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Spurs fan Dan's series set for TV

Posted on 3 July 2015  - 16:00

Spurs fan Dan Freedman's popular 'Jamie Johnson' series of children's novels is all set to hit our TV screens.

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The books - now a series of eight - are being turned into a three-part series on CBBC.

Dan, a lifelong Spur who first went to White Hart Lane aged three, began the series with 'The Kick-Off' back in 2007.

'Shoot To Win', 'Golden Goal', 'Man Of The Match', 'World Class' and 'Final Whistle' were next, followed by a special prequel to the 2014 World Cup 'Skills From Brazil' and a series prequel 'Born  To Play'.

The reality of the series turning to life on the TV screen will no doubt hit Dan on Saturday, when he will hold open auditions for the role of Jamie Johnson in Manchester.

He took time out from his busy schedule to talk Spurs, football dreams and give his advice for budding authors...

First of all, tell us about your love of Spurs...
Dan: "I can't even remember my first Spurs game because my dad took me to White Hart Lane for the first time in the early 80s when I was about three or four. I didn't live with my dad so going to Spurs was our way of seeing each other and it's been our main topic of conversation ever since. Hoddle, Falco, Galvin, Waddle were in the first team and players I got into and then I was 12 when Gazza set the world alight in 1990. Looking back, I'd say he might even have been the best player in the world before his injury. Teddy and Klinsmann were sensational too and Ledley is without doubt one of the best footballers I've ever seen. I was also at the Lane for that game against Inter in the Champions League. What a night that was, for the whole of British football really and I think we all knew we were witnessing something very special."

What inspired you to write the books?
Dan:
"I was working as a journalist with the England team and had been lucky enough to see what football was like at the top level and spend a lot of time with the players. Then, when I realised that there were no proper football novels for kids to really get their teeth into, I thought I could fill that gap and put all of my football stories and experiences into the series. I wanted to write a kind of footballing 'Rocky'. The storylines follow a young left winger called Jamie Johnson. He has a lot of troubles and difficulties in his life but he also has the talent to become one of the best and most exciting players in the world. The books follow his journey all the from school as he strives to make it to the very top of the world game."

The schoolboy football dream is something most kids can relate to - did you have those dreams yourself? Did you play?
Dan:
"Absolutely. I dreamed about playing at White Hart Lane and getting to the World Cup. I was a midfielder and had a decent touch but my speed and fitness levels were way off! Thankfully, I was lucky enough to still go to two World Cups with the England team but it was my writing that got me there as opposed to my football skills."

Just like playing sport is vital, how important do you think reading is for youngsters?
Dan:
"I visit schools all around the country talking about this exact issue because I was the kid at school who thought they hated reading and believed I was terrible at writing. We have a major issue with getting kids - especially boys - to read and often it turns into a psychological battle; the more we try to force them to read, the less appealing it becomes. The truth is that reading can help make you happy, healthy, knowledgable, compassionate, imaginative, powerful, creative, and successful...but in order to unlock those benefits it has to be someone's choice to pick up a book - not an obligation."

We normally ask players their advice for budding footballers, but what would be your advice for budding authors/journalists?
Dan:
"On the journalism side, begin as soon as you can. I wrote to John Fennelly (our Head of Publications) for some advice when I was about 14 (having read every Spurs programme from cover to cover) and he kindly wrote back saying I should try and arrange some work experience for myself. I then spent all my school holidays doing placements at clubs, radio stations and newspapers, managing to get my first article in a national when I was 17. These days, with social media, kids can develop and showcase their own talents as early as they like and, if they are serious, that's exactly what they need to do. On the author side, be prepared for rejections. I was rejected for three years but, just as in football, that is part of the game, you just have to come back stronger. You learn more in rejection and defeat than you do in success. Those are the kind of lessons that I try to work into the Jamie Johnson stories too - alongside, of course, his incredible skills, which echo all those brilliant moments from Gazza, Waddle, Ginola and Bale at the Lane!"