Bert Trautmann – From Nazi Soldier to Man City HeroPosted: May 29, 2012
Whether you have been supporting Manchester City before it was fashionable or since the mega million takeover happened or not, there is a good chance you have heard of Bert Trautmann. Bert was one of the best goalkeepers of his generation, but before his days as a Man City hero, he had a very different life, one which shocked and surprised many.
Growing up in war-torn Germany, Trautmann joined the junior branch of the Hitler Youth in the late 1930s, but only for the sport it promised. Soon after in 1941, at the age of just 17, he volunteered for the military.
Deemed to be too slow at morse code to work as a Luftwaffe radio operator, he became a paratrooper and endured three years on the Eastern front where he earned an Iron Cross, and then went on to serve on the Western Front as Germany began to retreat.
With the Americans looking destined to capture him, Bert ran away and hopped a wall to get away from them, only to be met by British soldiers who took the sergeant to Britain as a prisoner of war.
After the war, Bert was released. However, knowing that everything he had in Germany was gone, he decided to stay in Britain and work on a farm and in his spare time play for his now local club St. Helens F.C.
He was a sensational ‘keeper, and he caught the attention of many top English clubs including Manchester United, Liverpool and Totteham Hotspur.
Manchester City won the race for his signature, but was met by protest from the fans who weren’t willing to accept a former Nazi paratrooper featuring in their team, with one banner in particular reading ‘If you sign this Nazi we will boycott you’. However, despite the protests, it took merely three games to win them over!
In an illustrious career that saw him become the first German to feature in an FA Cup Final and the first foreigner to win the FA Player of the Year, Bert still doesn’t rate either as the biggest highlight of his career, but rather that his teammates accepted him as one of them.
Perhaps the reason you may have heard of this goalkeeper was for an incredible 17 minutes in the 1956 FA Cup Final, Bert played with a broken bone in his neck. With Man City leading comfortably, there were concerns when Bert Trautmann was knocked out after a collision with Birmingham City’s Peter Murphy. With no subs permitted at the time, Trautmann chose to play on and, despite his serious injury, he was still forced into saves late in the game and played his part in City’s 3-1 triumph over Birmingham.
Not knowing how serious his injury was, Bert received the news he had broken several vertebrae, and his situation could have been life threatening had he broken any more.
Goalkeepers including Gordon Banks and Bob Wilson consider him an influence and an inspiration, but perhaps the greatest compliment of all was from Lev Yashin, widely regarded as the greatest goalkeeper of all-time, who famously said their are only two world class ‘keepers, Lev Yashin and Bert Trautmann:
“There have only been two world-class goalkeepers. One was Lev Yashin, the other was the German boy who played in Manchester – Trautmann.”
Now at 88 years old, Bert has watched the game change dramatically in his lifetime and has some criticisms of modern football, which is understandable from someone who was very much about the sport rather than the money. He feels wages are far too high for average players and the term ‘world class’ is thrown around far too often, but admits if he was offered £100,000 a week he wouldn’t turn it down!
From earning an Iron Cross to earning an OBE and playing in an FA Cup Final with a near life-threatening injury, Bert Trautmann will forever be one of football’s incredible stories.