My, we have been busy. Selling off the old stock, getting in some new players, and sorting out a new strip with proper stripes on the back and retro hoopy socks. Some of the players are even old enough to remember our ‘nearly’ season of ‘96. They all look hungry for a bite at promotion, and I’m pretty sure they rescue kittens from trees.
The Euros are over and soon Paul Pogba will be worth more than the entire world. £100,000,000 for a player they allowed to leave? Manchester United, I take my cheap hat off to you, sirs. That’s admitting a mistake.
In a summer in which Iceland become Waitrose, England become, err, Costcutter, and Big Sam got a job setting glass ceilings for his country instead of poor unfortunates.
You couldn’t write the events of this summer. Well, you could. It’s just folk would have thought it all a bit of a nonsense until it happened, which reminded me of one of the comics of yester-season: Roy of the Rovers.
If you read ‘Roy of the Rovers’ as a kid, it means that you are ‘of a certain age’; understand the fabulous absurdity of a career spanning about fifty years; and depending on when you stopped reading it, will remember stories in which characters had time to talk to the ghosts of dead footballers to get advice on how to take potentially match winning, last minute free-kicks against arch rivals. These teams were often marked as being a bunch of dirty, underhand cheats by having the word ‘Works’ somewhere in their name. Ooh, I hope we beat them.
My favourite stories were about little teams. Non-league Durrell’s Palace and their weekly fight to avoid a winding up order. They were once so desperate for a striker that they signed the club milkman, despite having never seen him play.
There was the hardship strip about a local boys’ team. The captain was called Tommy. The strip was called ‘Tommy’s Troubles’. Every week, they seemed to counter a planning application to build a supermarket on the changing room, or have the same changing room broken into and all of their stuff nicked. It’ll have been the pesky kids of the ‘Works’ team.
There was the tale of an eccentric European coach and his loyal, and slightly gullible centre half, who was fearless and uncompromising. ‘The Hard Man’ made me cringe; not just because the ball seemed to be very small; but the story was a bit silly. Surely this centre half, who before John Terry was even born, looked like him, was also old enough to make decisions without this little fat bloke telling him what to do all of the time? But then, surely no one is such a control freak that they would over-rule a doctor about an injury? Hmm…
But the star title story was about Roy Race, who played for Melchester Rovers. He worked his way up through the ranks of the club, from fan to manager, playing for England, with only a brief affair with mega rival Walford Rovers for a season of unhappiness and, err, being shot, away from his beloved red and yellow clad home-time town team. Whoa there, Neddy. Did you say shot? Yes. Yes I did.
And kidnapped. Several times. Think Billy the Fish mixed with The Sopranos.
Every season, there was a customisable wall chart. Every season, I would faithfully fill it in for two matches, then forget to do it. And sadly, one day, my dad asked if I was bothered about getting ‘Roy of the Rovers’ next week, and I must have said, not really. I must have been growing out of the unlikelihood and ridiculousness and matches against the forces of the leader of a military coup in South America.
But this season, I’m starting with the same optimism.
Let me pitch you a strip:
Big name relegated team with tyrannical owner somehow acquire excellent manager, offload the big name players, and go on to have an amazing season. There’ll be nail biting, shouting, and tears; there’ll be a smart new strip with hoopy socks, exciting new players, and just maybe, a black and white kitten rescued from a tree.
Now, where’s me wall chart?