The Man on the Side – Tom Warburton

The goalkeeper come out to catch the ball.
Arms stretched out, legs up high.
For his first time in goal, I think he did alright.
But the man on the side didn’t. No.
In fact, he thought the complete opposite.
Abused, both physically and verbally.
The black boy in goal, he didn’t do anything wrong,
he didn’t deserve it, he was just a normal boy,
doing what his job is to do.
It’s only a Sunday morning after all.

So the boy got home wet and cold,
but that wasn’t what he felt down about.
Up the stairs without a noise coming out of his mouth.
Ignoring his mum and his dad,
even his dog which he adores so much.
Onto his bed, he lay staring at the ceiling,
next to his school clothes, with his tie,
standing out, shining right in his eyes.
He didn’t need those clothes for school.
It’s only a Sunday morning after all.


Tom Warburton was an Orwell Youth Prize Junior Winner in 2019, responding to the theme ‘A Fair Society?’. We asked Tom what the inspiration was behind his poem. 

What was the inspiration behind your piece?

My inspiration for my piece of work “The Man on the Side” came from my love of football. When asked in class by my teacher, Mr Taylor, to take part in the competition I was unsure on what to do. I then came up with the idea of trying to create a poem and wanted to link it in with football.

Why did you pick the form you did?

I decided to take the form of a poem, as I thought it would be the best way for me to express my thoughts on society nowadays within the sport of football. Also with the big issue of Respect within the game at the moment, I thought that I would try to include that in there too.

‘Why I Write’

As I started to work on this piece of work , all of my ideas sort of started to fit together and the more I worked on it, the more my ideas came across, and it seemed to all work out.

Advice to fellow young writers

Don’t be afraid to express yourself. Pick a topic that means something to you as this makes the piece of work easier to complete.

A piece of writing/poem/novel/article/film that has influenced me
Today’s society helped to influence the ideas within my piece of writing. Just watching television, and reading about the topic of football highlighted some of the ideas I had for it. It then just all seemed to come together.