HE was a darling of the Knowsley Road terraces, a charismatic figure that had crowds in raptures, but one whose antics occasionally drew the ire of the game’s administrators.

Yet this was no flying wingman or half back maestro, it was a lad dressed as a giant dog mascot in the red vee of Saints.

St Bernard became a favourite at the famous ground over a decade.

Today such characters are ten-a-penny in sport, but back in the mid-90s they were less common, says creator David Howes, the former Saints chief executive.

Howes sees St Bernard as a symbol of the shift from winter to summer rugby in 1996, when Super League injected razzmatazz to the game.

The then Saints chief came up with the creation after a fact-finding mission in America, where a crazy mascot known as Chicken George caught his eye.

Howes' family and marketing men generated the idea of taking ‘St’ out of Bernard so they could devise a larger-than-life character. A South Wales-based firm designed the costume, but Howes was only halfway there – he needed the right man to fill St Bernard’s boots.

They wanted him to win over the crowd, with taking the mickey out of the referee and joining cheerleaders’ routines all part of their plan.

There were a few volunteers, but Howes turned to his son Ben, then a student, to bring the character to life.

He said: “It wasn’t nepotism, I was just grateful he put his hand up. He really bought into it - including the magic about not revealing who was in the suit.”

The antics of Ben’s Bernard (the first and the best, say many) mean those memories still rattle around in the funny bones of Knowsley Road.

His dad added: “There were some classics, like when he challenged Sally Gunnell (Olympic gold medallist) to a race.

“Or the occasion he was on the BBC marching in front of the brass band at the Regal Trophy Final (1996), or walking out for Wigan’s last game at Central Park with a Tesco carrier bag.

“At Keighley he was sent off for cocking his leg against the sticks…at a home game his shorts fell down.

“It led to the chant ‘Bernard show us your .....I got in a bit of bother for that.

“Sometimes there were suggestions we’d be hauled before Super League. That would never have happened – because I would have taken St Bernard along to see Maurice (Lindsay) with me.”

Ben, meanwhile, is now a high-flying PR man for Amazon. He declines to speak of his alter ego, as is the mascot’s prerogative.