Walsall Web Fans looks at the playing career and life of striker Alfie Biggs who only had a brief spell at Fellows Park in 1968, but left quite an impression on supporters of a certain age who had the pleasure of seeing this goal machine in our colours. Sadly, Alfie passed away recently at the age of 76, following a long battle with cancer. Bristol born, he could so easily have joined City but instead caught the bus to Eastville to sign on for Rovers and made his debut whilst still a powerful young 17 year-old who could look after himself. He was the typical all-round centre forward at that time who was a sharp-shooter with either foot and deadly in the air. He had the ability to time his leaps to perfection and was often described as having the ability to head the ball as hard as most could shoot.
He enjoyed life to the full off the field as a footballer and used to like a drink, a cigarette or cigar and a bet. He also had a smart dress sense and was known by Rovers fans as ‘The Baron Of Bristol’ and was always immaculately turned out even for training. On matchdays at Eastville he would often be seen coming out of the nearby Swan pub after downing a quick ‘un before his afternoon work began with his trademark sheepskin coat. He also had a pink Cresta to drive around in. None of his drinking or smoking affected his game in any way and he trained hard and never gave anything less than 100% effort and in his first spell for Rovers banged home 86 goals before Preston North End stepped in with a £12,000 cheque to secure his services in 1961. One of his memorable games was the double he got for Rovers in their 4-0 thrashing of Manchester United in the FA Cup, before over 35,000 at Eastville in 1956.
He was only at Deepdale for just over a year but long enough to fire home 22 goals in 49 games to leave an impression on their fans but when Rovers cobbled together £12,000 to allow his return to Bristol he jumped at the chance and before he had the call from Walsall he had netted a further 113 goals for Rovers including 37 in all competitions in the 1963-4 season. His tally of 199 goals in 473 games for them made him the legend he was. Then on transfer deadline day of 16th March, 1968, he became a Walsall player to break the hearts of his thousands of adoring fans. The transfer fee was £10,000 but Alfie would only sign for Saddlers on one condition….that as part of the deal his beloved Rovers would provide him with a season ticket – for life! They were more than happy to do this for the contribution he had given them and today remains their second highest goalscorer in their history.
He came to Fellows Park with a career record of 221 goals at 32 years of age. Can you imagine the buzz amongst our fans if we signed a goalscorer of that pedigree today?! Saddlers had led the Third Division for a long spell in 1967-8 but had lost their way a bit and needed a goalscorer to try and get back into the promotion race with 11 games still to go. He made his Walsall debut at Barrow and in his third game scored a goal in our 4-0 victory over Northampton. Our manager at the time, Ray Shaw, handed team affairs over to Dick Graham soon after Alfie signed but continued for a while as general manager. His next goal came in a 1-1 home draw against Southport and then starred in two late April games also at Fellows Park- a penalty in a 2-1 victory against Mansfield and got two further goals in an exciting 3-2 win over Peterborough. Sadly he was signed a bit too late to fire Walsall into Division Two but his five goals in those eleven games showed the Fellows Park faithful what he was all about. He had acquired the nickname ‘elbows’ in his second spell at Rovers but he certainly wasn’t a dirty player- just big and awkward who wasn’t knocked off the ball.
There was another managerial change in the close season when Ron Lewin replaced Dick Graham so Alfie found himself playing for his third manager at Fellows Park by the time he made his 12th appearance in the white shirt. He had a good start in 1968-9 netting four times in the three early season League Cup games which comprised of a penalty in the 2-0 win over Shrewsbury and he was on target here against Swansea whilst in the replay at The Vetch he tucked away two more, his second in the 89th minute forcing the game into extra time. Walsall eventually lost 2-3 and must have made a big impression on the Welsh side who came hunting for him a few weeks later.
In the league, Alfie scored in the second and third games of our new campaign. The first was against…Bristol Rovers, it was destined to happen. The following Saturday it was Stockport to be on the receiving end. He had started the first ten games but was then left on the bench for the away game at Torquay as we faced two long distance away games in a three day spell. He came off the bench to create a bit of history for The Saddlers as he became the first Walsall player to score twice in a game after coming on as a sub. His goals couldn’t save his team as they went down 2-4 at Plainmoor. He figured in two more games towards the end of October but was surprisingly allowed to move on to Swansea in a player exchange for midfielder Jimmy Mac Morran who returned to Fellows Park. That season Biggs had scored 8 goals in 16 games which again was a decent return. His 13 goals in 26 games in our colours was only part of the story, he linked well with others and laid on one or two assists and looked the part despite his age.
For Swansea he appeared in 16 games that season scoring 4 goals but was already thinking about his future for when his playing days were over and worked part time as a second hand car salesman at Eastville Motors. He retired from the football league scene in 1969 but had one season at non-league Taunton Town where he continued to sell cars. A cartilage injury forced him to have to give up playing altogether and he worked at a couple more car salesrooms locally before trying his hand at several jobs including spells as a postman, a baker, working back at Eastville doing maintenance jobs. Then came a spell as a delivery driver before doing security work at Bristol University.
He kept on supporting Bristol Rovers, attending games and club functions and playing snooker in the club, always cheerfully chatting to his fans who still remembered his goalscoring exploits from decades ago. A minute’s silence was observed at a Rovers home game and his funeral was well attended by those who knew him in the footballing world including Stoke manager Tony Pulis. Bristol Rovers fans recalled his many years at Eastville with deep affection for their hero and apparently one of the favourite chants at Eastville was ‘Roll out the barrel, roll out the barrel for Alf!’ A reference to his pre-match drinking. Alfie always impressed on the young professionals in the dressing room NOT to follow his example of drinking and smoking…but it suited him just fine.
Category: Memory Lane