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Episodes 6 – 10


 Episode Six of: The Boyhood of Bernard Briggs taken from The Wizard September 29th 1973


Young Bernard Briggs and his dog, Tiger, sat on the deck of the barge that was their home, with a small slice of corned beef on a tin plate between them.


The meat was their breakfast, all that was left over from supper the previous night. “It ain’t much for two!” said Bernard. Tiger wagged his tail, then flopped out a length of tongue and licked his lips. One ear went up. “All right, you can have it!” said Bernard. Tiger pounced at the plate. Two quick gulps, and the corned beef had gone. Tiger jumped on to the towpath and bounded away. Bernard heard a brief scuffle. Tiger trotted back with a dead rat in his mouth. He dropped the offering at Bernard’s feet. “Cor!” said Bernard. “It’s a kind thought, Tiger, but get rid of it! I could eat a horse, but I draw the line at a rat!” At the age of eleven, Bernard was on his own. He lived on the barge by permission of Mr Owen, who owned the wharf and the factory it belonged to. Mr Owen was also a football referee, and he had been impressed by Bernard’s skill at football. Permission to use the old barge was the only help that Bernard would accept.

He was fiercely independent, and he was trying to keep himself by dealing in scrap. He had the use of an errand-boy’s bike in return for making deliveries for Mr Smith, the grocer to whom the bike belongs. All this and school as well kept him on the go. It was a hard start in life for the boy who was later to become Britain’s most famous goalkeeper. Having finished his breakfast before he had even started, Bernard got on his bike and pedalled away, with Tiger sitting in the basket up front. Bernard hoped to collect some scrap before it was time to start school. He drew a blank at the first house he tried. “Sorry, son,” said the woman who answered the door. “There was a man round last week. He collected all our Junk.” Bernard decided it was no use trying anywhere else in that street, and he moved on. He found another road, but had no better luck there.


A burst boot causes a miskick and Bernard Briggs gives the opposing centre an easy chance to score

“We save all our unwanted stuff for the church jumble sale,” he was told at the first house he went to. At the next house, the door was opened by a tubby man who had a large moustache to make up for the lack of hair on the top of his head. By his side was a big dog. “Clear out!” said the man, before Bernard could speak. “We don’t want riff-raff round here! See him off, Boris!” The dog bounded forward. Tiger shot past Bernard, leaping at the other dog and barking furiously. The other dog was twice Tiger’s size, but it turned tail. It bolted back into the house, knocking the man over in its hurry. That gave Bernard a laugh, but he wasn’t laughing when he pedalled on to school afterwards. He hadn’t collected as much as a brass washer on his morning rounds. B. Briggs, scrap dealer, had problems. Mr Robinson, the school janitor, allowed Bernard to keep Tiger in the basement boiler room. Bernard installed Tiger down there with a bowl of fresh water to drink, and hurried away to the classroom. Life was rough inside the classroom as well as out for Bernard. Mr Moult, his teacher, didn’t like him. The teacher objected to Bernard’s shabby clothes and his spirited ways. Mr Moult’s idea of the perfect schoolboy was Cyril Dallow, the class toady, who was always neatly dressed, and made a habit of rushing to hold open the door for his teacher. “Today I’m going to tell you about James Watt, the Birmingham inventor,” announced Mr Moult. “You may have seen the picture that shows him watching a kettle boiling. This gave him the idea of inventing a steam engine. Mr Moult droned on, and Bernard let his thoughts wander. He had business difficulties on his mind. “I’ve got to get scrap from somewhere,” he thought, “but where do I find a place that hasn’t been cleaned out already?” Mr Moult paused. He had noticed Bernard’s faraway expression. One of the teacher’s rare smiles crossed his face. He was always pleased when he thought he saw a chance of jumping on Bernard. Bernard blinked, then got to his feet. “What have I been talking about, Briggs?” demanded Mr Moult. Bernard racked his brains, but no idea came to him. Jackie Carter, in the next desk, edged his open notebook forward. Bernard had a glimpse of the words “James Watt” written in large letters at the top of a page in the notebook. “Er – you were talking about James Watt!” said Bernard. “Well?” snapped Mr Moult. “Is that all you can say? Which team does he play for?” There was a snigger from Cyril Dallow as Bernard collected his thoughts. “James Watt was a Scottish engineer,” said Bernard. “The story about him inventing the steam engine isn’t right. Trevithick and Newcomen and others had already developed it. Watt improved the steam engine by introducing a separate condenser. He moved to Birmingham and set up with Matthew Boulton to build the improved engines—” “All right, all right!” interrupted Mr Moult. “I don’t want a lecture! And don’t try to correct me! Of course I know that Watt didn’t invent the steam engine! I was just simplifying the story for the benefit of our blockheads!” Bernard sat down and gave Jackie a wink. The bell rang, and Mr Moult hurriedly dismissed the class. The boys crowded out, and Mr Moult brushed past them. “He’s on his way to the school library to brush up his history!” grinned Jackie Carter. “It shook him when you put him right, Bernard.” “I’m interested in industry and such,” said Bernard. “Thanks for the tip, Jackie. I owe you a favour.” “O.K., Bernard then how about keeping goal for the youth club tonight?” asked Jackie. “Our regular keeper can’t turn out.” “You’re on, mate!” said Bernard. “But I’ll have to do my deliveries first.”



The youth club had hired a pitch in the local park for their game. The teams were changing in the shed that served as dressing rooms when Bernard trundled up on his bike. Bernard had been busy since leaving school that afternoon, making deliveries of groceries for Mr Smith.

On his way round with his deliveries he had also been making enquiries about scrap, with no more luck than before. Bernard parked his bike against the wall of the shed. Tiger jumped out of the basket and sat down on guard. Some of the lads in the youth club team hadn’t met Bernard before, and they looked a bit doubtful when Jackie Carter introduced him as their substitute goalkeeper. Bernard was certainly a long way from being the dressiest ‘keeper in youth football. “Your boots look on their last legs!” one of the boys remarked. “That’s right, mate – mine!” said Bernard, ramming the boots on. He never bothered with stockings. “Who are we playing, anyway?” He looked up, and saw a familiar figure going by the window outside. “Crikey!” he exclaimed. “There’s old Moaner Moult!” “That’s right, Bernard,” said Jackie. “We’re playing the school. Mr Moult is the referee!” Mr Moult nearly swallowed his whistle when he saw Bernard trotting out with the youth club team. He ran to his goal. Mr Robinson, the school janitor, was standing on the touchline. Mr Moult was officially in charge of the school team, but only his favourites got picked. Mr Robinson encouraged lads like Bernard who had talent, but got left out. “You show ‘em, Bernard!” said Mr Robinson. “I’ll do me best, mister!” said Bernard. The school team won the toss, and chose to play down the slight slope. Bernard watched his team kick off. The youth club forwards worked their way down. The school goalkeeper smothered a shot and cleared. “Nicely done!” called Mr Moult. The school team swung on to the attack. Their striker ran on to a pass and slammed in a shot. Bernard dived and fell on the ball. He rolled aside, bounced to his feet and sent a long throw accurately to his centre-half. The centre-half was slow off the mark, and he was robbed. Back came the school team. Their right-winger lifted the ball across. The centre-forward leapt in. Bernard pounced off his line, went up high, and punched the ball clear. “Wake up, mates!” he roared. The school piled on the pressure and Mr Moult found enough breath for a shout. “Swing it about, school!” The ball came loose in the centre and the striker ran for it. “Shoot!” roared Mr Moult. “We’re playing twelve men!” thought Bernard. The centre-forward hammered the ball and it hurtled towards the top corner of the goal. “Goal!” shouted Mr Moult. Bernard took off. At full stretch he clawed the ball down. He hit the ground and bounded up again. Bouncing the ball, he dodged a forward who was rushing at him, and booted clear. The ball soared out to his winger. “Take it outside the back, lad!” shouted Mr Robinson. The winger went down the line, outside the back. A high cross came over. The youth club centre-forward pounced on it as a defender rushed at him. “Pass it back!” yelled Mr Robinson. “You’ve got a man unmarked near the penalty spot!” The centre-forward hooked the ball back to his unmarked inside man. A quick shot, and the ball skimmed just outside the post, with the goalkeeper beaten. Mr Moult gave a blast on his whistle, then strode across to Mr Robinson. “I won’t have coaching from the touchline!” snapped Mr Moult. “All right, Mr Moult,” said the janitor. “I’ll stop coaching from the touchline, if you’ll stop coaching from the middle!” Mr Moult spluttered. But he turned away without another word. Mr Robinson winked at Bernard. The school piled on the pressure. The centre-forward burst through and blasted a shot that went past the post. Bernard brought the ball back and took the goal kick. The toe-cap flew off his right boot as he connected and the ball bounced feebly away. “Cor!” said Bernard. The school centre-forward rushed in and hit the ball. It shot past Bernard and into the goal. Mr Moult blew a blast on his whistle. Bernard collected the ball and dabbed it down for another goal kick. Mr Moult was pointing to the centre spot. “What are you doing, Briggs?” he demanded. “That was a goal!” “Not according to the rules, ref!” said Bernard. “The ball has to leave the penalty area from a goal kick!” Mr Moult huffed and puffed, then angrily signalled for the goal kick to be taken again. Time was running out, and the youth club lads made a last effort to make victory sure. Their centre-forward broke through with only the goalkeeper to beat. A defender raced across, went into a sliding tackle, and brought the centre-forward down. Even Mr Moult had to give a penalty for that. Jackie Carter put the ball on the spot, and looked round at his mates. Nobody seemed eager to take the kick. Jackie waved. “You come and take it, Bernard!” he yelled. Bernard ran down the pitch. He did a shuffle as he reached the ball, then kicked. “Ouch!” he said. He had kicked with his right foot, the one that had only half a boot. The goalkeeper dived the wrong way, and the ball shot between the posts. “That fooled him!” grinned Bernard. “He thought I was bound to use my good boot.” That was the last kick of the game and the triumphant youth club team trotted off. “You were great, Bernard!” said one of them. “Any time you want a game, don’t forget us!” Bernard changed quickly and pedalled off with Tiger in the basket. Trundling along the towpath, he reached the barge and dismounted. Tiger jumped down and ran along the towpath. “Come on, pal!” said Bernard. “What have you got there?” Tiger was crouching over the water, tugging at something with his teeth. Bernard reached down and pulled out part of an old bedstead. “Crikey!” said Bernard. He rolled up his sleeve, lay down on the bank, and groped about in the shallow water. He pulled out an old bicycle wheel, then an ancient pram. “Good old Tiger!” chortled Bernard. “You knew what I wanted, didn’t you? This canal’s a proper junk tip!” Bert Lewis, a local scrap dealer, was just closing his yard when Bernard arrived, pushing his bike. An assortment of junk was heaped up in the basket of the bike. “A pound for the lot!” said the dealer. “Done!” said Bernard. “And I’ll have some more for you, tomorrow!” Back at the barge, Bernard spread out a feast – fish and chips for himself, a piece of fish for Tiger. “The best meal I’ve had today!” said Bernard. “In fact, the only meal! Eat up, Tiger! You’re the one who smelled out this supper! We’re in business again, partner!”


NEXT WEEKBernard finds

himself in an awkward spot

when a thief takes a shine to

his bike.



Episode Seven of: The Boyhood of Bernard Briggs taken from The Wizard October 6th 1973


Bernard Briggs picked up his bike from the deck of the barge where he lived. “Time for school, Tiger!” he said. His pup frisked round him, barking as Bernard lowered his bike on to the canal towpath.


He couldn’t afford a luxury like a watch, but the blare of a hooter from a nearby factory told him that it was half-past eight. “Stay, Tiger!” ordered Bernard. “Old Moulty doesn’t like seeing you at school!” Mr Moult was Bernard’s teacher, and Bernard was a long way from being teacher’s pet. Mr Moult objected to Bernard’s threadbare sweater and patched jeans, and Bernard’s sturdy independence irritated him. Bernard was on his own, and determined to make his own way. Bernard had tidied up the old barge and made it into a home for himself and his dog. Painted on the side of the barge were the words – “B. Briggs. General Dealer.” A similar notice was fixed to the frame of the bike. Bernard was scraping enough to live on by dealing scrap metal. Outside school hours, he also made deliveries for Mr Smith, a local grocer, and in return Mr Smith let Bernard use the bike. It was a hard start in life for the lad who was later to become the best-known goalkeeper in Britain. Bernard waved good-bye to Tiger, and swung a leg over the saddle. He heard a sharp ripping noise. “Cor, there go me trousers!” he gasped. He craned round. Things felt a bit draughty, but he couldn’t see how much damage had been done. “Well, I ain’t got another pair, and there’s no time to do anything about it,” he muttered. “I’ll just have to hope it don’t show too much.” Bernard pedalled away to school. He put the bike in the bike shed and sidled cautiously towards the school entrance, keeping his back to the wall. Mr Robinson, the school caretaker, came up the steps from the boiler room. “Morning, Bernard,” he said. “Have you seen the school team for the shield match?” Mr Moult was officially in charge of school football, but it was Mr Robinson who encouraged the lads like Bernard. “No, I ain’t,” said Bernard. “But I can tell you one thing – my name won’t be on the list!”

The bicycle thief had thought he was safe until Bernard’s all-out kick turned the football into a travelling knock-out.

“Er – Mr Robinson, would you have such a thing as a needle and thread?” Mr Moult came out, swinging a handbell. He frowned at Bernard. “Trying to think of some excuse for playing truant, Briggs?” he snapped. “Get inside!” Bernard edged past him. Mr Moult followed, and Bernard walked backwards into the classroom. “Why are you walking like that, Briggs?” demanded Mr Moult. Cyril Dallow, the class toady, was already at his desk. He sniggered as he saw Bernard backing towards him. “Hee, hee, Briggs has ripped the seat of his pants!” said Cyril. Mr Moult grabbed Bernard and spun him round. “You ragamuffin, Briggs!” snorted Mr Moult. “You get scruffier every day! I won’t have you coming into my classroom looking like that!” “I’ll have to go back home then!” said Bernard. “These are the only trousers I’ve got!” “Don’t be impudent with me!” said Mr Moult. Holding Bernard by the arm, he hustled him out. “I know where we can smarten you up!” Mr Moult marched Bernard into the domestic science room. A class of girls was at their desks, and Miss Parker, the young woman teacher in charge, was handing out some sewing work. “Miss Parker, I’d like your help in civilizing this urchin!” said Mr Moult. The girls giggled. Mr Moult pulled Bernard round to display his torn trousers, and they giggled again. Bernard scowled. He knew that Mr Moult was trying to make him look small, but Miss Parker didn’t join in the game. “I don’t see anything to laugh at, girls,” she said briskly. “Accidents can happen to the best of us! All right, hop behind that screen and get your trousers off, lad. I’ll mend them for you.” “Thanks, miss, but if you’ll give me a needle and thread, I’ll have a bash meself,” said Bernard. “I’ve got to learn to do things on me own.” “Good lad!” smiled Miss Parker. “That’s the spirit! Well, we won’t keep you, Mr Moult.” Mr Moult trudged away with the feeling that his idea had misfired somewhere. Behind the screen, Bernard sat wrapped in a length of old curtain and codged away at his trousers with needle and thread. “Girls are cleverer than they look!” he muttered. “This sewing lark ain’t easy!” He shifted in his chair to get more light from a nearby window and a movement caught his eye. A loutish young fellow was dodging away across the playground, and he was pushing Bernard’s bike. “My bike!” gasped Bernard. “That yobbo’s pinching it!” Miss Parker and the girls were startled as the screen crashed over. Bernard came bursting out in his stockinged feet, clutching the length of curtain round him. “Sorry, miss, but a thief’s got my bike!” yelled Bernard, racing for the door. He hared down the corridor and out into the playground. The thief was pedalling away on the bike. “Come back!” roared Bernard. He wasn’t dressed for running, but he sprinted out into the street. Mr Robinson ran after him. “Slow down, Bernard!” shouted the janitor. “You can’t run about the town like that!” Bernard came to a halt for he had no chance of catching the young fellow on the bike. The thief disappeared round a corner, and Bernard walked back. “Get dressed, and we’ll inform the police,” said Mr Robinson. Back inside the school, Miss Parker was waiting. She held out Bernard’s trousers. “I finished the job for you, Bernard,” she said. “Smashing!” said Bernard. “That’s real neat! Hardly shows! Ta very much, Miss Parker!” While Bernard got dressed, Mr Robinson rang the police, and also Mr Smith. A policeman in a panda car arrived and took details, but he did not seem very hopeful. By the time the policeman and Mr Smith left, classes were coming out for the mid-morning break. Miss Parker and Mr Moult were talking with other teachers as they made their way to the staff room, and Miss Parker called Bernard over. “Bernard, Mr Moult was just remarking that he needs a goalkeeper to play against the school team in a final trial today,” she said. “I’m sure you’re just the lad he’s looking for! A boy who goes thief hunting dressed in a curtain is afraid of nothing!” Some of the other teachers nodded agreement, but Mr Moult looked as if he had a sudden attack of toothache. Bernard grinned. “Thanks, Miss Parker,” he chirped. “I’ll be happy to play!”


Bernard looked very dapper as he trotted out with the rest of the trial team. He was wearing a reserve strip reluctantly provided by Mr Moult, and he had on a pair of boots that Mr Robinson had found for him.


“That’s a likely-looking lad,” said a red-faced man. Mr Moult was coming out to referee the game, and he overheard the remark. “If it’s Briggs you’re talking about, you couldn’t be more wrong!” said Mr Moult. “He looks human for once because he’s in borrowed gear! As for his football, he’s only in the team as a last minute stopgap!” The school team kicked off and they came surging into the attack, eager to show the reserves a thing or two. The ball came through on the left, a high one lifted into the goal area. Bernard hurled himself out and took off. The school centre-forward jumped too late, and Bernard punched the ball clear. Back came the attackers. Bernard dived through a tangle of players and came out the other side with the ball in his hands. He side-stepped a charge and booted the ball away. It soared towards the centre, and dropped at the feet of the reserve striker. “Shift it, mate!” yelled Bernard but a quick tackle robbed the reserve player. The school team were putting on the pressure again. One of their front men tried a snap shot from well out, hoping to catch Bernard unsighted. Bernard had a glimpse of the ball at the last second. He went up like a rocket and tipped the ball over the bar. “Some stopgap!” said the red-faced man. “I have a feeling I’ve seen you somewhere,” said Mr Robinson. “Are you the father of one of these lads!” “No,” said the man. “But I often get round to these junior matches. My name’s Cresswell.” “John Cresswell?” exclaimed Mr Robinson. “Gosh, I can guess why you’re here! And Mr Moult was trying to tell you about football! That’s a laugh!” “That lad Bernard Briggs is keeping them out on his own!” said Cresswell. The school winger worked the ball down the line. He dodged round the back and lifted a high one across. Bernard went up, and two of the school forwards went up with him. Bernard was caught in a sandwich as the two players shoved and jostled. Bernard grunted as a sharp elbow prodded into his ribs, but it was Bernard who took the ball, his hands slapping firmly round it. The three of them collapsed in a heap as Mr Moult blew a solo on his whistle. “And about time!” muttered Bernard’s left-back, then he stared for Mr Moult was pointing at the penalty spot. “Hey, what’s that for, ref?” the back demanded. “Obstruction by the goalkeeper!” said Mr Moult. “Blimey, you must be joking!” said the back. Mr Moult went red, and Bernard pushed the back away. “Don’t argue with the ref, mate!” said Bernard. “A penalty it is, if he says so! Mind you the award for an obstruction is an indirect free kick.” Mr Moult dumped the ball down on the penalty spot. From the touchline, Mr Robinson and Mr Cresswell watched. The school striker took a run and hammered the ball. Bernard dived full length, got a touch and killed most of the pace, but the ball spun away. Bernard rolled like a cat and slapped his hand down again, checking the ball on the line. He lay without moving as Mr Moult ran up. “Thought I’d stay here so you could check it hasn’t gone over, ref!” grinned Bernard. Mr Moult grunted, but even he couldn’t award a goal. Bernard had obviously held the ball before it crossed the line. The attacks on Bernard’s goal continued, as the reserve defence was shaky, and the school team kept breaking through. They got as far as the goal area, but no further. Bernard had the shutters up, and nothing got past him. “There must be a one-way sign up!” panted Bernard, dropping to smother yet another shot. He bounced to his feet, clutching the ball. A forward lunged at him, and Bernard stood firm. They met shoulder to shoulder, and it was the forward who bounced off. Bernard dodged away, dropped the ball, and swerved it past an opponent. He ran the ball down the field, and his team mates raced to keep up with him. Bernard glanced towards the touchline, intending to put a pass out to his winger. Beyond the touchline was a line of spiked railings, with a road on the other side. Cycling along the road was a youth on an errand-boy’s bike. “Stone the crows, it’s him!” shouted Bernard. “The thief and my bike! Hey, stop you!” The young fellow on the stolen bike looked round in alarm, then he began to pedal faster. Bernard tapped the ball forward and booted it. The ball shot away and soared over the railings. The thief gave a yell as the ball clouted him on the side of the head. He swerved, and crashed down in the road “Briggs! What are you doing?” shouted Mr Moult. Bernard didn’t stay to answer. He was sprinting towards the railings. Over he went, and he heard a ripping noise. “Cor, I’ve torn my pants again!” gasped Bernard. The thief was scrambling to his feet. He made a grab at the bike, then changed his mind when he saw Bernard pounding at him, fists clenched. The thief swerved away, almost into the path of an approaching van. Horn blaring, tyres screaming, the van skidded. It missed the thief, but there was a crash as it hit the bike. Then came a bang. The van had gone over the football as well. The thief raced away as the shaken van driver got out. Bernard dragged the wrecked bike from under the van. Mr Moult came hurrying up. He had left the field by a gate further up. He was followed by Mr Robinson and Mr Cresswell. “It was the only way I could think of to stop the thief,” said Bernard. “And a fat lot of good it’s done you!” said Mr Moult. “The bike’s wrecked!” “The van went over the ball as well,” said Bernard. “Sorry about that!” “And look at your shorts!” fumed Mr Moult. “A great tear in them! You’ve ruined the reserve strip I lent you! You’re not to be trusted, Briggs! I’ll make sure you never play in a school game again!” “But he will play for Manningham West District School side!” said Mr Cresswell. “What?” spluttered Mr Moult. “Who are you?” “This is Mr Cresswell, the selector for the District side,” said Mr Robinson. Mr Moult made a noise as if he had swallowed his whistle. Bernard blinked, then a broad grin split his homely face. “Wow!” he said. “Well, thanks, mister! This ain’t such an unlucky day after all!”


NEXT WEEKThree toughs

find it doesn’t pay to ill-

treat Bernard’s pup, Tiger

Episode Eight of: The Boyhood of Bernard Briggs taken from The Wizard October 13th 1973

“Sorry, Mr Smith, the bike’s a write-off!” said Bernard Briggs. Mr Smith, a local grocer, studied the bike that Bernard had propped against the fence in the yard at the back of the shop. The front wheel of the bike was buckled, the handlebars bent.


“It’s not your fault, Bernard,” said Mr Smith. “You did well getting it back.” Outside school hours, Bernard had been doing deliveries for Mr Smith, and he had the use of the bike in return. A thief had stolen the bike, and Bernard had managed to get it back, but not before the bike had been run over by a van. “I’ll pay for it to be repaired,” said Bernard. “Never mind that about that, lad,” replied Mr Smith. “Something’s come up. My insurance company say you’re too young to be delivering for me. It’s the law that I have to insure anybody who works for me, so that means I can’t give you a job any longer.” “Coo, that’s a shaker!” said Bernard. “I’m sorry about it, Bernard,” said Mr Smith. “I know you need the job, and you’re the best lad I’ve ever had working for me, but there it is. Hang on, I’ll get a few odds and ends from the shelves to tide you over.” “Thanks, Mr Smith, but I don’t take anything I can’t pay for,” said Bernard. “You’ve been pretty decent to me, and I don’t want to end up in you debt.” Bernard was already showing the fierce independence that was to mark him all through his life. He was on his own, and he lived in an old barge with his dog, Tiger. He made a living by dealing in junk, and the bike had helped him to get about the district, collecting scrap. It was a hard beginning for the boy who was to become Britain’s most famous goalkeeper. Leaving Mr Smith’s shop, Bernard trudged away to school. He had business problems on his mind. “I need transport,” he muttered. “I can’t find enough scrap on foot to make a living, but I ain’t got enough money to buy a bike, even a second-hand one. Still pondering his problem, Bernard turned in through the gate of the school playground.

A simple training session is interrupted to allow Bernard to keep goal and an enterprising news photographer grabs a scoop.

The familiar thunk of a football being booted made him look up. Some of the boys were kicking a football about. One of the lads took a wild swing, and the ball skidded off his toe. “Cor, the window!” gasped Bernard. The ball was shooting towards one of the school windows. Bernard sprinted forward, took off like a rocket, his outstretched hands clawing the ball down. Still clutching the ball, Bernard dropped on the hard surface of the playground. He rolled over and bounced to his feet. “Bernard’s saved it!” one of the boys gasped. “Thanks, Bernard!” “You’ve got plenty of nerve!” another boy exclaimed. “Fancy throwing yourself about on a surface like this! You all right?” “It ain’t done my trousers much good,” grinned Bernard, “but they weren’t up to much to begin with!” A familiar voice interrupted him. “Briggs!” Mr Moult, the teacher of Bernard’s class, came striding  up. Mr Moult had favourites, but Bernard certainly wasn’t one of them. The teacher pointed at the ball that Bernard was still holding. “Playing football near the school buildings, Briggs!” snapped Mr Moult. “You know the punishment for that! It is against the rules.” A window opened near Mr Moult and the headmaster looked out. “Are you congratulating Bernard Briggs on his brilliant save, Mr Moult?” asked the head. “The ball would have been through my study window if he hadn’t stopped it.” “Oh!” said Mr Moult. “Well done, Briggs!” said the head. “As for you other boys, there’s no harm done this time, so we’ll say no more about it! Into school with you!” The boys trooped into school and Tommy Henderson winked at Bernard. “The head’s a sport,” said Tommy. “Old Moulty looked like a cat that’s had a minute taken off it” But you’re a blooming tough mouse, Bernie!” The boys settled down at their desks as Mr Moult marched in, frowning at Bernard. “The school secretary has asked me to pass on a telephone message, Briggs,” he said. “You are to be at Saracen Park at four-thirty for the Manningham West District practice. “In future, arrange to be contacted in some other way! I am not your messenger! Not that you are likely to be needed again! The selectors will soon discover their mistake!” There was a murmur from the other boys. A voice at the back called, “Good luck, Bernard!” “Silence!” shouted Mr Moult. Bernard had never been picked for the school team, because Mr Moult was in charge of school football, but a selector for the district schools team had seen Bernard in action, and put his name forward for the representative side. Mr Moult was not pleased. It was not Mr Moult’s lucky day. He went over to one of the radiators, muttering that the classroom was cold. “I suppose the janitor has been neglecting the boilers again,” he complained. He spun the knob on the radiator to open it up full, and the knob came away in his hand. Steam and hot water shot out. Mr Moult leapt back with a yell, dropping the knob. “Yeow!” he screeched. “Get the janitor, quick!” Bernard jumped forward. He snatched up the knob and rammed it back into place. “There’s a screw come loose,” he said, holding the knob firm. “Have a look round it, Tommy.” “Here it is,” said Tommy, picking up a screw from the floor. Bernard fitted the screw into a hole in the base of the knob. He fumbled a penny out of his pocket and used it as a screwdriver to turn the screw home. He was just finishing the job when Mr Robinson, the school janitor, hurried in. Mr Robinson was a friend of Bernard’s, and encouraged his football ambitions. “You’ve done a good job, Bernard,” said Mr Robinson, inspecting the radiator. “You’re pretty handy at putting things together.” “Gosh, that’s it!” said Bernard. “That’s what?” asked Mr Robinson. “The answer to my transport problem!” said Bernard. “I’ll put my own bike together! I can pick some bits and pieces up cheap at Alfie’s junkyard.” “Have you quite finished your conversation, janitor?” said Mr Moult, heavily sarcastic. “If it’s all the same to you, I’d like to get on with the lesson. Briggs go to your desk!” Bernard got no thanks from Mr Moult for his help, but that didn’t worry Bernard. Sitting at his desk, he was planning the Briggs Special, the world’s cheapest bike.

THE HEADLINE SAVE                  

Any day spent in Mr Moult’s classroom was a long one, but Bernard was free at last. He shot down the road. “I’ve just got time to visit Alfie’s yard before the practice game,” he thought. Junk was strewn everywhere in Alfie’s yard, and Alfie was untidy to match.

He was a thin, drooping man who wore a ragged overcoat down to his ankles, winter and summer, and his bowler hat seemed to be prevented from dropping over his eyes by his big ears. “I ain’t selling junk today, Alfie,” said Bernard. “I want to buy some.” “Do you fancy a nice mangle?” said Alfie. “Or how about a set of saucepans with the lids missing?” “I want to build myself a bike,” explained Bernard, starting to explore a mountain of junk. “Can I look for the parts?” “You’ll find enough parts there for the Tour de France,” said Alfie as Bernard unearthed a bicycle frame. He ferreted about, and more pieces emerged. Soon he had bits and pieces spread out all round him, and he started work on a jigsaw puzzle, matching up his finds. “These will do,” he said, dumping a frame and a pair of wheels into an old pram. “How much, Alfie?” “Five bob,” said Alfie. “Half-a-crown, and throw in the pram to take them away in!” said Bernard. “You’ll ruin me!” said Alfie. “All right, Bernard, it’s a deal! I’m too good natured, that’s my trouble!” Bernard trundled his pramload of bicycle parts down the road. He heard a clock striking the half-hour, and broke into a run. He skidded the pram round a corner, and there in front of him was the Saracen Park Stadium. It was an imposing building, and over the main entrance were the words “Harlequins F.C.” “The district selectors are doing us proud, fixing up the practice game here,” muttered Bernard. He found a door open, and pushed his pram inside. He went along a tunnel under the stand, and came out on the cinder track. Some players were kicking a ball on the pitch. They were not schoolboys, and they had the look of professionals. “Who are this lot?” muttered Bernard. “They ain’t our blokes, anyway! We must be on after them!” He watched with interest as a player took a shot at goal. The goalkeeper pounced across and pulled the ball down. “Pretty flashy!” was Bernard’s verdict. He left his pram and strolled round to the goal. The players were banging shots in. The goalkeeper bounded about collecting the ball with dramatic saves. A newspaper man with a camera was standing near the goal. He glanced at Bernard. “Worth watching, eh, lad?” he remarked. “Not bad!” said Bernard. “But he’s a bit of a show off! He’s using up a lot of energy – more than he needs to.” Another man was near the goal. He wore a track-suit, and was obviously the team coach. He looked sharply at Bernard. “You think you know all about football?” he said, speaking with a foreign accent. “Not me, mister,” said Bernard, “but I’m interested in goalkeeping.” Another shot came hurtling in and the goalkeeper dived across. He was a tall dark fellow with a long reach. He thrust out his hand and pushed the ball round the post. “He could have saved that,” said Bernard. “It looked fancy, but he needn’t have given away a corner!” “You think you could do better?” said the coach. He beckoned to the goalkeeper and winked. “There is an expert here who is ready to give you a lesson, Ugo!” “He is welcome to try!” grinned the goalkeeper. “I don’t mind having a bash!” said Bernard. “It’ll be a nice warm up before our lot get here.” The goalkeeper came off, and Bernard trotted out to the goal. The players exchanged grins, as one of them banged the ball at Bernard. He got his body behind the it and clutched the ball to him. “Oof!” he muttered, “I’ve taken something on here! These fellows hit a ball a lot harder than they do in schools football!” He slung the ball out, back it came. Bernard jumped across the goal and pulled it down. He booted it away, and was in position to go down low for the return. The coach and the goalkeeper exchanged glances. The cameraman chuckled. “Surprise, surprise!” he said. Bernard pulled another shot down. He dived to smother a low one. He punched one clear. Shots rained in on him, but he kept his goal intact. “So small, just a schoolboy, and yet he is reaching them all!” muttered the coach. “It’s anticipation,” said the cameraman. “Being in the right place at the right time makes up for his lack of inches. This lad is a natural!” He levelled his camera. A player ran in and slammed the ball for the top corner of the net. Bernard took off like a rocket. His hands closed confidently round the ball. “A great picture!” muttered the cameraman. “It’ll make a nice headline – Schoolboy Gives Goalkeeping Lesson to Ugo Parsoni!” Bernard booted the ball away. The cameraman called to him. “What’s your name, lad?” “Bernard Briggs,” said Bernard, “and what’s happened to the West District team I’m supposed to be playing for?” “Gosh, you’re at the wrong place!” exclaimed the cameraman. The West District pitch is over at Saracen Junior Park!” “Cor!” said Bernard. He sprinted off the pitch, waving to the players. “Thanks for the game, mates!” he called. “I got to go!” Grabbing his pram, Bernard ran it out of the stadium. He panted down the road, round a corner, and into the park. He saw football pitches at the far end, and galloped in that direction. Two schoolboy teams were just coming off the pitch. Mr Cresswell, the selector who had picked Bernard, was on the touchline. “Phew!” said Bernard. “Sorry, mister! Is it half time?” “No, it isn’t!” snapped Mr Cresswell. “The game’s over! You’ve let me down, Briggs! Your teacher warned me about you! I should have listened!” “I’ve been to the wrong place,” said Bernard. “Mr Moult told me Saracen Park, not Saracen Junior Park.” “You probably didn’t listen to him properly,” said Mr Cresswell, turning away. “Well you’ve missed your chance.” “I’ve said I’m sorry, mister,” said Bernard, “and I’ve told you what happened, if you don’t believe me, I can’t help that.” Turning round Bernard trundled his pram out of the park again. “It wasn’t me that got the message wrong,” he told himself. “Oh well, what’s done is done. I’ve missed the game, and I might as well forget it.” Bernard wasn’t the sort to worry over spilt milk. He was sorry to have missed a game of football, but he put it out of his mind. He pushed his pram through the streets, making for the canal where his barge was moored, and working out how he was going to put his junkyard bike together. “Hey, Bernard, can you spare a few minutes?” called a voice. Looking round, Bernard saw the newspaper seller on the corner of Wharf Street waving to him. Old Charlie was a familiar figure to Bernard. “Look after my papers for ten minutes or so, Bernard,” said Charlie. “I’ve got to go and pick up a prescription from the doctors. I’ll bring you back a meat pie.” “Your cough bothering you again, Charlie?” said Bernard. “Okay, I’ll sell your papers for you. Never mind about the pie. Glad to do you a favour, pal.” Charlie shuffled away and Bernard started selling papers. Like everything else he did, he made a wholehearted job of it. “Evening Banner!” bawled Bernard. “Get your evening paper!” He did a brisk trade, and he had no time to look at the paper himself, then a man bought a paper off him and paused to look at the sports page. “Hey, this is you, son!” the man exclaimed. “What’s me?” said Bernard. “In the paper!” the man said. “They reckon you’ve been giving lessons to Ugo Parsoni!” “Pull the other one!” said Bernard. “He’s the Italian and Maleno ‘keeper!” “See for yourself!” the man insisted, thrusting the paper at Bernard. There was a photograph on the sports page. It showed Bernard leaping across goal to pull a shot down. The caption read. “Bernard Briggs Shows ‘Em How!” The story underneath started: “A Manningham schoolboy today gave a goalkeeping lesson to Ugo Parsoni, the Italian international over here with Maleno to play Manningham City.” Bernard read the story, and his eyes popped. “Crikey!” he exclaimed. “That was Maleno working out at Saracen Park! And I took over in goal from Ugo Parsoni! Phew!” “It says here they couldn’t put one past you!” the man interrupted. “That’s right,” said Bernard. “I didn’t do too bad, though I say it meself!” A broad grin split his homely face. “Well, I missed the game I meant to play in, but I reckon I had a bit of football worth remembering!”

NEXT WEEK—Bernard meets

up with some old enemies

and comes off worst.

Episode Nine of: The Boyhood of Bernard Briggs taken from The Wizard October 20th 1973

Bernard Briggs sat on the canal towpath with the parts of a bicycle scattered round him. The old barge in which he lived was moored nearby.


He slid a wheel into place between the front forks of the bicycle frame and tightened the nuts. “It’s taking shape, Tiger!” he said. Tiger, Bernard’s dog, wagged his tail. Like Bernard the dog was an outcast. Bernard was alone in the world, but he was determined to make it his own way. Painted on the side of the barge were the words: “B. Briggs. General Dealer.” Bernard scrapped a living by dealing in scrap metal. He needed a bike to get about looking for the metal, so he was making one from old parts bought cheap at a junkyard. It was not a promising start in life for the boy who was to become Britain’s most famous goalkeeper. Tiger lots interest in Bernard’s bike. The dog trotted up and dropped a ball at Bernard’s feet. “Not now, chum, I’m busy,” said Bernard. He picked up the ball and lobbed it away. “Go and play by yourself!” The ball bounced along the towpath, and Tiger leapt after it. One last bounce, and the ball splashed into the canal. Without hesitation Tiger plunged in after it. “That’s right, try water polo!” said Bernard, then his grin faded. Three young fellows, older and bigger than Bernard, were slouching along the towpath. Bernard recognised them at once, and the louts recognised Bernard. “Hey, it’s that interfering kid,” said their leader. His upper lip had a smudge that might have been a moustache struggling to break through, or possibly just a smear of grease the match the stains on his clothes. “And he’s still got that flea-bitten mongrel!” said one of the others, pointing to the canal. It was because of these three toughs that Bernard and Tiger had teamed up. Tiger had been a small pup at the time, and Bernard had come on the louts trying to drown the dog in the canal. Bernard had scattered the toughs and rescued Tiger.

Outnumbered three-to-one Bernard puts up a desperate fight against the thugs who have attacked him.

Now he stood warily watching as the three advanced on him. “You jumped us last time, kid!” said the leader. “Took us by surprise! But now we’re going to teach you to mind your own business!” “We’ll fix you and that stupid pup!” gloated his crony. “Hop it, this is private property!” said Bernard defiantly, but he knew he was in a tight spot. Bernard always dealt with trouble the same way – he went straight at it. He believed that attack was the best defence. Head down, Bernard plunged forward. He slammed into one of the toughs. The lout gave an anguished yelp and staggered back. Doubled up, he sat down with a thud. The second lout rushed at Bernard fists swinging. Bernard ducked under a wild haymaker and clipped the tough on the jaw. The tough joined his pal on the ground. Bernard was too late to meet an attack from the leader of the gang. The tough had found a stake in the rough grass by the towpath, and he came rushing in, swinging the wooden stake like a club. Bernard started to turn, but a blow from the stake thudded into his ribs. Bernard gasped, and went down. He pushed himself up as the leader of the gang strode at him, his club lifted. There was a triumphant leer on the tough’s face. A snarling fury leapt at him and the tough gave a startled shout as sharp teeth tore at his sleeve. “Good old Tiger!” gasped Bernard. “See him off!” Tiger had climbed out of the canal unnoticed. There was fear on the tough’s face as he tried to shake the dog off. Tiger held on to the sleeve, snarling savagely. He was no longer the helpless pup that the louts had tried to drown. He was now almost fully grown, and anybody who tried to harm his pal Bernard could look out for trouble. The other two toughs were struggling to their feet. Their leader screeched at them. “Help! Get this brute away from me!” Bernard stood ready, his fists clenched, but the two toughs showed no eagerness to take on both Bernard and his dog. They started to edge away as their leader went down with Tiger on top of him. The lout lay there, hardly daring to move a muscle, with Tiger standing over him and snarling into his face. “Call him off!” the lout croaked. “Reckon you’ve found out why I call him Tiger!” grinned Bernard. “Clear off! If you come round here again, I’ll tell Tiger to bite your head off! O K, Tiger, let him up!” Bernard and Tiger watched the lout scuttle away to join his pals. Bernard bent down to pat Tiger. “Thanks, pal!” he said. He winced. “Ouch! I’m sore! I got clobbered a bit in that dust-up! I’ll leave my bike for now. What I want is an early night!”

THE FOOTBALL FLOP                

Bernard was up early the next morning. He had had a restless night. “I can’t get comfortable in bed,” he told Tiger. “Coo, that yobbo really laid it on! He caught me a right clout across the ribs with his stick.

Bernard finished off the job of assembling his bike. He worked slowly, and when he turned the completed bike over on to its wheels he gave a gasp. “Phew!” said Bernard. “Sorry to puff and wheeze like an old gaffer, but I am sore, Tiger!” He pumped up the tyres, pausing now and then to straighten up. “Even this job is hard work!” he grunted. “Maybe the pump ain’t as good as it might be.” The bike was all ready for its trial run. Bernard made sure that food and water were set out in Tiger’s dishes on the deck of the barge. “I’m off pal!” he said. “Stay! I’ll see you after school.” Scrambling into the saddle, Bernard pedalled away. He trundled slowly down Wharf Street, breathing hard as he laboured on. “It’s like trying to shift an old mangle!” he muttered. “I’ll have to get some oil on it.” A church clock chimed as he passed. Looking up, Bernard saw that it was half-past eight. “I’ve got time to call in at the Manningham City ground,” he decided. “Gus Whitmarsh, their trainer, knows me. Maybe he could give me something for the bruises on my ribs.” The staff entrance to the Manningham City ground was locked when Bernard got there. He propped his bike against the wall and sat down beside it to wait. His head nodded and his eyes closed. The next thing Bernard knew, a hand was on his shoulder. He blinked, and looked up. Gus Whitmarsh, the City trainer, was standing over him. “What are you doing here, lad?” asked the trainer. “You should be in school by now.” “I nodded off!” exclaimed Bernard. “I had a rough night. What’s the time, Mr Whitmarsh?” “About half-past nine!” said the trainer. “Cor!” said Bernard. He scrambled to his feet and winced, but Gus had turned away, and was watching a car drive up. “I had a knock yesterday, and I wondered if you could take a look at it,” said Bernard. “It’ll have to be later, Bernard,” said Mr Whitmarsh. “Here comes our chairman. He wants a word with me, and after that I’ve got several players to attend to. Make it tonight, about five.” “O K, Mr Whitmarsh, thanks,” said Bernard. He climbed on to his bike and trundled away. There was a bang, and his front tyre went flat. “A puncture!” muttered Bernard. “Can’t expect much else for the price I paid, I suppose!” He started to push his bike, plodding along in the direction of school. A sour-faced man came round the corner. It was Mr Miles, the School Attendance officer. “Stop!” snapped Mr Miles. “I know you boy! Briggs, Wesley Street School! Playing truant, eh?” “I’m heading for school now,” protested Bernard. “Don’t argue!” said Mr Miles. “Come with me, boy. We’ll see what your teacher has to say.” Bernard’s teacher was Mr Moult, and he always had plenty to say about Bernard, none of it complimentary. Neatly-dressed Cyril Dallow, the toady of the class, was Mr Moult’s idea of the perfect schoolboy. Bernard with his patched clothes and independent ways, scored very low marks in Mr Moult’s book. There was a triumphant gleam in Mr Moult’s eyes when the School Attendance Officer hustled Bernard into the classroom. “So you’ve caught a truant, Mr Miles!” said the teacher. “I met him with his bike a mile away from here,” said Mr Miles. “He said he was on his way to school, but you can draw your own conclusions.” “I certainly can, Mr Miles!” smirked Mr Moult. “On his way to school at half past ten in the morning! I know this boy, and you can leave him with me to deal with! Briggs, fetch the punishment book!” Having your name entered in the punishment book meant that you were going to get the cane. Bernard did not argue. He knew it was a waste of time, anyway. Mr Moult laid it on hard, bringing the cane swishing down. He seemed disappointed that Bernard did not flinch or make a sound. “And you can stay in after school to write out the chapter in your history book that you’ve missed!” said Mr Moult. Bernard found it hard to concentrate on lessons. His sore ribs were painful, and the punishment from MR Moult didn’t make things any easier. When the class ended at last, Bernard had to stay behind to do his extra work. “I shall expect the whole chapter, in your best handwriting, waiting for me on my desk in the morning!” said Mr Moult, marching out. Bernard struggled through the work, copying out the chapter carefully. “I fell rough!” he thought, “but I’m finishing this off. I ain’t giving old Moult another chance to get at me.” He had almost finished when Mr Robinson, the janitor, looked in. Mr Robinson was a friend of Bernard’s, and he encouraged the lad’s football ambitions. “I thought we might find him here!” said Mr Robinson. With the janitor was Mr Cresswell, the selector for the Manningham West District school team. Bernard had been offered a trial with the district, but there had been a mix-up, the fault of Mr Moult, and Bernard had gone to the wrong pitch. “Mr Robinson’s been talking to me, Briggs,” said Mr Cresswell. “He’s persuaded me to give you another chance. There’s a trial at Saracen Junior Park, this evening.” “I’ve got this punishment to finish,” said Bernard, “but it shouldn’t take me more than ten minutes.” “That’ll give you time to get there,” said Mr Cresswell. “Make sure you come to the right place this time!” The two men went out, and the janitor accompanied Mr Cresswell to the exit. “I thought you said young Briggs was a real live-wire,” said Mr Cresswell. “He looked pretty uninterested to me! Didn’t seem to care very much whether he played or not.” “Between you and me, I think he’s had a hard day with Mr Moult,” said Mr Robinson. “Don’t you worry, Mr Cresswell, you’ll be impressed by Bernard tonight, just as you were the first time you saw him play. Sorry I can’t be there, but I have to be on duty at a meeting here.” Bernard finished off his work, dumped it on Mr Moult’s desk and hurried out. He grabbed his bike and pushed it away, the flat tyre bumping on the ground. “The bike seems to get heavier all the time!” he panted. The other players were warming up on the pitch when he got there. Bernard hurried into the hut that served as a dressing-room. Bernard struggled into the jersey, pulling a face as he eased it on. “Phew!” he muttered. “These bruises play me up even when I’m getting changed.” He went out, and broke into a trot when Mr Cresswell beckoned to him. Reaching the goal, Bernard leaned against the post to get his breath back. The referee and Mr Cresswell watched him. The referee was Mr Owen, who had seen Bernard play before, and admired the boy’s spirit. “That’s not like Bernard,” remarked Mr Owen. “I’ve never seen him wilt about like that before. He’s usually full of go.” Mr Owen blew a blast on his whistle, and the game started. Bernard was playing for the possibles against the probables, and it was the probables who made the first attack. They came storming down, and a pass put their centre-forward through. He tried to blast the ball in, and mis-kicked it. The ball bounced feebly across the turf. Bernard scrambled across his goal and flopped down as the ball hopped over his hands into the net. The centre-forward stared then gave an astonished yell. “Goal!” he shouted, capering about. Bernard pushed himself up and fished the ball awkwardly out of the net. Mr Moult had arrived to watch the game, and he pointed to the goal. “What’s Briggs doing here?” he demanded. “That’s what I’m beginning to wonder!” grunted Mr Cresswell. The captain of Bernard’s team clapped his hands and gathered his defenders round him. “Where did they find that goalkeeper?” one of the lads asked. “Beats me!” said the captain. “Listen, lads, keep the ball away from him! Tighten up the defence! Once they get through, we might as well have my granny’s cat in goal for all the use that fellow is!” The players in front of Bernard plunged back into the game. They took the attack to their opponents, forcing them back from Bernard’s goal. “Some good lads there,” remarked Mr Cresswell. “They’ve seen where their weakness lies. That boy Briggs is a big disappointment, Moult. Your janitor and Mr Owen seem to think highly of him, and I saw him play one good game, but it must have been a flash in the pan.” The possibles managed to hold out until near the end, then their opponents broke away. The ball came soaring down and bounced loose in Bernard’s goal area. He managed to grab it as the burly centre-forward of the probables came racing at him. “I ain’t in no shape to take a bashing from this tank!” thought Bernard. He flung the ball in one direction, and jumped the other way. The centre-forward missed him and slithered past. “Briggs shirked that charge!” snapped Mr Cresswell. “He’s no good to me! A goalkeeper’s got to have guts!” The ball rolled into touch. Mr Owen blew for full-time. The referee trotted over and spoke to Bernard. “Anything wrong, Bernard?” he asked. “I didn’t sleep too well, Mr Owen,” said Bernard, “but I ain’t making excuses! I’ll be all right tomorrow.” On the way to the dressing-room, Bernard was stopped by Mr Cresswell. “I shan’t be needing you again, Briggs,” he said. “Fair enough, mister!” said Bernard. He changed and collected his bike. It was another weary slog to the Manningham City ground, and when he got there, he found the door locked. “I’m too late!” he muttered. “I’ve missed Gus Whitmarsh! Coo, this ain’t my lucky day! And it’s going to be another rough night!”



NEXT WEEKBernard meets

a new footballing opponent—

Mr Moult.



Episode Ten of: The Boyhood of Bernard Briggs taken from The Wizard October 27th 1973


With his dog, Tiger, following behind, Bernard Briggs pushed his home-made bike into Alfie’s junkyard. Balanced on the saddle of the bike Bernard had a sack full of assorted bits of scrap metal.


Alfie came out of his hut, dressed as usual in his long overcoat and bowler hat. Bernard propped his bike against the side of the hut and lifted the sack down. “Ouch!” said Bernard, pulling a face. “Anything wrong, lad?” said Alfie. “You don’t look too spry to me.” “Got a bruise on my ribs, Alfie,” explained Bernard. “It’s playing me up a bit.” Bernard had received the injury fighting off three toughs who had attacked him and his dog. One of the toughs had caught Bernard a nasty blow with a stick. Bernard was getting more than his share of hard knocks, of one sort and another. He was alone in the world, and he and Tiger lived on an old canal barge. Bernard managed to make a living by dealing in scrap metal. It was not a promising start in life for the lad who was later to become Britain’s most famous goalkeeper. Bernard up-ended the sack, and tipped out an assortment of old saucepans, a couple of pokers, broken tools and odd-shaped pieces of metal. He pointed to the spring frame of a bed that lay among Alfie’s junk. “I ain’t been sleeping too comfortable, Alfie,” he said. “Will you swop this stuff of mine for that old bed frame?” “It’s a deal!” said Alfie, “but you’re swindling yourself, son! That bed’s not worth as much as your junk. I’ll give you a shilling to go with it.” Bernard pocketed the shilling, and Alfie helped him balance the bed frame across the saddle and handle-bars of his bike. “You sure you can manage, Bernard?” asked the junk-man. “I’m O K, Alfie,” said Bernard. “And thanks! Come on, Tiger!” He struggled away, pushing his laden bike, with Tiger at his heels. Alfie watched them go. “Mind you spend that bob on grub!” Alfie called. “You look as if you need it, son!” He looked at the junk that Bernard had left, and lifted his bowler to scratch his head.

Mr Moult protests his innocence as he stands over the unconscious Bernard Briggs. What’s wrong with the injured keeper?

“I’m getting old and daft, that’s my trouble!” he muttered. “A bed and a bob for that stuff! Many more deals like that, and I’ll be bankrupt!” He went into his hut, still talking to himself. “So what?” he mumbled. “You’ve done a good turn, Alfie! Gives you a nice feeling, don’t it? A kid like Bernard, full of spirit, deserves a bit of encouragement!” Bernard was certainly full of spirit, but he had an empty stomach, and he felt twinges from his sore ribs as he struggled on with his bike and the bed. “Phew!” he said. “Let’s have a rest, Tiger! Look, there’s a fish-and-chip shop. We’ll take Alfie’s advice and spend his shilling. Leaving the bike and bed outside, Bernard went into the shop. He was the only customer, and he settled himself at a table. The owner, a tubby little man called Fred Phillips, according to the sign outside, put a plate of fish, chips and peas in front of him. “Tuck in, lad!” he said. “Great!” said Bernard. “Ta!” Tiger sat up and begged. Bernard gave him a chip. “Watch it, pal,” grinned Bernard. “They’re hot!” The door was shoved open, and a hulking young fellow in a leather jacket came swaggering in. He gave a leer when he caught sight of Bernard. “Well, look who’s here!” he said. “It’s the hero who needs an army to back him up!” exclaimed Bernard. The young fellow was Hunk Grogan, the leader of the toughs who had attacked Bernard. It was Grogan who was responsible for Bernard’s sore ribs. Now Grogan advanced to the table and sent Bernard’s plate flying with a sweep of his arm. “You’re in my territory now, Briggs!” he said. “And this time we’ll fix you!” Two of his pals slouched in behind him. Bernard got to his feet. He was trapped, but he was going to make a fight for it. It never occurred to him to do anything else. “Now, now, lads!” said Fred Phillips, hopping about nervously behind his counter. The toughs ignored him. Grogan swung a grubby fist. Bernard ducked, and Grogan yelled as his fist smacked up against the wall. Bernard had a glimpse of Tiger scuttling out at the door. “I never imagined Tiger would run off and leave me!” thought Bernard. He had no time to wonder about his dog’s disappearance. The toughs were closing in on him. Bernard got his hands under the table and heaved. The toughs staggered back as the table hit them. It gave Bernard the seconds he needed. He ran to the counter and vaulted on top. Reaching over, he snatched up a wire basket of chips from the oven. “How’s your history, mates?” he said. “Remember how they defended castles in the old days? They poured boiling oil down on the enemy!” He swung the basket of steaming chips. Chips and hot fat scattered. The toughs dodged back. “Yeow!” screeched Grogan. “Watch it! That fat’s scolding hot!” Tiger scampered back into the shop, a strip of black cloth in his teeth. Behind him came two policemen. “Officer, quick!” yelled Fred Phillips. “There’s trouble!” “The Grogan gang!” said one of the policemen. “Got ‘em in the act at last!” Grogan made a dash for the door. He came to a sudden stop as the long arm of the law wrapped round him. ! Anybody else thinking of leaving?” said the policeman. Grogan seemed to be turning slowly blue in the officer’s grasp. The other two toughs decided to stay where they were. “Good!” said the policeman. He slackened his grip slightly. “You can start breathing again, Grogan!” The other policeman pointed as Tiger. “There’s the dog we were after!” he exclaimed. “The brute attacked me!” Bernard had climbed down off the counter. He took the piece of cloth from Tiger’s jaws. The cloth matched a tear in the officer’s trouser leg. “Sorry, officer,” said Bernard, “but he was just trying to attract your attention. Tiger’s my dog.” “And he brought us straight here!” said the policeman. “O K, lad, forget my torn trousers! It’s in a good cause!” The policemen marched their prisoners away. Bernard set the table back on its feet. “Sorry about the mess, mister,” he said to Fred Phillips. “I’ll clean it up.” “Forget it, lad,” said Fred. “I’ll see to that. And here’s another helping of fish and chips for you. You’ve earned it for getting rid of the Grogan bunch. They’ve been terrorizing the neighbourhood.” While Fred mopped the floor. Bernard and Tiger shared the fish and chips. Bernard felt a lot better with some food under his belt. “Can I leave my bed here and pick it up tomorrow, mister?” he asked. “I’ve got an idea for transport.” “You’re welcome,” said Fred. “Stick it in this cupboard behind the counter.” Bernard cycled home to his barge with Tiger sitting on the carrier of his bike. At the barge he had an old pram which he had been using to collect scrap in. Using odds and ends of junk, and a lot of ingenuity, Bernard set to work to fix the pram to the bike as a sidecar.

DOWN AND OUT!                         

Bernard had another restless night and his injured side felt no easier when he got up, but he set off doggedly for school. Mr Moult, his teacher, didn’t approve of Bernard, and he was always looking for a chance to catch him out.

Bernard didn’t intend to give him a chance. “Seen the team list, Bernard?” asked Olly Potter, one of his pals, when they met in the playground. “What team?” said Bernard. “This is the day teachers from local schools play a selected team of boys,” explained Olly. “You’re down as goalkeeper for the boys’ team.” “Great!” said Bernard. “I never say no to a game of football!” Mr Moult didn’t make such a nuisance of himself as usual in class. He had a pile of books to mark, so he set the class some work to do while he got on with it. As soon as the bell rang, he dismissed the class and hurried off, pausing only to tell Bernard that there’d be trouble if the written work he’d handed in wasn’t up to standard. “That’s the only knock he’s had at you today, Bernard,” said Olly. “Things are looking up!” “He was in a hurry to get off,” said Bernard, “and I can guess why, Cannonball Moult is playing for the teachers today!” Standing in goal soon afterwards, Bernard saw that he had guessed right. Mr Moult, immaculate in spotless strip, took up his position as centre-forward in the teacher’s team. “He’ll be out to put a few past me,” thought Bernard. “Well, he’s welcome to try!” The referee was Mr Owen, a local businessman who had seen Bernard play before, and admired his ability. Mr Owen tootled on his whistle, and the game began. The teachers’ winger broke through along the line. He put the ball over and Mr Moult came pounding up. He took a mighty swing and spooned the ball up into Bernard’s hands. “You’ll have to hit ‘em harder than that!” grinned Bernard. Bernard cleared but back came the teachers. Bernard jumped to pull down a shot from their inside-left. He booted the ball away, and his team started an attack. The two sides were fairly evenly matched. Some of the teachers were a bit short of wind, but they had weight and experience to compensate. They held the attack, and the left-back got clear with the ball. Mr Moult clapped his hands. “To me!” he ordered. A long pass found him, and he strode for goal. He was through with only Bernard to beat. He took a kick, and the ball soared away. Bernard had not moved. He stood by the post and watched the ball go high over the crossbar. “I knew he was going to do that,” said Bernard. “He hit it all wrong!” He didn’t bother to keep his voice down, and Mr Moult scowled. Goals were slow to come, but soon after half-time, Bernard got his forwards away. He jumped out to collect a cross, pulling it down before Mr Moult could get there. Bernard slung the ball away, and it landed at the feet of one of his team-mates. The boy raced the ball past a defender, slid a pass across, and the school striker hit the ball into the net. “Goal!” shouted Bernard, doing a jig. He winced, and put a hand to his side. “Cor, that bruise is playing me up!” he muttered. “But I’m sticking it out to the final whistle.” The teachers hit back. Mr Moult was beginning to puff a bit, but he panted about, yelling for the ball. The winger tried to find him with a long pass and Mr Moult charged in pursuit of the ball. Bernard ran out of his goal. Bernard scooped the ball up. Mr Moult came at him like a charging buffalo. Clutching the ball, Bernard dodged aside. Mr Moult went straight on, and ended up tangled in the net at the back of the goal. There were guffaws from the boys watching on the touchline. Mr Moult disentangled himself and marched up to Bernard, red in the face. “Are you trying to make me look a fool, Briggs?” he snapped. Bernard might have answered that Mr Moult was doing a good job without any help, but he said nothing. “Just watch your step, Briggs!” said Mr Moult. Mr Owen came across to them. “You’re not in school now, Mr Moult,” he said. “If anybody needs telling off, I’ll do it! Now let’s get on with the game!” The game swung from end to end, and with time running out the teachers were still one down. They put everything into a last effort, and came bearing down on Bernard’s goal. The ball ran to Mr Moult who shouldered a defender aside and crashed through with the ball at his feet. “He means to score or bust!” thought Bernard. “Well, he ain’t putting one past me at this stage of the game!” Bernard hurled himself out. He went down in a dive at Mr Moult’s feet, and his outstretched hands clamped on the ball. There were yells from the touchline. “What a dive!” one of them shouted. “Bernard’s afraid of nothing!” Bernard went down flat, clinging to the ball and Mr Moult jumped over him. Mr Owen blew his whistle and ran across. “Bernard’s passed out!” exclaimed Mr Owen. “He’s unconscious!” “I didn’t kick him!” gasped Mr Moult. “I never touched him, I swear I didn’t!” Bernard woke up on an inspection couch in the local hospital. A doctor was examining him, and Mr Owen and Mr Moult were looking on. “Ouch!” said Bernard. “Watch where you’re prodding, mister!” “Looks as if you’ve got some broken ribs!” said the doctor. “We’ll get you X-rayed, lad.” “But I tell you I didn’t touch him!” protested Mr Moult, nervously. “I got clobbered two or three days ago,” said Bernard. Bernard was taken to the X-ray room, and then the doctor put a strapping round his ribs. “Three cracked ribs!” said the doctor. “The lad must have been in agony. He fainted from the pain.” “But he still played a storming game in goal!” said Mr Owen. “You ought to be proud to have Bernard in your class, Mr Moult.” Mr Moult grunted. Now that he knew he was not responsible for Bernard’s injury, he was not interested. “I’ve wasted enough time here,” he said and hurried out. “Beats me why a man who dislikes boys so much should be a school teacher!” said Mr Owen. “How do you feel, Bernard?” “Great!” said Bernard. “The strapping makes it a lot easier. Ta, doc!” “Take it easy for a while,” warned the doctor. “You’ll have to come and see us again for a check-up.” “O K, doc,” said Bernard. “But it won’t hurt to ride my bike, will it? I’ve got a job to do. Thanks again! And you too, Mr Owen.” He hurried out. The doctor and Mr Owen exchanged smiles. “He’s quite a lad!” said the doctor. “Remember the name, doctor,” said Mr Owen. “I’ve got an idea he’ll turn out to be one of your most famous patients in time!” With Tiger sitting in the pram. Bernard pedalled his bike and sidecar to Fred’s fish-and-chip shop to collect his bed. Fred helped him to lift the bed into the pram. “And here’s a helping of fish and chips for your supper, Bernard,” said Fred. “I’m doing a roaring trade now the Grogan gang aren’t around!” “Thanks a lot, mister!” said Bernard. “I reckon it’s turned out a pretty good day! And I’ll  get a good sleep tonight! I’ve got a lot to catch up on!”



NEXT WEEK—More trouble

for Bernard when his home is



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


© D. C. Thomson & Co Ltd 

Vic Whittle 2006