Arguably the most important football autobiography of all time will finally see the light of day next month.
While I am not entirely sure what the title will be, the story of the life and times of Melchester Rovers Roy Race has go to be a must have for all football fans of ‘a certain age’.
While I am not entirely certain just what that ‘certain age’ is, I am certain that it applies to me – I am still considering buying a Melchester shirt from Toffs as I am now sad enough and old enough to wear one without worrying about seeming uncool.
Indeed the fact that the phrase ‘A Roy of the Rovers performance’ has long been part of football parlance shows his place in the English game.
I cannot claim to have followed the adventures of Roy Race from the start.
He first appeared in the Tiger comic way back on September 11, 1954, which makes him 60 tomorrow – though obviously he wasn’t playing football on his exit from the womb, so just how old he is exactly I’m not sure.
But it is the fact that, hopefully along with many others, I tend to regard Roy Race as real that emphasises his influence on a generation or two of football followers.
The story of Race arguably died back in 1993, though the fact that an autobiography is set to follow hard on the heels of this landmark anniversary suggests that it was in fact just dormant.
But it does make me wonder what the young football fans of today will look back on.
For me it was not just Race in the Tiger and then in his own publication which started in 1976, but a whole host of other comic book footballers who kept me enthralled as a youngster.
Scorcher and Score was a particular ‘must have’ when I was an 11-year-old.
There was Bobby of the Blues, the striker for the neatly named Everpool (Liverton does have the same ring to it), who was perhaps the character and whose storyline most consistently ploughed a similar furrow to that of Roy of the Rovers.
Then there were the two brothers Jack and Jimmy Chelsey who played for the opposing Castleburn teams United and City.
Jack at United was somewhere between Bobby Charlton and Franz Beckenbauer in terms of both playing style and personality, while City’s Jimmy was more of a George Best meets Stan Bowles type with long hair – for obvious reasons he was my favourite.
There were also far more frivolous characters such as Lags Eleven, who were a prison team, Nipper Lawrence, a sort of vagabond orphan who was accompanied by his dog Stumpy and had prodigious footballing talent, and the wonderful Billy’s Boots, which saw a young player spend every week losing his magical boots that would put him in the right position to score goals only to find them just in the nick of time – why rehashing the same storyline time and again every week never lost its appeal I will never fathom.
And then there was my all-time favourite Hotshot Hamish.
The huge product of the Hebrides that was Hamish Balfour could not only score goals from his own goalline due to his cannonball shot but was also known to stop criminals by flooring them with one of his jet-propelled strikes.
But back to my point, what characters will today’s youngsters look back on?
Given that Roy of the Rovers ceased publishing in 1993 you have to feel that the advent of the Premier League in 1992 and particularly satellite television has a huge role to play.
While as a youngster we had just highlights on Match of the Day once a week and only the FA Cup final and the home internationals to look forward to in terms of live action on the television, and thus time to kill with football related publications, now young football fans can pretty much watch live action 24 hours a day.
And while we needed cartoon characters like Race – who in his time was shot, escaped a terrorist attack and played a game during an earthquake – for some excitement and escapism, I suppose today’s young fans would just dismiss that as boring trivia and carry on trying to find out what entertaining exploits Mario Balotelli is up to in real life.
It would appear that Super League has finally found nirvana.
The radical step to summer rugby taken back in 1996 was designed to produce a competition where as many evenly matched teams in good quality stadia would fight it out right to the death.
And here we are in 2014 and it would appear that all that fiddling about with franchises and salary caps over the years has eventually proved all worthwhile.
While it is ironic this season will see the loss of Bradford Bulls, perhaps the one club who truly embraced the Super League ideal from the word go, this weekend will witness a final round of matches in which the top six are covered by a mere six points, and all of the top five teams can still influence where they finish in the pecking order.
Top spot is not settled as fifth in the table Huddersfield Giants, looking for a win to move themselves into the top four places, can deny current table-toppers St Helens the League Leaders Shield as Castleford Tigers, who face another top eight club Catalan Dragons in Perpignan, wait to pounce.
To further stir the pot the third and fourth placed teams, Wigan Warriors and Warrington Wolves respectively, will play each other tomorrow night at the JJB Stadium.
So the top four placings are far from decided, but does it really matter if your side misses out on the cut?
While others, including our very own RL guru Chris Roberts, feel that top four is where you have to be, I must admit that the recent experiences of Leeds Rhinos suggest that there is a counter argument to this.
While finishing top then winning a game and taking a break is all very appealing at the end of a long league season, the Loiners experiences of 2011 and 2012 suggest otherwise.
In both instances, when the Rhinos first beat St Helens and then Warrington in the Old Trafford finals, Leeds had ended the regular season in fifth place and went on to prove that playing and winning through the play-off tournament was a very good habit to have.
But the great thing about Super League XIX, as those weird people who love Roman numerals insist on calling it, is that it is all still all up grabs going into the final round of games – which is how it should be.