Diary of a football detective: week one

14-year-old football detective Danny Harte watches England v Slovakia.

Monday 4th September

England v Slovakia at Wembley on a Monday night. And not just any Monday night: it was the night before the first day of the school year. But I have a job to do. And English football relies on me. Sort of.

I’ll try and explain.

I’ve got this kind of… job. An undercover thing. I’m employed by British Security Services to go to major football matches and watch. Just watch. That’s all. And this is my blog — it’s kind of like a journal where I can keep track of what I see so that I can refer back to it. It’s not for anyone else’s eyes though.

You see… there are forces at work in world football. People with money. People with power. People with hatred. I have to watch and report if I see anything… unusual.

Why me?

I’m a boy. A fourteen-year-old boy in a football top. And wherever I am there are loads of fourteen-year-old boys (and girls) in football tops. I blend in. No one suspects I’m working for the security services. No one would think I was a spy. I don’t even think I’m a spy. I ‘m more of a Football Detective.

I report to Anton Holt. He is a football reporter for a big newspaper. And he is a spy. Anton goes to the big games. I go with him. One week I’m at Wembley with England. The next week I’m at the Emirates or Old Trafford.

So… we’re one-nil down after three minutes to Slovakia. Playing nervy football. And it was doing my head in. If England lost tonight, we could easily fail to qualify for the World Cup finals. Nightmare. Then Dier scored. 1–1 at half time. I was happy. Happy, but always looking. For something strange, something unusual.

The second half was a shocker. Not on the pitch. On the pitch England were good. A lot better than that game against Malta. The shocker was all the empty seats. It felt like most people were still in the bars as the teams kicked off. Madness. Tickets cost fifty quid — or more. Why do they bother?

And then I saw a figure I recognised. Just a glimpse was enough.

A large man. Slightly stooped over. Long dark coat. Always staring down at the ground. I knew it was him, but I had to get closer. Get a photo.

But it wasn’t seeing him that was the big deal. It was my reaction. My heart hammering. My mouth dry. My mind reeling.

Fear.

I’d thought Dimitri Tupolev was a dead man.

Now you want to know who Dimitri Tupolev is.

Dimitri Tupolev was the man who’d tried to kill me in England, then in Moscow. That and threatening to kill three England keepers. What the hell was this Russian billionaire stop-at-nothing evil-monster doing near the players’ tunnel? Near where the subs were warming up? It was time for me to do some digging.

I dashed down to the front of the stand, keying in my emergency code to Anton. I had to know if it was Tupolev. But then a roar, an explosion of noise, and I took my eyes off Tupolev for a second to see Marcus Rashford sprinting away from goal.

He’d scored! 2–1 England. Fantastic.

Except, when I looked round Tupolev had gone.

Less fantastic.


Tuesday 5th September

The day started with double maths. Okay, I can cope with double maths. But not after half the night sleeping in the back of unmarked police car on the M1, heading north. Heading home. Worrying about Dimitri Tupolev.


Wednesday 6th September

Most of my mates were talking about Dele Alli today. How he stuck his finger up at the referee at the England game. Except he said he did it to Kyle Walker.

I had lunch next to Charlotte Duncan. She and her mates were talking about Wayne Rooney and how dumb he’d been driving and drinking — and the other stuff. I nodded.

Drink driving is dumb. What happens if you hit someone? What happens to them and their families? How can you live with something like that and know that because you had a drink it was your fault?

When Charlotte’s mates had gone, I told her about Tupolev. She’s the only one I tell. She’s involved too. Sort of. I don’t mean involved with me… I mean… oh, forget it.


Thursday 7th September

School. Anton texted to say we’re off to Manchester City v Liverpool on Saturday. Looking forward to it. Not sure there’ll be any Russian billionaires there. But we’ll see.


Friday 8th September

School. Nearly the weekend. Nearly time for Man City v Liverpool. I reckon it’s going to be tight.


Saturday 9th September

So… yeah… it wasn’t that tight. Five nil! Five nil to Man City. Mane nearly kicked the City keeper’s head off and everyone was going crazy. But, for me, I couldn’t get into it. Even though City were amazing. I just kept looking around, nervous about Tupolev. I talk to Anton about it. He said we’re going to Stamford Bridge next week. That I’d see a few Russians there.


Sunday 10th September

Shopping with mum. My school blazer’s too small. I told her it was fine, but she saw me come home on Wednesday and went crazy.

‘What are you doing going to school in that?’ she shouted.

I said I wasn’t bothered.

She said she was.

Then I sat with Dad in the afternoon. We watched Burnley beat Palace 1–0. Then I read him bits about the Champions League out of FourFourTwo and World Soccer. We’re looking forward to it kicking off this week. He asked me to read previews off the internet too. There are loads of articles about it in the online newspapers.

BTW, I’ve not mentioned it in this blog before, but my dad’s blind. That’s why I read things to him. We read books too. Crime books. But more about that some other time.

Anyway, my dad and I do this thing every week. We choose three matches to predict the scores of. We get one point for the right result. And two extra points if we get the score right.

Tuesday: Barcelona v Juventus. Me 2–2; Dad 1–2.

Wednesday: Liverpool v Sevilla. Me 2–1; Dad 1–1.

Sunday: Chelsea v Arsenal. Me 3–1; Dad 1–1.

Next week

Join Danny next week when he goes to Stamford Bridge. See if you can predict the scores better than he can.

Danny’s predictions

Danny Harte and his dad predict three results every week. They keep score against each other. Why not join them?

Dead Ball

If you want to find out more about why Danny is so troubled by Dimitri Tupolev, have a look at Dead Ball by Tom Palmer. www.tompalmer.co.uk/dead-ball