As a huge football fan interested in comics, Roy of the Rovers seemed like the perfect fit for me, and it didn’t disappoint! For years I’ve heard phrases like “this is real Roy of the Rovers stuff” – such as surrounding underdogs Leicester’s incredible Premier League victory in 2015-16 – but I never fully understood what it meant. However, I saw just how popular this comic was when I took the annual home and my mum reminisced about how her younger brothers’ whole week used to build up to getting the new issue, and I think my dad spent more time reading it than I did!
Roy of the Rovers is a British comic strip about fictional player-manager Roy Race and his team Melchester Rovers, which first appeared in 1954 and ran as a weekly (and later monthly) comic magazine from 1976 to 1995. That’s almost 40 years of adventures – Roy had an illustrious playing career and the writers were very creative with their storylines to keep it going! This annual is a collection of strips that were published in the 1980s; each weekly strip is 2 or 3 pages long and they run in chronological order. It felt slightly strange to read lots of strips in a row; each one is built to a climax, often with a cliffhanger, to create anticipation for the next week’s issue, but reading so many together meant it was always very high tempo and intense!
In this almost “soap opera” like annual, Roy is at the peak of his career – unleashing many a left-footed volley into the top corner – but is forced to deal with difficult off-the-pitch problems as well. Roy faces criticism after selling fans’ favourite Geoff Giles to their rival club, the Rovers are relegated after a poor season but bounce back the next year, Roy’s wife Penny leaves him because of his football obsession but then returns and becomes pregnant with their third child, and Roy is the victim of an assassination attempt! He is shot in the Rovers’ ground and the police investigation reveals many suspects – from his Mafia-involved cousin to jealous actor Elton Blake. Clearly the strip, though focused on football matches, has much more to it and there is lots of drama, tragedy and victory both on and off the field!
Roy of the Rovers is definitely my favourite comic that I’ve read so far, mainly because of the football scenarios which as a player I can relate to, but also because of how easy it is to read; the time passed so quickly as I was constantly wanting to know what happened next! A man of outrageous skill and incredible integrity, Roy Race is an amazing character who I think every young reader wanted to be and he certainly is the perfect role model. However, things have changed since the ‘80s and I noticed many differences between football then and now; for example, nearly all of the Rovers are English and homegrown which is not the case in any top British teams nowadays! There are many examples of classic style, from the players’ haircuts (a few mullets) to their very short shorts. The art is colourful and detailed in a classic comic strip style.
For me, the only thing that Roy of the Rovers is missing is any mention of girls and womens’ football! Of course in the ’80s it was much less popular and it has grown exponentially since then, so I can imagine that any possible modern-day reboot would perhaps feature an affiliated Melchester Rovers Ladies team! Overall, if you are a football fan now or were obsessed with Roy of the Rovers when you were younger, hopefully this has filled you with excitement (or nostalgia) and inspired you to dig out an issue or annual!