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This week 23 years ago, football comic Roy Of The Rovers was relaunched as a monthly, the weekly version having stopped in March when the fate of protagonist Roy Race was left unresolved after a helicopter crash. Initially run as a strip in Tiger, ROTR began in 1976 as a standalone comic and this September marks the 40th anniversary of its first publication.

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In issue 1 of the monthly, it would transpire that Roy had had to have his famous left foot amputated, but his 17-year-old son Roy Jr, better known as ‘Rocky’, was ready to inherit the famous red-and-yellow Melchester Rovers number 9 shirt.

While Melchester had generally had red shirts with yellow as the secondary colour – John Devlin has compiled a near-complete kit history here – the stripes introduced in 1991 were carried over to the new comic. Previously, change kits had been relatively rare as there weren’t as many red-clad opponents as in real life, but a change of tack was taken by those behind the monthly. Now, Melchester would play in an alternate universe very similar to the real one, with other teams representing real clubs, though with names changed. These teams will feature in a future post.

Instead of Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United, Melchester would meet Islington, Toxteth and Prestwich North End and so an away strip would definitely be required. To that end, it was decided to throw it open to the floor in the form of a reader competition (the design erased here isn’t ours, this copy was bought on eBay in 2001).

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The results would be revealed in issue 5, dated January 1994 (on sale in December ’93). To give the editorial team credit, they didn’t just publish the winner, but instead also did a Jim Bowen on it in that they showed us what we could have won.

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We’ll go in reverse order, beginning with an also-ran which was singled out for inclusion simply because it was so original.

Five other designs were deemed to be joint runners-up, with each one evaluated (we’ve added our own comments too).

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Unusual, though reminiscent of Aston Villa’s away kit that season. Perhaps too much red to be an acceptable change kit, too.

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At least they were honest. We’d have preferred the shoulder stripes to be over the pinstripes. Was it the Jon Newby who played for Liverpool and Bury, among others? He’d have been 14 when the competition was held.

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A strange comment expressing such horror at the blue, given that it had often been used by Melchester in the 1980s.

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It’s probably hard to remember/comprehend (delete depending on your age) a time when a black kit was seen as a novelty, but bear in mind that was only months after Manchester United had broken the mould by launching theirs.

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All this time later, still looks class. And I love the socks.

And the winner…

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Hard to argue with the choice, especially given the extra effort that Stuart went to in drawing the back too.

Rocky endured a difficult start to life in the first team, getting booked and missing an open goal on his debut against Felixstowe Town (i.e. Ipswich), and then going AWOL for a time after a sending-off against Stanley Park (Everton). Having returned, he scored his first goal in the FA Cup against non-league Brockwell Wednesday, whose kit was conveniently yellow, allowing the premiering of Stuart’s design on the cover and, in far inferior fashion, inside (click for larger images).

 

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