Football Academy Books written by Tom Palmer

Put on Your Boots and Get Ready to Score!

Football Academy: Reading the Game by Tom Palmer and illustrated by Brian Williamson. A Puffin publication.

The story starts with an under twelves game between man city v man united. On the pitch Ben is a real team player, understanding and anticipating his team mates every move, and generously setting up opportunities for goals to be scored by other players. James, their central defender has a habit of letting the opposing teams attackers break through into the penalty area, unmarked, and inevitably they score. And it is always up to Ben to smooth things over get the team back on track and even score a goal although he recognises that it isn’t about winning but about developing to be as good as  he can be. He’s nominated Man of the Match and its clear that he has a lot of potential and could become a professional player.

But Ben’s life is in two halves. On the pitch Ben is successful and respected but off the pitch Ben’s life is more complicated. There is no father figure and when his mum has to go to work, he is his brothers’ and sisters main carer. His mates go off together after the matches but he has to go home to look after his family. Worst still he is struggling at school because he has a terrible secret: he can’t read. He could with the help of his friend Ryan, conceal this from his mum and from his junior school teachers, but now he is at secondary school it is becoming too difficult. He lashes out at anyone who calls him names and would rather play truant than be humiliated. He looks to be heading for disaster…

Reading the Game is one of a series of football stories for younger readers;

Boys United

Striking Out

The Real Thing

Reading the Game

Free Kick

Captain Fantastic

Of the series Tom wrote ‘I wanted to get the series right,’ ‘If I was going to write a book about being part of a football academy at a Premier League club, it needed to be accurate.’ So Tom went to his nearest football club, Burnley FC, now in the Premier League. He asked if he could watch the under twelve’s play to give him some ideas. He talked to the players. and their parents. and then the head coach.


The style of the prose is very straightforward. Sentences are short and almost conversational. It is a style which suits, when describing a match, the gathering pace on the pitch.  It’s not going to win any awards for being quality literature, and the themes running through are horribly cliched (Ben is mixed race and his siblings are by different fathers) but perhaps he is reflecting our modern society? Great for promoting reading for pleasure in boys who are difficult to engage.  Interest level of 7+This novel was shortlisted for the Blue Peter Book Award.


There is a great website to accompany this series     with plenty of resources to download such as certificates and posters. He is a regular blogger and  has set up several fan fictions.

Tom Palmer credits articles about football with getting him into reading as a child. He is the current Writer-in-Residence for the RAF Museums. Tom is also working with the National Literacy Trust on a very high profile football and reading project during the Euro 2016 football tournament.He is a great author to come visit your school and meet with boys and girls. His talks are hugely motivational and frequently interactive; most of the time his presentation is based around scoring. he bring his own goalposts and rugby ball or foot ball and gets pupils to shout out the answers to quizzes about sporting heroes and memorable games.

For Older Readers: Football Detective: Foul Play Football Detective: Dead Ball                    For Dyslexic readers and reluctant readers.

National Literacy Trusts campaign of using football to promote literacy Ideas for schools

Rugby Academy  

Good rugby stories for young readers are thin on the ground, but Tom Palmer’s Rugby Academy books are real winners! Tom really gets the drama of sport and competition and no-one writes about it better. Published by Barrington Stoke. the foremost publisher of books for dyslexic readers the books have;

  • tinted pages to reduce visual stress, which may be more common in people with dyslexia and can make words seem to jump or dance on the page
  • A special font ( 22pt) that helps prevent people with dyslexia confusing letter shapes
  • Special spacing to help minimise confusing, blurring and switching
  • Thick paper to make sure words and pictures don’t show through from other pages and confuse the eye
  • Special editing to help minimise barriers to comprehensio
  • High interest level but lower reading ability (Interest Age 8-12 Reading Age 8+)

Rugby Academy: Deadlocked  Tom Palmer illustrated by David Shephard                      The Borderlands team have reached the finals of the World Schools Rugby Trophy and are in New Zealand..

Rugby Academy: Surface to Air  Tom Palmer illustrated by David Shephard                In this second book in the series, Rory and the other members of the Borderlands team are in France to play in the European Championship Tournament. Tensions are running high though and not just on the playing field: many of the boys have dads in the RAF and they are alarmed as reports come in of skirmishes in the air, while central character Rory finds it difficult to get on with team captain, Jesse …

Rugby Academy Combat Zone Tom Palmer is brilliant at capturing the passion of sport and the drama it creates. Woody is an outstanding young footballer so when his dad, a pilot who is often away on active service, sends him off to a new school where rugby is worshipped, he is sure he is going to hate it. But things turn out very different! Far from hating it, Woody’s natural sporting talent soon leads him to enjoy the new sport – and to shine at it! How Woody adapts to the new game and the new sport is deftly interwoven with a sensitive portrait of the special pressures felt by the children of those in the armed services making it a book of depth as well as excitement.

Written by Dianne Rawlings 

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