Some football fans foolishly think the last time England reached a World Cup final was in 1966.
They are wrong, of course, as the Three Lions get to the final hurdle in new book Llamas Go Large, Scott Allen’s World Cup-inspired follow-up to his debut book Llama United.
We grilled Scott in a TEAMtalk Q&A session about his first book in May 2017, and he goes under the spotlight once again to discuss his latest release ahead of the real deal in Russia.
A quick recap on the premise of the books: After former England ‘legend’ Arthur Muckluck – the world’s greatest footballer – passes away, his ashes are scattered in a field containing some llamas, who gobble them up while munching grass and become world-class football players.
Two 11-year-olds called Tim and Cairo stumble across them showing off their dazzling skills, form a coaching team with a grumpy Scottish manager called McCloud, assemble their leggy XI and take them on a fairytale run to the cup final at Wombley Stadium.
In the new book, there is national clamour to include the llamas in the England World Cup squad heading to Mucho Plata, the host island famous for its delicious chocolate mousse.
Hapless England coach Ray Barnowl and bruising captain Greg Punch are not so keen on integrating the llamas into their starting XI, however, and the story outlines Tim’s bid to get them on the pitch against the world’s elite, including star goalkeeper Karl-Heinz Torstooper, who plays an integral role in the book.
You can order the book online here, or buy it on Amazon and in bookshops and supermarkets – but let’s get into the Q&A with the author, who is a West Ham fan living in Leeds.
TEAMtalk: Scott, as we know you are an Irons fan, so do you go around saying ‘it was West Ham what won the World Cup in ‘66’ every time the tournament comes around – or is that just a lazy misconception on our part?
Scott Allen: Ha ha, of course. It is every West Ham fan’s duty to point out that West Ham won the World Cup in 1966. Without Moore, Hurst and Peters, Germany would have won 2-0. It’s quite hilarious how annoyed non West Ham fans get when any Hammer points this out.
TEAMtalk: We’ve already touched on (spoiler alert) the fact that England get to the final in your book – how far do you think Gareth Southgate’s squad will get in Russia?
Scott Allen: This feels like a World Cup where people will be happy if England just get through the group. Nobody really thinks England have a chance with such a young and inexperienced team. However, win that first game against Tunisia and I reckon everyone will start breaking out those horrible car flags. So in conclusion, England will win it….
TEAMtalk: Your thoughts on Andy Carroll missing out on a place in the squad?
Scott Allen: He has hardly played this season so doesn’t deserve a place. Granted he would have been a different option from the England bench, but he would have probably injured himself getting off the team bus. I think he’s one of the players Pellegrini needs to get off West Ham’s wage bill before the transfer window shuts.
TEAMtalk: Some of the England players have bizarre names: Leo Hedgetrimmer, Dwain Drain, JuJu Tablecloth, Mo Moleface and Looverpoo defender Sid Melonhead catch the eye. How did you come up with them? Were you drinking at the time?
Scott Allen: Most of them are just random thoughts, mixed with some suggestions from my children. But, Sid Melonhead is named after a friend of mine who is called Sydney and does have a head that is the size of a large melon. He weighed it once, it was 9.8 kg…which is actually more watermelon weight. Although Sid Watermelonhead is probably a bit much.
TEAMtalk: There are some famous football storylines revisited in the book: One of the llamas being arrested and imprisoned for stealing some jewellery; A debatable handball-assisted goal in the England v Argentina game. Were there any other real-life events you wanted to get in the book but couldn’t find an angle?
Scott Allen: It’s quite hard to fit in historic football moments into a book for children as too far back in time isn’t really a reference point for them. The Hand of God is not something they are really aware of unless they had some very good parenting. I did want to include my favourite World Cup moment, the Zaire free-kick in 1974, but I knew it would never get past my editor. The Harald Schumacher ‘foul’ in 1982 is also another good one, but too violent for a younger audience. When I visit schools I talk about great stories in football history…even ones that don’t include Messi or Ronaldo.
TEAMtalk: There’s a lasagne-based conspiracy in the final v Germany. Presume that came from years of you ribbing Spurs fans about West Ham’s 2-1 win over them in 2006 that gave Arsenal fourth place – and just wanting to rub their noses in it a little bit more?
Scott Allen: I don’t know what you are referring to there. West Ham fans have no interest in getting one over Spurs….cough cough.
TEAMtalk: Let’s end on the real World Cup in Russia. Who do you think will end up getting their hands on the Jules Rimet trophy on July 15?
Scott Allen: The lazy part of my brain will say Germany, because they are always there or there-abouts. However, I think France might have a good chance, if they can get their usual off-the-fields shenanigans in order.
Order your copy of Llamas Go Large, which is perfect for football fans young and old, from Pan Macmillan here.
Interview conducted by Simon Wilkes, @SimonJWilkes.
Note: No Llamas were troubled or injured during the staging of this interview. Images courtesy of Sarah Horne illustration.
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