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Darkness and Light: My Story By Joe Thompson with Alex Fenn

Release date: 01st November, 2018
Publisher: Pitch Publishing

List Price: Ł18.99
Our Price: Ł12.32
You Save: Ł6.67 (35%)
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The basic story arc underpinning many sporting biographies is so repetitive, you wonder how some of them get published. Such criticism cannot, however, be levelled at Joe Thompson’s Darkness and Light, co-authored by Alex Fenn.

Thompson is still a young man and his searingly honest account of how a teenager who appeared to have the football world at his feet was, in the space of a decade, released by Manchester United, recruited and playing (well) in the lower leagues, at which point he contracted the first of two bouts of cancer, is sporting biography at its best.

That Joe Thompson is alive is testament to his tenacity, courage and wonderfully positive attitude, attributes inherited from his mother, yet not once does Thompson give the impression that he feels sorry for himself. That he continues to play professional football and scored a fairy-tale winner to keep Rochdale in League One at the end of last season is miraculous.

If the sign of an engaging read is measured by the speed with which you’re suddenly well over half-way through a book, then Darkness and Light qualifies as one of the year’s best. We don’t learn of Thompson’s diagnosis until we’re more than a third of the way through, thanks to a pacey narrative which expertly blends the perfect quantity of football-speak with generous helpings of behind-the-scenes anecdote.

As a youngster at Old Trafford, Thompson felt he was en route to the top, watching in awe as the likes of Giggs and Scholes practised their shooting. But he suffered rejection following a slowdown in the rate at which he grew, a setback seemingly confirmed by a hand scan which suggested he would never be taller than 5’10”. The scan proved inaccurate, but Thompson soldiered on, becoming a YTS trainee at Rochdale, the club that would give him his first professional contract.

Throughout his nascent career, Thompson, though comparatively small, clearly looked after himself, physically-speaking, which makes the revelation regarding his Hodgkin Lymphoma, a cancer of the blood, so shocking.

Following his diagnosis, Thompson’s tenacity, allied to a deep love for his family, played a huge part in his recovery. It seems inconceivable that this decent, hard-working guy could later suffer from cancer for a second time, but he does and survives it. He’s still only 29 and continues to play professional football while developing a second career as an accomplished motivational speaker; in an extremely crowded market, one suspects that Joe Thompson is one of the genre’s very best.

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