The Dream Team

Chapter One

Wonder Puffs
John loved Wonder Puffs. They were his favourite breakfast cereal. Every morning he ate two bowls of Wonder Puffs for breakfast. Often he had another bowl when he came in from school. Sometimes he even had Wonder Puffs as a last snack before bed.
“I’m really hungry, Mum,” he’d say. “Can I have some Wonder Puffs? Please. Oh, please.”
He’d  look at his Mum with a face full of the pain of hunger.
“Oh, OK,” she’d sigh usually. She didn’t like him to go to sleep on an empty stomach.
“Make sure you brush your teeth well, though.”
“Thanks, Mum,” John would say and, like magic, the pain in his face would vanish in a smile.
Wonder Puffs. How he loved Wonder Puffs! He couldn’t get enough Wonder Puffs!
This had not always been the case. A month ago John had loved Crazy Corn as he now adored Wonder Puffs. A month before that his love had been Golden Wheat Balls, before that Cracker Snaps, Honey Nut Crunchos, Jolly Giant Bites, Toasties, and so on. John had loved all of these in turn. He liked the taste of them, but more, he loved the free gifts they held. Wonder Puffs were now the best breakfast cereal, because the Wonder Puff box contained the best free gift. It was in fact the best free gift ever.
In every box of Wonder Puffs was a Dream Team football figure!
There were eleven Dream Team football figures to collect and John now had ten of them. He had two of some of the figures and three of the goalkeeper, Peter Michael. But he would have swopped all of these extra figures for the one figure he did not have, Brian Biggs.
Brian Biggs was John’s favourite football player. At school, when he played football in the playground with his friends, John always wanted to be Brian Biggs. So did many of his friends. Sometimes there were five or six Brian Biggses playing at the same time! Brian Biggs played for top team Granchester United and he was a big, big star. Everyone in John’s class wanted the Brian Biggs football figure but no one had one. Every day when John and his friends arrived at school they asked each other the same question.
“Have you got Brian Biggs?” But no one ever had.
John had eaten packet upon packet of Wonder Puffs. He had even persuaded his Grandma to buy Wonder Puffs and his Uncle Joe – and neither of them ate breakfast cereal. But despite all of this, he still had no Brian Biggs figure. He was starting to wonder if there even was a Brian Biggs figure. Then one day the news went round the playground: Billy Dawson had a Brian Biggs figure!
John went with all the others to take a look.
“Oh!” they cried. “Wow! It’s Biggsy.” They were very jealous.
“Mum you must buy some more Wonder Puffs,” John said when he got home that afternoon.
“Billy Dawson’s got Brian Biggs and I need one too.”
To John’s surprise, his Mum shook her head.
“No, John,” she said. “We’ve got plenty of Wonder Puffs. I’m not buying any more.”
“But Mum,” John pleaded. “Please. Just one more box.”
“No,” said John’s Mum and that was her last word.
John cried, he shouted, he begged, but his mum would not change her mind.

The Dream Team
Chapter Two
The Dream Team
That evening John went to bed feeling very cross. Boy, was he in a bad mood! He wouldn’t even kiss his Mum goodnight. He looked at all his Dream Team football figures set up in place on his bedside table. Then he looked at the empty space where Brian Biggs should have been and he felt like knocking all the figures down. But he didn’t. He just turned his back on them and frowned into his pillow until at last he fell asleep.
It was the roar of the crowd that woke him. For a moment he was really quite scared. Had a herd of fierce lions leapt into his bedroom, looking perhaps for a boy-sized snack? Slowly he opened his eyes and turned his head away from the wall … and there was the Dream Team. But they weren’t football figures. They were real! And they were all looking at him.
“Better get your kit on, John,” said Paul Coles. “Looks like you’ll be playing.”
“Me?” said John. “But I’m only a boy.” He looked around and saw to his surprise that he wasn’t in his bedroom at all. He was in a changing room. Next to him was a neat pile of folded football clothes.
“Well, at least you’re not a dog,” shrugged Peter Michael.
“Or a rat,” said Shane Mooney. “Like someone we could mention.”
“Who’s a rat?” John asked.
“Brian Biggs, that’s who,” said Shane. “Here we are, about to play Oldcastle All-Stars in the cup final, and where is Biggsy?”
“I don’t know,” said John. “Where is he?”
“At home, washing his hair, that’s where,” said Shane crossly. “He says he may come for the second half,
if we give him lots of money and a giant packet of Wonder Puffs. Since he became a star, he’s become very greedy.”
“And very selfish, too,” added Peter Michael, pulling on a huge pair of goalkeeping gloves.
“Oh,” said John. He picked up the football shirt on the bench next to him and held it up. It looked very big. But he started to put it on.
There was another huge roar.
“Time to go out,” said Paul Coles, clapping his hands. “Ready, lads.”
“Ready!” cried the Dream Team.
“Ready,” John whispered nervously. When the Dream Team ran out, he was the last on the pitch.
What would the crowd think, he wondered, when they saw him instead of Brian Biggs?

The Dream Team
Chapter Three
The Cup Final 
“Hurrah!” cried the crowd when the Dream Team appeared.
“Who’s that?” they uttered when they saw John.
“Oh no!” they screamed when they realized that Brian Biggs was missing.
“Brian Biggs!” they chanted. “We want Brian Biggs not a little kid!”
John pulled his head down inside his big shirt.
“Just ignore them,” said Paul Coles cooly. “Play your normal game.”
John nodded, but he wasn’t sure he understood. His normal game was running up and down the garden with his football, shouting “Goal!”, and “Foul!” when he tripped over the ball (which he did quite often). Is that what Paul Coles wanted him to do?
The two teams took their places for the kick-off. The Dream Team players lined up just as on John’s bedside table. So John knew exactly where he had to stand: out on the left wing in Brian Biggs’s place. John looked around. The ground was packed with people and the noise was deafening. It was like the school playground at lunchtime. In fact, when the referee blew his whistle, John started to walk off the pitch, thinking it was time to go back into class.  Shane Mooney had to run across and stop him.
“You’re not walking out on us like Biggsy, are you?” Shane gasped.
“No,” said John, “no, sorry,” and quickly he ran back onto the pitch.
The first half was very even. The Dream Team scored first. But the All-Stars equalized. Then the All-Stars scored again and the Dream team equalized with a great shot by Shane Mooney. Most of the play took place on the right side of the pitch so John only touched the ball a few times. All he did really was shout “Goal!” very loudly when the ball went in the net. At half-time the score was still 2 – 2 …  and so it stayed until the very last minute of the match. Then the Dream Team got a corner. Shane Mooney took it. He swung the ball into the Oldcastle penalty box. Everyone jumped, but the ball went over their heads and landed right at John’s feet. The goalkeeper was on the ground, the goal was open. John couldn’t miss. He ran at the ball. The goalkeeper dived towards him. John kicked hard and … tripped over the ball! Whumf! The goalkeeper landed on top of him.
“Foul!” John squeaked.
“Foul!” shouted his teammates.
“Foul!” echoed the Dream Team supporters.
The referee blew his whistle. “Penalty,” he said and he pointed to the spot.
In the last minute of the match, the Dream Team had a penalty!

The Dream Team
Chapter Four
The Dream Team players did not look very happy.
“What’s the matter?” John asked in surprise. This was their golden chance to win the cup.
“Brian Biggs takes our penalties,” Paul Coles explained.
“And he isn’t here,” Shane Mooney added.
“And none of the rest of us is any good at it,” said Peter Michael.
“Oh,” said John. “I see.”
Suddenly, there was a mighty roar. John glanced across at the touchline and there, in his kit,
ready to play, was Brian Biggs!
“I’ve finished washing my hair!” he shouted. “I want to come on!”
“Well, you’re too late,” said Paul Coles.
“Yes,” Shane Mooney agreed. “You should have come at the start. We’ve got a full team now.”
“But what about the penalty?” said John.
“I’ll take it,” said Peter Michael.
“But you’re hopeless at penalties,” said Paul Coles. “Last time you took one, the ball hit the referee.”
“Someone’s got to take it,” shrugged Peter Michael. He stepped forward towards the penalty spot.
Now John knew what he had to do. “No, stop!” he cried. “Brian Biggs must take the penalty.
He can come on instead of me.” Then, before anyone could argue, he ran to the touchline and changed places with Brian Biggs.
“Cheers, kid,” said Biggsy. “You’re cool. Small and unimportant, but cool.”
He flicked back his shiny clean hair and trotted on to the pitch.
The crowd went wild. “Biggsy-y! Biggsy-y!” they chanted.
Brian Biggs smiled and raised his hand.  Then he ran over to his teammates.
“I see I got here just in time,” he said. “What would you do without me?”
“Hmph,” growled Shane Mooney.
“You’d  better score, that’s all,” said Paul Coles.
“I always score,” said Brian Biggs. “That’s why I’m the star and the fans love me.”
He turned and waved again to the crowd and they roared back.
Three girls sitting behind the goal fainted.
A dog sitting behind them rolled over with its paws in the air.
Brian Biggs strode forward and carefully placed the ball on the penalty spot.
Then he walked slowly back to the edge of the penalty box.
The referee blew his whistle. The crowd went quiet. John held his breath.
Eveything was still, except for the goalkeeper whose legs were shaking like milk.
Brian Biggs ran forward and … WHAM! The ball whizzed into the back of the net!
Brian Biggs had scored! The Dream Team had won the cup! John jumped in the air.
Brian Biggs did a backflip followed by a somersault and then dived across the pitch.
“Bi-i-ggsy, there’s only one Bi-i-ggsy,” sang the crowd.
Paul Coles ran across to John and put his arm around his shoulder.
“Thanks, John,” he said. “You’re the real star, you know. Not old bighead over there.”
He nodded towards Biggsy, who was blowing kisses at the crowd.
“He’s good at taking penalties, though,” said John.
“Yes,” Paul Coles agreed. Then he laughed. “It must be all those Wonder Puffs he eats.”
“Of course,” he added, “he only likes them because his face is on the packet.”
“I like Wonder Puffs,” said John.
Paul Coles pulled a face. “I can’t stand them,” he said. “Give me toast anyday.”

The Dream Team
Chapter Five
“Rise and shine, it’s breakfast time!”
John opened his eyes. He was back in his bedroom and so was the Dream Team.
They were figures again now on his bedside table.
“I must have been dreaming,” he thought. But it all seemed very real.
As he got dressed, he recalled the events of his amazing night.
Then he remembered what had happened the evening  before and he felt quite ashamed.
When he got downstairs, he went over to his Mum and gave her a kiss.
“Mum,” he said. “I’m very sorry I was so horrible last night.”
His mum kissed him back. “Apology accepted,” she said, smiling. “Thank you.”
She went over to the cupboard and took out a packet of Wonder Puffs.
“One good deed deserves another,” she said, putting the packet on the table.
“Uncle Joe brought this round last night.”
John looked at the new, unopened packet of Wonder Puffs.
He looked at the smiling face of Brian Biggs. How smug  and false that smile looked! How could he not have seen it before? He turned the packet round.
“Actually, Mum,” he said. “I think I’ve gone off Wonder Puffs.”
“But, John, Brian Biggs might be in there!” His mum was shocked. “You need Brian Biggs, don’t you?”
“Well, not really,” said John. “I think my Dream Team’s cool as it is.” He smiled.
“They just have to practise their penalties more, that’s all.”
“Besides, they’ve got me now,” he added happily.
He picked up the packet of Wonder Puffs and handed it back to his Mum, who was staring at him as if he had turned into a pink giraffe.
“Could I have toast this morning, please, Mum?” he asked.

Listen to Your Manager
Your Smile
On the Beach at New Quay
While Waiting
Boy at the Somme

The Dream Team
The Dog Who Cried Custard
Bags of Inspiration
Time Flies
Little Devil