Although Roy first appeared way back in 1954 as a young apprentice signed by Melchester Rovers’ forward thinking youth team scout — Bert Bonser, it wasn’t until the 1980s that he truly became Roy Race: The Legend. The 80s defined him more than any other decade, his blond, centre-parted mullet became the haircut of the moment and his name became synonymous with outstanding sporting achievement.
Roy captured the imagination like no other and the readers came back in their millions week after week to follow his exploits.
The Best of Roy of the Rovers: the 1980s collects together some of Roy’s greatest matches, as well as the countless trials and tribulations he faced both on and off the pitch. From the unique threat of relegation, to domestic troubles when his wife walks out on him, to the ugly face of hooliganism and the deadly aim of an assassin gun! It’s true to say that Roy’s life was anything but dull. In fact it’s a wonder he ever found the time to play football at all!
So now, for the first time in a generation relive those thrills and spills afresh with a book packed with 208 pages of scorching soccer action and incident and the greatest footballer of his, my or your generation!
As a special treat to Soccerlens readers and Roy of the Rovers fans, we caught up with the editor of “Best of Roy of the Rovers: the 1980s”, David Leach, and asked him a few questions.
Can you sum up the appeal of Roy of the Rovers?
I think the appeal lies in the fact Roy Race seems real. He’s not super human, he doesn’t fight crime or battle aliens, his world is our world and that lies at the root of his appeal. The idea that with enough talent and skill any of us could be like him.
Also the way that he was presented, his stories weren’t one offs or random, there was a real continuity to his world, Roy grew up with us, starting out as an apprentice at Melchester Rovers and working his way up to player/manager. His whole 39 year career ran as one continuous story and followed the football seasons.
Was Roy Race based on a particular real-life footballer?
Not on one particular footballer, no. The original concept of Roy — a young apprentice joining a major league club — was based on Matt Busby’s ‘Busby’s Babes’ — the nickname given to the amazingly youthful Manchester United team formed following the club’s extraordinarily successful youth policy. However, Melchester FC was based on Arsenal FC of the 1950s.
Roy Race’s haircut changed with the times aping the popular styles of the times. His most famous – the centre parted mullet of the 70s and 80s – came courtesy of the artist David Sque who sported the same hair cut himself.
Do you think Roy of the Rovers is still relevant today and do you think it’ll find a new audience?
He’s still relevant, the problems Roy encounters on and off the pitch are the same as those faced by footballer/managers of today only not as intense. They still have to deal with the intrusive press attention, obsessive fans, hooliganism, and of course the daily threat of WAGs.
I always imaged that the initial audience for this book would be dads – who grow misty eyed at the mention of Roy Race. It was them I envisaged, when I was planning the book, sitting back with a mug of tea on a Sunday afternoon and just reliving their youth. I always assumed that once they’ve finished the book they’d eagerly share it with their sons and that’s how Roy will find a new audience. He has a way of getting his hooks into you and I think it’s that soap opera aspect that’ll capture new readers.
Do you have a favorite storyline from the Best of the 1980s collection?
Well when I came to choose material for the Best of Roy the 1980s I had to read ten years worth of Roy comics. I whistled my initial choices down to 4 different arcs before settling on the 80 — 81 seasons. Of that epic 208 page arc I’d have to say I particularly liked the relegation storyline because it was the first time Roy had ever faced that sort of threat and it challenged him not only as a player and manager but also as a husband and father.
You can buy the book through Amazon UK or Titan Books.