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Final whistle for comic strip hero Roy of the Rovers: Britain's most famous fictitious footballer has fallen victim to computer games and hi-tech toys. Steve Boggan reports

ROY OF THE ROVERS, star of myriad cup finals, football super- hero and all-round nice guy, will hang up his boots next month when the comic bearing his name runs out of money.

The player-manager of fictional Melchester Rovers is scheduled to suffer a devastating accident that will end his career after 39 years of thrills, spills and soccer glory.

Dave Hunt, the editor of Roy of the Rovers, confirmed last night that Roy Race was 'sick as a parrot' and added: 'So am I'

The boy Race began his career as a 16-year-old on the front page of the newly-launched Tiger in 1954. Through the following decades he thrilled schoolboys with his exploits, landing a comic title of his own in 1976.

Circulation rose to 200,000 but, according to Mr Hunt, the advent of computer games and hi-tech toys relegated comics to the second division; sales fell to 30,000.

'We have to balance the books,' he said. 'There are so many things that interest children now, and comics don't have the place they once did.'

He would not reveal details of the accident that would end Race's career in the final issue on 20 March, but there were suggestions of a possible return.

'All I can say is that it will end with a question mark over the future,' Mr Hunt said. 'But we are working on the idea of a monthly publication, probably starting in May, to act as a kind of bulletin to keep supporters in touch with what is happening. But all eyes are on his son, Rocky.'

Spoof strips remain, such as Billy the Fish in Viz and Ray of the Rangers in Shoot] - but they never done half as good as what Roy done, did they Brian?