If You Want to be a Footballer – A Poem For UNICEF & Manchester United

Books are important.  Treasure them.

I was asked to contribute to a collection of children’s poems about football for UNICEF & Manchester United.  I don’t write a lot of children’s poems but i thought I’d have a go. The problem was, they needed the poem in 24 hours.

So, I did what poets do when they’ve got to write a poem,  walked in sun drench fields of sunflowers then skipped through a forest with a butterfly nets, hunting for red admirals.  Eventually I sat down with a pencil and piece of paper and began writing

Oh United – UNICEF – Together – As One – for Children blah blah rubbish….screwed it up and binned it.  Try again

As One – United – UNICEF – Children – Together  blah blah rhubarb rubbish ….so i screwed it up and binned

23 hours 45 minutes later my lad, Connor entered the living room with a pair of Football boots tied at the laces and hung around his neck.

‘Are you training tonight, son?’  I asked

He grunted back at me, like 13 year olds do then sat in front of the television and began playing football on his X Box, or Playstation, or NIntendo or WII or whatever it was called (I still have no Idea) 

I love the way kids pull faces when they play those video games.

After 5 minutes he was bored and switch on the television, stretched out on the sofa and began flicking endlessly through the 5 trillion channels (I remember when there was only 2)

I had to say something.  

“Is this what you call training son?  If you wanna be a footballer your going to have to keep fit, not watch too much TV, eat healthy food”………………………………………………………………… and a light came on in my head.

I sat down and wrote this poem in 5 minutes.

If You Want to be a Footballer 

If you want to be a footballer make sure you brush your teeth

Be in bed at eight o’clock 

Never cause your mother any grief

Be kind to people all the time

Don’t drink beer

Don’t drink wine

Don’t smoke fags and you’ll be fine

But always always always always

Eat your greens


If you want to be a footballer

You must work hard at school

Visit the library everyday cos reading books is cool

Do our homework every night

Never argue

Never fight

You’ll score the winner in the final with your eyes closed tight

But always always always always

 Eat your greens


If you want to be a footballer

Make sure you do your training

Even if your favourite programme’s on

Even if it’s raining

Clean your kit after every game

And don’t wear boots just because of their name

Keep fit and healthy and you’ll find fame






Eat your greens

Manchester Libraries made a beautifully illustrated book with my poem, a poem by an ace Poet and Bradford City fan called Nick Tocziek and football poems written by children.  The book was sold and all money made was given to UNICEF. 

I received 5 copies of the book from UNICEF for my contribution and i’ve either given them all away or lost them and i am gutted.  It was a great book and i used to love to read it to kids whilst holding it like a primary teacher, with the picture facing forward so that everyone could see the great illustrations.  I’d also do that glidey thing that teachers do where they glide it slowly from left to right so that all the children get a good look at the picture

I’ve read this poem thousands of times up and down the country.  It was translated into french for a school i worked with i France and now I read it to adults at my gigs. 

If you ever stumble across this book – save it for me and i’ll swap you one of mine for it.

Books are important.  Treasure them.


3 thoughts on “If You Want to be a Footballer – A Poem For UNICEF & Manchester United

  1. What a fantastic poem and pretty much exactly what I say to MY lad, who’s also 13! We’ve talked about sitting down together and knocking up a plan of healthy meals he likes and could eat instead of all the rubbish he buys on the way home from school with his dinner money. Am just waiting for him to come off the PS3 Fifa game long enough to actually do that….

    If you find any copies of that book, I’d like one, too, to give him to read 🙂

  2. Arrived at school this am feeling frazzled and flat still from a particularly stressful/long Monday. Fired up my laptop and was instantly uplifted by your wonderful blog patiently sitting in my inbox!
    Bless you for sharing your special gift of seeing the ordinary and turning it into the extraordinary , you saved my day, I felt positively uninspired and tired first thing and now I’m buzzing!
    Absolutely loved the football poem, so much so intend to print it off and share it with our year 5&6’s this afternoon!
    Thank you! Xxx

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s