The good German - from enemy POW to beloved City 'legend'

Bert Trautmann arrived in England as a Nazi POW, but his talent in goal for Manchester City - and winning the FA Cup despite a broken neck - ensured post-war crowds soon took him to their hearts

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 July, 2013, 5:43am


He came as a soldier and war enemy to England, and became a celebrated hero and living legend, being awarded the Order of the British Empire. But Bert Trautmann will always be remembered for playing with a broken neck.

Trautmann - a German second world war paratrooper and former prisoner of war who became Manchester City's goalkeeper and helped the team win the 1956 FA Cup despite playing with a broken neck for the last 17 minutes of the final - died on Friday. He was 89.

The German Football Federation (DFB) said Trautmann died in La Llosa, near Valencia, Spain, where he lived. Trautmann had suffered two heart attacks this year, but appeared to have recovered well, the DFB said.

Manchester City called Trautmann one of the club's "greatest goalkeepers of all time and a true club legend".

"Bert Trautmann was a great sportsman and a real gentleman," DFB president Wolfgang Niersbach said.

Trautmann made 545 appearances for City between 1949 and 1964, and was revered for his performance in the team's 1956 FA Cup final win.

In 2004, he was appointed an honorary Officer of the British Empire for his efforts to improve Anglo-German relations.

Born in Bremen between the two world wars, Trautmann joined the Luftwaffe and served as a paratrooper during the second world war, earning an Iron Cross. He was captured in Russia, escaped and was captured again by the British as the war drew to a close.

He was sent to a prisoner of war camp in Ashton-in-Makerfield, near Wigan, where Trautmann caught attention during soccer matches played there.

Although a capable outfield player, he was forced into goal after picking up an injury during a match. Tall and athletic, Trautmann was a natural.

He would later claim his training as a paratrooper made it easy for him to perform acrobatic dives because he knew how to fall to the ground without injuring himself.

I played over 500 league games for City, but that moment is still the one people refer to

After playing for a local non-league side, Trautmann joined Manchester City in 1949, accompanied by the protest of 20,000 with memories of Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany still fresh.

Trautmann was the first German to play in a Wembley FA Cup final when City finished runners-up to Newcastle in 1955. One year later, Trautmann became the hero of City's triumph.

City had taken a 3-1 lead against Birmingham and with 17 minutes to go Trautmann dived at the feet of the on-rushing forward Peter Murphy. The Birmingham player's knee collided with the City goalkeeper's neck and Trautmann was knocked out. At the time, no substitutions were allowed and Trautmann, although unsteady, returned to his place between the posts.

Bert Trautmann was a great sportsman and a real gentleman

Trautmann produced two more outstanding saves and then collided with his own defender, Dave Ewing, and had to be revived again before he could continue. While receiving his medal, Trautmann complained of a "stiff neck".

It was three days later that an X-ray revealed a broken neck.

Trautmann was named the Football Writers' Player of the Year eight days before the final, the first foreign player to earn the honour.

"I played over 500 league games for City, but that moment is still the one people refer to so it can be a little frustrating at times because no matter how well I played during that time, people will still say, 'Ah, you're the fellow who broke his neck playing at Wembley'," Trautmann once said.

After the final, he needed time to recover from injury and personal tragedy - his five-year-old son was killed by a car. But he did and played on until he was 40.

Trautmann made England his adopted country and declined to be repatriated. He married locally, worked on a farm and later with a bomb disposal unit in Liverpool. His performances with the non-league club St Helen Town often brought out crowds of 9,000 - huge by the team's standards - and caught the eye of Manchester City.

He made his City debut in a 2-0 loss to Arsenal and played in 100 consecutive games before missing his first game through injury.

During one of his first games in London, still bearing the signs of heavy damage from air raids, Trautmann overcame a hostile reception to play so well that at the end of the game the players formed a line on either side of the tunnel and applauded him, while the Fulham crowd gave him a standing ovation.

During his career, he saved 60 per cent of the penalties he faced.

West Germany at the time only selected home-based players and he never played for the land of his birth. When West Germany won the 1954 World Cup, he was a translator for the team.

Soviet Union goalkeeper Lev Yashin, considered by many to be the greatest yet, once said he knew only two world-class 'keepers - himself and Trautmann.

After retiring, Trautmann helped in develop soccer in Africa and worked on improving Anglo-German ties.

Associated Press


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