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Episodes 16 – 20



Episode Sixteen of: The Boyhood of Bernard Briggs taken from The Wizard December 8th 1973


Bernard Briggs looked at the pound notes he was holding and gave a whistle. “Twenty quid!” he said. “Crikey! I’ve never had so much money in me hand before!”


Bernard was standing in Alfie’s junkyard. It was Alfie who had given the money to Bernard. In his long overcoat, with his ancient hat resting on his ears, Alfie had the solemn look of somebody just returned from a funeral. “Aye, it’s a good price for that old roller you brought me, Bernard,” said Alfie. “I can’t see myself making any profit on it at all.” “Come off it, Alfie,” grinned Bernard. “If you’ve given me twenty pounds, you reckon you can clear thirty! But that’s O K. We’ve done a deal, and I’m satisfied.” Bernard was living on his own. He lived in an abandoned barge with his dog, Tiger, and he made a living by dealing scrap. “What are you going to do now you’re rich, Bernie?” asked Alfie. “I know a fellow who can let you have a second-hand Rolls-Royce cheap.” Beneath his solemn expression, Alfie was a bit of a wag. Bernard grinned again, and swung a leg over the saddle of his bike. “The Briggs Special will suit me,” he said. The Briggs Special had been built from bits and pieces by Bernard. An old pram was fastened to the bike, and Bernard used it for collecting junk. On the side of the pram was painted: “B. Briggs. Dealer.” At the moment the pram was empty except for Tiger, who sat there with an ear cocked, enjoying the ride, as Bernard pedalled away. Bernard was making for the house of Mr Evans, the man who had let him have the roller. Mr Evans was a local scout commissioner, and he also ran an engineering company. The horse-drawn roller had come from the company’s sports field. Mr Evans had wanted to get rid of it, having replaced it with a new powered roller. Mr Evans looked surprised when he opened the door to Bernard. “Sorry, lad, no more junk!” he said. “That roller was all I had to dispose of.”


Bernard hates school but he’s battling to stop a fire which might destroy the building.

“It’s the roller I came to see you about, mister,” said Bernard. “I reckon you didn’t know what valuable scrap it was. I got twenty quid for it. I’ll need ten bob a head for the lads who helped me shift it, and I’ll take fifty bob. That’s fifteen quid for you!”! “Hang on, young fellow!” protested Mr Evans. “I said you could have the roller if you could take it away. I wasn’t interested in making a profit.” “I like my profit to be a fair one, mister,” said Bernard. “Use this for the scouts.” He pushed the fifteen pounds into Mr Evans’ hand, and hurried away. “I told you that lad was out of the ordinary!” said Mrs Evans. “You didn’t think he’d get that roller shifted, but he did.” “He’s pretty remarkable on the football field, too,” said Mr Evans. “He was in goal for a team that played our scouts. He almost beat us on his own. I understand he’s been banned from school football for some reason. I’m going to try to help that lad, Madge!” Meanwhile, Bernard had found his pals, the lads who had helped him haul the roller from Mr Evans’ field. They all sat round a table in the local fish-and-chip shop, with heaped plates in front of them. Bernard shook a helping of tomato sauce over his chips. “Big eats all round, lads,” he said. “And ten bob each! Thanks for your help.” “Any time, Bernard,” said Olly Potter. He raised a glass of pop. “Here’s a toast! Down with Moulty, the teacher who doesn’t know the difference between a football and a Christmas pudding!” “Moulty must be plain daft, getting you banned from school football, Bernie,” said another lad. “The Manningham West District side will never beat Brunton without you in goal.” Mr Moult was their class teacher, and he did not get on with Bernard. He had been delighted to cook up an excuse to get Bernard barred from school football. As a result, Bernard was also out of the West District school side. After that meal, Bernard was ready for bed. He cycled back to his barge, which was moored on the canal at a wharf belonging to the Owen Engineering Company. Bernard had permission from Mr Owen to live there. Bernard flopped into bed in his cabin, with Tiger curled up on the floor. He fell asleep immediately, but some time later he was aroused by the barking of his dog. “What’s up, Tiger?” yawned Bernard. He swung his legs out of bed, and gave a yelp. He was standing in water. Lighting a lantern, Bernard started to investigate. “Crikey, we’re sinking!” he gasped. Water was slopping about in the bottom of the boat. Bernard waded out on to deck and stripped off. “Some of the rotten planks must have given way,” he muttered. He lowered himself over the side into the water, took a deep breath, and went under. He groped his way along the underside of the barge, feeling the timber across. He had to keep surfacing to take a breath, but at last he found the hole. He stuffed old sacks into the hole, and managed to nail some bits of scrap timber across. By the time he had finished, his strength was giving out, and he hauled himself wearily back on deck. “That’s all I can do for now,” he told Tiger. “I’ll have to fix it properly in daylight. And I’ll need to borrow a pump from somewhere to get the water out. His bed was almost afloat in the cabin. Bernard stretched out on the deck and dozed off. The chiming of a church clock woke him. “Nine o’clock!” he exclaimed. “Crikey, I’ll be late for school! Moulty’s going to love this!”


Mr Moult was droning on about the Spanish Armada when Bernard hurried into the classroom. The teacher stopped, and a triumphant expression crossed his face. He made a big show of looking at his watch.


“Nice of you to join us at last, Briggs!” he said, heavily sarcastic. “Sorry I’m late,” said Bernard. “But—” “Don’t bother inventing any lies!” interrupted Mr Moult. “You’ll stay behind after school. And I’ll give you work to do to make up for what you’ve missed.” Bernard said no more, and sat down at his desk. He hadn’t expected Mr Moult to listen to his explanation. The teacher began talking again. Mr Moult could make even the most exciting bits of history sound dull. The room was stuffy, and Mr Moult’s voice bumbled on monotonously. Bernard had missed a lot of sleep. His head nodded, and his eyes closed. Mr Moult strode forward, grabbed Bernard by the scruff of the neck, and hauled him from his desk. “Now the idle young ruffian is asleep!” shouted Mr Moult. “I’ll teach you to pay attention, Briggs!” He seized his cane. The door opened, and Mr Evans came in. “I’m sorry to interrupt,” said Mr Evans. “I wanted a word with you about a boy in your class. Oh, that’s the lad there!” “Another complaint about Briggs?” snapped Mr Moult. “What’s he done this time?” “Er-no complaint,” said Mr Evans. “I understood he was banned from school football, and I wondered—” “Quite rightly banned!” blared Mr Moult. “He’s a disgrace to the school! He let us down on the sports field, and in class he’s lazy and inattentive. He came in almost an hour late this morning, and I am to punish him for falling asleep! He’s the worst boy I’ve ever had to deal with!” “Dear me!” said Mr Evans. “Perhaps I’ve been mistaken about him. You are the boy’s teacher. You obviously know him better than I do. I’ve no more to say Mr Moult.” Mr Evans went out, and the teacher swished the cane. Bernard did not fall asleep again. The tingling in his hands helped to keep him awake. When the rest of the class was dismissed at the end of the day, Mr Moult slapped a book down in front of Bernard. “I’m going to the storeroom to check the sports equipment,” said Mr Moult. “but don’t think you can sneak off, Briggs! You complete all these exercises before you leave!” Lighting a cigarette, Mr Moult strolled away to the storeroom and Bernard set to work. Mr Moult had given him a lot to do, but Bernard was a bright lad, and he plugged quickly through the exercises. By the time he had finished, Mr Moult had not come back. “I ain’t hanging about,” thought Bernard. “I’ll go and find Moulty and show him my work. Bernard headed for the storeroom. The door was closed, and Mr Moult was not about. In fact, the teacher had retired to the staff room, and he was having a cup of tea with his feet up. Bernard was turning away when something caught his eye. Smoke was seeping out under the door of the storeroom. “Crikey!” said Bernard. He flung the door open and a blast of heat met him. Smoke and flames surged out. A fire was spreading in the storeroom. “Fire!” yelled Bernard. He snatched a fire extinguisher from the wall, banged it down to start it operating, and turned the contents on the flames. He emptied the extinguisher, but the fire was not quenched. Mr Moult came hurrying from the staff room. The headmaster followed from his study. Bernard was running away. “A fire in the storeroom!” shouted Mr Moult. “Look, Briggs is running away! He must have started it!” “I’ve phoned for the fire brigade,” said the head. He picked up the extinguisher that Bernard had dropped. “This one’s empty, get another extinguisher, Moult!” Mr Moult looked about vaguely. Bernard came running back, carrying a fresh extinguisher. “You seem to have been mistaken, Moult!” said the head. “Briggs was running to get another extinguisher!” A siren wailed outside, then the firemen came running in. They were in time to see the flames dying out as Bernard aimed the second extinguisher at them. “Well done, lad!” said the fire officer in charge. “Yes, it was fortunate that you were here, Briggs,” said the head. “What were you doing in the school at this time, anyway?” “I kept him in, headmaster,” said Mr Moult. “He came to school very late, then fell asleep in class.” “I was up half the night trying to stop my barge from sinking, sir,” Bernard told the head. The fire officer had been rooting about in the blackened storeroom. He came out and joined them. “Can’t be sure how it started,” he said. “I suppose nobody would be foolish enough to drop a lighted cigarette in there?” Mr Moult went pale. Bernard said nothing, but he remembered how Mr Moult had lit a cigarette on his way to the storeroom. “No, no! That’s impossible!” spluttered Mr Moult. “Can I go?” asked Bernard. “My barge is waterlogged, and I’ve got to find some way of pumping it dry.” “You clear off!” snapped Mr Moult. He suddenly seemed eager to get rid of Bernard. “And thanks, Briggs!” said the head. “You kept your nerve! A credit to the school!” Bernard hurried out followed by the fire officer. “Hang on, lad,” said the fireman. “I heard what you said about your barge. You did us a good turn, tackling that fire. Now we’ll do you one! Hop aboard!” Bernard travelled back to his barge in style, aboard the fire engine. On the wharf, the firemen rigged their pumps and ran hoses into the barge. The pump started, and water spurted out of the barge into the canal. “Great!” beamed Bernard. “Thanks, mister!” The barge was soon clear of water, and riding high again. The firemen were just putting their gear away when a bunch of Bernard’s pals arrived. They carried tools and lengths of timber. “We’ll forgive you for not letting the school burn down, Bernard!” said Olly Potter. “We’ve come to help you with the repairs. And you can do something for us in return.” “I’ll bet there’s a catch in it!” said Bernard, “but I’ll be glad of a hand, mates.” “We’ve got up a team to play Brown Street and we want you in goal,” explained Olly. “Brown Street are the toughs who have never been beaten!” said Bernard. “O K, Olly, count me in!” With everybody working hard, the repairs were soon done. Rotting timbers were replaced, and the hole sealed off. “Good as new!” said Bernard. “Thanks, pals! What about this football match, then?” The Brown Street side were a hard bunch. They were all bigger than Bernard, but size didn’t bother him. He would have tackled King Kong to save his goal. Brown Street came roaring down from the kick-off. Their centre-forward put all his muscle behind a shot. He expected to see Bernard and the ball finish up in the net together. Bernard leapt across his goal, pulled the ball down, and slung it away. Two men arrived on the touchline. One was Mr Evans, the other Mr Cresswell, the selector for the West District side. “Young Briggs is afraid of nothing!” said Mr Evans. “I hope he doesn’t get trampled on!” said Mr Cresswell. “We need him!” Brown Street kept pressing. They hammered away at Bernard’s goal, but nothing got past him. He jumped high and pulled a ball down. Seconds later he was diving to collect a shot near the foot of the post. He was ready for anything that came his way. With time running out, and still no score. Brown Street started to get desperate. Their winger lifted the ball. Players jostled round Bernard. A hulking forward charged into Bernard, and he staggered. The crowd of players hid the incident from the referee. The ball dropped, and as the centre-forward hit it. Bernard was already moving. He bounced forward as if on springs. Facing his own goal, he dropped on the ball, stopping it on the goal-line. “Goal!” yelled a Brown Street man. “Read the rules, mate!” scoffed Bernard. “It’s on the line, not over it!” He jumped to his feet with Brown Street players gathered round the referee, shouting and arguing. Bernard dodged round them. The referee was waving the protesters away. Bernard booted the ball, sending it soaring into open space, where Olly Potter was waiting. “Run it, Olly!” bawled Bernard. Olly strode away with the ball. The Brown Street defence was in holes for most of the team had moved up for the attack. Olly swerved round a defender, and banged the ball into the net. That one goal won the game for Bernard’s team. As Bernard came off the field, he was met by Mr Evans and Mr Cresswell. “You played a great game, lad,” said Mr Cresswell. “Brunton will have their work cut out getting past you.” “Who, me?” said Bernard. “I heard about that fire, Bernard,” explained Mr Evans. “I’ve had a word with your headmaster. It seems I was – let’s say – misinformed about you when I visited your classroom. Anyway, it’s all sorted out. The headmaster’s lifted the ban.” “And that means you’re eligible for the West District side,” said Mr Cresswell. “That’s great!” chirped Bernard.


NEXT WEEKBernard must keep his

nerve or his team will lose a cup-tie.



Episode Seventeen of: The Boyhood of Bernard Briggs taken from The Wizard December 15th 1973


A loud crash on the towpath outside woke Bernard Briggs. He swung out of bed in the cabin of the barge where he lived. His dog, Tiger, was sitting up and looking at him enquiringly.


“There goes our alarm clock, Tiger!” said Bernard. He crossed to a window and looked out. The crash had sounded like several pots and pans falling on to a sheet of corrugated iron, and that was exactly what it was. The night before, Bernard had balanced the pans on top of an old stool which stood on the sheet of iron. A string ran from a leg of the stool and over the wall of the Owen Engineering Company, which bordered the towpath. Now the stool was on its side, the pots and pans scattered over the corrugated iron. Looking over the wall was the night-watchman of the Owen Engineering Company. “Six o’clock, Bernard!” he called. “Thanks, Ted!” Bernard answered. “That roused me up a treat!” Bernard had asked the watchman to give the string a pull as he made his six o’clock rounds. This was one morning when Bernard was determined not to oversleep. It was a Saturday, and Bernard had been picked to keep goal for the Manningham West District Schools football side against Brunton South. It was a game Bernard was not going to miss, but he had some business to attend to first. Bernard was making a living on his own. He had permission from Mr Owen to live aboard the old canal boat moored at the factory wharf, and he made a living by dealing in scrap. It was a hard start in life for the boy who was later to become Britain’s most famous goalkeeper. The transport belonging to the B. Briggs Scrap Company consisted of an old bike with a pram fitted to it as a sidecar. Bernard loaded the pots and pans and the corrugated iron into the pram. He added the stool, the door of an ancient gas stove, a rusty clothes wringer with one roller missing, and several picture frames. “That lot is what they call our assets, pal!” Bernard told Tiger.

No one wants to take the vital penalty kick and Bernard Briggs volunteers to win or lose the match for his team.

He had a quick wash. For breakfast, it was bread and margarine for Bernard and a bone for Tiger. Bernard set off on his bike, with Tiger perched on the junk in the pram. He was heading for Alfie’s junkyard. The big wooden doors at Alfie’s were closed, but as Bernard rode up, a small wicket gate in one of the doors opened. Alfie, who lived in a hut in the yard, reached out for a bottle of milk that stood by the gate. Alfie needed a shave, but that was his usual condition. He was wearing a long nightshirt, with his usual ankle-length overcoat on top. His old hat was down over his ears. Alfie stopped in the middle of a yawn, and stared at Bernard. “Eh?” he mumbled. “Oh, it’s you, Bernard! What time do you call this? I don’t do business in the middle of the night!” “I’ve got to get away early,” explained Bernard. “I’m playing football at Brunton, but I need a bit of cash in case I have to pay a fare or anything.” Alfie did a bit of muttering, but he opened the doors and let Bernard in. Bernard unloaded the junk from his pram. “I don’t know how you expect me to get rid of that stuff,” said Alfie. “I only take your junk out of the goodness of my heart, Bernard.” Bernard was used to Alfie’s little ways, and he only grinned. “You’ve caught me before I’m properly awake,” said Alfie. “All right two bob it is, but I’ll kick myself later.” With the two shillings in his pocket, and with Tiger enjoying the ride in the empty pram, Bernard pedalled away. In the town square a coach was waiting, with the rest of the West District side already aboard. Mr Cresswell, the team selector, was standing by the coach. “Come along, lad, we’re ready to leave,” called Mr Cresswell. “Shan’t be a minute, Mr Cresswell,” said Bernard, steering his bike towards the car park in the centre of the square. “I’ve just got to park my bike.” “The charge is two bob for parking all day,” the attendant told Bernard. “There goes all my cash!” muttered Bernard. “Easy come, easy go!” He ran to the coach, with Tiger bounding at his heels, and his old boots in his hand. “Can I bring my dog?” he asked. “There’s no time to make any other arrangements now,” said Mr Cresswell, “but keep him under control. Get aboard!” Bernard scrambled to a seat, and Tiger flopped down on the floor near him. Mr Cresswell climbed in and the bus started. “Er – I’ve got no money, mister,” said Bernard, “if there’s a fare to pay – ” “there’s nothing to pay, lad,” said Mr Cresswell. “All expenses are taken care of.”




Bernard spent the journey getting to know his team mates. He had played against some of them before, but there was nobody from his own school. Mr Moult, Bernard’s teacher, was in charge of football at Wesley Street School, and his idea of picking a team was to push forward his own favourites and try to keep out Bernard, whom he disliked.


The result was that Wesley Street School had a poor football reputation, and only somebody like Bernard, with outstanding talent, had a chance of being noticed by the selectors. The game with Brunton was being held at Brunton High School, a posh-looking place standing in its own grounds. The coach drew up by a freshly-painted pavilion, and Bernard looked out at the football pitch. The turf was green, and smoothly cropped. The white lines stood out clearly. The goal posts gleamed with new paint, and the nets were in perfect condition. “This is something like it!” said Bernard. “A bit different from the ash tips I’m used to playing on!” One of the masters from the school was waiting to welcome the team. He was a tall, youngish man who carried himself like a guardsman, and wore a clipped, military moustache. He had a parade-ground voice, too, and he used it when Tiger came bounding out. Bernard’s dog was tired of being cooped up in the coach, and he pranced into the fresh air, his tail wagging, as soon as the door was opened. “What’s that dog doing here?” the teacher boomed. “Get that brute under control!” “Sorry, mister,” said Bernard, grabbing Tiger. “Dogs are not allowed in the school grounds,” snapped the teacher. “Shut the mongrel in your coach.” Bernard took Tiger back into the coach, and told him to sit. “I’ll keep an eye on him, son,” offered the bus driver. Bernard was used to changing in dusty sheds or behind bushes. The Brunton dressing-room was luxury in comparison. When he trotted out with the team, Bernard felt the turf springy under his feet. The referee came striding out, looking immaculate. Bernard’s grin faded. The referee was Major Maddox, the loud-voiced teacher. “Oh, well, nothings perfect!” said Bernard. Major Maddox blew his whistle with a flourish to summon the captains, and Bernard’s captain won the toss. Major Maddox blew another blast to summon the teams to the line-up. A third toot and a wag of the finger indicated that in his opinion a Manningham forward had trespassed over the centre-line before the kick-off. Finally a whistle solo set the game in motion. “He’ll wear the pea out!” muttered Bernard. Brunton were fast and skilful. They brought the ball along, and the Manningham defence, nervous in the opening moments, were caught flat-footed. The Brunton centre-forward burst through with the ball. “It’s up to me!” thought Bernard. He raced out of his goal. As the centre-forward was shaping for a shot. Bernard dived at the edge of his area. His hands clamped round the ball, and snatched it away. The centre-forward checked himself in time to avoid falling over Bernard. “A great save!” Mr Cresswell told another spectator. “That should give the rest of the lads confidence.” The referee’s whistle blew. Leaving the ball on the ground, Bernard got to his feet. “What’s he blowing for?” Bernard asked the centre-forward. “You never touched me!” But Major Maddox was signalling for a free kick against Manningham. Bernard stared. “What’s up ref?” he asked. “Handling outside your area,” said Major Maddox. Bernard pointed to the ball. It lay just inside the line. “That ain’t outside,” he said. “You dived on it outside and pulled it back!” snapped the referee. “And don’t argue with me, boy!” Bernard said no more. He trotted back to his goal, and Brunton took the free kick. A player lifted the ball across the goal mouth and the centre-forward slithered past into the goal. “Nice one, Bernard,” said his left-back. “They signalled it all the way,” said Bernard. “Here, get rid of it, mate.” He rolled the ball to the back, who belted it away. Brunton fell back into defence. They held the Manningham attack, and put on pressure again. They crowded into the Manningham goal area and their winger lifted one over. Bernard and the centre-forward went up for it. The centre-forward’s elbow jabbed into Bernard’s ribs. Bernard grunted, but his hands closed round the ball. Major Maddox was standing near, and he let play go on. “No solo on the whistle this time!” thought Bernard. “No wonder Brunton are hard to beat at home!” He clutched the ball to him as the centre-forward charged at him. Caught off balance, Bernard went down, still clutching the ball. He heard an excited bark. Sitting up, Bernard saw his dog running towards the pitch. Tiger!” exclaimed Bernard. Snarling, the dog bounded on to the pitch and the centre-forward gave an alarmed gasp as Tiger made for him. Bernard jumped across and grabbed his dog. “Sorry, mate,” said Bernard. “He saw you going for me, and he was trying to defend me.” The referee blew on his whistle and pointed to the penalty spot. “You encouraged your dog to attack an opponent, Briggs!” he snapped. “I heard you call to the brute! I’m giving a penalty for ungentlemanly conduct!” “I didn’t call him on!” protested Bernard. “The dog got out through an open window while I was watching the game,” said the bus driver, who had come panting up. “Anyway, it’s an indirect free kick for ungentlemanly conduct!” said Bernard. “Have a read of law 12, ref!” “Any more argument from you and I’ll send you off, Briggs!” blared Major Maddox, his face red. Bernard shrugged, and turned away. He led Tiger off, and Mr Cresswell took charge of the dog. Bernard ran back to his goal and the centre-forward was ready to take the penalty. He took a few steps and hammered the ball. His shot hurtled for the top corner of the net but Bernard took off like a jump-jet. He flung himself across his goal. His hands smacked round the ball and pulled it down. “Magnificent save, Bernard!” called Mr Cresswell. “Aye, and he’s playing the ref as well!” said the bus driver. There was still no score at half-time. Bernard trotted off and called to Tiger. “I’ll put him in the boot of the bus,” said Bernard. “There’s plenty of air in there, and it will keep him out of the way.” Bernard ran to the coach with Tiger at his heels. The dog hopped inside the large boot at Bernard’s order. Bernard was just closing the boot when he heard shouts. Looking round, he saw the Brunton centre-forward banging the ball into the empty Manningham goal. “Crikey, the ref’s started the game early!” gasped Bernard. “Half-time must have lasted about a minute!” He started to run back. The Brunton players were hurriedly falling back for the kick-off. The Manningham captain spoke to the referee, obviously protesting. Major Maddox waved him away, and signalled for the kick-off to be taken. “Hey, ref, wait for me!” yelled Bernard but the blast of the referee’s whistle drowned his voice. Manningham kicked off. The Brunton players swarmed at them, forcing the ten men back. Brunton rushed the ball into the Manningham half. Bernard ran along the touchline, keeping pace with the game. He waved and shouted. “I’m ready to come on, ref!” he yelled. His eyes fixed on the game, Major Maddox ignored him. The Brunton centre-forward was through again. A Manningham defender scrambled back into goal. The Brunton centre-forward banged in a shot. The defender stuck out a leg and missed. The ball landed in the back of the net. Major Maddox blew his whistle, and pointed dramatically to the centre spot, then he beckoned to Bernard. “You may come on now, boy!” he said. “Cor!” muttered Bernard. “Two goals down! And that geezer deliberately kept me off to give Brunton a chance to score.” He ran to his goal as Manningham kicked off. Those two trick goals seemed to have taken some of the spirit out of them. Brunton took possession, and their winger raced the ball away. “I ain’t standing for this lot and their tame ref putting any more over on us!” muttered Bernard. The winger lifted the ball over and Bernard raced out of his goal. Major Maddox lifted his whistle as Bernard crossed out of the area, but Bernard did not use his hands. He jumped with the Brunton centre-forward. It was Bernard’s head that met the ball, and he headed it down to the feet of his left-half. “Back to me, mate!” yelled Bernard, racing on, and the left-half put the ball in front of him. Bernard beat a Brunton player in the race for possession. Striding on, Bernard danced the ball round another defender. He hit the ball on the run, and sent it screaming into the Brunton net. “Blow your whistle now, ref!” grunted Bernard. The goal put new heart into Manningham. They piled on the pressure. Brunton gave away a corner. An in-swinger came over. The Manningham centre-forward went up. The Brunton goalkeeper dived for him instead of the ball and the two players crashed down. The ball swerved towards the goal. A Brunton defender jumped across and palmed the ball out with his hand. Major Maddox’s toot on his whistle was a feeble one, but even he couldn’t refuse a penalty in those circumstances. The Manningham players shied nervously away as their skipper tried to find someone to take the penalty kick. Bernard came running up. “Got the jitters, mates?” he asked. “You take it, Bernard,” said the captain, with relief. Bernard dabbed the ball down, got a curt signal from Major Maddox, and shot. The goalkeeper dived the wrong way, and the ball slammed into the net. “The equalizer!” beamed Mr Cresswell. “What a find that boy is!” A moment later, Major Maddox blew for full-time. The rest of the team went off with Mr Cresswell as Bernard opened the boot and let Tiger out. “I’ll try and find you some water, pal,” said Bernard, “but I reckon we’ll both have to stay hungry. I’m broke!” A couple of his team mates came hurrying back. One had a plate loaded with chicken salad. The other had a plate of cakes and a bottle of lemonade. “We’ve brought you some grub, Bernard,” said one of them. “You’ve got to keep your strength up for the replay!” He noticed Major Maddox striding by, a scowl on his face. “Come on, Tiger, we’ll eat in the coach!” he said. “Dogs ain’t popular here—and neither are teams that don’t let Brunton beat them.



hatches a plot to remove

Bernard from his barge.

Episode Eighteen of: The Boyhood of Bernard Briggs taken from The Wizard December 22nd 1973

Bernard Briggs whistled cheerfully as he pedalled along the drive leading to the Manningham Education Department’s playing fields. Tiger, Bernard’s dog, cocked up an ear and joined in with a couple of barks.


Tiger was riding in the old pram that Bernard had fixed to his bike as a sidecar. “It should be a good game today, Tiger,” said Bernard. “Providing we get a referee with a bit more sense this time, that is.” Bernard was on his way to keep goal for Manningham West District Schools team against Brunton South in one of the opening rounds of the Midlands Junior School Shield. It was a replay of the game that Manningham had drawn at Brunton which Bernard considered that bad refereeing had prevented his team from winning. The impatient toot of a horn made Bernard look round. A car was slowing down behind. There were fences at each side of the drive, and there was no room to pass. The driver, a youngish man but nearly bald, leaned out of the window and jabbed his hand on the horn again. “Cool down, mister!” called Bernard. “This contraption of mine ain’t got wings!” “Shift over!” the man shouted. “This isn’t the way to the council refuse tip!” Bernard and his bike certainly wouldn’t have won any prizes for elegance. Bernard’s sweater was threadbare, his trousers patched. His hair stood in spikes. On the side of the battered pram were painted the words: “B. Briggs. Dealer.” Bernard was on his own. He lived on an old canal barge, and he kept Tiger and himself by dealing in scrap. It was a hard start in life for the lad who was later to become Britain’s most famous goalkeeper, but he didn’t let it get him down, and he just grinned at the man’s remark. The driver edged his car forward and the bumper nudged against the back of Bernard’s bike. Bernard was jolted in the saddle. Tiger, who had been standing with his front paws on the edge of the pram, gave a surprised yelp and fell into the bottom of the pram.

That’s Bernard standing there all poshed up, ready for the welfare johnnies who’ve come to inspect his barge-home.

Bernard put out his arm and waved it up and down in a slowing-down signal. He knew the Highway Code as well as he knew the rules of football. He put on the brakes and stopped. The car was forced to halt behind him. Bernard swung from the saddle. He made sure that Tiger was not hurt, then walked round to inspect the back of his bike. He ignored another angry blast from the car horn. “No damage done!” said Bernard. He walked to the car, and the driver glared out at him. “Where are your ‘L’ plates, mister?” he asked. “You impudent little urchin!” the man spluttered. “Use your loaf,” said Bernard. “There ain’t room for me to get out of the way, so you’ll have to stay behind me. And keep your distance!” Bernard pedalled on and the car crawled after him. The driver was fuming, but he did not try to bump Bernard again. When the drive opened out at the playing fields, the car roared past. Bernard had to put on his brakes as the driver cut in front of him. Halting outside the pavilion, the man got out carrying a bag. He gave a curt nod to Mr Cresswell, the Manningham selector, who was standing outside, and hurried into the pavilion. “Who’s that fellow?” Bernard asked Mr Cresswell. “That’s Mr Purser, the Chief Welfare Officer for Manningham.” Answered Mr Cresswell. “He’s our referee today, Bernard.” “Oh, no! I’ve heard better news!”

GIFT GOAL                                     

Mr Purser frowned when he saw Bernard trotting out with the Manningham team. Raising a hand, the referee beckoned in a lordly manner for Bernard to go to him. “Just a word of warning,” said Mr Purser. “I don’t stand for any roughneck tactics in a game I’m controlling. Just remember that, boy. I’ll be watching you.”

“You ain’t even seen me touch the ball yet,” said Bernard. “Do you call that fair, just because you and me had a dust-up before the game?” He ran to his goal, leaving Mr Purser red-faced. Standing on the touchline, Mr Cresswell sighed. “Bernard attracts more trouble than the rest of the team put together!”  he muttered. Brunton started off with a rush. Swinging the ball across the field, they thrust into the Manningham half. Their winger lifted the ball into the middle and Bernard came bounding out. He jumped, and pulled the ball down before the Brunton centre-forward could get his head to it. Bernard swerved away. His arm came over to throw the ball. “Move it, Manningham!” he bellowed. “Let’s have an early goal!” The referee whistled and Bernard halted. “What was that for, ref?” he demanded. “You took five steps without bouncing the ball, Briggs,” answered Mr Purser. “It’s a free kick.” “Somebody can’t count!” muttered Bernard, but he kept his remark to himself. The Brunton centre-forward dabbed the ball down of the spot. He took the kick quickly. Bernard did not move as the ball sailed past him into the net. Mr Purser whistled and pointed to the centre spot. “Hey, you can’t award a goal!” protested Bernard. “That was an indirect free kick. You can’t score direct from that.” “Any more chat from you and you’ll go off, Briggs!” blared Mr Purser. “I say it’s a goal!” With a gift goal under their belts, Brunton piled on the pressure. Their centre-forward came bursting through into the open space in front of Bernard. From behind him, the ball came soaring up. “He’s a mile offside!” muttered Bernard. But there was no peep from the referee’s whistle. Bernard did not waste time protesting. The centre-forward shot, and Bernard took off. At full stretch he tipped the ball over the bar for a corner. Brunton players crowded round for the corner. The ball came over, and Bernard plunged to take it. A Brunton player charged into him. Bernard stood firm, and the player bounced off. Bernard scooped the ball to him. “The ref let that go too!” thought Bernard. “He’s worse than the geezer we had last week!” Bernard cleared his lines, but Brunton came back. As Bernard cut out a cross, two Brunton players rushed at him. “These two are going to try to sandwich me!” muttered Bernard. He strode to meet them. The two players staggered as Bernard ploughed between them. “Not this time, mates!” grinned Bernard. The whistle shrilled and Mr Purser came running up. “I’m giving a penalty against you for violent and dangerous charging inside the area, Briggs!” he snapped. Bernard said nothing, but he thought a lot. He took up his position on the goal line. The Brunton centre-forward hammered the ball at him from the penalty spot. Bernard hurtled across his goal and clawed the ball down. “Lovely save, Bernard!” called Mr Cresswell. “A fluke!” sniffed a man who had just arrived. It was Mr Moult, Bernard’s teacher. Bernard was a long way from being the teacher’s pet. In fact, he was Mr Moult’s pet hate. Bernard took a quick glance at the field. The Brunton players had all moved up for the penalty. The Manningham centre-forward was standing alone, just inside his own half. Bernard hurled the ball in a mighty throw that dropped it at the centre-forward’s feet. “It’s all yours, Charlie!” he yelled. With only the goalkeeper to beat, the centre-forward raced away. The goalkeeper came rushing out in a panic. The Manningham centre-forward slammed the ball past him and into the net. “Goal!” yelled Bernard. “You can’t be offside in your own half!” grinned Bernard. “Even our ref seems to know that!” It became hectic in the second half, when Brunton swarmed to the attack, trying to snatch back the lead they had lost. They got as far as Bernard’s goal area, but no further. Bernard stopped everything they slammed at him. He pulled shots out of the air. He dived at forwards’ feet to take the ball off them. He moved fast, and thought faster. He was always in place to intercept the Brunton attacks. With time running out, Brunton were awarded a throw-in near the Manningham goal. Their left-half tried a long one into the box. Bernard raced out and snatched the ball down. He hurled the ball far down the field to his left winger. “Move it, Bert!” he bellowed. “Arthur’s backing you!” The Manningham winger raced the ball down the line and pulled it back. His inside man ran to it and hit it. The ball hurtled clear of the diving keeper and into the net. Sitting near Bernard’s goal. Tiger gave an excited bark. “You’re right, chum!” grinned Bernard. “That’s the winner!” Mr Purser blew for full-time a minute later. With a score of 2-1, Manningham were through to the next round. Mr Purser came off, and Mr Moult joined him. “Well, Peter, I warned you about Briggs,” said Mr Moult. “He’s impertinent and a know-all!” “I agree, John,” answered Mr Purser. “He continually criticized my decisions. But he’d better make the most of his brief triumph. He’ll soon be put in his place!”


Three days later the postman arrived at the wharf belonging to the Owen Engineering Company, where Bernard’s barge was moored. “Letters for me?” exclaimed Bernard. The first letter was from the District Football Association, inviting Bernard to play for the District team against Sheffley Central in the next round of the shield competition.

Bernard’s grin faded when he opened the second letter. “Bad news, Bernard?” asked the postman. “It’s from the Chief Welfare Officer,” said Bernard. “He says he’s bringing members of his committee to inspect my barge!” “You’d better get tidied up, lad,” said the postman. “That lot could have you sent to a home!” At school Bernard faced another dreary day with Mr Moult, but the teacher seemed to be in a good humour. “Scruffy as ever, eh, Briggs?” he said, sounding almost genial. “But the classroom will look a bit tidier when the welfare authorities have taken you in hand!” Bernard had learned to keep quiet under Mr Moult’s jibes, but that remark made him think. “How does Moulty know the welfare people are interested in me?” Bernard wondered. Sitting at his desk, Bernard had plenty to think about. Mr Moult began droning on, and Bernard let his thoughts wander. He was working out how to make his barge look as homely as possible. “I can scrub it out nice and clean, but it still won’t look up to much,” he pondered. “That Mr Purser is going to sink me if he can.” Mr Moult stopped talking. Bernard was sitting with his elbows on the desk, gazing into space. Mr Moult snatched a ruler and cracked it down on Bernard’s skull. “Ouch!” said Bernard. “Nice of you to join us, Briggs!” said Mr Moult, heavily sarcastic. “If you can’t work in class, you can stay after school and catch up.” Bernard groaned. This was one evening when it was important to get away early. “On second thoughts, keeping you in is probably a waste of time,” said Mr Moult, reaching for his cane. “Come out here!” Bernard got three stinging cuts from the cane on each hand, but he preferred that to being kept in. “I wonder why Moulty changed his mind?” Bernard asked himself. “I reckon he knows there’s trouble waiting for me tonight, and he wants to make sure I’m there to get it!” As soon as school was over, Bernard hurried out and scrambled on to his bike. Some of his pals followed him. “Got time for a game of football, Bernard?” asked Olly Potter. “Sorry, mates,” said Bernard. “If I don’t tidy up my barge, I’m likely to end up in a home.” He pedalled away to the wharf, and set to work scrubbing out the cabin of the barge. A shout from the towpath brought him out on deck. His school pals were climbing aboard. Olly Potter and another lad carried a television set. Two other boys had a roll of carpet. Another lad carried a standard lamp. “My dad said you could have this old television set, Bernard,” grinned Olly. “We’ve had a whip-round for the rest of the furniture. Some of it you can keep, the rest has to go back tonight. But it’ll fix your barge up nicely for the inspection!” “Well, thanks, mates!” said Bernard. “But I’ve got no electricity to work the television and standard lamps.” “My dad’s a foreman at the Owen Engineering Company,” said Jackie Carter. “Mr Owen’s always ready to give a hand, Bernard, and we’ve got permission to run a cable from the factory.” The boys carried the furniture down below. Olly handed Bernard a parcel wrapped in brown paper. “Put this gear on, Bernard,” he said. “It’s my best school uniform, but don’t fall in the canal wearing it. My Mum doesn’t know I’ve brought it!” About an hour later, Mr Purser bustled importantly on to the wharf. With him were Mr Hadley and Miss Trimmer, members of the welfare committee. “This is where the boy lives,” said Mr Purser. “Most unsuitable, you’ll agree.” “I’ve seen better residential districts,” said Mr Hadley, a blunt, red-faced man. “The boy matches his surroundings,” said Mr Purser. “He – oh!” Bernard was standing by the barge. He wore a neat school blazer, carefully pressed grey flannel bags, clean shirt, and school tie. He politely raised his new school cap. “Well where is this Bernard Briggs?” demanded Mr Hadley. “That’s me, sir,” said Bernard. “Would you care to come aboard?” He led the way down into the cabin. A carpet covered the floor. The television set stood in the corner, with an armchair in front of it, a standard lamp beside it an electric fire glowed. There were pictures on the wall, a vase of flowers on a gleaming table. “How cosy!” said Miss Trimmer. “Quite delightful! It does you credit, my boy!” “I don’t understand it!” spluttered Mr Purser. “My brother-in-law told me the place was a slum!” “You and Moult have been wasting our time, Purser!” grunted Mr Hadley. “Come on! We’ve no fault to find here, young Briggs!” Mr Hadley and Miss Trimmer marched away, with Mr Purser trailing behind. As soon as they had disappeared, Bernard’s pals bobbed into sight. “How did it go, Bernard?” asked Olly Potter. Bernard grinned, and gave the thumbs-up sign. “Couldn’t be better, mates,” he grinned. “We’re still in business.”

NEXT WEEK—Big trouble for

Bernard when the canal is

filled in.

Episode Nineteen of: The Boyhood of Bernard Briggs taken from The Wizard December 29th 1973

Bernard Briggs came leaping out of his goal. Soaring into the air above a ruck of players, arms at full stretch, he clawed the ball down.


A player thumped into him, with the referee unsighted. Caught off-balance, Bernard went down, but he still had the ball hugged to his chest. He rolled over, bounced to his feet, and dodged away. A long throw sent the ball out to his left-winger. “Shift it, Ernie!” bellowed Bernard. Bernard was enjoying himself. A hard game of football was his idea of a good time. He was keeping goal for the Manningham West District team against Sheffley Central in the quarter-finals of the competition for the Midland Junior Schools Shield. Bernard was already showing the skill and courage that were to make him Britain’s most famous goalkeeper in later years. However, he was not having an easy start in life. He lived in an old barge on his own, and he managed to keep himself and his dog, Tiger, by dealing in scrap. The Manningham attack was halted, and Sheffley came swarming back. With the second half just started, the score was still 0-0, and Sheffley were eager to get ahead. They piled on the pressure, and players crowded into Bernard’s goal area. A Sheffley forward tried a shot. Bernard moved across to cover it, but for once he was taken by surprise. The referee was running in, and the ball hit him. It spun off at an angle and skidded past Bernard into the net. The referee whistled and pointed to the centre spot. “Hey, ref, that went in off you!” protested the Manningham right back. “That’s no goal! We ought to have a goal kick!” “Sorry, lad,” said the referee, “It’s bad luck, but the goal stands.” The back started to argue, and Bernard cut him short. “Stop, nattering, mate, and get on with the game!” said Bernard. “The ref’s quite right! That was a goal! It’s in the rules, so there’s no use moaning!”

Bernard’s home disappears under a mountain of earth as the bulldozer begins to fill in the canal.


That unexpected goal put new life into Sheffley. They attacked again. Their winger tried to run the ball through along the line. The Manningham left back lunged in and booted the ball into touch. Sheffley took a quick throw-in. Their half-back slung the ball to his centre-forward, who was in space with only Bernard to beat. Instead of going after him, the Manningham centre-half stood and yelled at the referee. “Offside—ref!” “Crackpot!” shouted Bernard, seeing the referee wave play on. “You can’t be offside from a throw-in!” He raced out of his goal, plunging at the centre-forward and narrowing the angle. The Sheffley player took a quick dab at the ball as Bernard pounced and the shot went curving well outside the post. “Well done, Bernard!” called Mr Owen, who was standing on the touchline with Mr Cresswell, the Manningham selector. Mr Owen ran the Owen Engineering Company, and it was he who had given Bernard permission to use the barge moored near his factory. “Yes, Bernard Briggs is the real star of the team,” agreed Mr Cresswell. “He flustered that centre-forward into shooting wide, but you can’t fluster Bernard!” Bernard put the ball down for a goal kick, and took a quick look at the field. One of the Manningham forwards was unmarked near the Sheffley goal, bending to tie his bootlaces. “Arthur is in a great position,” thought Bernard. “He’s finished tying his lace. It’s worth a try.” Bernard backed off, took a quick run, and booted the ball so that it went soaring away down the field. “Look at that!” exclaimed Mr Owen. “For a young lad, Bernard’s a terrific kicker of a dead ball.” “And see where he’s placing it!” said Mr Cresswell. “Bernard uses his brains.” The ball bounced near the unmarked Manningham forward who pounced on it and swerved round, with only the goalkeeper to beat. It was the turn of the Sheffley players to shout. “Offside!” “Play on!” called the referee. The goalkeeper hesitated. When he started to move it was too late and Arthur slammed the ball wide of him into the net. “Goal!” roared Bernard. “We’ve got a good ref here! He knows you can’t be offside from a goal kick neither!” Sheffley tried to get back their lost lead, but Bernard wasn’t letting another one past him. He dived to hold a shot near the post. He jumped to pull one down from under the bar. He went full length at a forward’s feet to smother a shot. He bounced out to cut off a cross, and took the ball off the head of the Sheffley centre-forward. Sheffley began to get the feeling that the Manningham goal had been boarded up. The pressure began to slacken. They were running out of steam. “This is it!” muttered Bernard. He collected a shot, ran out, and bounced the ball round a Sheffley man who had tried to tackle him. “Run, Charlie!” he bawled. The Manningham inside-right swerved out to the wing. Bernard got his toe under the ball and lofted it away. The ball bounced in front of Charlie, whose winger had cut inside. Charlie swung the ball across. The winger went up to it, and it was there. “Goal!” bellowed Bernard. “That’ll see us through, lads!” Bernard was right. The referee blew for full-time, and Manningham were into the semi-final with a 2-1 win. “Thanks, ref!” said Bernard. “You know your stuff!” “You’re not so bad yourself, lad,” smiled the referee. Coming off, the referee spoke to Mr Cresswell and Mr Owen. “That goalkeeper of yours is worth keeping an eye on,” he said. “A great little player!” “You don’t know the half of it!” said Mr Owen. “He’s something special off the field as well.” Going to his car, Mr Owen met Bernard, who had Tiger frisking behind. “Congratulations, Bernard,” he said. “By the way. I’m off abroad on business for a time, but I’ve left instructions about you. There’ll be no problems about you continuing to use the barge.”


The trouble started for Bernard a few days later. He was returning home after an evening’s work looking for scarp. He had a pram fixed to his bike, and on the pram was painted: “B. Briggs. Dealer.” Tiger sat in the pram, sharing it with an old kettle and a bag of nuts and bolts.

“We ain’t had much luck on the rounds today, Tiger,” said Bernard. “I reckon I’ve cleaned out the district round about. We’ll have to go farther afield. But it’s difficult finding the time, what with going to school and everything.” He followed the wall round the Owen factory yard, and pedalled on to the wharf where his barge was moored. Tiger gave an angry bark, and Bernard stopped dead. “Cor!” he said. A bulldozer was at work on the wharf. Bernard saw the blade of the machine push a mound of earth into the canal near his barge. Leaping off his bike, Bernard ran to the bulldozer. “Hey, what are you up to, mister?” he yelled. “That’s my barge!” “They told me it was derelict,” said the driver. “Anyway, I’ve got my orders, son. This stretch of the canal has to be filled in. A danger to kids, they say.” Bernard whirled round and ran off the wharf, with Tiger at his heels. The Owen factory was still open, with a late shift at work, and Bernard raced into the reception office. “I want to see the manager!” he told the dapper office youth who came to the counter. “You’ve got a hope!” said the youth. “He doesn’t see scruffs like you!” Bernard vaulted the counter and the youth gave a yell. A big man in a dark suit came out of an inner office. “What’s going on?” he demanded. “This young hooligan tried to break in, Mr Duffy!” the youth bleated. “Mr Duffy?” said Bernard. “You’re the manager, ain’t you? Well, can you do something about my barge? Mr Owen said it would be all right, but some geezer’s trying to scuttle it!” “Yes, Mr Owen told me about you,” said the manager, “but I’m afraid this is nothing to do with us, lad. The town council have ordered the canal to be filled in. I understand a Mr Moult got up a petition complaining it was dangerous.” “Mr Moult?” gasped Bernard. “Crikey, I might have known!” Mr Moult was Bernard’s teacher. He disliked Bernard, and was always trying to make trouble for him. Bernard had always managed to come out on top before, but it looked as if Mr Moult had scored at last. Returning to the wharf, Bernard was in time to see his barge disappearing under a load of earth. His few possessions had been dumped on the wharf. “What’s the use of a bed with nowhere to put it!” muttered Bernard. “We’re homeless again, Tiger! Well, come on, mate!” He pedalled off, with Tiger looking downcast in the pram. It was getting dark, and he turned on to a rough patch of ground where buildings were being demolished to make way for new houses. “This’ll have to do, Tiger,” he said. He had brought his blankets with him from the barge, and he curled up in the pram with Tiger, pulling the blankets over them both. Bernard was no giant, but he was too big to sleep in the pram, and he had to curl up awkwardly to fit in. “I’ll be tied up in knots by the morning!” he grunted. He had just managed to doze off when something wet splashing on his face woke him up. Rain was starting to come down heavily. Bernard groped about the site and found a length of corrugated iron. With that over the pram, he and Tiger settled down underneath. The blankets were damp, and the pattering of the rain on the corrugated iron kept disturbing him. Bernard was glad when daylight came. He had a few coppers left over from his scrap deals, and he got a snack for himself and Tiger at a transport café, where the owner let him have a wash. It was pretty obvious that he had slept in his clothes when he arrived at school. Mr Moult was waiting for him. The teacher looked Bernard up and down with a sarcastic smirk on his face. “I’m not having you in my class looking like that, Briggs!” said Mr Moult. “This is a respectable school, not a pigsty!” “Well, whose fault is it that I ain’t able to tidy myself up proper?” said Bernard. He got a crack on the knuckles from Mr Moult’s ruler for that. Mr Moult pushed him to the door. “Any more impudence and I take you to the headmaster, Briggs!” blared Mr Moult. “Go and wash!” Bernard hurried out, keeping his mouth shut. He knew that Mr Moult had him at his mercy. While he was having a wash, Mr Robinson, the school janitor, came in. He was a friend of Bernard’s, and he had encouraged Bernard’s football ambitions. He brought a message from Mr Cresswell, the Manningham West District selector. “You’re picked for the semi-final against Liverport A, Bernard,” said Mr Robinson. “It’s to be held at Brunton. “Great!” said Bernard. “But I ain’t pleased about Brunton. I’ve played there before. Proper toffee-nosed place it is. For the rest of the week, Bernard had a hard time. He had to put up with Mr Moult during the day, and at night sleep rough. During one night he made himself snug in a henhouse, but the owner found him early in the morning, and chased him out. In addition to that, scrap was hard to find, and Bernard had to live on bread and marge. A friendly butcher gave him some bones in return for a hand in scrubbing out his shop, so Bernard made sure that Tiger did not suffer. The night before the Liverport game, Bernard slept in his pram, as usual. Cycling to Brunton the next day, he found it hard to stop yawning. “I ain’t had a good night’s sleep all this week!” he mumbled. “And I feel as stiff as an old plank!” The pitch at Brunton High School was one of the best that Bernard had played on, but he had some unpleasant memories of the place. One of the memories strolled up as Bernard took his place in goal. This was Major Maddox, a teacher at the school. Major Maddox had been the referee in the previous game, and he and Bernard had not seen eye to eye. With Major Maddox was Mr Moult. “There’s that young hooligan again!” exclaimed Major Maddox then pointed to where Bernard had tied his dog to the railings near the goal with a length of cord. “I told him before that dogs are not permitted here!” The captains joined the referee in the middle for the toss and Bernard leaned against the goalpost. Standing on the touchline, Mr Cresswell looked at him and frowned. “Young Bernard doesn’t seem as full of bounce as usual,” he thought. From the kick-off, Liverport hurled themselves into the attack. They were a big bustling side, and they bashed their way through. Their centre-forward slammed in a shot. Bernard jumped, and pushed the ball over the bar. “Briggs was slow there!” said Mr Moult, loudly. “Moulty was right!” thought Bernard. “I’m half asleep! I’d better shake myself up, or I’ll be giving this game away!” The corner came over. Bernard pounced out of his goal, clawed the ball down, and hurled it away. Liverport came back. Their centre-forward broke through with the ball at his feet. Bernard dived. He had a glimpse of his left-back running across. As he went down, Bernard’s fist shot out. He hit the ball and smacked it across to the Manningham back. “Boot it, Fred!” he yelled. The centre-forward fell over him, but the ball was away. The back lifted it down the line. The winger swerved in with it and put a high one over. Bernard got to his feet in time to see his centre-forward nod the ball in. “Goal!” roared Bernard. Liverport started throwing their weight about, trying to draw level. Bernard was kept busy, but he managed to hold his goal intact. With time running out, Manningham were still leading 1-0. Liverport pushed all their men up in a last desperate effort. There was a skirmish round the Manningham goal. Bernard plunged into it and grabbed the ball. Liverport players barged into him. Bernard went down, hugging the ball to him and players fell on top of him. Tiger jumped forward, barking. The cord snapped, and Tiger ran on to the pitch. Pinned down, Bernard had a glimpse of Tiger snapping at the ankles of the players on top of him. “Gerroff, Tiger!” gasped Bernard. “I’m all right!” “That dog’s vicious!” exclaimed Major Maddox. He beckoned to the school groundsman. “Watson, get rid of the brute!” When he got to his feet, Bernard saw the groundsman dragging Tiger away. The referee signalled a foul against Liverport. “Tiger will have to wait for a bit,” thought Bernard. “There’s the game to finish first.” He booted the ball away into the Liverport half. Manningham made ground, but Liverport got possession and came back. A long shot hurtled towards the Manningham goal. Bernard jumped and collected it neatly. A long blast from the referee signalled the end of the game. Manningham were through to the final. Bernard hurled the ball away and ran off the pitch. “Where’s my dog?” he asked major Maddox. “He’s been sent to the dog pound, where he belongs!” said Major Maddox.


NEXT WEEKBernard returns

to the Children’s Home and

an old enemy—Mrs Sprott



Episode Twenty of: The Boyhood of Bernard Briggs taken from The Wizard January 5th 1974


Bernard Briggs was pedalling towards Alfie’s junkyard when his bike gave a lurch. The pram attached to his bike as a sidecar sagged to one side.


“Crikey, more trouble!” muttered Bernard. He got off and walked round to look at the pram. The spokes of the wheel had given away, causing it to collapse. Bernard got hold of his bike and started to push. There were only a few oddments of scrap in the pram, but it wasn’t easy to move bike and pram with the buckled wheel dragging. Bernard was puffing when he reached Alfie’s yard. Alfie came out, wearing his usual ankle-length overcoat and battered bowler. “You’re right out of luck, son,” said Alfie, looking at the pram. “I ain’t half!” said Bernard. “Everything’s going wrong, Alfie.” Bernard was on his own. He had been living in an old barge with his dog, Tiger, and making a living by dealing in junk. But troubles were piling up for him, largely due to Mr Moult, Bernard’s teacher, who disliked the lad. Mr Moult had organised a petition to have the canal filled in, claiming that it was dangerous to children. Bernard’s barge had disappeared under the earth tipped into the canal. Then Bernard’s dog had been taken and put into kennels, on the pretext that Tiger was vicious. Even Bernard, who was full of fight, was losing some of his bounce under these blows. It was not a promising start to life for the boy who was later to become Britain’s most famous goalkeeper. “You ain’t got much to sell, neither,” said Alfie, looking into Bernard’s pram. “The stuff’s hard to come by,” said Bernard. “I reckon I’ve cleaned out the local neighbourhood. “I’ll have to go farther afield, but my transport’s packing up. “How about a swop, Alfie? This load for a new wheel.” “I’m not sure I’ve got anything to fit, Bernard, but have a look round,” said Alfie. Bernard searched among the junk in Alfie’s yard. The only wheel he could find that was anywhere near suitable was slightly larger than he wanted.

Bernard depends on his bike for a living and now a collapsed front

fork brings it all to an end.

Bernard decided that it would have to do, and he set to work to fit the wheel in place. It was still early in the morning. After sleeping in the pram on a patch of waste ground, Bernard had been up since dawn, looking for business. “What’s the time, Alfie?” he asked. From somewhere inside his coat, Alfie hauled out a chain that looked as if it had once held the anchor of the luxury liner, the Queen Elizabeth. There was a battered silver watch on the end of the chain. Alfie held the watch to his ear, shook it, and studied the dial. “My watch says ten past seven,” he said, “so I reckon it’s about eight o’clock.” “Time to look for a bit more business before I go to school,” said Bernard. “Ouch!” said Alfie, putting a hand to his side. “Anything wrong?” asked Bernard. “Touch of indigestion,” said Alfie. “Got you transport fixed? O.K, son, I’ll be here if you find anything.” Bernard pedalled away. The odd wheel didn’t improve the smooth running of his ancient vehicle, but at least he was mobile again. He headed for a district he had not tried before, and he found himself in a tree-lined road with large detached houses which stood in their own grounds. “These are the sort of places where they set the dog on a scruff like me!” thought Bernard, “but I’ll have a go, anyway.” An elderly lady, very severe and upright, was taking a morning stroll in one garden. She looked over the hedge at Bernard, and studied the words, “B. Briggs. Dealer” that were painted on his pram. “You, boy!” she called. “Do you collect rubbish?” “I’m a junk man, lady,” answered Bernard. “This way!” said the woman, beckoning in a commanding manner. Bernard followed her to an outbuilding that looked as if it had once been the stables to the house. Junk was piled up inside, almost to the ceiling. There were rolls of carpet, old furniture, vases, an ancient lawn mower, pictures, and a mass of odds and ends that Bernard had no time to take in. “I want all this cleared by five o’clock this evening,” said the woman. “I will give you a pound to take it away, and not a penny more!” “Done!” said Bernard. He grabbed the first object, the lawn mower and humped it to his pram. “It’ll take me all day to shift this lot,” he thought. “I’ll have to make umpteen trips to Alfie’s yard with the heavy load. The gates of the yard were open, but there was no sign of Alfie. A woman called from the doorstep of a house opposite. “They took Alfie away in an ambulance! He’s gone to hospital. Got pains inside.” “Gosh, that’s rough!” said Bernard. “Poor old Alfie! O K, lady, thanks. I’ll leave this stuff for him when he gets back.” That was the start of one of the hardest days in Bernard’s young life. He struggled on, loading up, pedalling to the yard, unloading, and back again. The mountain of junk had gone down considerably when a girl in maid’s uniform came out from the house. “Lady Marlin says you’re to come into the kitchen,” she told Bernard. In the kitchen, the maid put a huge plate of sausage and mash in front of Bernard, and a large helping of trifle. Bernard’s eyes opened wide. It was a long time since he had seen such a meal. “Lady Marlin has been watching you work, and she says it’s time you had something to eat,” the maid explained. Bernard mumbled his thanks through a mouthful of sausage and mash. After the meal, he set to with a new energy. He was piling up the last load when the elderly lady came out of the house. “Five minutes to five, young man,” she said. “And that’s the last load, lady!” grinned Bernard. “I’ve done it.” He scrambled into the saddle, and stood on the pedals to get the bike moving. “You’re not afraid of hard work, B. Briggs,” said Lady Marling, “but that contraption of yours doesn’t look too safe.” “It’s had a lot to do today,” said Bernard, “but I reckon it’ll get me there.” Bernard was almost right. He had reached the gates of Alfie’s yard when his bike finally collapsed. The front forks gave way, and the wheel dropped out. The pram keeled over, breaking loose from its fastenings. Bernard gasped as he went sprawling in the road. He was picking himself up when he heard a familiar voice. “Briggs! I thought I might find you here!” Mr Moult, Bernard’s teacher was standing over him. “Playing truant, eh?” said Mr Moult, with great satisfaction. “Right! I’ll see this is reported in the proper quarters!” As he went marching away, Bernard pulled a face. “I’m in it up to my neck now!” he muttered. “Well, I can’t leave this stuff lying in the road.” He started carrying in the scattered load of junk. Among the articles was a polished wooden box. “Feels heavy,” thought Bernard. “Wonder what’s in it? I’ll look later.” He brought in the rest of the junk, and the remains of his bike. He had put the furniture in Alfie’s shed, and he settled down in an armchair. “I’ll spend the night here,” he decided. “I’ve nowhere else to go, and I can keep an eye on Alfie’s yard for him. Phew, I’m tired!” But Bernard did not have long to rest. He heard voices, and in marched Mr Moult. With him was Mr Purser, who was not only the Chief Welfare Officer, but also Mr Moult’s brother-in-law. “There he is, Peter!” said Mr Moult. “Come on, Briggs,” said Mr Purser. “You’re in need of care and attention! It’s the Children’s Home for you!” Bernard had had a spell in the Home before. The matron Mrs Sprott, was a sort of female Moult. She took Bernard by the arm and hustled him to a small room on his own. “So, you’re back again, you young hooligan!” she said. “Don’t expect to be treated like an ordinary child, you urchin! In you go!” She pushed Bernard into a dingy room, which had only a small bed with one blanket. The door slammed behind Bernard, and he heard the key turn in the lock. Bernard sat on the bed. “I’m really down and out this time!” he muttered.


THE MARLING CUP                      

Mr Moult welcomed Bernard into the classroom with a triumphant smirk.  

“I didn’t recognise you at first, Briggs,” he said. “They must have cleaned you up at the Home. By the way, I have a message from Mr Cresswell, the Manningham West District selector. You are in the team for the final of the shield competition against Bradburn at Sheffley on Saturday. But you won’t be able to play of course, now you are in care.” “Who says not?” thought Bernard. “I ain’t letting the team down. I’ll be there!” But on Saturday, Bernard was still at the Home, locked in his room. There was no sign of him when Manningham West team met Mr Cresswell to catch their coach to Sheffley. Mr Moult strolled up to join them. “We’ll have to go without young Briggs,” frowned Mr Cresswell. At that moment, Bernard was listening at the door of his room. Everything had gone quiet, and he decided that Mrs Sprott was safely out of the way. Bernard took the blanket from his bed, knotted an end round one of the bars at the window, and pushed it out. He squeezed through, slithered down, and dropped the rest of the way to the ground. Then he ran. He reached the town square in time to see the team bus pulling away. “Missed it!” he gasped, “well, I’ll have to use my thumb!” In the dressing-room at Sheffley, Mr Cresswell was just going to tell the reserve keeper to get changed when Bernard burst in. “Sorry, mister, I got held up!” panted Bernard. “I finally got a lift in a lorry carrying pigs swill!” “It smells like it!” said Mr Cresswell. “Well, hurry and change, lad. We’ve brought your strip.” Bernard p0ulled off his clothes and plunged under the shower. Mr Moult hurried into the dressing-room. “Did I see Briggs?” he demanded. “That boy’s broken out of the Home! He must be sent back at once!” “Bernard’s in our team, and he’s playing!” said Mr Cresswell. “That’s all that concerns me! Now get out of the dressing-room, Moult! You’ve no authority here!” Bernard took his place in goal, and watched the teams lining up for the kick-off. The game started with an attack by Bradburn. They worked the ball along the line, and it came soaring into the goal area. Bernard ran out, jumped and collected the cross confidently. With an overarm throw he sent the ball away to his left-half. The Manningham attack was blocked, and Bradburn came back. The centre-forward thrust his way through and fired off a block-buster. “Laugh that off!” he yelled. Bernard took off across his goal like a rocket. He seemed to grow in flight. With one arm at full stretch, he clawed the ball down from the top corner of the goal. “Good save, Bernard!” called a voice. Bernard got the ball away, and looked in the direction of the voice. Grinning, he gave a thumbs-up sign. Mr Owen was among the spectators. Mr Owen was a factory owner with an interest in junior football, and it was he who had originally given Bernard permission to use the old barge. He had been abroad on business, and there had been nobody to speak up for Bernard when the barge was destroyed. Bradburn piled on the pressure. Bernard dived to block another shot. He leapt out to cut off a cross. He went down on one knee to collect another attempt. Nothing that Bradburn tried could get past him, and their play began to get a bit rough. A player charged at Bernard as he took the ball. The referee raised his whistle, then let play go on. It was the Bradburn player who had come off worst. Bernard stood his ground, and the player bounced off him. Bradburn attacked down the wing again. The ball came over; Bernard went up, two Bradburn forwards with him. Bernard swung a fist, and hit one of the Bradburn lads on the nose. The whistle shrilled. “Look at that!” said Moult. “A deliberate punch from Briggs! The hooligan can’t restrain his natural impulses!” But the referee was speaking to the Bradburn player, who was rubbing his nose. “Cut that out!” said the referee. “I saw you shove your elbow into the goalkeeper’s ribs!” “That’s right,” grinned Bernard, “but he made trouble for himself. He put me off my aim as I was going for the ball, and I hit him instead!” Bernard dabbed the ball down to take the free kick and his forwards moved up. Bradburn players ran quickly to mark them. Bernard tapped the ball to his left-back, and raced on. “Back to me, mate!” he yelled. The back lifted the ball ahead of Bernard. The Bradburn players hesitated as they saw the opposition goalkeeper pounce on the ball and run it towards them. Bernard crossed the halfway line, and kept going. The Bradburn centre-half came lunging at him. Bernard slowed, picked up speed again, and went past, the ball at his feet. His centre-forward was running across the goalmouth, unmarked. The goalkeeper pointed at him and yelled. “Offside!” The referee waved play on, pointing to a defender who was pounding after the centre-forward. Bernard hit the ball, the goalkeeper dived. “Goal!” chortled Bernard. “You want to play to the whistle, chum!” Time was running out. Dominating his goal area, Bernard let nothing past him. A long blast from the whistle announced the end of the game. Bernard did a cartwheel to celebrate winning the shield. His team mates grabbed him and pushed him forward to accept the award. “Lady Marlin will present the shield,” announced an official. The elderly woman waiting with the shield was the woman whose junk Bernard had removed. “You seem to have many talents, young man!” she said. “It gives me great pleasure to present this shield. I’m only sorry it couldn’t be the Marling Cup, donated by my late husband, but that disappeared years ago.” “The Marling Cup?” said Bernard. “I think I might know where that is, lady!” Bernard travelled back to Manningham by car, in company with Lady Marling and Mr Owen. Jumping out of the car at Alfie’s yard, Bernard was greeted by excited barking. A delighted mongrel rushed out at him, followed by Alfie. “Tiger!” gasped Bernard. “And you’re back too, Alfie!” “Got back yesterday,” said Alfie. “The doctors thought it was appendicitis, but I told ‘em it was only indigestion. I found Tiger here. He must have broken out of the kennels and come looking for you.” Bernard took the polished wooden box from among the junk, and opened it. There was a silver cup inside. “I found this among the junk and put it on one side,” he told Lady Marling. “I thought it might be important, but I ain’t had a chance to come back for it until now.” “Yes, that’s the Marlin Cup!” exclaimed Lady Marlin. “Well done, boy! There’s a reward offered for its return, and you’ve earned it!” Another car drew up. Mr Moult got out. With him were Mr Purser, the Welfare Officer, and Mrs Sprott. Mr Purser and the matron rushed at Bernard and grabbed him. “Come on, Briggs!” snapped Mr Moult. “Back to the Home where you belong, you young lout!” He backed away as Tiger snarled. He looked even more nervous as Lady Marling advanced on him. “Just a minute, my man!” she said. “What right have people got to come here bullying this boy? I want to hear more about this!” Mr Moult and his cronies tried to splutter explanations, and were cut down to size by Lady Marling and Mr Owen. Routed, the three of them crept back to their car. “I shall be seeing the authorities about your high-handed behaviour,” said lady Marling. “I can testify that the boy is quite capable of looking after himself. He’s not a criminal to be locked up. I’m sure Mr Owen will join me in accepting responsibility for him.” “Certainly,” said Mr Owen, “and I’ll help Bernard to get his business started again, Lady Marling.” A week later, the business of B. Briggs, Dealer, was flourishing. Bernard had a new home and store under a railway arch, and he had a horse and cart, bought out of the reward money. Mr Owen watched Bernard bringing in his first load of junk, with Tiger sitting on top of the load. “Everything’s sorted out, Bernard,” said Mr Owen. “The full story of how Mrs Sprott was running the home has come out into the open. She has been dismissed from the Welfare Service, and her illegal treatment of you and the other children will be investigated by the police. What do you aim to be – a millionaire junk dealer, or a star footballer?” “I ain’t never going to be a millionaire,” grinned Bernard. “But I reckon I can be a dealer and a footballer. The junk business is a living, but football’s fun!”





The Boyhood of Bernard Briggs 20 episodes appeared in The Wizard August 25th 1973January 5th 1974


© D. C. Thomson & Co Ltd 

Vic Whittle 2006