Andy Ward Obituary | sports and leisure books

My friend Andy Ward, who died of lymphoma at the age of 72, was an unusual author who has published nearly 30 books on sports and 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 (née Elliott), a machinist, and Tim Ward, an England international footballer who went on to manage a number of league clubs including Derby County. His father changed clubs several times, leaving Andy’s secondary education 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 get a job at Littlewood’s Mail Order Stores (1968-72) and while there he went to night school and on release day to do an HNC in math, statistics, numerical analysis and computers (1970) and, 1971 supplementary certificate in mathematics, numerics and mathematical statistics.

He then earned a degree in Sociology and Statistics from Exeter University, graduating in 1975, and a Masters in Kinesiology from Waterloo University, Ontario, conferring it in 1978.

He has had a range of jobs – as a bingo caller at Butlin’s Skegness in 1977, as a milkman for Co-Op Dairies in Cambridge (1978-79), as a sociology lecturer at Cambridge College of Further Education (1980-82), an Open University tutor (1983-87) and university careers adviser for five years in the late 80’s and early 90’s – before finding his true calling as a writer. His first book, 1981, Barnsley: A Study in Football 1953-59, which drew 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, as well as several important titles on various football clubs and the sociology of football, 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 of the decline of the British milkman, were published in the Daily Mirror. Andy’s remarkable ability to understand is poignantly portrayed in The Birth Father’s Tale (2012), based on his difficult teenage experience of losing a child to adoption. It was written after he was reunited with his son in 2000.

Andy has always been an unruly force – he saw TVs and cars as unnecessary distractions. His social circle was vast, sharing a delight in words and an anarchic sense of humor. In 1984, he and a roommate founded The Picayune, a satirical Christmas brochure distributed 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 enduring friendship. He always liked Abide With Me, which was sung at the cup final every year, and lived his life in light of it.

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

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