I first had the idea for Mr Cleansheets in 1998 while briefly in England for a mate’s wedding. At the time, I was halfway through writing (what I thought was) a masterpiece called Them, which may, or may not, ever see the light of day.
Working full time, studying part time for a Masters and writing Them didn’t leave me a lot of time or brain space for Mr Cleansheets, but I fell into the habit at the end of “serious” writing sessions of vaguely jotting down a few ideas for other projects, and Mr Cleansheets grew out of that.
From the very beginning I had the idea of the goalkeeper (Eric Judd) who everyone thought was too old. Having played in goals myself at a reasonable level, I knew that keepers don’t reach their peak until their early thirties, and there are plenty of examples of professionals who played into their forties:
“Pat Jennings was still playing at the top into his 40s. So was Neville Southall… Peter Shilton…Gordon Banks …Danny Malone. I’m still fit Dave. If Calamity fuckin’ James’s still playin’, then Eric Judd’s got years left.”