For the first six years of his life, only one thing mattered to our Stanley – Superheroes.
Wherever he went, he was accompanied by one of his many costumes. In fact, he wasn’t afraid to mix and match: if he wanted to wear Iron Man’s suit, but accessorize with Thor’s hammer, Captain America’s shield and Batman’s cowl, then no-one was going to stop him.
He lived, breathed, ate and drank it. If we were lucky, he would surrender his costume of the day just before falling asleep, leaving us with a twelve hour window to have it washed and dried, ready for his mission the next day (oh my word – the smell of an over-worn polyester Iron Man suit will be etched in my nostrils forever).
Little wonder then, that I wanted to write SuperDad’s Day off, to immortalize Stan as the hero that he was (and is).
But then, about eighteen months ago, something happened. Something I didn’t see coming. Something … changed.
Stanley didn’t care about kicking bad guys backsides anymore … he only wanted to kick … a football.
So that’s what he did (and does). Up and down the hall he thunders, with the ball at his feet, until I tell him to stop for fear of wearing out the carpet.
And when he does stop, that’s when he turns to Match of the Day. It doesn’t matter if he’s watched an episode a hundred times already, he’ll happily make it one hundred and one.
Plus, he’s a proud member of Hebden Bridge Saints Under 8’s: him and twenty seven other boys and girls. Three times a week, they meet, and as a writer, it is absolute gold dust. Because whether it’s training, or a match on a Sunday morning, every second is like the world cup final.
It becomes the centre of their universe, the most important thing imaginable, and the dramas that ensue as a result … well, they would grace any novel.
It didn’t take long for me to realise that there was at least one story that I could tell about the Saints.
That I had to do it, to chart the next stage in Stanley’s burgeoning personality.
So I started to think about it. I asked myself, ‘What’s the worst thing that can happen to a team?’
And the answer is, of course, getting beaten.
So what, I asked next, if a team were beaten every week? What if a team went from being the best team in the league, to being the absolute worst?
What could cause that? What if their kit was cursed?? And if it was, then how would the team break the spell..?
I had the best time writing The Unlucky Eleven, weaving not only our Stan, but a lot of his team-mates into the story, and to have it illustrated by Steve May AND published by the mighty Barrington Stoke is a joy.
But the real back of the net moment will come at the start of next season, when Hebden Bridge Saints Under 9’s run out for the first time, in their new (un-cursed kit). Because as of next season, the Saints will have a new sponsor, BARRINGTON STOKE, with the logo sitting proudly across their chests.
How can they possibly lose??
Even more reason to kiss the badge …
Thank you Phil, we can’t wait to see the Saints’ new kit!
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