13 or 14. I wrote to every newspaper in the country asking if I could come and do work experience doing my school holidays.
Why do you love football so much? – Incredible unscripted drama. The magic of a goal. The reflections of life. The escape from life. Connecting with people that you might not otherwise know or be able to communicate with. That moment when a player beats their opponent with a flourish of skill…
Which is the biggest match that you have ever reported on? – The 2002 World Cup Quarter Final between England and Brazil.
How did you come up with the ideas of Jamie Johnson? – They are all based on people, players or moments that I have met in life down the years. Football and life are so rich, you don’t need to make stories up.
Which JJ book is your favourite? – That’s like asking a parent which is your favourite child!
Will you write another Jamie Johnson book? – If people want more, I would hate to disappoint them…
When will Series 3 of ‘Jamie Johnson’ come out? – 2018
Will you ever write a different series of books? – Look out for a brand new book coming in 2018…
What they say
‘A hot talent in children’s literature’
The Daily Mail
‘Drama you can’t beat’
‘A must for junior football fans’
‘He’s writing every reader’s fantasy’
‘If this page turner doesn’t tempt a few away from the Xbox, heaven help them’
The Financial Times
‘Action packed, never a dull moment and thouroughly recommended!’