While reading ‘The Gaffers: Mick McCarthy, Roy Keane And The Team They Built’ by Paul Howard (2002) I spotted a number of references to Andy’s Game. Once I realised it was ghost-written by the great Paul Kimmage I was on to the library ordering system immediately!
Published shortly after the USA ’94 World Cup, Andy’s Game is part tournament diary and part autobiography of Ireland captain (and future ITV pundit) Andy Townsend. It’s written in a style that will be familiar to Kimmage fans with the chapters jumping between different phases of Andy’s life interspersed with the World Cup diary.
As a 10 year old soccer obsessed kid, the summer of USA ’94 was the happiest time of my life. As I was only 6 for Italia ’90, the qualifying campaign for USA ’94 was my first really clear memory of international football. I devoured everything I could about the tournament during the build up. I spent the tournament at a holiday resort (i.e. in a tent) in France with my family where I played football all day and watched football all night. It was perfect. I say this because any book that examines USA ’94 is getting a 5 star review from me regardless of whether it deserves it.
Reading Andy’s Game know, 24 years on, is primarily a nostalgia trip. It’s an interesting insight into the way the Irish team operated under Jack Charlton, and into Andy’s own career. He touches on his own developing sense of Irishness as well as the stories behind his transfers between Southampton, Norwich, Chelsea and Villa.
It is well worth a read for any Irish football fan. Any sports fan would also enjoy the insider view on life at major football tournament – things have likely changed quite a lot since ’94 but the basic concept of 23 young men heading on a 30 plus day adventure to take on the very best in the world remains at the heart of every World Cup campaign.