Scorcher & Score
From The Guardian:
Scorcher magazine came into the world to herald a new dawn and a new decade in January 1970. Within a year and a half it had been joined at the hip with Score magazine (the “football-themed comic” rather than the pornographic magazine publisher of, among others, Leg Sex and New Cummers) to form the world’s leading football comic. It reigned for two and a half years. Then Tiger, probably initially as a defensive measure, bought them up and slowly it moved from being called TIGER and SCORCHER, to TIGER and SCORCHER, to TIGER and Scorcher, to…
Such is the fate of many great publishing projects. No matter, while it was still visible to the human eye it provided a host of wonderful stories. There was, of course, Billy’s Boots, which over the years comprehensively depicted every conceivable way in which a young boy could lose his football boots. There was Bobby of the Blues, which detailed the exploits of Bobby Booth, legendary striker for Everpool (so much better than Liverton or, indeed, Arsesea). There was Nipper (absorbed from Score) about a young man’s search for justice and the brutal realities of reserve-team football. And, ridiculously, there was Hot Shot Hamish and his pet sheep McMutton, which need not detain us.
There was also – and Wikipedia, not for the first time giving us the trees not the wood, misses this – Jimmy of City and Jack of United. These two strips book-ended the comic (Jack at the front, Jimmy at the back, if memory serves) and were, in a word, quality.
Their story starts conventionally with the brothers (basically the Charlton brothers with hair) going for a trial with Castleburn United …
“When the game began Jack’s lean hard-muscled figure soon caught the eye of United’s manager Eric Mills,” reads the caption. “I like the look of No6. Solid, reliable, knows what he’s doing,” reads the speech bubble, “Better and better, he’s got the ‘United’ touch.”
Manager Mills is not so taken with Jimmy (“the real footballer” in the family, according to Jack) who he regards as “certainly an eager beaver, a glutton for work … but too much of a lone wolf”. Jack is offered a contract, Jimmy is not. Disaster.
Actually, no. Having been substituted at half-time, Jimmy trudges home past a game of park football. One team are down to eight men. They debate whether to offer Jimmy a game. If the doubters had won that would have been end of story, but they don’t and … Jimmy “operating as a one-man forward line” scores all his team’s goals in their 7-3 win. And, these things do happen, a man in a checked jacket approaches from the touchline and says, “I’m Ian Clark, manager of Castleburn City, you’re the type of player I’m always looking for. Interested?”
The Chelsey brothers return home. One tapped up by United, the other by City. “Well, what a turn up,” says their open-mouthed Dad. But the offers of new houses and cars never materialise.
Within a fortnight the brothers are both in their respective first team for “The match all of Castleburn was waiting for – United v City!” Jack opens the scoring from a short corner; Jimmy equalises near the end from a free-kick: “The Stadium almost exploded with excitement.” “You couldn’t have had a better result,” says Dad. (The family incidentally make Inspector Barnaby in Midsomer Murders look two-dimensional.)
The stage is set for what will be perhaps the finest epic of the genre. Before the month is out Jimmy’s hat-trick against Ringhurst (“Jimmy fooled the goalkeeper – by not shooting!”) puts City top of the league after United have beaten Mandover, thanks to a last-minute goal from brother Jack (the most free-scoring central defender ever to play the game).
City cash in on topping the league by bringing out their first new kit for 50 years. A decision Sailor Watson thinks is “tempting fate”. Minutes into their next game goalkeeper Tony Price’s kick (“Look out Sailor”) hits Watson on the back of the head and rebounds into the net. “You clumsy clot, Sailor,” says Jimmy. “We’re fated!” says Sailor. “This is just the beginning of our troubles.”
Not really. United and City play out another draw (Jack Chelsey’s late goal cancelled out by Jimmy Chelsey’s equaliser) in the league and are then drawn against each other in the third round of the Cup (Jimmy scores routine hat-trick, but City lose 4-3 as Jack scores routine last-minute winner). “Well at least our win leaves you free to concentrate on winning the league,” says Jack, giving the most almighty steer as to how the season might pan out.
But oh the fun and japes to be had along the way. Jimmy it turns out is profligate (buying his Mum a deep-freeze – “Something I’ve wanted for ages!”), while Jack, well Jack is tighter than Jack Charlton.
Meanwhile, on the pitch …
“Jack spots Abbottown Albion’s goalkeeper is right handed and takes advantage by scoring a goal on his weaker side!”
And “Jimmy is a marked man and gives away an own goal! In despair he writes to the manager asking to be dropped!”
The exclamation marks proliferate until, on the last day of the season, United meet Stockburn in the FA Cup final in the afternoon, while in the evening City play Westhill.
I would not dream of ruining the tension by revealing the results, although anyone who cannot be bothered to go to royoftherovers.com/comicstories/jackandjimmy, where the cartoons are lovingly stored, will be relieved to know the identities of the winning goalscorers are not a complete surprise.