Darwen, an Englishman by birth, moved down to the south coast of Spain on a whim, after taking on local team CD Torrevieja on Football Manager. This excitement for life and overwhelming passion for football is evident in his new book, Tales from the Top Flight (TFTTF).
The book is a compilation of satirical articles he wrote about the 2015/16 English Premier League season for Costa Blanca People, one of the larger English-medium papers in the region. Taking advantage of the unique season that England just witnessed, Darwen realised that his comedic takes would provide a unique review of the competition. As a reader with no links to him or the Costa Blanca People, I have to say that he has succeeded.
Before detailing why this book is so enjoyable, a couple of disclaimers are needed. This is not a book for the casual fan, and is not a book for those looking for deep insights and analyses into the season. His articles will not tell you why Leicester won, or how Newcastle managed to get themselves relegated again. And, quite bafflingly, there are a lot of editing issues throughout the book that make it hard to concentrate if you are not invested in the material.
That being said, if you are any kind of football fan, you would’ve followed the astonishing plot of the English top-flight season. This book, or compilation of articles to be accurate, provides a fun rollercoaster to go along with it. While it would’ve been possible for Darwen to get stuck into making the same jokes every week, as is understandable while writing a weekly column, there are many instances where his wit comes to the fore. Particularly enjoyable was his Crisis-O-Meter from the 27th Sept piece. I wouldn’t do it justice by summarising the section, but suffice to say it will make you actually laugh out loud.
Similarly, the occasional one-liners will floor you. For example, the stand-alone end paragraph to the 24th Jan column (in its entirety) is “One day someone will write a book on the greatest 0-0 draws ever. WBA 0-0 Aston Villa will not be in it.” It’s difficult for a book to make a reader actually chuckle, but Darwen manages it on a regular basis.
Other standout features of the book include his mid-season review of clubs, the running jokes about how his constantly changing relegation picks (including Leicester and West Ham) keeping ignoring his predictions, and his complete hatred for international breaks. Darwen finishes the book with his strongest piece, and the only section that was written specifically for TFTTF. Taking his summer 2015 season preview, which was shot down by his editor at Costa Blanca, he ruthlessly and hilariously reviews it. This takedown of his own work provides a great ending to a season review in which everyone’s predictions could not have been more wrong.
TFTTF is not a book that will teach you anything, and it is not a book that you would display prominently on your bookshelf. Think any of Jeremy Clarkson’s uproarious compilation books, but with an actual love for football, and you have Darwen’s work. It’s a book that you could read by yourself on a beach holiday or a lazy Sunday. Just make sure that you’ve got something else to do on the day, because you will just run through Tales from the Top Flight in no time.