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Inside Action: Look out for Lefty!

Action - Look Out For Lefty1st May 1976 – 12th November 1977
Written by Tom Tully
Art by Barrie Mitchell and Tony Harding

About Look Out For Lefty!

“Look Out For Lefty!” replaced “Play Till You Drop!” as Action’s exclamation-marked football strip. Lefty followed the adventures of schoolboy Kenny ‘Lefty’ Lampton as he carved out his footballing career thanks to his powerful and accurate left foot.

Unlike its predecessor, Lefty was much more of an Action strip. The lead character was down at heel, living in a junkshop with his gormless, Albert Steptoe-esque grandfather. Lefty missed out on a chance in the First Division with Burmington City, and ended up playing for the neighbouring Third Division side Wigford Rovers. The strip had as much action off the pitch as on it. There were plenty of scrapes with school teachers, rival players, local thugs, football hooligans and villains. There was also Lefty’s ongoing feud with spoilt rich kid and hopeless First Division hopeful Sid Smythe. Lefty had a skinhead girlfriend and an evil temper, which could often be his undoing.

The strip was very well received by readers, but as the story progressed, and reflected the true violence on the terraces, Lefty ended up sailing too close to the wind. Writer Tom Tully was told that the strip was becoming boring, and was asked to liven it up a bit, and take it back to its roots. Tully rose to the challenge with great effect. The Football Association and the tabloid media took great exception to an incident where a bottle was thrown onto the pitch by Angie, striking a player in the head. Tully then compounded this incident with a scaled-up repeat performance just a few weeks later. The second time, rival hooligans known as the Rotherfield Rippers threw a barrage of missiles at Lefty during a match. Artist Tony Harding, who took over from Barrie Mitchell from the 6th of June, took exception to some of the things he was asked to draw, and refused to pencil images of, amongst other things, Lefty sticking two fingers up at the crowd.

As the withdrawal took effect, Lefty was facing the axe. The Rippers storyline was turning into a tale of violence and revenge; off-pitch, Gramps had been tarred and feathered and Lefty and Angie had ridden off on a stolen motorbike to get even. This sequence was removed when a sanitised version of the strip returned in December. Predictably, Lefty became a run-of-the-mill soccer story, Angie became progressively more bland and eventually disappeared from the strip completely, to be replaced by a returning Sid Smythe in pantomime villain mode. Lefty went on to represent the England youth team and earned Wigford promotion to the Second Division. The story ground to a premature halt as Action folded, the strip being unsuitable for the style of Battle Action.

In its original form, Lefty had the distinction of being a truly original football strip, with some realistic and sympathetic characters. Its transformation into another Tiger-styled Roy of the Rovers wannabe is rather sad. There were some ill-judged appearances for “Lefty” in the Action Annuals from 1978 to 1981, the speedway racer storyline in 1978 being a particular low point.

Plot Summary

Kenny ‘Lefty’ Lampton lives in a junk shop with his grandfather Enoch. He is spotted by talent scout Sam Henderson when, dreaming of life as a First Division player, he boots a ball which smashes the headlight on Henderson’s car. Despite this mishap, Henderson offers Lefty a trial with Burmington City. Lefty and classmate Sid Smythe, a hopeless footballer whose rich father owns the local sports shop, both attend the trial. Smythe is there at the request of his Form Master, the devilish Mr. Gosling. Lefty fumbles the trial because of a pain in his right foot. He is forced to play using only his left.

The team believe Lefty is a talented player, but cannot use his right and is therefore of little use. They offer Smythe a position following some lucky blunders on his part, plus the backing of Gosling and Smythe Sr. A disheartened Lefty removes his boot to find Enoch’s missing false teeth had been sticking into him. Henderson knows Lefty is no one-footed wonder, but the decision has been made. He advises Lefty to try his luck at Third Division Wigford Rovers, who are looking for new young players.

Lefty is determined to make it and sees Wigford as a foot on the ladder. He decides to go for the Wigford trial, but is tricked by a skinhead girl who he has been sparring with into gate-crashing a training session. Angie tells him the trials are off, but he should have a kick about with Coley Wanderers outside the ground. Coley Wanderers are, in fact, Wigford, Rovers but luckily Lefty’s skills impress the boss, Jim Bowker, and also the coach, Mike Roberts, who happens to be Angie’s dad. Bowker offers Lefty a proper trial, but Lefty has already made some enemies on the Wigford team by showing them up.

Lefty is soon offered a youth team position, combining his Wigford career with schoolwork, the school team and running the junk shop, whilst seeing off the hostility of some senior Wigford players. Smythe arranges for the shop to be robbed, but Lefty wins the money back in a bet with Sid. He also fools Gosling and Smythe Sr. into buying a load of junk garden gnomes that Enoch bought with the rent for the shop. Gosling eventually realises he has been stung with the deal for ‘pop mascots’ and looks to get even.

Lefty has been offered the chance to be taken on as a full-time apprentice, if he puts in a good performance in a tournament. The opening rounds go well, but on the day of the final, Gosling realises he can end Lefty’s career and sets him up in a fight at school with local bruiser Nick Telford. Gosling slaps Lefty into detention, preventing Lefty from going to the game. As the clock ticks slowly by on Lefty’s career potential, Angie tricks Gosling and helps Lefty escape by locking the teacher in a store cupboard. Angie and Lefty reach the ground, but the match isalready underway.

Lefty has been hurt in the fight and has trouble with his right ankle. Mike puts Lefty on as a sub, and after an eventful match, where a spot of magic spray rescues Lefty’s ankle and Gosling turning up at half time, only to get thrown out again for allegedly beating up Angie, Wigford win the tournament and Lefty is offered a place as an apprentice professional.

Lefty never gets an easy ride, and there are many moments of both humour and angst in his story. In the closing chapters, the Rotherfield Rippers begin a vendetta against Lefty. There is much violence on and off the pitch as Lefty attempts to get the thugs off his back. Eventually he goads the leaders into throwing bottles at him in a match, and they are carted away by the police.

The story was about to peak with the Rippers revenge on Gramps, who gets tarred and feathered by the few Rippers who escape custody. This would have lead to Lefty’s own revenge, but the story was cut after a media outcry.

Post ban, “Lefty” took over the centre pages and had a short spell in colour. The focus shifted onto the football and away from the antics. Gramps was tarred and feathered anyway, but not by the Rippers, and there was no revenge to be had. Angie became more feminine, growing her hair and buying a dress, then practically disappeared as Lefty joined the England youth team. A protracted story involving a goat was thrown in, and Smythe returned as a fellow England player, determined to wreck Lefty’s career, but this didn’t prevent him from helping England win the International Youth Cup.

With the Battle merger looming, the strip ended quickly, Wigford won promotion to the Second Division, and Lefty earned the freedom of the City of Wigford.

Main Characters

Kenny Lampton

Kenneth ‘Lefty’ Lampton was a sixteen-year-old schoolboy with dreams of soccer stardom. Unfortunately, his hopes were always set in the face of adversity. He failed in his bid to get into the First Division thanks to his grandpa, Enoch, and a set of false teeth. Lefty was usually up against it in every environment, his school form teacher hated him, the senior players in his squad hated him, and the opposing fans hated him. Lefty’s biggest problem though, was his own short temper. If he could make things worse for himself he usually did. This didn’t stop him from earning a first team place at Wigford, and by the end of the strip, a cup winning goal for the England Youth team.

Enoch Lampton

The addled brain and alcoholism of junk shop impresario Enoch Lampton was mainly a cause for humour throughout the story, but when Enoch is beaten, tarred and feathered by fans of a rival club, Enoch’s plight becomes dramatic and real. In later issues, Enoch once again became the comic crutch of the story, serving no other purpose than to make Lefty’s life a misery with his hair-brained ideas.

Angie Roberts

Lefty’s supposedly cool (if being a Bay City Rollers fan can be so considered) skinhead girlfriend. Angie was the daughter of Wigford trainer Mike Roberts. She was usually there to help Lefty out with his problems, pretending to have been beaten up by his form master to get Mr. Gosling beaten up by Wigford fans in return, bottling a team mate who was ruining Lefty’s game, stealing a motorbike for a revenge mission to Rotherfield… the list went on. Later on Angie grew her hair, dumped the flares and began wearing a dress, but she remained fiercely, even blindly loyal to the young left-footer.

Others

Mike Roberts, Wigford Rovers’ trainer, and the man who gave Lefty a chance when he managed to blow it at his Rovers trial. Mike was normally there to look out for Lefty when the Wigford manager lost his rag.

Jim Bowker, a stereotypical, blustering, red-faced ball of anger of a football manager. Bowker usually blew fury at Lefty in public, but supported his player in private although he would never let on, in case Lampton became big-headed.

The Rotherfield Rippers, a gang of Saturday afternoon thugs who rolled into Wigford in a storm of vandalism and destruction. Having targeted Enoch’s junk shop, they were dissuaded by Lefty, but this lead to a tit-for-tat tale of revenge that only the ban of the comic could sort out.

Sid Smythe was seen in the early episodes as Lefty’s schoolboy rival and favoured pupil. Sid was useless at football, but his dad was rich and ran a large sports shop, earning Sid the love of Mr. Gosling and an apprenticeship at First Division Burmington City to Lefty’s cost. Sid returned in later episodes as another England youth player plotting to see Lampton fall.

Mr. Gosling, a comic book school master, Van Dyke beard and devilish demeanour were part of his dastardly ways. Gosling hated Lefty as much as he sucked up to the Smythe family, and did all he could to ruin Lampton’s chances of ever having a football career.

Text © Moose Harris 

ACTION™ REBELLION PUBLISHING LTD, COPYRIGHT © REBELLION PUBLISHING LTD, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

See this section’s Acknowledgments section for more information

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