As you will all now be aware Rovers have made Tommy Spurr their first signing of the close season; the full-back joining on a two-year deal from Sheffield Wednesday for an undisclosed fee. Rather than pad this news out by regurgitating the same Soccerbase career stats you’ll have already read several times over already, we thought we’d focus on the unreported story beneath this transfer. No-one else dare admit it, but we know this is all part of John Ryan’s ambition to populate the club with players whose names suggest they should have their own football comic strip.
Ever since he played his own personal tribute to David Bradley in Millionaire Villa, by turning out up front for the club he owns John Ryan has harboured the dream of being able to release a Boys of the Rovers annual with comic strips based on each of the first XI. Don’t believe me, well how about the board’s insistence that they’ll only pay out money for transfers if the right player becomes available? Isn’t it odd that so far only perfect would-be animated heroes Billy Sharp and Tommy Spurr have fitted that mould?
Billy Sharp, in name and goalscoring record, ticks all the boxes of the comic book striker, in fact all he’s missing is a story about how he was terrified of taking the field against Leicester City last season as he’d lost his lucky boots. Spurr also has the perfect name for a comic strip – two-syllable first name and a positive attribute for a surname – so don’t be surprised if he’s getting ready for his first training session next week and from across the room someone says “Hang on isn’t that…?” “Yes it is,” replies Spurr, “it’s the jockstrap of the late great Kenny ‘Sure-Shot’ Stevens”.
So, with a forward and a left-back signed up for his vision Viva Rovers looks at the other would-be stars John Ryan is likely to have his eye on. Just remember when the club is renamed Belle Vue Hotspurs, you read it here first.
Goalkeeper: Luke Steele
Signed from Barnsley where he’d combined his goalkeeping with voluntary shifts down the local pit, which he’d done just so his parents wouldn’t be ashamed of him. Smokes a pipe when off the field and will every now and again serve to confirm the notion that goalkeepers are mad or different by throttling a ball-boy or having a spell taking penalties
Right Back: Angel Rangel
The club’s token foreign import, complete with a barely believable name. Rangel will be initially recruited on a pre-season tour to his native South American republic of Venezador to give cover during the tour matches for the several members of the squad kidnapped by terrorists on their way to their first game. Rangel impresses so much during this period and that he is offered a contract. Will spend much of the first season complaining about the cold.
Centre Back: Malky Mackay
Ryan’s masterstroke is to persuade Malky Mackay to step away from management and take his boots back down from whence he had hung them up. Never mind that he’s not as quick as he once was, there is no better named man available to play the role of Scottish centre-half. MacKay will also be encouraged to grow a beard, grow his hair longer and wear a sweatband.
Centre Back: Danny O’Rourke
Recruited from Columbus Crew to play the role of gentile Irish ‘good cop’ next to Makay’s ‘bad cop’ in the centre of defence. O’Rourke will be paid on a per-stereotype basis and will be relied on to provide witty one-liners in the heat of the action, usually in response to an isolated shout from the middle of the crowd somehow audible above the other 40,000 spectators.
Right Wing: Mitchell McPike
Purchased from Birmingham City to play the role of secondary Scotsman McPike will suffer homesickness for the life he left behind in the factories of Inverkildaglenn and be taken under the wing of Mackay. McPike will be encouraged to die his hair ginger and wear his shirt with its sleeves pulled over his hands to complete his part.
Centre Midfield: Jimmy Ryan
The perfect creative central midfielder Jimmy Ryan even played for the comic-book-esque sounding Accrington Stanley until recently. Captain, celebrated England international and goalscorer of some repute, it’s rumoured he has a shot capable of snapping a stanchion. Destined to be assassinated by a rogue terrorist from Basran
Centre Midfield: Pat Hoban
Recently released by Bristol City, his name alone persuades John Ryan to recruit him as the team’s hardman. Combative midfielder who will exact sly retribution on anyone who fouls his younger team-mates, that will always be portrayed as moralistic rather than vicious. Should he ever be sent-off for his crimes then he will have the last laugh as he leaves the ground to discover the referee has a parking ticket. “Looks like you’re not the only one to have his name taken today Pat,” says the passing Danny O’Rourke.
Left Wing: Johnnie Jackson
Picked up from Charlton Johnnie Jackson is the lovable cockney scamp of the team whose always got a scheme on the go. Will go awol for a short period after a bad game only to be discovered looking after his sick mum. On his subsequent return will probably score a hat-trick against Highbury Villa or Elland City.
Striker: Ashley Grimes
Working class kid turned good, the young Lancastrian was signed from Rochdale where he had previously made up his YTS wage with work in the local Mill to help support his seven brothers and sisters. Will score an emotional winning goal against Rochdale, who never rated him, in the FA Cup.