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Monday, June 29, 2009

The Best of Roy of the Rovers: The 1970s

The new Roy of the Rovers book from Titan has arrived. The Best of Roy of the Rovers: The 1970s follows up the popular The Best of Roy of the Rovers: The 1980s volume (reviewed here)in much the same style and format with over 200 pages, mostly of colour artwork but this time interlaced with adverts and features in the style of The Bumper Book of Roy of the Rovers. The strips are from early issues of Roy's own paper, which debuted in 1976 with David Sque and Tom Tully already firmly established as the artist/writer team; both moved over from Roy's original home, Tiger, and carried on without drawing breath.

The opening storyline, running originally over the 1976/77 football season, saw Roy in fine form, scoring goal after goal in the season's opening matches. Fans and critics alike presume that Roy is chasing after a £30,000 prize that has been offered to the footballer who can score 50 goals that season. Once the idea is fixed in their minds, every choice Roy makes on the field—from the teams he choses to whether to substitute himself—is scrutinised.

After a brief soujourn to America, where Roy ends up beating the Yanks at their own version of football, the 1977/78 season began with Roy facing the grim problem of hooliganism in the ranks of Melchester supporters which he tries to deal with in a variety of ways which presumably match Tom Tully's notions of making football more of a family game and the fans more inclusive.

The final story, from 1979, records how players and fans react to the signing of big-name Spanish forward Paco Diaz to the team.

Not quite the soap opera it was to become in later years, where there was as much action between matches as on the field, these stories are nevertheless classic examples of football strips at their best—no lucky boots or other gizmos, just straight footballing action with all the match-day tensions condensed into two or three pages each week. But even if football's not your cup of tea, there is a happy event (two, in fact) for Roy and Penny Race off the pitch and you won't miss a thing even if the rules are a mystery thanks to the Greek chorus of Melchester fans who keep up a running commentary each game: "Roy's linking with Peak and Gray—their three most experience players! What a move!"

The Best of Roy of the Rovers: The 1970s. Titan Books ISBN 978-1848560246, 21 June 2009.

(* Roy of the Rovers © Egmont UK Ltd.)

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