Andy Ward obituary

Other lives: Author of books on sports and higher education, including a narrative account of the Hillsborough disaster

My friend Andy Ward, who has died of lymphoma aged 72, was an unusual author who published almost 30 sports books as well as works on higher education, including What Use Is a Degree? (2002). He later became a fellow of the Royal Literary Fund.

Andy was born in Derby, the only child of Nancy (nee Elliott), a machinist, and Tim Ward, an England soccer international who went on to manage a clutch of league clubs, including Derby County. His father moved clubs several times, so Andy’s secondary schooling was fragmented – he attended grammar schools in Wakefield and Grimsby (1959-63), Bemrose school, Derby (1963-67), and Carlisle grammar school (1967-68).

A careers teacher helped Andy to get a job at Littlewoods Mail Order Stores (1968-72), and while there he went to night school and on day release to gain an HNC in maths, statistics, numerical analysis and computing (1970) and, in 1971, a supplementary certificate in maths, numerical analysis and mathematical statistics.

He then took a degree in sociology and statistics at Exeter University, graduating in 1975, and a master’s in kinesiology at Waterloo University, Ontario, awarded in 1978.

He had a number of jobs – as a bingo caller at Butlin’s Skegness in 1977, a milkman for Co-Op dairies in Cambridge (1978-79), a sociology lecturer at Cambridge College of Further Education (1980-82), an Open University tutor (1983-87), and a university careers counsellor for five years in the late 80s and early 90s – before he found his true vocation as a writer. His first book, in 1981, Barnsley: A Study in Football 1953-59, drawing on extensive oral testimony, was praised in the Guardian. Michael Parkinson in the Sunday Times described it as a “significant social document”.

Popular books on cricket, golf, horse-racing and bridge followed, and several weighty titles on different football clubs and the sociology of soccer, including The Day of the Hillsborough Disaster: A Narrative Account (1995), which he co-authored. The more romantic passages of No Milk Today (2016), a study in the decline of the British milkman, were serialised in the Daily Mirror. Andy’s striking capacity for understanding is movingly portrayed in The Birth Father’s Tale (2012), based on his difficult experience as a teenager of losing a child to adoption. It was written after he was reunited with his son in 2000.

Andy was always a dissident force – he saw TV sets and cars as needless distractions. His social circle was huge, and shared a delight in words and an anarchic sense of humour. In 1984 he and a flatmate started The Picayune, a satirical Christmas broadsheet that went out to close friends.

I co-authored Andy’s first book and, almost 40 years later, his last, The Strangest Football Quiz Book (2019) – a reflection of his capacity for constancy in friendship. He was always fond of Abide With Me, sung every year at the Cup final, and he lived his life in the light of it.

He is survived by his son, Adrian, granddaughters, Robyn and Isabel, and his partner of four years, Margaret Lear.

Ian Alister

The GuardianTramp

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