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Roy of the Rovers: The Unauthorised Biography By Mick Collins

Release date: 15th October, 2008
Publisher: Aurum Books

List Price: £15.99
Our Price: £11.49
You Save: £4.5 (28%)
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After a short period of reviewing sporting titles, it becomes apparent that there is a standard template which overlays most footballer's 'autobiographies'.

Literally dozens of ghosted manuscripts are published each quarter, replete with well-ordered chapters charting the subject's outstanding performances as a boy, signing for his first big club, breaking into the senior team, winning international honours and eventually, how he coped with weight / drink / women / drugs problems, or perhaps a combination of all four. They're the publishing industry's equivalent of dodgy movies that go 'straight to dvd'

In recent years, only a handful of ghosted autobiographies stand out - Sir Bobby Charlton and Jamie Carragher's being two of the most memorable, but now this exalted pair are joined by a man who made his debut far back in 1954/55.

This outstanding footballer enjoyed phenomenal success as a player and manager, but also experienced well-publicised despair when his wife Penny left him. He lifted the game's greatest silverware, rescued his team on numerous occasions, scored breathtaking goals, while his name became synonymous with exceptional performance: it is, of course, Roy of the Rovers.

A couple of years ago, Mick Collins wrote a marvellous book about Max Woosnam, perhaps Britain's greatest-ever all-rounder, and if modern football had an equivalent, it would surely be Roy Race of Melchester Rovers. Collins is the ideal person to provide anyone over the age of 35 with a wonderfully well-paced stroll down Memory Lane, for he succeeds in re-capturing readers' carefree youth with his unauthorised biography.

Apart from the material with which most of us are familiar - Roy's perennial struggle to lift the FA Cup or clinch the league title - the author has peppered his text with facts that last rung bells a couple of decades ago - at least. Remember Martin Kemp and Steve Norman of Spandau Ballet donning Melchester's colours? Then there was the peculiar signing of Bob Wilson as a goalkeeper a decade after he'd retired.

In pre-internet, pre-computer game days, most young boys yearned for the publication of their favourite weekly comic and another dose of action, sporting prowess and, invariably, good manners. Some of the escapades in which Roy Race became emboiled were, well, risible, but that hardly detracted from their popularity. The writers, artists and others associated with the publication of Roy's weekly stories have been interviewed by Collins and they too acknowledge that some of the story lines were a tad far-fetched. Not many footballers get shot in the head and survive, but Roy Race did.

Yet for many boys, Roy was an integral part of their youth, a footballer who was reluctantly abandoned as they grew up and began playing the game seriously themselves, but most retained a soft spot for the square-jawed Melchester superstar.

By the time Geoffrey Boycott was installed as Melchester's chairman, perhaps the end was nigh; certainly Roy's death knell sounded as computer games and other distractions captured the attention of his former youthful audience. Nonetheless, those of us who remember Roy as an outstanding player can still revel in his adventures in what is the perfect Christmas gift for his former (and now grey-haired) fans who appreciate that no standard template could ever fit the Melchester man.


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