Toppsta - Childrens Books – Reviews

Guest Blog from author Matt Oldfield

16th May 2020

Author Matt Oldfield

We are big fans of books that make us laugh here at Toppsta, especially ones that engage kids in their favourite subjects too. Johnny Ball: Accidental Football Hero does just that: it is a laugh-out-loud series perfect for footie-mad kids.

Written by Matt Oldfield, the co-author of the immensely popular Ultimate Football Heroes series, this is the first in a new, illustrated series for ages 6 and over.

We asked Matt to tell us more about the book and his writing process, read on to hear all about it in his guest blog.

Toppsta
2020-05-18
Guest Blog from author Matt Oldfield
Book pages Placeholder Book

Johnny Ball: Accidental Football Genius

From the author of Ultimate Football Heroes comes the first book in the new Johnny Ball series, perfect reading for football-mad kids

Johnny Ball LOVES football. He loves reading about it, talking about it, watching it - and he loves playing it too. He's a good player, but not quite good enough to make the Tissbury Primary School team for the super-huge Under-11s County Cup. But never mind, because their clueless coach, Mr Mann, has a special role for Johnny: ASSISTANT MANAGER! With only Grandpa George's old scarf, a 'pocket' notebook and his brilliant football brain, can Johnny lead the Tissbury Primary team all the way to County Cup glory?

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"As the co-author of the Ultimate Football Heroes series, I’ve been writing about the real world of football for a few years now. So Johnny Ball: Accidental Football Genius was my big opportunity to move over into the realm of total football fantasy, right? Well, sort of…

Once upon a time, there was a nine-year-old boy who really loved football but wasn’t that good at it, and he had an older brother who was a MUCH better player than him. His name was Matt and then, 22 years later, along came Johnny! But that’s where our similarities end, I swear (Mum, you’re nowhere near as super-embarrassing as Johnny’s mum, I promise! Dad, as far as I know there’s nothing wrong with your right ankle and Tom, you’re waaaay nicer than Daniel).

Sadly, I don’t have Johnny’s football genius (or his charming ways either, for that matter), but I’ve always been fascinated by the people that do. Over the years, I’ve often wondered, ‘Where do the great football managers come from?’ What were they like as kids? When did they first discover their special talent, and when and how did they get their first opportunity to show it?

It was those questions that led me to start writing Johnny Ball: Accidental Football Genius. I first came up with the character of Johnny about five years ago, although he’s changed a lot since then, with help from my incredible editor, Daisy. For example, he accidentally ended up working as an assistant to a hopeless football manager called Mr Mann, and then found himself a wise old mentor called Grandpa George.

But let me tell you a bit more about the beginning. I’ll start off with a confession – I really love notebooks (I guess that’s probably why Johnny has one too, although mine don’t have my initials on. No Mum, that’s not a hint!). Any size, any colour, but always lined and preferably Moleskine. This is just a tiny part of my notebook collection:

Toppsta
2020-05-18
Guest Blog from author Matt Oldfield
Notebook collection

I used to find any little excuse to buy a new one, but these days, I’m trying to be a bit more disciplined. So now I just have one big ‘IDEAS’ notebook, like this:

Toppsta
2020-05-18
Guest Blog from author Matt Oldfield

Cover states: ‘Contains 5 fantastic tabs for subjects of your choosing’ – great, so:

1. Football, 2. Football, 3. Football, 4. Football and 5…FOOTBALL!

Here are a few pages from my very first ‘IDEA’ notes on Johnny Ball, but be kind because every good idea has to start somewhere:


Toppsta
2020-05-18
Guest Blog from author Matt Oldfield

So that’s where all my (mostly football) ideas start, but if – and ONLY if – one of them becomes a real, actual book, then ‘Hurray!’, it gets a whole nice, new notebook of its own, like this:

Toppsta
2020-05-18
Guest Blog from author Matt Oldfield

Isn’t it beautiful? The pages of my special Johnny Ball notebook are filled with lots and lots of ideas about characters and storylines, like this:

[I don’t usually let ANYONE see inside my notebooks, not even my family, but I’ll trust you to keep my secrets]

Toppsta
2020-05-18
Guest Blog from author Matt Oldfield

The freedom is definitely my favourite thing about writing fiction. It’s my story, so I get to choose EVERYTHING – who the characters are, where they go and what happens to them! Sometimes, trying to come up with new ideas can be quite tricky, but mostly, it’s just me exploring my football childhood and my football imagination. And that sounds like loads of fun, right?

Ok, enough about me and my notebooks – back to the star of the show! I like to think that Johnny’s dreams are the dreams of a lot of kids, whether it’s football that they love, or something totally different, like stamp-collecting or playing the ukulele. They just want to feel the glory and pride of being good at something.

For Johnny, that glory and pride will come from using his great football ideas, and in particular, helping Tissbury Primary School to win the County Cup. His super-talented brother has already done it, and now it’s Johnny’s turn to shine. To achieve his aim, he will have to overcome lots of obstacles (nope, no spoilers here!), but luckily, he has lots of kind and mostly helpful people around to help him succeed.

So I hope that Johnny is a character that kids will really identify with, as he starts his accidental journey as a football genius. And hopefully, they’ll be cheering him on all the way."

Toppsta
2020-05-18
Guest Blog from author Matt Oldfield

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