Childhood Heroes

I was born in the mid 1960’s and grew up in a era far removed from the world that kids grow up in today. Back then it was a pleasure to be a kid, there were no demands, no expectations, no pressures and no social media, it was a safe, enjoyable and stress free childhood!

I have lots of fond memories growing up and I have recounted some of them in my own life story, which can be found here;

My Life Story Part 1

This time I want to concentrate on the three main things that my life and the lives of many young boys growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, revolved around;

Panini Football Stickers, Subbuteo and my all time hero Roy of the Rovers. Anybody of a similar age to me, will know exactly what I mean, those three things meant more to me than life itself. Some of you will be Dad’s now, or even Grandad’s, but the simple pleasures that these three things brought to you, as a child, were immeasurable. I didn’t want or need for much in my life back then, but the pleasure that these things brought, were all I ever needed. Sometimes it’s the simplest of things that give the most pleasure.

Collecting Football stickers, as a young boy, was part and parcel of school life and the anticipation of each new Panini sticker album was massive, the excitement of when they first arrived in the shops made it feel like Christmas had come early. The adrenaline you felt peeling back the cover of a brand new album was electric and I can still feel the goosebumps as you opened the first packets of stickers. I can also feel that sinking feeling when you opened a “double”. The nearer you got to completing your collection, the more the “double” pile grew. I remember one year in particular, 1978, we rode literally miles and miles on our bikes, to visit different shops to find that elusive missing sticker. That year was the one and only time I completed the full album! How much would that bring on eBay today!! Even now, Panini stickers are the benchmark of all football collectables and they have bucked the trend of the modern era and are still as collectable today as they have ever been. I will also let you into a little secret, my daughter bought me for my 50th Birthday, the 2014 Panini World Cup Sticker Album, I hope nobody reads this, but that is possibly the greatest birthday present ever!

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The other big thing for us football mad boys growing up in the 1960’s and 1970’s was Subbuteo. Now I know that a lot of you are going to ask, what on earth is that? Well it’s the equivalent of Fifa on the Play Station today, it was that big! It was ‘Table Football’, but to us of course, it was ‘real’ football, it was as near to the real thing as you could get. I was an only child, but that didn’t stop me playing the game at every spare moment I had and we regularly organised after school and weekend leagues, it was so popular! I can remember staring longingly in Greenwoods toyshop window at all the accessories and saving my pocket money to buy extra teams. Subbuteo has remained immensely popular amongst boys (now men) of a certain generation and there are collectors everywhere. Ebay is literally full of Subbuteo. It really is an iconic collectable, the money that these sets and teams change hands for today is incredible. But as a child growing up in the 70’s, the last thing on your mind was what it would be worth in the future, it was all about the moment, the here and now and having the most desirable teams or accessories. I remember so many iconic teams, some dazzling kits and must have ‘extras’, my ultimate kit was the ‘Munich’ World Cup Edition, which I received for Christmas in 1974. It was the most coveted set to have and it felt so exciting opening this on Christmas Day. Looking back now, life seemed so much easier then, life revolved around the simpler things and the stresses and strains that young people are suffering today just were never there for my generation growing up. It was a different era and I wouldn’t change my time for anything.

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The iconic stadium build, pictured above comes from Alan Crampton a self confessed Subbuteo addict and if you have a passion for Subbuteo then a visit to his wonderful website Subbuteo Passion is a must!!

The ultimate football hero of our generation, was of course Roy Race, better known to you and me as ‘Roy of the Rovers”. I was a mad comic book reader and collector and I first encountered Roy’s adventures in the Tiger comic and by the mid 70’s Roy was a big enough star to go it alone and a new stand alone comic was launched called, surprisingly “Roy of the Rovers”. It allowed every young boy to live out and fulfill their boyhood fantasies in the form of England’s greatest ever player. Roy played alongside many footballing legends and encountered many dramas both on and off the pitch, but to me he was and still is, the ultimate boyhood hero. His weekly adventures were played out in every schoolboys mind and every young lad dreamed of being the next “Roy of the Rovers”. We felt every tackle and we scored every goal! We lived and breathed every moment as we read about the dramas of being England’s greatest ever player.

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Roy’s life mirrored some of the antics of the professional game at the time, in the words of the wonderful editor, Barrie Tomlinson, Roy was starring in a soap opera, played out in comic book style. From getting married to his sweetheart Penny, the birth of the twins, to the drama of being shot, it was all played out on a weekly basis in a Comic book version of a soap opera. The who shot Roy story was as equally popular at the time as the shooting of ‘JR’ in Dallas! Roy was truly a legend! Roy met with politicians, sporting legends and even Royalty, he had that much appeal! With clever marketing, Roy became more than a comic book hero, he became an ‘entity’, to us kids growing up he was real, but he became more than that, he represented everything that a ‘hero’ should be. He lead by example, both on and off the field and was a shining example for us growing up, he gave us inspiration and he gave us ambition. More than anything ‘Roy’ gave us ‘hope’. He gave everyone a genuine hope that one day we might just emulate our hero. In a world that felt a lot smaller in the 70’s than it does today, ‘Roy of the Rovers’ was your place of escapism, a moment that you could live out your fantasies and dreams, which is exactly what a comic book hero should be all about. The magic of waiting for each episode cannot be measured and I wonder if there is anything quite like that today for our children? Do they have heroes? Do they have escapism and fantasies? or is everything today ‘manufactured’ for them? Are kids allowed to be kids anymore? I know we should never compare generations and things cannot be compared or measured without bias, but I fear that our children might have missed out on some of the simpler things about childhood.

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Being a kid in the 60’s and 70’s was a joy, we didn’t ask for much, but took great pleasure from the simple things.

Don’t under estimate the power of having dreams…………..

As a child, I grew up watching ‘Man’ land on the Moon and dreamt of becoming an Astronaut. I grew up reading comic books and dreamt of becoming the new ‘Roy of the Rovers’. I grew up in a world that was vastly different than the world we live in today and I am grateful for the childhood that I had, make sure that you never stop dreaming and you never stop aspiring to do more.

We all need heroes though don’t we……………who was your hero?

Do you ever get the chance to meet your heroes? Well in this case YES! Watch out for the next blog where I get to meet my all time hero and get the chance to interview arguably England’s greatest ever player!

Read more of Roy’s story here in Author Barrie Tomlinson’s wonderful novel.

Real Roy of The Rovers Stuff

All My Blogs For Family Tree Magazine in one handy place

Copyright © 2021 Paul Chiddicks | All rights reserved

4 thoughts on “Childhood Heroes

  1. Football 78, now that brings back memories! The excitement when you opened the packet and got a shiny!
    Subbuteo set up on the dining table having carefully ironed the pitch, floodlights on. Happy days

    Liked by 1 person

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