Monday night tribute to City legend Bert

A capacity Etihad Stadium crowd will be salivating with eager anticipation when Manchester City kick-off their 2013/14 campaign against Newcastle United on Monday night.

Expectations are justifiably high, but before the 45,000 or so home fans begin their appreciation of the likes of new boys, Fernandinho, Jovetic, Navas and Negredo they will reflect on the contribution of one of City’s first ever foreign imports – the truly unique and now sadly departed Bert Trautmann.

The term ‘legend’ and the sentiments accorded to an individual of such immense stature, is wholly appropriate when applied to this remarkable man, the like of which will never again adorn the football world.

When City’s supporters – and no doubt the travelling Geordies who appreciate all that’s best about the game – deliver a minute of rapturous applause in memory of Bert, they will be saluting a giant of a man who lived a life like no other.

The ex-Nazi paratrooper and prisoner of war, famously played on with a broken neck during City’s 3-1 FA Cup Final win over Birmingham City in 1956. He was the only man ever be awarded the Iron Cross, the OBE and be acclaimed as Footballer of the Year – not forgetting both winners and losers medals in FA Cup Finals – ironically losing out to The Toon 3-1 in 1955.

bert trautmann

City Legend – Bert Trautmann will be remembered with a minute’s applause at Monday night’s game with Newcastle United

Born in Bremen in 1923 in a Germany rife with political unrest in the aftermath of the First World War, Bert crammed a heck of a lot into his 89 years before succumbing to a heart attack at his home in Valencia, Spain last month.

As an unwitting youngster he was a member of the Hitler Youth movement before becoming an elite paratrooper in the Luftwaffe. He fought on the unforgiving Eastern Front against Stalin’s Soviet forces, where thousands upon thousands of his comrades died at the hands of the Red Army and the perishing cold of the Russian winter

Unaware of the atrocities being perpetrated by Hitler’s SS death squads he was horrified when he came across a massacre of Jews – children, women and elderly civilians – in October 1941. After the war he confessed to feeling almost suicidal at the time, such were his feelings of revulsion at the grisly discovery and the unspeakable atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis.

Bert’s fortunes improved when, after unexpected but very welcome leave back in Bremen, he was posted to the Western Front. Captured in Spring 1945, Bert was a POW and held captive in England.

Having known nothing other than the Nazi indoctrination, Bert freely admitted that his education began in the UK, where he was able to learn the values of democracy and banish the evils of Nazism.

Reflecting on how he was treated as a POW and his subsequent life in England, Bert said: “The way I was treated with fairness, kindness and tolerance was unbelievable.”

Paying tribute to the British people, he said: “You are a special type of people – a special island. Even though I was born in Germany I consider myself more English than German.”

Even so, Bert still had to overcome anti-German sentiments among some quarters in his adopted homeland, having passed up the opportunity to be repatriated to post-war Germany in 1947.

20,000 people attended a demonstration against the signing of what some saw as one of Hitler’s troops.

Upon joining City in October 1949, Bert was greeted by club captain Eric Westwood who shook hands in the dressing room and simply told him: “There’s no war here Bert, you’re one of us.” And so began a playing career spanning 15 years at Maine Road with the highlight being the 1956 cup victory and being voted Footballer of the Year.

After the 73rd minute clash with Birmingham forward Peter Murphy, Bert bravely continued for the last 17 minutes in pain and describing it as ‘playing in a kind of fog…’

Looking back, Bert knew how lucky he’d been. He was literally within a fraction of an inch of paralysis, even death, such was the severity of his injury. It wasn’t until four days after the Cup win that Bert’s condition was finally revealed.

He spent three weeks in a plaster cast from his head to his waist, with doctors warning he might never play again. It was during his recovery Bert and his wife, Margaret, suffered the tragedy of losing their five-year old son, John, who was killed after being hit by a car.

Bert and Margaret had two more sons – Mark and Stephen – and they will be present at the Etihad to initiate the minute’s applause for their father.

In 2004 Bert was honoured by the Queen when he received the OBE for his services in promoting positive Anglo-German relations through football, via his charitable foundation.

In 2010 Bert was quoted as saying that City was still his club and he always watched the Premier League matches on Spanish TV. His love for England never diminished, even to the point of cheering The Three Lions whenever they played Germany.

The overwhelming majority of Monday night’s crowd will never have seen Bert play first hand. Like myself, they’ll have been limited to the black & white footage reels and the accompanying ‘Pathe News’ upper class commentary of Bert’s heroics.

But, as befitting a true legend, Bert did not have to be seen to be believed. He is, and forever will be, a famous and fondly remembered figure in Manchester City’s history.

Calls for one of the stands at the Etihad to be named after him would appear highly appropriate and very popular with City supporters. At the very least, there is a healthy lobby seeking to have a statue erected in honour of the great man.

I for one would endorse such sentiments. It’s hard to believe that anyone will ever have given more to his team, than a man who, unwittingly risked his life for the cause, as well as making a remarkable 545 first team appearances.

 

 

This article is dedicated to another member of the Manchester City ‘family’ who is displaying remarkable courage in the face of massive adversity – Paul Glennon. Paul desperately wants to be around to see City win the Premier League come next May – it could well be his last chance. Please follow Paul on twitter @paulandailz and boost the spirits of a true blue.

 

@djwskyblu www.readbutneverred.com

 

26 Comments

  1. August 17, 2013  11:46 pm by Dave Bones Reply

    What a great read David,you surpassed yourself there me old pal,nice one.
    Bert Trautmann "Legend"

  2. August 18, 2013  12:00 am by Graham Ward Reply

    I was lucky enough to see Bert play half a game as a youngster in Johnny Hart's testimonial at Maine Road in about 1973/74.
    He'd been part of a half time veterans game, and got talked into playing the second half. Joe Corrigan took it all in behind the North Stand goal that Bert was defending, and there's a photo in Joe's own testimonial programme of the two of them together that night.
    Bert must have been in his early 50s by then, and, although he was beaten a couple of times or so, produced one amazing save, diving and catching a 'daisy cutter' of a shot at his near post, that Joe would have been proud of.
    Although most of Monday's crowd will never have seen him, they will certainly remember him, as I hope the club will do permanently in an appropriate manner in due course.
    They don't make 'em like that anymore. RIP.

  3. August 18, 2013  12:12 am by David Walker Reply

    Great re-collections Graham - one kind of gets the impression the mould was broken after Bert was created. Sadly I never saw him play but I DID clap him loudly when he made a guest appearance at the Etihad in recent times - but that doesn't count does it? Thankyou for the intel of Eric Westwood - Eddie's twin I do believe :-)

  4. August 18, 2013  1:54 am by Paul Reply

    Wow, what a piece of art through a pen, you really do have a talent of capturing a moment even though none of us was there, well we all know the man a little bit more. There comes an end for all of us but it is still sad for those we leave behind there the brave ones.
    I think becoming a part of the city team as a blogger is the the start of something special and who knows where it will take you writing about OUR beloved city all I know is that you deserve it you do have a fantastic art keep using it as you do, you are a special man and I'm greatful to have met you through the media of twitter, thanks for everything especially this honour I feel ? Well HONOURED

    • August 18, 2013  8:19 am by David Walker Reply

      Paul, Mr Glennon, Sir...it is my privilege to be able to dedicate this article to you - it is probably the most appropriate subject to align a legend of Man City to a man who I know is facing up to losing their life in such a courageous and stoical fashion. You leave me humbled when I 'see' how you are trying to prepare your loving wife and five fantastic children for life when you are no longer around to protect and look out for them. I only wish I could do something more purposeful for you...but I can't. Your comments are received with a tear in my eye, but I am at least thankful that I deliver a modicum of entertainment via Read But Never Red to help you through the day. The honour is mine - thankyou #MCFCBLUEBROS.

  5. August 18, 2013  5:52 am by MoleRocks Reply

    A very fitting reminder of how City can get in to your blood and how sport can break down many barriers.

    I hope the club go with a statue, I like the idea of City's great and good lining the route from the new academy to the stadium.

    Thanks again David, I shall be salivating in anticipation of your next article.

    • August 18, 2013  8:23 am by David Walker Reply

      Many thanks for your generous feedback Carl - I think I prefer naming a stand after Bert, but certainly wouldn't object if the club thought a statue was more appropriate. Sheikh Mansour and his team have done so much for City in such a short time and it would be even better if we could perhaps see more physical tributes to our stars of the past e.g. Malcolm Allison, Neil Young and Bert. We have the Colin Bell Stand, so death does not to be a pre-requisite to be recognised and acknowledged. So proud to be a City Blue. Thanks again.

  6. August 18, 2013  8:04 am by Alan Baxter Reply

    I met Eddy Brown at a test match in the 90's. he played for Birmingham that day. His route into football was also somewhat unconventional as he was studying to take holy orders during the war and was evacuated from the Channel Islands when they were invaded. He corresponded with me up to his death in July of last year (Birthday's Christmas etc). Like Bert he was a true gentleman from a bygone era. I don't think their like will ever be seen again in the professional game.

    • August 18, 2013  8:26 am by David Walker Reply

      I can only hope you're wrong Alan - in the nicest possible way - but fear you may well be right with your reference to the standards and overall attitudes to the game from players of a bygone age. I love City with a passion in whatever era, but cannot help but lament the humility and pragmatism of the players of the past.

  7. August 18, 2013  9:13 am by Susan Chaudhry Reply

    My Dad was a life long blue until the dy he died. The first story he ever told me was about attending the City v Stoke cup tie when 84 thousand plus turned up and as a small boy he was helped by the crowd to get to the front so that he could see the game. He said there was no pushing and shoving in the stands in those days. He fought in the war and his brother died in the war. But his favourite player was Bert..Bert restored his faith in the German race. .He saw him play in the Cup Final in 56 (I still have the match ticket) and he said you would never have known anything was wrong with Bert after the collision. He said he never saw anyone kick a ball longer then Bert and indeed one of the goals in the cup final came from a Bert special. What would he have done with today' s lighter balls. This was a special man -a link to the past -a link to why we love this club - a link to all the Dads and Uncles and friends no longer here with us who forged that special bond with a German paratrooper called Bert Trautmann and called him our own..

  8. August 18, 2013  9:33 am by Ian Barton Reply

    Hi Dave, I am one of the fortunate few to have seen Bert play, was always keen on goalkeepers, little lads in the 50's liked getting their knees dirty and anyway my Dad was a massive Swifty fan. My first game Fulham at home in 1959, blond lad in goal stood out like a beacon and did for me for the rest of my childhood. Was privileged to meet Bert at the Etihad in 2005, what a gent, had time for everyone and everyone wanted to talk to him! What a life, what a legend, if it was a film it would be dismissed as fantasy.
    Great read again Dave you have certainly captured the essence of Bert

    • August 18, 2013  12:41 pm by David Walker Reply

      Treasured moments Ian. I am lucky enough to have a black & white framed autographed pic in the Walker Mansions - 'Retro Room' - the downstairs cloakroom going from 1956 - 2012. You go for a pee and you're in there an hour with Bert, Joe Mercer, Buzzer, Franny, Skip, Mike Doyle, Colin the King, Neil Young, Rodney Marsh and more recently The Goat, Uwe, Dennis Tueart, Paul Dickov, Ali, Big Patrick Vieira, Bellers, NDJ & Mad Mario. If you served us well in the past but are no longer with MCFC then you're always welcome in the Walker WC - it gets a bit crowded mind!

  9. August 18, 2013  9:39 am by roy sykes Reply

    Thank you for taking the time to share Berts story. He was an extraordinary man who had to make a massive decision, the people of Manchester and Cheshire musthave made it veryeasy for him to settle after

    • August 18, 2013  12:42 pm by David Walker Reply

      Too right Roy - they took to him and he to they - unique and legendary - no half measures!

  10. August 18, 2013  10:33 am by Grant Mills Reply

    Great read again. Fitting tribute to my Dads favourite ever City player. I really hope the club name a stand after him. RIP Bert

    • August 18, 2013  12:43 pm by David Walker Reply

      Cheers Grant. I'm sure MCFC will do something as befits the great man.

  11. August 18, 2013  11:13 am by Etta Gregory Reply

    Such a moving read, obviously I saw him play, but sadly being too young to appreciate the man, (it was meaning more to me to be at matches with my Dad - who played in Beswick Prize Band - took me a while to get into the football). But the legend Bert has become you have captured in such detail with your, as always, fine penmanship! I believe our owners will plan a fitting tribute to one of our greatest hero's. as much as I love the idea of a stand named after him, I also really like the idea of some statutes outside the majestic Etihad. Never put the pen down David

    • August 18, 2013  12:46 pm by David Walker Reply

      Many thanks for your generous feedback EG, however always having pen in hand has it's downside when walking lively cockapoo puppy, taking a shower at the dinner table...

      Forgive me being facetious - thanks for reading and even more so for taking the time to actually comment.

  12. August 18, 2013  11:34 am by Andy Devereux Reply

    Got to be said a true blue LEGEND and i would have no issues in a stand being named after him .Top class read again David.

    • August 18, 2013  12:47 pm by David Walker Reply

      Gratitude Andy - hope MCFC can tell us in the course of the season what they plan to do to honour Bert's memory.

  13. August 18, 2013  11:36 am by Hazel Rodgers Reply

    Really enjoyed reading this piece. I was not aware of Bert's amazing life only his FA Cup heroics, and the stories my dad tells me. I will be there tomorrow showing my gratitude and hope the club can get a statue to honour a great player and person.

    • August 18, 2013  12:48 pm by David Walker Reply

      Thank you Hazel - wholeheartedly agree - either a statue or naming a stand.

  14. August 18, 2013  4:52 pm by Nev Artingstall Reply

    Great read as always David. If not a stand what about naming the bridge from the training complex to the stadium after Bert? It could represent the bridges he had to build with the community when he first signed for City. Just a suggestion. Roll on tomorrow.
    Nev

  15. August 18, 2013  10:11 pm by ArtyS Reply

    Terrific piece of writing on the late Bert Trautmann .I was lucky enough to see him play over six seasons or so before he retired & subsequently became manager of my local club , Stockport County.In those days I watched City at home one week & Stockport County at home the next week ( No Sky TV mucking about with the fixtures then ! ) . I support your comments wholeheartedly about the Club considering a permanent tribute to Bert.
    Excited & optimistic about the new season & looking forward to tomorrow night's game v Newcastle.Also looking forward to reading your articles throughout the season. Cheers Art

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