Roy's Season Review: 1983-84
The season of 1983-84 feels to me like one of Roy of the Rovers’ longest years yet, although no less dramatic for that. The strip was extended to four pages long for most weeks during this time: Roy occupied the front cover of the comic most weeks, then continued on his usual double-page spread inside and an additional fourth page later in the comic or sometimes even on the back cover. His expanded adventures began as the previous season had ended, with Roy still in unhappy exile as player-manager of Walford Rovers, short of friendship and even of the comfort of his family as Penny refused to move away from Melchester with the children. His days darkened as rumours circulated of an affair with his Walford secretary, Sandie Lewis.
Roy’s troubles were resolved after a match between Walford and Melchester, during which he realised that a psychological block meant he was unable to score against his old club. The game coincided with Melchester chairman Sam Barlow storming out of the club after a row with Blackie Gray, leaving the path clear for Roy to make an emotional return to his boyhood team. He was back in charge just in time for Christmas, and another glamorous photo-shoot with an attractive and scantily-clad sports personality – well, with two, in fact, as judo star Neil Adams teamed up with swimmer Sharon Davies for another special Christmas tale.
Melchester’s New Year opened with Roy falling out with most of the rest his team for dropping Rob Richards from the starting line-up. Rob, who had appeared first as a character in The Apprentices, a back-up strip following the progress of Rovers’ youth team, had been brought into the first team by Blackie while Roy was at Walford. Blonde, initialled RR, and with a knack for bulging the back of the onion net, Rob had quickly become a crowd favourite at Mel Park, but Roy saw something different – a talented young player with an individualistic streak that let down the rest of the team. Eventually he adapted his game and his attitude and established himself alongside Roy in the Rovers’ front-line, just as the team embarked on an exciting run to the FA Cup final.
Walford Rovers, led by loudmouth Joe Bellamy, were Melchester’s opponents in the final – an action-packed, emotional game that spanned five issues in May and June. I feel special praise is due to writer Tom Tully and artist David Sque for the realisation on the page of this showpiece Wembley game; there was a unique atmosphere and feel to cup final games at the old Wembley – the size of the stadium and the pitch, which seems at once both wide-open and suffocating – which I feel they captured very well, as part of dramatic narrative. An injury-hit Melchester Rovers won the game, bringing a satisfying closure to the season-and-a-half-long Walford story arc.
Melchester took part in an indoor six-a-side tournament during the close season. The main story of this event was Roy’s interest in the dilemma of Carford City player Carl Hunter, who lost the ability to tackle hard following an incident in which he thought he had broken an opponent’s leg. Roy helped him to realise that it had not been his fault, and a rejuvenated Hunter signed for the Rovers when the tournament ended. A new season was about to begin, but not before the big reveal of Melchester’s new chairman. A familiar, but rather surprising, face was about to appear at the Rovers …