For over twenty-five years I had worked with Roy of the Rovers as a sub-editor, editor and group editor. Since 1969 I had been in charge of all Royâ€™s activities on and off the football pitch. During my time Roy had got married, become a father and been shot. He had also won numerous cups, become player-manager and had (shock, horror!) been transferred to Walford Rovers. The latter only very briefly.
The world of Roy of the Rovers was also my world and I am modest enough to say that it had been a very successful world for both of us.
That world came to an end in 1989 when I was informed by new publishers that my services would no longer be required. Almost two years earlier I had formed my own editorial company and began producing the comic titles on a freelance basis. I thought this would last a long time but unfortunately, I did not have a contract. So it was goodbye to my old friend Roy.
It was very fortunate at about that same time I was approached by John Allard, the Cartoon Editor of the Daily Mirror, to produce a football script featuring a new, younger football hero. We had a few meetings and we came up with the idea of Scorer, a six-days-a-week strip which would feature the adventures of Dave Storry. I would be given the opportunity of exploring new plots, ones slightly different to those I had grown used to during my time with Roy of the Rovers. There would also be lots of girls in the strip, which would combine glamour and football action.
What could go wrong?
Well, actually nothing did go wrong. Scorer turned out to be very popular, usually finding a number two spot on the Mirror popularity charts, just behind the adventures of Andy Capp. What started out as a single strip soon become a double strip and then three banks of pictures.
But letâ€™s go back to the beginning.
It was arranged I would write the script and Barrie Mitchell was chosen to be the Scorer artist. I knew Barrieâ€™s work from my time on the comics and I knew he could combine the talents of producing good football action, along with making the best of Daveâ€™s life off the football field.
The other task I was given was that I would produce the whole strip for the Mirror and present it to them as a finished job, except for the lettering. The system was that I would produce the whole thirteen-week script, get it approved by John Allard and then send it to the artist, who would complete the mono artwork. After I had checked it, the job would go back to the Mirror for John to do the balloon lettering.
I showed Dave Storryâ€™s football career beginning at struggling Stonely Wanderers. He soon proved that his goalscoring feats were far too good for the Wanderers and he was transferred to top team Tolcaster. Dave was in the big time and his life very much reflected what was happening to real-life footballers. This took Dave to a world beyond Roy of the Rovers. A world of girls, nightclubs, girls, luxury holidays, girls, big houses andâ€¦erâ€¦girls.
Not many people noticed the names of Daveâ€™s girlfriends always followed the letters of the alphabet. His first girlfriend was Annabel, the second Beverley, the third Cathy and so on. We had to go right down to the letter â€˜Uâ€™ before we found a girl who would make a massive, lasting impact on the strip.
That girl was Ulrika!
By the time Ulrika arrived on the scene Scorer had a new artist. Barrie Mitchell had moved to other work and the new artist was John Gillatt, an old friend of mine from the comic days. An artist remembered for illustrating so many successful stories, such as Jet-Ace Logan, Billyâ€™s Boots, Johnny Cougar and many others.
The size of the strip had increased from a single strip to a treble one. Ken Layson was the new Mirror Cartoon Editor and the strip was now in colour. John Gillatt would do the artwork as an ink outline and the computer colouring would be added later. I was delighted when another old comics friend, David Pugh, agreed to do the colouring. John Gillatt was now also doing the lettering and the strip was now very much a finished job when it was sent to the Mirror.
The arrival of Ulrika added a lot of spice to the story and she became as popular as hero Dave. I formed two fan clubs based on the strip. The Dave Storry Fan Club was all football and was presented by Dave Storry. The Ulrika Fan Club was mainly glamour, packed with pin-ups of Ulrika and introduced by the lady herself.
Producing Scorer was always very interesting!
A couple of times a year I would visit the Mirror offices in London to chat with Cartoon Editor Ken Layson about how the story would develop. We always had a most pleasant lunch and I left the restaurant ready to tackle more Scorer storylines with even more enthusiasm.
The strip always followed the dates of real football, to make it as authentic as possible. The World Cup was always a problem. Usually, Dave would either not be selected or injured. We still managed to follow Englandâ€™s campaign and we prepared extra strips to take in if England had won, drawn or lost their matches. It took a lot of organising.
Very sadly, John Gillatt suffered a stroke and we had to decide on who would be Scorerâ€™s third artist. There was one obvious person: David Sque, who had drawn Roy of the Rovers for many years, as well as stories such as Martinâ€™s Marvellous Mini and The Slogger from Down Under, both for Tiger comic.
One of Davidâ€™s specialities was drawing pretty girls and he obviously enjoyed drawing Ulrika and the other girls who featured in the story.
Some of the Scorer storylines became quite naughty and Ulrika began appearing in even less clothes than normal. From time to time I would get an instruction to calm things down a bit and thatâ€™s what we had to do.
Roy of the Rovers was never like this!
The Mirror wanted us to create a 3-D effect and David Pugh responded by introducing some brilliant photographic backgrounds. David Sque would draw the strip with no backgrounds at all. They would all be added by David Pugh and the result was very realistic.
Each season, I would find out who was sponsoring the footballs in each competition and get the company to send me a football, which I would get photographed from all angles and sent to David Pugh. David would then drop the football into the action pictures to make things look even more realistic.
The triple-bank strips were appearing six days a week. There were a lot of characters for me to remember, as well as the artist. About eighteen players in the first-team squad, plus manager, coach and a few others. Characters came and went but throughout most of the story Jack Hocherty was Daveâ€™s long-suffering manager and Trevor Benjamin was Daveâ€™s best mate (except for Ulrika!). Occasionally I would be asked to include a Mirror staff man in the storyline and I was always happy to oblige.
We were grateful for the internet so the strip could be sent around easily. I was in Hertfordshire, later in Lincolnshire; David Sque was in Spain and David Pugh was in Wales, with the Mirror, of course, supervising from London. It was so much easier than Roy of the Rovers had been, when we had to send everything in large parcels through the postal system.
In the end, Scorer lasted 22 years from 1989 to 2011. Thatâ€™s over 6,000 instalments. As far as the girlsâ€™ names who appeared in the story, I think I had gone through the alphabet almost three times.
In todayâ€™s world, I donâ€™t think we would have got away with so many of the things we did in the Scorer story. It would be a little more censored today. Ah well, it was fun while it lasted.
When the end came, I was asked to wind up the story almost instantly. I managed to persuade the Mirror to give me an extra week, which meant I could re-write the final instalments so the sudden ending would not be too much of a shock for the readers.
I think we had kept up a good standard for the 22 years Scorer had been published. It had been good working again with Barrie Mitchell, John Gillatt, David Sque and David Pugh.
I really think Scorer could appear again in a modern format and be equally as popular as it ever was. I would just have to tell Ulrika to wear slightly more in the way of clothes!