Roy Race – My Hero
When I was young (in the mid-90s), and had started realizing the nuances of football, one footballer held sway over my heart than many others. He in fact, did not exist in the real world. He was Roy Race, the legendary comic-book character who played for Melchester Rovers, a fictional English Club, who along with his comrade Blackie Gray won their club many honours and hearts.
The gentleman who played the beautiful game the good way. Kaushik Saha talks about a comic-boon icon who went beyond the realms of a two-page periodic feature; the man who had thousands supporting Rovers, an imaginary team. His impact is everlasting…
Some say Roy was modeled on Bobby Moore, the 1966 World Cup winning captain of England. I do not know, for sure. But what I do know is that Roy to me was more than just a comic strip. I feel Roy represented what an ideal Englishman should be – upright, high on morals, not surrendering defeat or compromising easily. Roy Race never swore, or spat, and always played fair. When ‘Racey’ put on the England shirt, a nation stood proud. Racey was loved much and there have been numerous documentaries on him that showed how much people loved him.
Roy was the ideal team-man – he was a striker, yet always passed the ball to a colleague in a better position to score concentrating as much on scoring as on providing assists. Much before becoming a player-manager, he had shown his responsible side by being an elder brother to his teammates and helping them cope with criticism – much like a present day Jose Mourinho. One can say Roy combined the gentlemanliness of Paolo Maldini, the goal scoring skills of Marco van Basten and the protective skills of Mourinho.
He went to the extent of marrying within Melchester (Penny Laine) and trained his son, Rocky to be a Melchester loyalist. No one can be perfect and Roy shifted loyalties to rivals Melborough once, as a player-manager, due to a fall-out with the club management. However, like all good men, he realized his follies and came back to rejoin his home club.
In a way, Roy was a product of the times. The 70s, 80s and 90s were decades when low supervision in matches led to extreme foul play. Some of the infamous incidents of world football happened during these years. There was a need for discipline, of fair play and transparency in player transfers. Roy seemed to be the answer. As if the creators Frank S. Pepper and later Joe Colquhoun, wanted to say – “see, this is how it should be done”. The presence of entities like Sky TV and Sir Alf Ramsey (manager of Melchester in 1982 when Roy was in coma) seemed to add credibility to this line of thought.
The stock media phrase “real ‘Roy of the Rovers’ stuff” is often used by football writers, commentators and fans when describing displays of great skill, or results that go against the odds.
Quite some time has passed since Roy of Rovers last made an appearance in 1995 (the 1997 and 2001 reappearances and 2009 special edition sales were just half-hearted efforts); and Roy has left with an unfinished job. He quit playing as he lost a foot. His son, Rocky became the next Melchester bulwark.
In recent times, when European football action is available to a lot more countries than there were in those days (Roy comics were printed in black and white for a long time), when even 10-12 year old kids know a lot about player transfers, the studs and the duds, the strategies and even the coaches, a figure like that of Roy would be a novelty. Challenging yes, but not entirely impossible. The comics industry has also come a long way and it means big bucks. A “Roy / Rocky Rovers franchise” would not be too bad a comeback, I guess.
For a lot of people, a hero would return, a hero of incredible skill combined with high morals, a combination rarely seen in the football world in the present day. Here is a tribute to the hero.