Final Whistle by Dan Freedman

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Final Whistle by Dan Freedman

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A reasonable episode in a lengthy series of stories about a young professional footballer.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 192 Date: July 2012
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 9781407111445

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Jamie Johnson has seen the good and the bad of a football career. He has been to the World Cup finals, he has helped his team win the English premiership and thus taken them to Europe, and things are still on the rise - except he also has a bit of a crook knee from a car crash, and is still only 19. But this being the modern age of football, he might not stay at that club - especially not when (a) Barcelona come calling for his services, and (b) his team need to sell him just to stay afloat. What awaits this young star in the next stage of his life in the big time?

I was quietly looking forward to reading this, even if it was book six in a large series covering Johnson's career. After all, I grew up in the age of Michael Hardcastle and other sports novel writers (I forget the name of the tennis equivalent, but he was there for me too). To run with a good sports tale you need some unpredictability, a character to care for, and knowledge and accuracy. They are here in differing levels.

For one, Freedman has made some very unlikely things happen already in this series. Scotland have made the World Cup finals, a lowly team has got to the English title with no money. Now, Johnson gets transferred to Barca with nothing at all like an agent, and only his step-dad to help him out with the deal. Realism is not a strong point, but Freedman's career in sports writing and following football is evident throughout.

The character is likeable, what's more. He started off ginger and working-class, and then suffered problems with an errant father and dislike of his step-dad, which he has grown out of. He's not had it all his own way, even when you consider the huge pad and party lifestyle he gets here once in Spain. With his injury there is always the chance that he might not have much more his own way either.

So is the book, and series, likeable? Well, I know of one colleague at least who would have binned this on the sight of the cliff-hanger ending. It has some level of cheese, and probably too much back-tracking for those who have been here since book one. But it does feature some decent writing, and I liked the different narrative forms - online blogs, letters, match reports from the press. It has an old-fashioned technical tip (much like the lesson in drop shots from a tennis book that for some reason has stuck in my mind 30 years), presented almost as stills from a camcorder. It has a female Jack who shows that smaller portion of the book's audience that yes, girls can be successful in the world of football too.

In the end it is no replacement for getting the ball out the cupboard and having a knockround with a few mates, but it serves as reasonable entertainment. It has a good balance of sports and real life, and a good spread of reality-based detail in amongst the pure fantasy. And let's face it, reasonable entertainment means it's better than the England football squad at the time of publication...

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

The series started here, at The Kick Off.

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Buy Final Whistle by Dan Freedman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Final Whistle by Dan Freedman at


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