THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

The Life, Football and Faith of a Soca Warrior
by Marvin Andrews with Tom Brown
Mainstream, £15.99
Reviewed by Alex Anderson
From WSC 254 April 2008 

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It’s not often you have to read between the lines of the real story to get to the autobiography. If you’ve heard of Marvin Andrews, you’ll know he’s a devout Christian. For him, however, this is all the information you really need. Details of his earthly achievements may eventually wriggle out through the endless evangelical preaching, but they’re merely giving testimony to this book’s real subject: God.

Absolute contentment makes notoriously boring reading, but Andrews’ religious certitude hasn’t killed the thrill of his life story. It couldn’t. After a heart-­renderingly tough upbringing in the West Indies, a cushy job in the beer factory that sponsored one of his first teams ends with his reluctant move to dull, distant Scotland. His initial rejection by Motherwell and the tortures of the Caledonian climate are thankfully overcome. His rise from Raith Rovers regular to history-maker with Livingston, Rangers and Trinidad & Tobago is astounding. When one considers all this has been achieved by a man who still feels his chief talent is heading the ball 40-50 yards back into the opposition half, it’s difficult to paint Andrews’ adventure in muted colours. You’d think.

Here, it’s rendered with the zealot’s gloss of retrospective conviction. Every human who has ever helped Andrews is remembered and humbly thanked. Yet the desire to see everything, ultimately, as “God’s will” distracts from a great human narrative and, frankly, insults the player’s fortitude.

His remarkable career is merely paraphrased. Chapters on racism and fellow Christian pros are little more than lists of Black, Asian and – yup – Christian players who’ve done well in the British game. Attempts are made to discuss wider issues, but when it’s all posited on the need not only to believe in God but believe in the charismatic way Andrews does, the social comment becomes as embarrassingly inaccurate as it is irrelevant. Ghostwriter Tom Brown must take some responsibility for the turgid style, the screeds of filler and the smattering of factual inaccuracies, but the emphasis and energy are supplied by the walking miracle himself.

The only real insight offered is into Andrews’ spiritual world and even that’s stultifyingly simplistic: anything good, like winning the SPL in the last five minutes of the season or captaining your country to its first World Cup, is God responding to your prayers. Anything bad, like failing to retain that title by 18 points and being unable to play at Germany 2006 because of a last-minute injury, is God scolding you for not praying enough or – most movingly – just isn’t explained.

When truly awful stuff, such as the suicide of Livingston team-mate Eugene Dadi’s girlfriend, is passed off as Satan’s work, the book becomes sadly offensive. And the only revelation is that what underpins this big, loveable, clean-living sportsman is a faith laced with ignorance and bigotry. Andrews’ Lord disapproves of extra-marital sex. Pastor Marvin has followers who once suffered from the “sin” of being gay but managed to “change their spirit”. This is why these people are now married to members of the opposite sex and this is why the book’s foreword, by life-long Raith Rovers fan the Rt Hon Gordon Brown, contains one very unsubtle disclaimer. The PM likes Marv, not his beliefs. For once, the entire country should agree with Gordon.

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