In May 1972, Harry Catterick paid £140,000 to bring former England under-23 international Mike Bernard to Goodison. Earmarked as an important part of the Everton manager’s rebuilding programme, it was hoped the arrival of Bernard – who had just helped Stoke City to win the League Cup – would bring some of the competitive spirit lacking since Alan Ball’s controversial departure to Arsenal the previous December.
With his solid, somewhat chunky physique, Bernard was an archetypal ball winner in an era of midfield hard men. Tough, competitive and a tireless worker, he was the sort of player that allowed more attack-minded colleagues to express themselves. Arguably, he lacked some of the cut-and-thrust and dirty tricks that saw other midfield harriers elevated to international level, but Bernard could sometimes take his competitiveness too far – as witness his sending off in Everton’s bad-tempered UEFA Cup tie with AC Milan in 1975.
By then he had been converted by Billy Bingham to right back, a position that was hitherto alien to him. He proved a competent rather than outstanding defender, but his competitive spirit and enthusiasm never wavered and he always gave his best in a position that was problematic for Everton throughout the 1970s.
Following Gordon Lee’s arrival as manager in January 1977, Bernard fell behind Terry Darracott and Steve Sergeant in the pecking order. He nevertheless made a rare appearance in the first replay of the League Cup Final with Aston Villa, playing on through extra time despite being injured – a performance that one veteran Evertonian described to this author as the most outstandingly brave he had witnessed. It was this sort of resilience that seemed to typify the player.
This virtually represented his last action as an Everton player, and in July 1977 he joined Oldham Athletic, whom he served briefly before injury forced his premature retirement from the game.