Goalkeeper James Bernard Fisher signed amateur terms for Hull City in August 1955, having played junior football in his native city of York. Born and raised in Haxby, Bernard worked for a silversmith in York before embarking on his National Service in 1952 – it was while serving in Malaya that he was first noted as a capable goalkeeper and he was quickly signed up by the Tigers once his military duties drew to a close. Within two months of signing for City he was given a baptism of fire in October 1955 when selected in goal to play crack Hungarian side Vasas Budapest in a floodlit friendly that City won 3-1 in front of nearly 4,000 fans, with Bill Bradbury scoring a hattrick and Fisher turning in an assured performance. He was competing with City legend Billy Bly and Mancunian David Teece for the keeper’s shirt – while Teece was quickly swept aside and trasferred to Oldham, Bly was a far more capable netminder and kept Fisher in reserve for a full five seasons. Bly’s regular injuries and mishaps, a result of his incredible bravery, meant that Bernard had made 36 senior appearances for the Tigers by the time Bly retired in 1960.
Finn Mauno Rintanen, Black Country product Len Round and Goole-based youngster Barry Lord also competed for the goalkeeper shirt during the late 1950s, but in 1960/61 season it was Fisher who was elevated to first choice and he missed only one game all season, Lord deputising in an August defeat at Newport. During that season Fisher played in all five FA Cup ties against Darlington during November and December 1960, four draws failing to separate the sides before a 3-0 win at Ayresome Park saw City into the Third Round. Cliff Britton took over the managerial reins from Bob Brocklebank in 1961 and set about rejuvenating the City side around the precocious goalscoring talents of Chris Chilton – however Britton looked no further than Fisher to fill the number one shirt. A Yuletide injury meant Bernard briefly yielded to Midlander Les Green for four games, but Bernard started 47 senior fixtures in all competitions. Fisher started the 1962/63 season again as first choice, but by mid-September locally born teenage keeper Mike Williams took over first team duties and Fisher was consigned to the reserves. Now approaching the age of 29, Bernard decided to leave City in the 1963 close season.
Fisher joined Bradford City in July 1963 and in two years he started 60 league games, being ever-present in his first season. In October 1964 Fisher was responsible for two errors that led to goals in a 0-3 defeat at Millwall and he dropped out of the first team scene at Valley Parade, leaving the club in the 1965 close season and hanging up his boots. He spent two years working in Sydney, Australia where he played amateur football for Auburn FC and when he returned to England he retrained as a joiner and rejoined the military when he became a NAAFI inspector based first in Shrewsbury then later Bournemouth. In later years he lived in Poole and worked in a local Golf Centre, using his handiwork skills to re-cover snooker tables and even fashion a makeshift home on the premises. In 2020, in failing health, he returned to the York area and lived in a nursing home in Heslington. Bernard died in April 2022 at the admirable age of 88, his funeral taking place in early May at York Crematorium.
Many thanks to David Bond for details of Bernard’s life before and after his professional footballing career.
Date/Place of Birth: 23 February 1934, York
Hull City First Game: 22 October 1955, Swansea Town A (Division Two), 21 years, 241 days old
Hull City Final Game: 3 September 1962, Millwall A (Division Three), 28 years, 192 days old
Hull City (1955-1963), Bradford City (1963-1965), Auburn FC
Hull City Record
Career: 142 apps, 0 goalsBernard Fisher