The False Nine’s Dave Hughes imagines an XI comprised of Roald Dahl characters…
Roald Dahl created some of the most imaginative, eccentric and well-loved characters ever seen in children’s literature.
Here’s would have happened if he had opted to remove his creations from the fantastical worlds of his novels and thrust them into the harsh landscape of professional football…
Manager – Roald Dahl
Dahl was a complex and conflicted character, which is reflected in his books, which constantly veer between the whimsical and the vicious. However, this split personality could prove ideal, given the task he faces reconciling the various characters and species within his line-up.
His superb sense of humour and genuine love of children would certainly help him to coax the best out of players such as James Trotter and Matilda. However, he could be a vicious, short-tempered bully to those who crossed him – The Independent once (hilariously!) referred to him as “Big Unfriendly Bastard”. This uncompromising, hairdryer approach would surely keep disruptive influences such as Mr Twit and The Grand High Witch in check.
He has frequently been accused of anti-Semitism, and eventually had to remove racist undertones from early editions of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which depicted Oompa-Loompas as a tribe of black pygmies. It therefore seems likely that Dahl would adopt a narrow (-minded) formation, with a compact midfield diamond.
Goalkeeper – The Enormous Crocodile
An intimidating prospect for any opposing striker, given that he is an enormous, bloodthirsty crocodile. Gobbles up crosses far more effectively than he gobbles up children.
Right Back – The Grand High Witch
Projects the veneer of being an attractive, kindly woman. But with her hideously malformed face and unimaginable cruelty she’s actually a bit of a bastard. Can turn opposing wingers into small, harmless mice, or incinerate them with her laser eyes.
Centre Back – Miss Trunchball (Captain)
Despite her weight essentially rendering her immobile, Mrs Trunchball has extraordinary upper body strength, a testimony to her previous career as a shot putter. An uncompromising, no-nonsense captain, yet strangely scared of Matilda.
Centre Back – The BFG
At 24ft, the BFG is an imposing aerial presence at centre back, whose ability to distribute good dreams amongst his teammates enables him to double as the team’s sports psychologist. The gentle giant has an impeccable disciplinary record, although his weakness for snozzcumbers could prove a hindrance given the fictional vegetable’s classification as a banned substance.
Left Back – James Trotter
An understated but plucky team player, who is capable of improvising to drag him and his teammate out of tricky situations. A mild-mannered character off the pitch, despite driving to training in a giant peach filled with magical talking insects, which is Balotelli-esque.
The Holding Role – Mr Twit
With his bushy, unwashed beard and utter lack of morality, Mr Twit bears an uncanny resemblance to Gennaro Gattuso, and is more than happy to do the dirty work in front of the back four. His fondness for evil pranks and incessant drinking will occasionally lead to disciplinary problems.
Central Midfield – Willy Wonka
An inconsistent and often frustrating creative midfielder, capable of moments of genius, whose eccentric clothing and bizarre sense of humour attracts bemusement from his teammates. Should not, under any circumstances, be left alone with children.
Central Midfield – An Oompa Loompa
Ideal foil for the mercurial Wonka: severely lacking in height, but hardworking and unwaveringly loyal to their midfield partner. In the event of injury, can be easily interchanged with the rest of their species (although it is unclear how many players from Loompaland can be registered in the squad). Creepy singing freaks out team-mates.
Trequartista – Matilda
Despite her slight frame, Matilda refuses to be bullied off the ball, having developed astonishing resilience after years of childhood neglect. Her secret telekinetic abilities allow her to execute seemingly impossible passes with ease. Regularly undermines her captain.
Striker – Danny, the Champion of the World
Very young, but able to drift unnoticed into dangerous areas, and an extraordinarily effective poacher. His status as ‘champion of the world’ ensures that he brings a winning mentality to the squad.
Striker – Mr Fox
A true fox in the box, Mr Fox is resourceful and possesses a killer instinct in front of goal. A charismatic and popular member of the dressing room, who regularly provides his teammates with freshly slain chicken carcasses.