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'.
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