Ever watched your team on Tv and heard the commentator say ‘real roy of the rovers stuff’. It’s a common phrase that has incorporated itself into the vocabulary of football fans all over the world, mainly the ones who are above the age of 30 and thats because if you are younger than that its probably not as likely that you were brought up on the staple diet of reading a weekly football comic.

Roy of the Rovers was as regular to kids of the 70's and 80's as the sun coming up, or the rain pissing it down if you live in Scotland. So it would’nt be hard then when compiling a top 10 list to place Roy Race at the top of any list you compiled with regards the top comic footballers, but this is about what story you read and could relate to the character the most.

I am sure you did not turn to the centre pages of Roy of the Rovers every week just to read about Roy Race, maybe Blackie interested you more, or possibly one of the other characters. MAybe you turned straight to The Safest hands in Soccer to read about Gordon Stewart, whatever the case hopefully this list will include some of your personal favourites.

The list includes comic characters that I have personally read, it would not be fair to include a character that I did not read and therefore could not offer a fair and un-bias opinion of.

So in reverse order.

10 Hamish Balfour (Tiger, Scorcher) –
The man with the cannonball shot. Hot Shot Hamish followed gentle Hebridean giant Hamish Balfour, the man with the most powerful shot in the world, and began its days in Scorcher in August 1973, before relocating to Tiger when the two titles merged. Hamish was brought from his remote island home to play for Princes Park in the Scottish Premier Division, under manager Ian McWhacker, and was famous for being able to hit the ball so hard that his shot could (and often did) burst the goalnet. His powerful frame was emphasised by the fact that he always played in a shirt which was far too small for him and which did not reach the waistband of his shorts

9 Gordon Stewart (Roy of the Rovers) –
The man who could save everything thrown at him, yet his club never seemed to win a trophy. The goalkeeping equivalent of a brick wall. On his day, which was nearly every time he pulled on a pair of gloves, nothing could get past Gordon Stewart in Roy of the Rovers. No matter the placement, power or trajectory of a shot, when Stewart was between the sticks for Tynefield City, he was unbeatable. If luck was needed, Stewart had that covered, too, courtesy of his mascot Fred – a toy skeleton that he kept in his glove bag. He died in a plane crash off the coast of Brazil in 1982, but the Stewart name lived on through his son, Rick, who played in goal for his father’s arch rivals Tynefield United, in the story entitled Goalkeeper.

8 Roy Race (Tiger, Roy of the Rovers) –
The King, no other word can describe him. he reigned over the football comic world like Queen Victoria ruled over Britain for all those years. He began his 38-year career by, naturally enough, scoring the winner for Melchester Rovers on his debut in Tiger . From there his life was filled with more twists and turns than a rally track. He scored more last minute winners than any person I know, was shot in a ‘Who shot JR’ style whodunnit, twice kidnapped, took Rovers on a 13 year unbeaten run, employed Sir ALf Ramsey as an interim manager at the club, and managed to persuade Bob Wilson & Emlyn Hughes to turn out for the club, not to mention 2 members of popular 80's band Spandau Ballet. Yep, Mr Race had a distinguished and illustrious career, and won more than his fair share of trophies, but for me he was not the reason that I turned to the centre pages each week, other players in the team caught my interest more.

7 Duncan Mackay (Roy of the Rovers) –
Being Scottish myself it was easy to associate myself with and to like Duncan mackay very easily. Duncan played for Melchester in their glory era, the 70's to mid 80's. You could not help but like his straight talking, no nonsense blend of Scottish humour and action. Even down to the long dark hair, beard and gruff exterior he portrayed. Add to that he had the bandage round his head during matches, long before Terry Butcher made the bloodied bandage famous in a match for England. Duncan epitomised the 70's era of defending, the no nonsense, bone crunching, take no shit style of defending, where it was ok to break a guys leg in the tackle, and then call him a poff when he was writhing in agony on the ground, not like your soft touch footballers of today.

6 Nipper Lawrence (Scorcher, Score, Tiger, Roy of the Rovers) –
Nipper Lawrence was a young orphan who lived with foster-parents in the docks town of Blackport and had become an apprentice footballer with the local Second Division club, Blackport Rovers. He was not unlike Duncan Mackay, easy to like, he was small in stature, underfed, and looked like he had slept in his clothes constantly, but you could not help but love his attitude of not being bullied by anyone, standing up for himself in any circumstance, and he played on the pitch with more than a whim of Roy Keane about him. His determination to win and play good football won you over week after week, a gritty and determind story of not just a great footballer but a kid with a poor upbringing who faced adversity full on and let nothing get him down.

5 Terry Marks (Roy of the Rovers) –
Terry was one half of the popular Marks Brothers storyline in the early 80's. His brother Steve was the older one, who played as a playmaker for First Division Kingsbay, and scored the goals to make the headlines, while terry played for their poor neighbours Stockbridge Town as a defender. However, long before the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Gary Pallister and Tony Adams, would change peoples philosophy of defenders, Terry was already doing that back in the easly 80's. Stylish, not the quickest, but his positional sense was legandary, and he set about changing the myth that people had from the 70's that defenders were a bunch of slow arse cloggers who could only break legs and not play football. Terry would eventually join his brother at Kingsbay, but not before he had to make it the hard way.

4 Alex Jones (Champ, Victor, FPSM) –
Hedgehog, as he was affectionally known, due to his spikey haircut, was a mainstay of theUnited team from the 1984 launch of Champ, all the way through to 2003, when he became a player manager of the club. Determined, skilful and a will to succeed whatever the circumstances, he controlled the centre of United’s midfield with an iron fist. His constant bickering with teammate Terry Evans, was the source of much amusement, as was his need to play practical jokes on whoever he found as a suitable candidate. The United storyline was filled with great characters, but Hedgehog’s rebellious streak and his two finer salute to what society thought of him and his appearence made him instantly likeable.

3 Jimmy Grant (Victor, FPSM) –
Jimmy’s story began in the early 80's in Victor running alongside the great United storyline. Indeed he would eventually join United, albeit for one season only. His likeability factor for me though came from his Gary Lineker style attitude. Always willing to help, supremely talented in front of goal, and an eye for an opening. He was in the mould of Lineker as well, the goody two shoe persona, never sent off, never one to cause friction on the pitch, he let his skills and feet do the talking for him. It was his ability to always offer help and advice though that ranks him so highly on my list, not only was he helpful to his team mates, old and young alike, he was particularly willing to help kids achieve their dream, of playing professional football.

2 Jimmy Slade (Roy of the Rovers) –
Jimmy Slade burst on the Rovers scene in the late 70's, and I instantly loved his character. he was similar to Nipper Lawrence, the same determination, the same ‘I dont care what you think of me’ and the same skills and grit that Nipper showed. Jimmy had the long flowing hair and the exhuberant youthful attitude, of not caring less and just wanted to prove on the pitch how talented he was. He would ultimately die in the Basran disaster in 1986, but my youth in the late 70's and early 80's was made so much better by reading about this player on a weekly basis. probably where I get my attitude now :)

1 Johnny Dexter (Roy of the Rovers) –
For me there can only be one winner in the race to be number one. Hard in the old-fashioned sense, Dexter had a temper and was as hard as nails, but you could not help but love him. In addition to his tough tackling and fiery temper, Dexter had a strict moral code . He once delivered a fierce half-time dressing-down to an abusive section of the crowd and welcomed cocky signing Bob Baker by saying: ‘Listen chum… cut out the wisecracks.’ His storyline though, he began in The Hard Man, was contrary to his hard, no nonsense style. The story began more as a humerous story, centering on Johnnys fiery temper and how it got him into trouble constantly, and was then escalted further by the arrival of Victor Boskovic, the camp bald headed manager who had a penchant for tight fitting tracksuits and was prone to erratic half time team talks. The arrival of Boskovic made the story unrealistic in my view, and was trying to fuel the humour outline to much, and the realism was destroyed further when Dexter left Danefield United to join a side 90 places below them in the league, Burnside Athletic. the story name changed to Dexter’s Dozen and centered on Dexter’s attempts to improve the fortunes of a team bottom of the Fourth Division. Again the humour was created by the ever present camp Victor Boskovic, which really took away the realism and it was not until Johnny joined Melchester Rovers that we began to see his true character and his determination to win.  Although the Boskovic element detracted from the realism, Dexter for me epitomised what I would want from a player playing for my football team, drive, determination, power, no nonsense and desire. He would eventually become manager of Castlemere, but for me I will always remember him in his Melchester days, that for me was his crowning moment.

Have your say
I have no doubt that some of you will disagree with the ranks, and probably the players included in the list, there are no doubt some you who think Billy Dane, Andy Steel, Kevin Mouse, or some other comic book hero deserves to be on this list, then by all means feel free to contact us and let us know, justifying your choice in no more than 50 words. I would love to hear your thoughts or see your comments, as lists are always prone to causing discussion and debate. So let the debate begin!