The Diary: Forget Pele, Roy is still a Race apart

SO PELE has been chosen as footballer of the century. The boy from Brazil was not bad at the beautiful game, it has to be said. But what about the player whose top- class career spanned 38 years, who survived an assassination attempt, two kidnappings, a terrorist explosion and an earthquake and who won 10 League championships, 10 FA Cups and two World Club Championships ? We are talking Roy of the Rovers stuff here, of course - quite literally.

The Roy of the Rovers 2000 Annual has rolled off the presses of Egmont World Publishing as a timely reminder of the king of the comic book football world. In a question-and-answer profile on page eight, Roy Race declines to give his age, "on the grounds that I might incriminate myself". Having first appeared in Tiger as a 15-year-old in 1954, however, the pen and ink Peter Pan must now be 60. That means he was 54 when he played his last game for his beloved Melchester Rovers - before the fateful helicopter crash which led to his legendary left foot being amputated in 1993.

Roy is manager of the Rovers these days and the star of his team happens to be "Rocky" Race - Roy Junior, his temperamental 22-year-old son. According to the annual, "some commentators are now suggesting Rocky might prove to be a better player than his dad." And, judging by the manner in which Rocky recovers from a knee-ligament injury and a serious spat with his father to score a title-clinching last-minute winner against Western Villa, he is certainly an inspirational chip off the old block. The boy Race, however, still has a long way to go to match his dad.

Roy the first did, after all, survive the terrifying moment when Mel Park was rent asunder by an earthquake 10 minutes into the opening game of the 1988-89 season. He even emerged unscathed from the turbulent time when Geoffrey Boycott was chairman of the Rovers.

Fish or Fox?

LIKE ROY RACE, Billy Thomson has been involved in many a scrape in his time. The "half-man, half-fish" - the goalkeeping star of Fulchester United featured as Billy the Fish in Viz - has been killed (twice), been eaten by Japanese businessmen, faced a firing squad, stood trial for murder and fathered his manager's love child. He can also be found on display in London - or, at least, the fishy half of him can, preserved in formaldehyde, Damien Hirst-style - at an exhibition marking the 20th anniversary of Viz at the National Cartoon Centre.

Billy occasionally appears in Viz. Not the original Billy, though. "The last time Billy died he came back as his own son," Graham Dury, Viz's co-editor, told The Diary. Roy of the Rovers stuff, you could say, though it is difficult to imagine Roy Senior sanctioning the kind of half-time entertainment that took place at the most recently featured Fulchester game: Posh Spice giving birth on the pitch.

The Fulchester team has included several celebrities over the years: Shakin' Stevens, Cardinal Basil (Bazza) Hume, The Queen Mum, Norman Wisdom and Mick Hucknall.

There has never, though, been another character quite like Brown Fox. A "female redskin winger raised by a tribe of footballing Indians, she famously aimed a shot at her own goal in the 1988 FA Cup final. "Me heap sorry," she told the bemused Billy. "It's um time of month."

Tupper wears well

THE DIARY'S personal choice for comic-book sports personality of the century would have to be Alf Tupper, the welder-cum-world-beating runner from the grimy grim-up-north backstreets of Greytone. After a hard day slaving under the bonnet of a truck, Alf would stop off at Aunt Meg's caff for a steaming mug of tea and a fish supper, hitch a lift down to London, get to the White City with a minute to spare and overcome his customary mid-race tumble to pip some toff or some east European hulk on the line. "I've run 'em," he would cry as he breasted the tape.

Alf ran his last race in The Victor some seven years ago now, though he may not have hung up his ragged racing shoes for good. "He isn't dead yet," Dave Donaldson, the managing editor of comic products at DC Thomson, told The Diary. "There's nothing concrete but we do have a mind to bring back some of the classic heroes from our back catalogue. Alf's certainly a possibility. And Wilson has always been talked about in the office."

William Wilson, who appeared in The Wizard in the 1940s and 1950s, was the ultimate comic-strip sports hero. He did, after all, run the world's first three-minute mile, clocked 4.7sec for 100m and long-jumped 29ft 6in, leaping over a pit of fire in Egypt. He also won the world middleweight boxing crown and trained a postman to victory in the Tour de France. The secret to his success was the special diet of herbs and berries he ate in his cave on the Yorkshire Moors. It gave him a pulse of a single beat per minute.

That was, of course, in the days before Nandrolone Man.

Ballet who?

AND FINALLY . . . The Diary can reveal some bad news for the multi-talented Martin Kemp. The man who plays shifty Steve Owen in EastEnders has failed to secure a role in the Melchester Rovers all-time XI.

Not a lot of people might know this but, in his pop star days with Spandau Ballet, Kemp spent the 1985-86 season playing alongside Roy Race for Melchester Rovers. Indeed, he made a scoring debut as a substitute for the great Blackie Gray in a 6-1 win against Stambridge in November 1985. He was also a member of the Melchester side who beat Tynecaster United 3-0 in the 1986 Milk Cup final at Wembley. The East Ender did not do quite enough, though, to earn a place in Roy's all-time team.

As selected in the 2000 annual, the two striking berths are filled by the two Roy Races - Roy Senior and Roy Junior. As it says on the cover: "The legend lives on."

Suggested Topics
News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
fashion
News
news
Travel
Warner Bros released a mock-up of what the new Central Perk will look like
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
News
i100
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Sport
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
football
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Web Application Support Manager

£60000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Reigate...

** Secondary Geography Teacher Required In Liverpool **

£120 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Secon...

** Female PE Teacher Urgently Required In Liverpool **

£120 - £165 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Secon...

** Secondary Maths Teacher Required In Liverpool **

£120 - £165 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Secon...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments