My friend Andy Ward, who died of lymphoma at the age of 72, was an atypical author who published nearly 30 sports books as well as books on higher education, including What’s the point of a degree? (2002). He then became a Fellow of the Royal Literary Fund.
Andy was born in Derby, the only child of Nancy (née Elliott), a stagehand, and Tim Ward, an England football international who went on to manage several league clubs, including Derby County. His father moved to clubs several times, so Andy’s secondary education was fragmented – he attended grammar schools in Wakefield and Grimsby (1959-63), Bemrose School, Derby (1963-67) and Carlisle High School (1967-68).
A career teacher helped Andy get a job at Littlewoods Mail Order Stores (1968-72), and while there he went to night school and day out to get an HNC in math, statistics , numerical analysis and computer science (1970) and, in 1971, a complementary certificate in mathematics, numerical analysis and mathematical statistics.
He went on to earn a degree in Sociology and Statistics at the University of Exeter, graduating in 1975, and a Masters in Kinesiology at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, awarded in 1978.
He had a number of jobs – as a bingo caller at Butlin’s Skegness in 1977, milkman for Co-Op dairies in Cambridge (1978-79), professor of sociology at Cambridge College of Further Education (1980- 82), an open university tutor (1983-87) and college guidance counselor for five years in the late 80s and early 90s – before finding his true calling as a writer. His first book, in 1981, Barnsley: A Study in Football 1953-59, based on extensive oral evidence, was praised in the Guardian. Michael Parkinson in The Sunday Times described it as an “important social document”.
Popular books on cricket, golf, horse racing and bridge followed, along with several important titles on different football clubs and the sociology of football, including The Day of the Hillsborough Disaster: A Narrative Account (1995) , of which he is co-author. The more romantic passages of No Milk Today (2016), a study of the decline of the British milkman, were serialized in the Daily Mirror. Andy’s remarkable capacity for understanding is portrayed movingly in The Birth Father’s Tale (2012), based on his difficult teenage experience of losing a child to adoption. It was written after reuniting with her son in 2000.
Andy was always a dissenting force – he saw TVs and cars as unnecessary distractions. His social circle was wide and shared a pleasure in words and an anarchic sense of humor. In 1984, he and a roommate started The Picayune, a satirical Christmas diary for close friends.
I co-wrote Andy’s first book and, almost 40 years later, his last, The Strangest Football Quiz Book (2019) – a reflection of his ability to be consistent in friendship. He has always loved Abide With Me, sung every year in the Cup final, and he has lived his life in its light.
He is survived by his son, Adrian, his granddaughters, Robyn and Isabel, and his companion of four years, Margaret Lear.