See The Victor issues 465 - 484. (The story was reprinted in issues 862 - 881).
Writer:- The Victor editorial team. Artist:- Bert Vandeput.
Main cast:- Sinton Froyd; Captain Mike Hollins; Ron Carter; Denis More; Garry Hughes.
Time period:- 1960's.
The sinister and mysterious trainer-manager Sinton Froyd has taken over First Division* (see below), Manton City Football Club in mysterious circumstances. The entire first team apart from Mike Hollins, who is made team Captain are sold. A new room is built into the stand next to the players tunnel. Access to the room is through a metal, possibly lead-lined locked crimson door. But what goes on behind the door? Players suffering from injuries or loss of form go through the door with Froyd and a short time later reappear as a different person, their natural characteristics replaced with a blank facial expression and their football skills enhanced. Whether it makes them faster or more vicious in tackles and so on. As the bodies start piling up and the police remain dis-interested in investigating, it is left to Mike Hollins to solve the mystery.
Froyd plays Manton City's reserves in his first match in charge. At half-time Froyd takes two of the players (Jim Partridge and Alan Korner) through the crimson door. Both players start the second-half as different men. Korner is eventually sent off for one vicious foul to many and is suspended for good at the end of the match. Partridge, who has only just recovered from a serious illness collaspes at the final whistle due to damaging his heart. Hollins learns Partridge won't be able to play football again.
Froyd though isn't worried about these incidents. He sets about buying new players such as Ron Carter a top First Division striker. Hollins argues that Froyd will never get Carter to sign for Manton City as he wants to move back to London. Or as Carter puts it, "What! Go to Manton! You're off you're chump, Mike, my old pal. I wouldn't be seen in your dump. No offence, chum."
But within a minute of meeting Froyd, Carter says he will only play football for Manton City and no one else! (It becomes clear to Hollins that Froyd knows nothing about football players, training or tactics). Meanwhile, new players continue to join Manton City, through Froyd's unusual 'transfer methods' which Hollins begins to realise involves hypnotism.
Attempts by Hollins to enter through the crimson door are thwarted by Froyd on several occasions. One time that Hollins steps through the crimson door he receives an electric shock as he pulls on the inner door. Even with the transfer of several international players, City's season doesn't improve with the deaths of several players (including Carter, More and Hughes) and they remain firmly anchored at the bottom of the First Division.
Each weeks episode also features a football match and we follow the team's attempts to avoid relegation. Hollins continues to learn more and more about Froyd and his methods. How Froyd took over the club and is able to get the best out of the players and his peculiar and dangerous training methods. Froyd is a master hypnotist who had used electricity and traditional methods to hypnotise the directors of the club and players. (No doubt many readers are thinking, 'hmm, the football team I support could benefit from this type of training!')
Eventually, Hollins pieces together how Froyd hypnotises people. A trip to Austria as a member of the England 'B' team, a talk to a fellow player, Sid Merry and playing against an Austrian defender, Anton Meyer provides all the answers that Hollins requires.
Froyd's real name is Sigismund Frodd, who was manager of the Austrian football club, Sportsklub. The team had great success winning the Austrian league and Cup. But at a great cost in that half the players had breakdowns and had to be hospitalised. Frodd disappeared only to resurface in Manton under an assumed name.
In the final confrontation Hollins escapes from Froyd after being bound and gagged in the crimson room. (See the image above). Just before the switch is pulled which would have caused Hollins to be completely brainwashed, he causes an explosion which results in a fire. Hollins escapes but does Froyd escape or does he perish in the blaze? The story is unclear on this point. Manton City do though avoid being relegated.
This is an entaining football story lasting twenty issues. As most series run in The Victor were on average twelve episodes, this is pretty impressive. The artwork by Vandeput is enjoyable, especially the football matches. Vandeput drew many of The Victor football and cricket strips in the 1960's and 1970's.
* This series was published in 1970 when the English Premiership and Championship leagues didnít exist. Instead of the Premiership there was league Division One and for the Championship, league Division Two.
The first episode below is from issue 465 and is the first part of the story. The second episode (from issue 480), sees three forty something footballers (or 'old has-beens,' as one of the younger players calls them), brought into the squad by Froyd for an F.A. Cup match.
Due to the age and condition of the comic pages below, some of the scans are not as good as I had would like. I have tidied up the pages where possible.