AS kids, my brother and I had our differences — plenty of them.
One of those was comics. He got the Beano, while I read Roy of the Rovers and Tiger and Scorcher.
The stories in them reflected us — he was like a cross between Dennis the Menace and a Bash Street Kid (certainly not Lord Snooty), while I wanted to be Roy Race or Billy Dane.
It wasn’t too difficult for my brother to match the aspirations of the characters in the Beano while it was pretty unlikely I would go on to emulate the boy Dane or the lad Race.
Billy Dane was rubbish at football (I’m half-way there) until he found a pair of old boots once worn by former professional Dead Shot Keen. When he donned said magical footwear his game was transformed.
They must have stunted his development though as Billy was still playing for his school team around 20 years after making his debut, a fact that seemed to go unnoticed by his slack teachers.
Despite the boots being precious to Billy, whose life mirrored that of their original owner, he regularly lost them or had them stolen but they still fit him two decades on from the story’s inception.
My own boots held no such magic, but I did used to imagine that one day I would own a pair that would enable me, like Billy, to come on at half-time with my team 7-0 down and bang in eight goals to claim victory (he actually did that, scored the lot).
Melchester Rovers captain Roy Race didn’t need boot trickery but he must have been on the same medication as Billy as he enjoyed a 40-year stint on the pitch, surviving a shooting which left him in a coma and a terrorist attack in the Middle East (his wife was also killed in a car accident — yes, really, this was a comic!) which killed eight of the team, before finally kicking his last ball due to losing a foot in a helicopter crash.
The point is that the comics I read led me to believe that the near impossible was actually quite probable and I’m not sure that’s a good thing. Some might argue that it encourages diligence and ambition, but it also leads to a slow-burning disappointment as the realisation that you are not going to enjoy a century-long football career at the top level creeps up and grabs you — yes, this really is it, you’ve peaked.
(As an aside, more bitterness was to follow in my thirties when I discovered my mate Nigel Sandford had once trousered a £2 postal order having been awarded the Tiger & Scorcher Reader of the Week prize for being ill whereas my attempt to get on the jokes page — “At least we won something boss!” “What’s that son?” “The wooden spoon boss!” — was overlooked in a scandal that rocked the comic world.)
Hold on though, despite a lifetime of setbacks, there’s still hope — a quick Google revealed there are plenty of Roy of the Rovers collections on the market that I might just have to have a peep at. A quick read should convince me that I’m not too old to make it.
And maybe matching the aspirations of the Beano characters wouldn’t have been a better alternative anyway — after all Dennis the Menace has spent 70 years at the same school, has a 53-year-old dog and only appears to possess one jumper. My brother has two.