Top Scorer by Ant Jones
2014 was the 25th Anniversary of the Football newspaper strip 'Scorer', which sadly came to an end in 2011. Here's an article I wrote about the strip for 'Backpass' magazine...
What will 2014 mean for you as a football fan? For some, it will mean the year of the World Cup, for others, the year that Manchester United learnt how difficult life in the premiership would be out of the watchful gaze of Sir Alex Ferguson.
But forget small milestones when one of footballs great heroes, Dave "Scorer" Storry celebrates his 25th Anniversary. Indeed, 2014 marks a quarter of a century since Dave ran onto the pages of the Daily Mirror in the newspaper strip Scorer!
To celebrate this important anniversary, those closely linked with Scorer, including writer Barrie Tomlinson, speak about the strips history and inspiration.
The strip ran for nearly 22 consecutive years between 14th August 1989 and 19th February 2011 in the Mirror and told the story of young up and coming striker, Dave "Scorer" Storry.
The idea for the strip was conceived when the Mirror's Cartoon Editor, John Allard, made use of an independent Research Bureau to assess the popularity of cartoons in the Mirror's rivals, The Sun and the Daily Star. The Sun had a popular soccer strip called Striker which Allard tried to move to the Mirror without any joy.
Meanwhile, Barrie Tomlinson, group editor of Roy of the Rovers was contacted by John Allard about bringing "Roy" to the Mirror but having seen some samples, John decided he was looking for something fresh.
"John felt that a new character was needed, someone who could do things that Roy couldn't," says Barrie.
This resulted in the birth of Scorer, a name which Allard came up with to rival The Sun's strip, Striker and because of Dave's supposed ability to score with the ball and with the birds.
Barrie Tomlinson became a police cadet after he left school, before serving two years National Service in the Royal Army Pay Corps. He then became interested in journalism and it was an advertisement, "Beginners wanted for children's comics" that put his career in the direction of comics. Prior to Scorer, Barrie was editor and group editor of comics such as Tiger, Roy of the Rovers and the new Eagle amongst many others.
"I was lucky to be involved in comics when they were big sellers and an important part of a boy's life!"
Due to Barrie's involvement in football comics, such as Roy of the Rovers, he knew the kind of star player that Scorer needed.
John Allard, who came up with the lead characters name explains: "I chose the name for the cocky, talented central character Dave Storry because Dave is a common name - my son is a Dave - and Arsenal had a tough player called Peter Storey."
Dave's actual story began in the summer of 1989, printed in the Sports Section of the Mirror. Dave was offered a trial for Stonely Wanderers, a team who had narrowly missed out on relegation from Division 4. The arrogant, young Dave had his big break on the back of an insolent comment aimed at Stonely's players.
"My old granny could play better than that lot and she's sixty-five," shouts Dave. He was quickly challenged for his comment by Stonely's skipper.
"Less of the lip! Who do you think you are?" To which Dave's reply, characteristic of his confident personality was: "Me? I'm Dave Storry - but everybody calls me Scorer Storry ‘cos I'm hot with a ball and with the birds!"
The club manager seemingly impressed by the cocky young boy's assertion went on to offer Dave a trial for the club.
Like many footballers these days Dave's arrogance became almost as renowned as his footballing skills.
"I think you're cocky, arrogant, self centred - and trouble with a capital ‘T'," says Bull, manager of Stonely.
This didn't matter as Dave's footballing skills matched that of anyone. Showing up all the players at his trial, Dave then went on to score a goal in the first minute of his debut match.
Not long after, Dave was talent spotted and completed a transfer to Tolcaster FC, where he would remain for the rest of the strips run, under the management of hardened Scot Jack Hocherty. Dave enjoyed a pleasant run at the club, including League, FA Cup and European success.
Dave was also called up for England on the odd occasion.
Barrie Tomlinson often found the script work challenging at the time of World Cups and European Championships.
"I worked out various combinations of scripts, so the Mirror could drop in a particular strip, depending on England's overnight results."
To keep the readers interested Barrie tried to keep the stories as glamorous as possible, giving Dave a string of girlfriends. The girls that appeared in each story were all named A to Z. Starting with Annabel. "I worked my way through the alphabet four times," Barrie remembers.
Girlfriends came and went, but one can hardly talk about the strip without mentioning Dave's on off girlfriend Ulrika, a firm fan favourite. The original WAG became so popular that she had her own fan club. However, it was the fans who decided to keep the star-crossed lovers apart by voting against a happy ending. Former Cartoons Editor Ken Layson remembered there being a reader's reaction to the possibility of Ulrika and Dave getting married. "We had a reader's poll asking whether Dave should marry her or not," says Ken. "The result was no."
During the time John Allard was Cartoons Editor, he influenced script writer Barrie Tomlinson to add, alongside the youthful high spirits and last-minute winning goals, some occasional touches of sour realism, like a feud with a jealous team captain, a shifty father's attempt to swindle his suddenly well off soccer star son, a big headed manager in a trench coat and even dealings with racism, which at the time was a major problem within the sport.
Over the 22 year period, Scorer proudly boasted three top-rated artists. The first, Barrie Mitchell, based a lot of the artwork on his real life family and friends.
"I used my niece getting in and out of my car (E Type) which I used in the strip and her then fiancé on his motorbike, which Dave drove. I also used my nephews and their friends in some of the teams."
After a year of illustrating Scorer, Dave Hunt, editor at Roy of the Rovers, asked Barrie if he would be interested in taking over the role of drawing "Roy". This was an offer Barrie couldn't afford to turn down. Unfortunately for Barrie, Roy of the Rovers, folded six months later and Barrie was left wishing he had stuck with Scorer.
"It was my fault, thinking of short-term gains, rather than the long term," explains artist, Barrie Mitchell. "Once they put Scorer on the main cartoon page it just took off."
Barrie would have loved to have rejoined the Scorer team, but John Gillatt, who had worked on legendary comic strips such as Billy's Boots, Jet-Ace Logan and Johnny Cougar had already taken over.
Scorer writer, Barrie Tomlinson remembers: "I worked a lot with John on comics and his classy artwork was just right for Scorer." Sadly John Gillatt, the longest serving artist on Scorer, had to give up due to illness in 2003. Scorer colourist, David Pugh, holds fond memories of his time working with Gillatt. "John's work was a dream to colour, such clean lines," says David. "John never took a holiday, so we were always ahead."
When asked about meeting deadlines former Scorer artist John Gillatt suppressed a smile: "I just managed to get the artwork in but with the strip appearing six days a week it didn't leave me much time."
Dave Storry drawn by David Sque
David Sque, who had been filling in for John Gillatt, was able to take over full time. "David Sque had drawn Roy for many years, so I was used to working with this talented artist, who contributed lots to the story," Barrie Tomlinson recalls.
David Pugh, who was brought in to give Scorer a modern edge, provided the strip with full colour and photographic backgrounds. "Dave Storry's house and furnishings were all built in 3D Studio Max. It was literally a film set, with the virtual cameras shooting the background scene to match the drawn pose, a bit like movie green screen work," explains David Pugh.
However, on Saturday February 19th 2011, Scorer came to a sudden end due to the production costs. It was a sad day for football. The news came in late January 2011 and was a shock to all those involved, including artist David Sque.
"We were gutted as we thought it would go on forever," says Sque. "We all exchanged Christmas cards including the Editor and said ‘Here's to the next 15 years!'"
And as with any resignation of a top player or folding of a well loved football club, the sudden news of Dave Storry's fate caused outrage among the fans of the strip which had been read by millions throughout its reign. One reader even claimed to only buy the Mirror to read the strip.
With so many plot lines left unsolved, it was a crying shame that Scorer had to end so abruptly. This is by no means the fault of writer Barrie Tomlinson, who was given an impossible task of wrapping up a 22 year old story in such short notice.
Nobody knows what became of Dave Storry and if he ever did live "happily ever after," as Ulrika mentioned in the strips final panel. The team behind Scorer had to get on with their lives though, let's hope Dave and Ulrika did the same. Main writer, Barrie Tomlinson, is now the editor of the Heckington Village Magazine. Artist, David Sque, has decided to concentrate more on painting and has his own website. Meanwhile, David Pugh has set up a few charity organisations including, Bus Fare, helping migrant workers and refugees in Africa, India and Nepal, to be able to afford to visit their families, when they've had to leave their homes to find work.
Over three years have passed since the end of the strip but Barrie Tomlinson has left the door open for a return and would be delighted to write new stories.
In 22 years, we cleverly saw Dave's character develop from a cocky beginner to an established football star surrounded by wealth and glamour. A development of character that Barrie Tomlinson remains proud to have been a part of.
"Scorer became a strip much liked by football fans. The football we presented was always up-to-date and authentic. For me, the joy of the strip was that I wrote the story, employed the artists, checked the work and sold the finished package to the Mirror and it lasted 22 years!"
In a tribute to the strips leading character Dave Storry,
David Pugh sums up the character: "Dave was a thoroughly decent human being, who loved the ladies, but never took advantage of any of his many girls. He was a true friend to his teammates and often put his life at risk to get them out of trouble. Dave Storry was a proper English gentleman, just like the writer, Barrie Tomlinson."
With such a prolific playing career under his belt, it would be such a footballing tragedy if Dave "Scorer" Storry had to hang up his boots for good! If any of the big clubs are reading this, give Dave a call and bring old "Scorer" back! You know it makes sense!
Dave & Ulrika drawn by David Sque
Originally printed in the November 2014 issue 39 of 'Backpass Magazine'.
Here is another chance to see an article that I co-wrote for 'Best of British Magazine' back in 2014...
Many may not know, but someone closely associated with the Daily Mirror had a special birthday last year, the big 7 0. Despite what you believe the powers of Botox and several face lifts to be, we don't mean Piers Morgan; we instead mean the space and time travelling hero GARTH! On July 24th 1943, a man of mystery with extraordinary strength, time travelling abilities and unknown parentage was born into the public eye. He first made his appearance in the Daily Mirror in the form of a comic strip. Many great writers and artists had a part to play in Garth's story, but one name towers above all others, that being John Allard.
In 1943 at just 15, John Allard, a young hopeful artist attending St. Martin's School of Art two days a week, sent in some samples of his work to the Daily Mirror. The editorial director Guy Bartholomew was impressed by his work. It was agreed that Allard would be Steve Dowling's assistant. Dowling was already working as an artist at the paper. The pair were to go on to enjoy an excellent working relationship, with John being allowed to draw more and more Garth as time went by. "Steve Dowling and I were a harmonious team," John remembers.
Steve and John as an artistic duo, along with writers Don Freeman, Peter O'Donnell and Jim Edgar brought the character to life, and many of their strips were well received. They put Garth's character through his paces, seeing him deal with a parallel world in which Hitler had won the war and even had him coming up against Jack the Ripper in the strip named, 'Night of the Knives'. It was also Peter O'Donnell that brought about Garth's encounter with the goddess Astra, who was to become the love of Garth's life. John mentions that the team were eager to add an element of mystery to Garth's overall persona, "Lumiere the scientist sends him back into the past with various incarnations but still does not find out his parentage and birth in his present incarnation," John muses.
The 1971 Garth adventure 'Journey to Fear' by Jim Edgar. Artwork by John Allard and colour by Martin Baines.
In 1969, upon Steve Dowling's retirement, John became the sole artist of Garth. However, his relationships with those behind the scenes were to be less peaceful than those he had previously enjoyed. "When the Mirror took on the editor Mike Malloy, who was an admirer of Frank Bellamy, Frank was appointed as an artist, and I was some sort of helper. Frank had never worked in tandem with another artist, and the situation was awkward." In the years that followed, Bellamy sadly died. John became the assistant to cartoons editor Charles Roger and became in charge when Charles was away.
John also assisted writer Jim Edgar from the late seventies into the early eighties and would often write scripts for the comic throughout the years. One such notable script was titled, 'Man on the Edge' which sees Garth, the seemingly invincible hero, crushed under a rock by 'The Great Beast'. The strip sees Garth having flashbacks of his life in his potentially final hours. It is this strip that many view as a tribute from John Allard to the muscular hero that had played such an important role in Allard's career. The strip which went to press in 1992 cleverly unified many different writers and artists ideas of Garth over the years.
John retired from the Mirror in 1993 but signed a further years contract to edit and write scripts. Several years later, when John's contract was up, it was decided that so was Garth's time with the paper. It was the team under the supervision of editor Piers Morgan that had the idea to axe Garth from the newspaper. John Allard sums up his time with Garth, "It was a job that I enjoyed doing which was agreed to be a success and involved me with generally friendly colleagues." However, despite being held in such high esteem by fans, artists and writers alike, John is modest about his impact on the strip, "I don't want to over-emphasise my link with Garth. The influential people were Steve Dowling, Don Freeman, Peter O'Donnell, Bill Herbert, Frank Bellamy and Martin Asbury," says John, speaking from his home in Colchester.
Whilst John is keen to underplay his impact, many fans and artists alike disagree, regarding John and his take on the time traveller as one of the most influential of the strip. Phil Harbottle, ex writer of the strip asserts, "Allard's contribution to the evolution of the Garth strip has been vastly under-appreciated. His initial pencil layouts were crucial to the success of Garth as the stories became more complex, spectacular and cinematic." Bill Storie, longstanding fan of Garth, started reading the strip from a young age and was immediately captivated by the art of John Allard. "It might not have been the most technical of art, but it really did imbue the strip with a certain atmosphere which I loved. All that cross hatching and dark shadows worked wonders with my imagination."
Many may not know, but Garth's time travelling abilities are a result of John Allard's influence. John had always shown a keen interest in history, and it was this hobby that would send the hero back through time, John explains in an interview with ex Garth writer Phil Harbottle, "One day in 1944 I was amusing myself by drawing yet another historical battle scene, when writer Don Freeman said, ‘If I sent Garth back into the past, do you think you could cope with the reference?' I responded enthusiastically, and Don went ahead and wrote 'The Seven Ages of Garth' story."
It wasn't just John's artistic and writing abilities that impressed those he worked with; it was also his personal character that made an impact. John was known for being well dressed, utterly charming with a good sense of humour and a devoted family man. John finally left the Mirror in 1994 but his life both professionally and personally far from slowed down. He has been very active with local Church and community matters and notes, "I have published articles on films and books amongst other things. I have also been to Australia several times." It seems that Allard has left his comic strip days behind him, "I am in a local art club, but strictly no cartooning," John laughs.
With Garth celebrating his seventieth anniversary and reprints of the strip being well received gaining a new generation of fans, there seems to be whispers of a revival in the air. Whether new Garth stories return to our newspapers or not remains to be seen and whilst his comeback will be welcomed by both fans old and new, John Allard's presence on the strip will most certainly be missed and definitely never forgotten. Phil Harbottle sums it up rather wistfully, "It was a tragedy for the strip when Allard, like all full-time Mirror employees were obliged to retire, his expertise were lost and once his controlling influence was lifted, the strip quickly lost its entire direction and appeal and was soon deservedly cancelled. Speaking for myself, Garth began and ended with John Allard."
Originally printed in the November 2014 issue 220 of 'Best of British Magazine'. Which can still be purchased from here: