John Moynihan 1932-2012

Long-standing Football Writers’ Association member John Moynihan died last Saturday after an accident near his home.

Journalism can be a cut-throat business but Moynihan not only survived and thrived, the warmth of his personality ensured he will be remembered with huge fondness by anyone who knew him.

The smile rarely left his face and while Moynihan’s Soccer Syndrome remains one of the finest football books ever written his interests were wide and varied.

Those who knew Moynihan from the Sunday Telegraph, where he was initially deputy literary editor before establishing himself as a respected football writer, may be surprised to learn that he cut his journalistic teeth on the Evening Standard but not the sports desk.

His son Leo, a freelance and an FWA member who has followed in his father’s footsteps, said: “He edited a column called In London Last Night. It was the equivalent of today’s 3am Girls.

“Dad used to go to parties, film premieres and buzz around Soho looking for gossip.”

While in some ways that was the ideal job for the most sociable of people, his deep love of football was guaranteed to see him leave his mark on the beautiful game.

Leo said: “I went over to his flat on Monday and was looking through his shelves and I thought to myself ‘he so loved football.’ He also loved literature and he had a book by F. Scott Fitzgerald between Colin Malam’s book on Gary Lineker and Tommy Lawton’s autobiography. Amazing.”

Soccer Syndrome, published in 1965, was a personal view of post-War football, not just the players but the characters who followed the game. The Independent’s Jim Lawton described it as “one of the best books ever written about football and the emotion it generates.”

In a column Lawton wrote: “It seemed to me that Moynihan most perfectly captured the feelings of the pure football lover. In one passage he wrote heart-rendingly of the end of an affair, in Paris, which was redeemed only by the fact that the woman he loved, who was telling him that she had found a new interest, had her back to a café television set which was providing him with a grainy but utterly unequivocal picture of the unfolding genius of the teenaged Pele.”

Moynihan’s s 1993 book Kevin Keegan: Black And White did not go down too well with its subject which is usually seen as a resounding endorsement. Leo said: “Dad had to write it in a couple of months. I was at university and helped him. Keegan went on local radio and said: ‘Burn the book’ which dad found amusing.”

There were other books including Park Football, Soccer Focus, The Chelsea Story and Not All A Ball in which Moynihan wrote about his childhood. His last book was Restless Lives, the story of his parents who were both artists.

His love for Chelsea and an indication of the sport’s changing times is underlined by a Footballer of the Year dinner Moynihan attended during the Seventies. In those days the dinner at the Cafe Royal was on the day before the FA Cup final.

“Dad took Charlie Cooke as his guest,” said Leo. “Chelsea were playing the next day.”


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    neil wall

    September 22, 2015 at 5:29 pm

    The Soccer Syndrome was unique; seemingly a book on football,– and has there ever been a better one?,– it was a wry observation of a changing society, 60s London, the immediate postwar years as the breeding ground for all that followed: fine prose, great wit.

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