Interview with Melchester Rovers Kit Designer

Posted by John Devlin

Like many football fans of my age I grew up enthralled at the football adventures of Roy Race and Melchester Rovers in ‘Tiger’ comic and later in his own ‘Roy of the Rovers’ publication.

As a football kit devotee at an early age I must confess to being obsessed with the distinctive Melchester colour scheme of red and yellow and would spend hours drawing fantasy Melchester kits with felt tip pens.

In fact, I wrote and illustrated a piece that archived as many Rovers kits from 1956 to 2001 as I could find a few years ago, click here to read it.

The early 80s saw the side wear their first sponsored kit courtesy of Gola which featured broad yellow and red hoops but its the kit from the previous decade that is without doubt the most iconic Rovers outfit ever; long sleeved crew neck red top, with a single vertical band on the left hand side that continued on the opposite leg of the shorts. The socks featured a single yellow stripe down the front and to top the ensemble of, stylish shirt numbers on each sleeve. In a word, it was magnificent – and fitted in perfectly with the early 70s football kit trends  with just a boot in the fantasy world (especially the socks!) It remained unique to Rovers and has since, quite rightly, entered football kit legend.

The basic design was so good that it lent itself easily to later incarnations that decade that featured a wing collar and, for a single season, 1980-81, a v-neck (my personal favourite).

melchester rovers kit, melchester rovers shirt

Therefore, I was thrilled when earlier this week I was put in touch with Barrie Tomlinson (thanks Rob Stokes) who tweeted me to say he actually designed this classic Melchester kit! I was even more excited, and honoured, when Barrie agreed to a short interview to say a bit more about this how the strip came about.

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Hello Barrie,

Thank you so much for agreeing to answer a few quick questions about this superb kit.

Q  What was your position at Roy of the Rovers comic in the early 1970s?
A   I was Editor of TIGER, then when ROY OF THE ROVERS launched, I became Group Editor of both titles.

Q  How did it come about that you were selected to design the new strip?
A  It was part of my job to update things and I thought it was time the Melchester strip was changed. One day, I sat down and worked out the design. I wanted something that no other club had and came up with the yellow stripe idea and the general design.

Q  Was their much focus from the RotR production team in what the side wore?
A  I suppose I was the Roy production team! I would have worked with the writer and the artist on all things Roy.

Q  Could you talk me through the design process…for example the decision to ditch the blue shorts, the addition of the sleeve numbers (a possible influence from Manchester City’s sleeve numbers perhaps?)
A  I wanted to get rid of blue, as the previous strip had red, yellow and blue and it made it difficult to decide what opposition teams should wear. I thought it best that the Roy strip should concentrate on red and yellow.  The numbers on the sleeve was just something I doodled in, it wasn’t based on any other team.   It helped with reader identification.

Q  What was the reaction to the new strip from the readership?
A  They liked it!

Q  Can you remember any details of Melchester Rovers’ away strips during your time on the comic?
A  Not really. We didn’t show too many away strips as I wanted the readers to be able to quickly recognise which team was Melchester Rovers.  I can remember a blue one and a white one.

Q  Finally, how did it feel to see the legendary kit replaced by the Gola strip in the early 80s?
A  I didn’t mind at all.  I had been wanting to have Melchester sponsored and it worked out well to have Gola on the shirts, within a new design, which was done by Gola but I had to approve it.  After a short time, I had to drop Gola off the shirts as some people thought it was unfair advertising in a children’s comic!   It was even raised in Parliament!  All the details are in my current book: “Real Roy of the Rovers Stuff”! Published by Pitch Publishing and now on sale!

Thank you Barrie for taking the time to answer my questions!
Good to talk to you. Thanks for all the nice comments you’ve made about the strip and the Roy story.

roy race, barrie tomlinson, alistair mcgowan, melchester rovers, roy of the roversBarrie very kindly sent me a great picture of him (Barrie is on the left, impressionist Alistair McGowan on the right and the legend himself, Roy Race in the centre).

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Barrie’s book ‘Real Roy of the Rovers Stuff’ is available now - click here to buy from Amazon

You can follow Barrie on Twitter here.

real roy of the rovers stuff


11 Responses to “Interview with Melchester Rovers Kit Designer”

  1. Martyn Ping Says:

    Different colour scheme I know, but does anyone else think it interesting that Umbro’s England kit of 01/03 had a single red stripe going through the badge, which was repeated on the opposite side on the shorts (and also on the white change pair). Now look at the above strip and see where they got the idea from! I think the sleeve number thing is something possibly absorbed from the NASL of the time…Also, didn’t Nike do striped socks (on the reverse, true, but still striped) around 2004? I seem to remember Man Utd and Arsenal both having them?

    As a football and movie fan, I think it is about time that a (semi) fictional movie such as RotR could be made. There is of course the problem that not many footballers can act (though I was blown away to see Franck Leboeuf as a Swiss doctor in The Theory Of Everything), and actors can’t play football…However, I think it is time that someone had another go at it (When Saturday Comes being the last of its type). OK, from my own perspective The Miracle Of Bern is a near perfect football movie, but that one is International football, and one tournament and its impact on a country. A movie dealing with club football, THAT is overdue. Tricky proposition because of the above factors, but could be possible.

  2. Tony Spike Says:

    Ha i think its funny that it was only last week i was talking ROTR looking for that gola logo (got some nice help from martyn on that one) and now theirs more ROTR stuff on here

    I would think martyn that umbro were indeed inspired by that kit since its an english company, most of their designers probably read Roy of the Rovers as kids just like i did (im a designer myself) …….it probably explains why they never tried it at the time as well since umbro were as big as admiral in the 70s for the ammount of contracts they had

    I think im going to make a Melchester mod for FIFA 14 at some point

    Tell you the truth i loved footy comic strips as a kid

    Their was one that used to be in the sun newspaper ….i think it was called Striker or Scorer, where their african goalkeeper would paint his face with a voodoo skull like baron samedi

    All the panels were rendered in CG and they would occupy a place in the premier league and each week play an actual team like Charlton

    I cant remember if its the same strip thats in the Sun now …i dont think it is, they replaced it with a different team a few years back i think ….or are now re printing them

    As for club football films ….their is that film (and to be honest ….its decentish but it looks like it was made straight to dvd by some tin pot south american studios) where a south american player gets signed by Newcastle United

    I think it had 2 sequels (each one progressivly more crap) and in number 2 he moves to Real Madrid

    You still cant beat Mean Machine though for footy films (the british version of the longest yard with Vinny Jones in) ….top quality that one is

  3. Tony Spike Says:

    Just remembered (actually i looked it up)

    Their WERE 2 strips that i used to read but in two different papers

    Their was Scorer in the Daily Mirror …about Tolcaster FC

    And the CG one was Striker from the Sun newspaper witch was Warbury Warriors

    They have just started reprinting Scorer but it did stop in 2003 i think

  4. Tony Spike Says:

    Third post lol …..i do wish you could edit these things sometimes ….especially when i think of something else to say lol

    Now in fact …when i come to think of it….i DO remember another Sun football strip it seems i wasnt going insane after all

    Their was a strip about a player called Joe Rock called The Premier

    I think it replaced scorer for a while …..in fact …Warbury Warriors tried to sign him to the new comic strip at one point

    Anyway ….i remember reading one CG football comic then it was replaced with another …one team (Warbury) played in yellow and red like ROTR the other played in blue

    I remember that distinctly

    So thats 4 football strips i used to read back in the day

  5. Martyn Ping Says:

    Used to read Striker meself back in the 90’s, they had a fat chairman and a goalkeeper called ,’Teflon Davies’, because nothing used to stick to him apparently. The club in that strip were, as you said, red and yellow, and I seem to remember in Arsenal esque templates. It was a bit repetitive though, and storylines used to repeat themselves so I lost interest! Never seen the UK Mean Machine, though I heard it was quite fun. Might give it a go.

  6. Nikos Nikolaidis Says:

    Great interview!!! I can remember sending a letter to Barrie Tomlinson, during the years I was trying to be in touch with RotR comic strip contributers. I’ ve contained his kind answer in my book “70s – 80s, the comic issues we loved”. I was a fan of new Rovers appearance in “Tiger”, although it (firstly) seemed to be a jinx change!
    All the best from Greece.

  7. Tony Spike Says:

    yeah the chairman has a Yorkshire accent like me,.or at least they write it that way

    as in he will say In T’ Summer in stead of saying in the summer

    but the goalie i knew was a African lad called Lebonique, he painted his face with a skull, and they have a poncy Frenchmen for a forward lol

    now kit wise they are more Watford than Arsenal, they did wear a yellow kit with red arms once but most of their kits were plain yellow

    i missed them in 2004 when they replaced them with The Premier,

    the Red Park City stories were alright but Warbury’s were better and the comic was just better done graphically, im glad they ditched it

    i mean they ditched it for reruns of Garth from the 70s witch got on my nerves royally, but a few years ago The Sun Newspaper brought it back

    story wise im sure it suffers from the same problems that Roy of the Rovers, the Daily Mirrors Scorer Strip & hell even that old 90s cartoon The Hurricanes did (loved that show)

    its all the same to me …..i still missed it when it was gone

    not as much as i miss Scorer though ..i read that religiously lol

  8. Martyn Ping Says:

    I think you could mine some dramatic gold from a Wimbledon type rise and fall story…They often say truth is stranger than fiction. With a bit of thought they could make a cracking film – there is enough directing, acting and writing talent in the UK now to make it feasible. Just a bit of grit mixed in so it’s not too ‘PG’, I reckon they’d be on to a winner. So Melchester start as a non league side; Roy working in the local chippy…something like that?

  9. Jake Rodgers Says:

    Amazing story!

  10. Tony Spike Says:

    I think melchester DID start that way but Warbury most definitly did

    I dont know where Melchester when when Racey got their ….i wasnt alive when that happened but i do know when Nick Jarvis moved to manage Warbury in the 80s they were in the lower leagues

  11. Martyn Ping Says:

    If it was me, I’d say that Roy Sr had to retire due to injury, and fell out with a new owner who turned out to be corrupt – therefore he walked away as Melchester slipped out of the league.

    Years later, his son, Roy Jr, who has rejected the life of a footballer to go to University, is on a gap year when he is spied playing on holiday – his amazing skills find their way to lower league scouts who offer him a contract. He reluctantly agrees but changes his last name as he wants to make his own path.

    Meanwhile, a new owner takes over Melchester with the intention of restoring the glory days, as they slowly climb the leagues, Roy Jr’s career starts to take off.

    Eventually, Roy Sr persuades his son to reclaim the family name and join the Rovers, just as they have a crucial ‘win or bust’ promotion game to make it to the Premier League…

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