Junior Team Star
Apr 23, 2012, 6:56 AM
Post #1 of 5
This is an article I have written for the Bristol Rovers website and which was posted online this morning:
Alfie Biggs: The Baron of Eastville
Amongst the plethora of players who have represented Bristol Rovers across the years, there are a handful of names that stand out. One of these is undoubtedly Alfred George Biggs, who was born in Bristol on 8th February 1936 and died in Poole on 20th April 2012, at the age of seventy-six. A tall, strapping centre-forward, six feet tall and weighing eleven stone eight pounds in his prime, whose rumbustious style and never-say-die attitude epitomised Rovers’ halcyon days of the 1950s, Biggs accumulated 178 goals in 424 League appearances in the blue-and-white-quartered shirt.
Two matches serve as ample illustration of the role Biggs played in the Bristol Rovers story, one from the League and one from the FA Cup. In September 1955, Rovers travelled to Anfield for a Second Division fixture and defeated Liverpool 2-0. After Geoff Bradford had opened the scoring, Biggs cut in from the right on fifty-nine minutes and shot low and hard into the net to seal victory. Liverpool, of course, progressed to multiple Football League championships and European triumphs, whilst this fixture remains the sole time Rovers have won at Anfield. Later that season, in January 1956, Manchester United were humbled 4-0 at Eastville in the FA Cup, with Biggs scoring twice. The visit of a side bristling with international players encouraged a crowd of 35,872 to mass on the terraces and the home supporters were not disappointed as Biggs scored once in each half to secure arguably the greatest victory in Rovers’ long history.
Alfie Biggs, like so many of his contemporaries in the Rovers side, was Bristol-born; he was the youngest of nine children, and the seventh son, to George Biggs and Lily Ewans, who had married in Bristol during World War One. Brought up in Knowle and rejected as a schoolboy at Connaught Road School by Bristol City, he represented Bristol Boys, for whom he played in Woodcock Shield finals in 1949, 1950 and 1951, as well as Eagle House Youth Club before signing as a professional with Rovers in February 1953. Making his debut against, ironically, Manchester United in a friendly in 1953, he joined a side which had just been promoted to the second tier of English football for the first time in its history; Biggs was part of the reason Rovers were able to secure their footing there and push for greater success. A League debut followed against Lincoln City in February 1954, though the early years were somewhat restricted by military service as a corps lance-corporal stationed at Corsham. In April 1955 he played for a Southern Command XI against Weymouth.
For the next sixteen years, Biggs enjoyed a successful, popular and prolific football career, predominantly with Rovers. His 178 League goals leave him in second place behind Bradford, the club’s record League goalscorer of all time; only seven men have played in more League fixtures for Rovers than he did; his is the sixth longest Rovers career, in terms of the gap of over fourteen years between his first and last League matches for the club. The thirty League goals he scored in 1963-64 represent the most recent occasion any Rovers player has reached this seasonal landmark, though Rickie Lambert came very close in recent years. Biggs scored hat-tricks for Rovers at Stoke City in 1957, Notts County in 1964 and Brentford in 1966 as well as in a home game against Peterborough United in September 1964. He was an ever-present in 1956-57 and in 1963-64 and “Clubman of the Year” in 1966-67. His six goals during the League Cup campaign of 1963-64 remain a club seasonal record as yet unsurpassed. An extrovert on and off the pitch, Alfie followed the Berkeley Hunt and invariable dressed smartly; his impeccable appearance in the changing room earned him the sobriquet “The Baron”. On the field, his style of play also led to his nickname of “Elbows”; yet this style earned him many admirers and much success. There is little doubt that, without his presence, Bristol Rovers Football Club would have been all the poorer.
On 17th July 1961, Biggs was prised away from Eastville by Preston North End, who paid £18,000 for his services as the successor to Tom Finney. Captain and top scorer at Deepdale, his 22 goals in 49 League games included hat-tricks in the home wins against Scunthorpe United and Brighton; he also recommended the young Jimmy Humes to Rovers. That Rovers could sign him back for £12,000 on 5th October 1962 represented a major coup for the club; however, despite being appointed club captain on his return, Biggs could not prevent his home-town club from being relegated back to third-tier football. He left Rovers for good on 16th March 1968, though part of the agreement in his transfer to Walsall was that he would be granted a Rovers season ticket for life. After 23 (plus one as substitute) League games and nine goals, a November 1968 move to Swansea City brought a further four goals in sixteen League matches. From July 1969, as a favour to his former Rovers colleague Doug Hillard, Biggs spent a season at Western League Taunton Town.
On his retirement from football, Alfie Biggs worked as a car salesman at Newton Cars and at Luton’s Car Sales, postman, baker, on the maintenance staff at Eastville, for a business parcel delivery service and, from 1997, as a security officer at Bristol University. A regular snooker player at the Eastville Club, he continued to attend Rovers games. Together with his wife Marion, he moved to Poole in 2003; their two daughters are teachers, whilst their son works for a New Zealand-based timeshare company; they have five grandchildren. Alfie Biggs was a figure of monumental importance in the Bristol Rovers story and, at this sad time of his passing, all at Bristol Rovers send their condolences to his family and cherish the memory of a great footballer.