On this day, 7 March 1981: Roy of the Rovers
On this day, 7 March 1981 ... Possibly the most famous Roy of the Rovers cover (published a few months after this one, in October 1981) bore the headline 'Roy Race Shot!', which would look good here were it not for the fact that Roy's not dead - just man-tired after too much worrying about the football (and his wife Penny and kids jetting off to Crete in protest). The Rovers, normally a high-spirited bunch of lads, have never seen the like before, but Roy's heroic example prompts them to go out and score a few more second-half goals. 'I'll settle for five!' thinks Roy in the final panel. 'If this is a taste of things to come we might even win a little home-coming present for Penny ... the FA Cup!' Lucky Penny indeed.
Elsewhere in this issue Roy's in a stroppy mood as the stresses of looming relegation start to take their toll. His 'Roy's Message' column is a bit of a rant at some poor mumbling reader, and there's a snappy reply to another reader who criticises the Melchester fans. This is the sort of stroppiness that's normally the sign of a manager on his way out of a club but Roy would be around for more than another decade.
There are latest episodes here for a number of regular stories that would follow much the same storylines season after season: Tommy's Troubles, The Safest Hands in Soccer, The Hard Man, The Marks Brothers and a personal favourite, largely because of Julio Schiaffino's hilarious and dynamic artwork, Mighty Mouse. The line-up is completed by a couple of shorter-running serials: The Footballer Who Wouldn't Stay Dead, a story with some echoes of Tiger's Billy's Boots as a schoolboy is visited by the ghost of an olden-days star who gives him private coaching, and The Kid from Argentina!, about a young South American import to a struggling First Division side, presumably inspired by Argentina's 1978 World Cup win, the developing reputation of one Diego Maradona, and the recent arrival in English football of Osvaldo Ardiles and Ricky Villa.