Book review: Roy of the Rovers

ROY OF THE ROVERS Titan Books£9.99 *****

I HALF-EXPECTED that this new publication might cause me to cringe or be mortally embarrassed, in the way that icons of the 1980s must blush when they see pictures of how they looked then. I used to devour Roy of the Rovers, but having not set eyes on it in two decades, this newly published offering, a "best of" from the early 1980s, was opened with some trepidation.

All I can say is that Roy of the Rovers has aged better than most of his contemporaries. Tastes may change but class remains. And Roy Race always was, and always will be, class.

Plus, the comic strip in which he starred is wonderfully entertaining. The storylines are riveting; they twist and turn, with soap opera-esque intrigue, including, in this selection, an attempt on Roy's life. And then there is the football, brilliantly depicted by the artists, and invariably climaxing with Roy's net-bulging trademark, the feared "Racey's Rocket".

In fact, there has maybe never been a better time to read Roy of the Rovers, the storylines seeming even more pertinent now.

This collection dates from 1980 to 1981, but, presciently, it covers hooliganism, WAGs, inflated transfers, and Beckham-esque glamour: Roy has his own helicopter, and he and his WAG, sorry wife, Penny, attend the Royal Wedding.

There is a clear moral code, too. When Roy spends too much time at Melchester Rovers – he is player-manager in this, his fourth decade with the club – Penny ups and leaves, taking the twins, Roy junior and Melinda, to Crete.

On another occasion, when Rovers' hooligan fans' streamers get tangled up in the opposition goalkeeper, Roy deliberately blasts the ball away, explaining: "I refuse to take advantage of the crazy behaviour of our so-called 'fans'."

He also admits to the referee, when put on the spot, that one of his own players deliberately punched an opponent. In what might have been a dig at certain contemporary managers Roy's thought bubble reads: "I've got to tell (the referee] the truth. If I let my own players off the hook, how can I criticise other managers who refuse to punish football thuggery?"

True, the longevity of Roy's career beggars belief – he has played almost as long as David Weir – but otherwise Roy of the Rovers is grounded in reality rather than fantasy. Ultimately, you should not be embarrassed to have spent a childhood lost in these stories. Vindicated, more like.