Over the Line

Cover: Violet Tobacco

A powerful historical novel about one footballer’s experience in the First World War. It’s 1914 and Jack is making his debut as a professional footballer. But the match is marred by a demonstration demanding that the players sign up to do their duty in France.  It is not long before Jack is bound for the trenches with the Footballers’ Battalion.

“Classic” The Guardian

Original cover : Ollie Cuthbertson

Amid the mud and desperation, word of the Flanders Cup football tournament in France provides a glimmer of hope that Jack can continue to call himself a footballer.   But as the war drags on, Jack is thrown into a nightmare world he and his dream of playing for England will be lucky to survive.


Read the first chapter here.

Based on the real footballers of the Footballers’ Battalion – the football stars of their day – from teams including  Arsenal, Chelsea, Huddersfield Town and Liverpool.

Signed and dedicated copies of all my books are available personalised to order from my local independent children’s bookshop “The Thoughtful Spot”here.


2016 Somme Anniversary edition

“A gripping story which draws on both the horrors of WW1 and the power of football.” Mumsnet 

“It’s a stroke of brilliance to pair football with wartime history, and this combination is sure to enthral readers and pique their interest in the period. Be warned that the book does not shy away from the horrors of war: rats, mud, dirt and death.



There are some graphic images, but it is not gratuitous, and Palmer does a great job of presenting camaraderie, too.The book does not go into the nuances of conflict, but it’s a lesson in empathy as much as history – and will certainly keep readers on the edge of their seat. ” Book Trust

Published by Barrington Stoke.

your country needs you

Written for 9+ children.

Available from your local library, bookshops, and Kindle.





Frank Lampard, Manchester City

“I am using Over the Line as a group reader – it’s really engaging some of our reluctant boys” Teacher, Harcourt Primary School


With Le Cateau School

“Over the Line is a perfect class read to accompany any KS2 and KS3 (Y7&8) topic on the period. It’s also an engaging read for football fans of any age. In my opinion, it deserves to sit alongside War Horse and Private Peaceful on any school bookshelf.”  Helena Pielichaty 

Real Footballer Reviews

lallanaWatch Liverpool FC player and England striker, Adam Lallana talk about reading Over the Line for Premier League Reading Stars here.


Over the Line is a great book – not just for kids but for anyone who is interested in football,” Exeter City FC footballer Matt Jay said.  “It’s amazing to think that people like me and Matt could have been in their shoes 100 years ago – playing football and going off to such a horrific war.  It really made me think about people’s sacrifices then.”
Read more.


Videos and other resources :


Video 1 : Introduction

Take the quiz on video 1 here.

Video 2 : watch me read from Over the Line chapter 1

Video 3 : The Channel

Take the quiz on video 3 here.

Video 4: Inside a Trench

Take the quiz on video 4 here.

Video 5 : Delville Wood

Take the quiz on video 5 here.

Video 6 : Sid Wheelhouse’s Grave

Take the quiz on video 6 here.

Video 7 : The Flanders Cup

Take the quiz on video 7 here

Literacy Resources

See Stramongate Primary pupils work – both dance and 3D responses – for Over the Line here.

The Trenches : A Vocabulary Picture by Kim Gibbins

Download here



Year 7 Reading Response Scheme of Work very kindly shared by Sirius Academy  here


Call of Duty

Read my short story Call of Duty about a modern footballer going to war here.
“Year 5 really enjoyed Call of Duty today. We had lots of discussion afterwards about whether Jack had made the right decision or not: most thought he had, with only a few dissenting voices, which surprised me… I love having something new to share in the Library!”   Stanmore Primary School 


OTL 20 questionsTest your knowledge of Over the Line with the 20 questions quiz here.






Act a scene from Over the Line with playscripts here.



Chat about the themes in Over the Line with the classroom discussion guide here. classroom discussion guide




OTL certificate Award a signed certificate for classwork from Tom here.




Listen to the radio clip about Over the Line from Downlands School at Blandford Camp on BFBS radio

“Over The Line has always been a hit especially with the reluctant readers. I have read it with several lads. They do love it!” Librarian, John Henry Newman Catholic College

For more First World War resources please go to here.


   ww1 titles





over the line jack poster mini image     over the line poster mini image

Awards & selections

2017 Toppsta  Summer Reading Guide  includes Over the Line. 

2017 Over the Line is reviewed for the North Somerset Teacher’s Book Award here.

2015 Over the Line is on the prestigious Recommended Reads list in the Historical fiction category for Read for My School.

2015 Over the Line is shortlisted for the Lancashire Book of the Year Award and the judging children wrote these reviews for their favourite title:

Over the Line is about Jack, a professional footballer who had dreamed of being a footballer and his dream came true.  It was the happiest moment in his life.  I really loved this book!  Over the Line is about history and football it is so interesting it is awesome. Obaid Wahdati

Jack becomes a professional footballer as World War 2 starts.  He has a choice between football or fighting for his country!  He chooses to fight for his country but he is worried his career is over. This book is historically educational, exciting and dyslexia-friendly, it is also suitable for both genders.  Sam Cranham

This book was good, gripping and makes you want to read on.  I like the fact that there was truth behind it all and at points it makes you feel sad.  Arthur Townson

Good from start to end, introduced the characters while telling the story and got scary at times as was the war, there were some close shaves that made the book thrilling.  Henry Knowles

2014 Over the Line and Own Goal are selected for Bookspace‘s Top 20 Most Read Football Books for KS1-KS4.

Exeter City FC2014 Over the Line selected for Exeter’s City Read for the year.

2014 Over the Line is longlisted for the 2015 Portsmouth Book Award.

2014 selected for Love Reading for Kids.com books of the year

Over the Line has been longlisted for the 2015 Portsmouth Book Award.


Read my blogs about writing and researching Over the Line

“The narrative in this short novel is powerful and evocative. The emphasis on football will entice readers who might not think at first that historical fiction is “their thing”. The compelling voice of Jack will undoubtedly prove them otherwise.”  http://librarymice.com/historical-reads-world-war-i/

Photo Album : Who Was Jack?

j cock huddersfield


recruitment poster
Atestraining white city 1915 b footballers batallion 1917footballers batallion 1917 coloursport

footballersDelville wood map cdelville wood 2memorial 2medal rolljack cock cig card



Real Reader Reviews

Thought you might like to know that ‘Over the Line’ has been a massive success this term. So many of our students have loved reading it and the feedback has been extremely positive. Many of my reluctant readers have turned a corner so thank you very much!” Bradley Stoke Community School

“My brother finished over the line a few days ago and he loved it; he lent it to me so i could read it and i finished it last night. It was absolutely amazing and it was emotional in a very good way.” Jillian

“Wow! I’ve just finished it and thought it was amazing. I’m not a football fan, but I have family history links with WW1 and I thought the story was so powerful.” Wendy Phelps, LRC Manager

“Tom Palmer’s previous books have been about football and spies, so it’s not a surprise that this is a story about a footballer. Not just a footballer, but also a soldier in the First World War. Add that to the fact that this a true story based on a real person, Jack Cock, the story takes on a whole new depth and meaning.
The realism of his story fighting in the trenches, not only against the German enemy but against mud, rats and fear is not escaped.
His journey surviving the war to score the first goal for England after the war, is a very inspirational and emotional one.
I think this is Toms best work to date and a must read to help young people of today understand what it was like during the War.” Pauline Thresh, Leeds School Library Service

A quiet splendid WW1 footie novel.” Caroline Sanderson

“A stunning look at the life of Jack Cock who fought in the First World War as a member of the Footballers’ Battalion and was the first of the modern professional footballers. It’s not exclusively for those with dyslexia but it’s as good as a book gets if you do suffer.”

“Football needs no story to encourage readers to play it but good accounts of it are still inspiring. Scoring that winning goal, making the all-important save, the pleasure of being picked and the pain of being dropped, just being part of the team; all of this and more features … in Tom Palmer’s Football Academy and sequels and most recently in his Over the Line, which shows the special place of football in creating a whole regiment during the first world war.

“Tom Palmer is to be commended for telling Jack’s story and transporting us back to a time when that great British pastime, football, was overshadowed by the horror of War….The book contains equal amounts of action on the pitch and the battlefield. As a member of the Footballers Battalion Jack and his team mates participate in the Flanders cup, a welcome distraction for soldiers, ensuring that football remains at the heart of the novel even when Jack is on the battlefield.

Whilst writing the story Palmer visited the Somme, the scene of one of the Wars bloodiest battles, and stood beside one of his characters graves. There is no doubt that this has helped Palmer’s writing as his novel is told in a authentic and sensitive voice. With Jack we live life in the trenches, go over the top and duck for cover as yet more German shells fall around us. And when the action moves from the battlefield to the football pitch the authenticity remains. We can hear and feel the thud of boot on leather followed by the sound of the ball nestling in the back of the net.

This is an important book by Tom Palmer because Jack Cock’s story deserves to be heard by many people. Palmer tells the story in a clear and real voice with a strong narrative running throughout. ‘Over the Line’ is engaging, thought provoking and makes us think once again about the sacrifice made by so many in the First World War. We will never know how many promising footballers gave up their chance of glory on the pitch to serve their country. We must always remember Jack Cock and all the others.” http://www.literatureforlads.com/

Having a cry over this by@tompalmerauthor about a footballer in WW1. Lovely” Cathy Rentzenbrink, The Bookseller and Quick Reads

Over The Line is a great short novel and I learned a lot while reading it. The book is quite graphic in places, without ever being gruesome, and the description of the trenches portrays a miserable picture of life for the soldiers on both sides. The action on the football pitch and the action on the battlefield are equally exciting and, because so many soldiers died in the war, none of the characters are guaranteed to survive. It’s clear that a lot of research went into the book and it is a thoroughly enjoyable introduction, if that’s possible, to the life of a soldier in the First World War. I would recommend it for children in Year 5/6, or possibly even as a class novel.” Mr Biddle

“Jack Cock was a footballer, who joined the Footballers’ Battalion to fight in the Great War and his story is told in simple, stark prose with very black type and tremendous illustrations by Ollie Cuthbertson marching along the bottom of each page. A great deal of care has gone into the production of this book and it shows.
The pictures painted by Tom Palmer are graphic and ring true, and do not pander to the young age of the readers. At one point Jack bayonets a German soldier turning the bayonet as he pushes it in, and there are gruesome details of no-man’s land and the bodies which lay there. A note at the front of the story says reading age 8+ interest age 10, but this is a story of a real and bloody war and not really for an 8 year old and perhaps not even a ten year old but a teenager able to cope with the reality of war.
Descriptions of Jack’s emotions while playing the game he loves so much are honest and true, winning is all. But true also are the feelings of comradeship and looking after your friends amongst the soldiers living in such filthy and dangerous conditions. This is a very good addition to what will be many stories of the Great War in this centenary year and would appeal to boys, particularly those for whom reading is not easy, and would read aloud well.

Useful links

Leeds School Library Serice have compiled a comprehensive booklist of First World War titles for schools here.

World War 1 School Archives are creating a centralised archive for schools to display and share their memories of the Great War.

The British Council have produced  The Football Remembers education pack for teachers in English & Welsh, designed to offer support and resources for pupils learning about the Truce events that took place in 1914.  Click here for more.

With the BBC and Imperial War Museum you can research First World War stories by postcode  using WW1 at home.

BBC have collected some of their sport in wartime footage here.

1914 Footage of the Footballers’ Battalion

ITV have footage here of Leyton Orient playing Leicester City in the final game of the 1914/15 season – at the end of the match the London side changed into their khaki uniforms and marched with the 17th Middlesex Regiment. They were part of the Footballers’ Battalion who fought and died in the First World War.

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