Football book review: ‘The Itinerant Coach – The Footballing Life & Times of Steve Darby’

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Antony Sutton unpacks the life of Steve Darby through his five-decade long career in football to provide an unfiltered look at the ups and downs of one of South East Asia’s most successful foreign managers.

Itinerant is the perfect word to describe Steve Darby’s career in football.

A career which has seen him coach 15 different sides over the course of 37 years as a professional. 

Steve’s resume ranges from head coaching roles in Sydney, Mumbai and Bahrain to national team jobs with Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.    

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Sutton does an excellent job weaving the narrative of Steve’s life in such a relatable manner even though most of us could never comprehend what it’s like to coach in front of 100,000 fans at a World Cup or Cup final. 

This can be attributed to an opening that presents the reader with Steve’s childhood in Liverpool; we see Steve’s love and passion for the game build in these opening chapters.

This preface to Steve’s career puts the reader in his shoes giving them an understanding of his life-long footballing obsession. 

Steve’s coaching career kicks off in Tasmania of all places which he mistakes for Tanzania initially, sorry to any Tasmanian readers.

Through 15 chapters and a touch over 200 pages, the reader is recounted some truly amazing stories from Steve’s globe-trotting career.

We meet footballing icons Nicolas Anelka and Brain Robson and get a detailed look at the World Cup qualifying tournament of the Laos national football team all in one package. 

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For any football fan, these are things you’ve probably only imagined or they’re simply something we see in our dreams.

Through it, Steve never strays from who he is both as a person and as the consummate professional no matter how high or how long the journey takes him. 

Steve’s philosophy on both football and life doesn’t waver through his 50-year career in the sport.

The admiration he shares with his fellow coaches and players is evident, it’s something any football player and fan will share as well by the end of the book.

Recommendation: 

This book would be enjoyed by anyone interested in the life of a football manager and the challenges they face, with an in-depth look at both club football and international football there’s something here from every side of coaching the beautiful game.

Further to this, both casual and hardcore football fans will enjoy the remarkable worldwide career of a ‘lad from Liverpool’ and will only fall deeper in love with football through his eyes. 

My Rating: 4.5/5

There are plenty of people who in their life pursue their true passion and through that make truly profound impacts on the lives of those they meet. 

They do it not for praise or reward but rather for the love of what they do and to impart a piece of that love in others.

This book truly left a piece of Steve Darby’s love for football with me and for that I highly recommend it.

Feature image credit: Fair Play Publishing

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Bill Hedley
Journalism under graduate at the University of Queensland. I have been a die-hard football player and fan for the past 16 years and am now a passionate multimedia Journalist, covering Brisbane Roar for the 2021/22 A-League season.

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