A lovely tribute from Manchester City on their website celebrating the life of legendary goalkeeper Bert Trautmann on what would have been his 100th birthday.
Alan Rowlands wrote the definitive biography of Trautmann back in the 90's which has been revised since and is still available at JMD Media. There have been a few books and a film about him since, all heavily influenced by Alan's original book.
I had the great fortune to meet Bert for a couple of days when we relaunched the book as a paperback in the mid 2000's. We flew him over from Spain for a mini-book signing tour and I was surprised at how popular and loved he was, even after so many years.
At W.H.Smith's in Stockport, they were queuing out the door when we arrived, and he signed books for five hours without even a loo break. At the club itself, I saw grown men cry after meeting him - old men telling their grandsons' about particular memories they had of his saves. The fans even brought memorabilia to sign and he never said no - he even signed a piece of a boat that someone had brought - named the Trout Man - after Bert.
We didn't talk much about football in the two days I was with him, often discussing WWII and his role in the German army (he liked the Hitler Youth as he played sport all the time, not realising as a child how it was just indoctrination). He also joined their parachute regiment because it was adventurous. This voluntary entry into the German army meant that when he was captured by the Allies, he was interred until a few months after the war finished. But I was struck about how clearly he remembered how well he was looked after in the UK as a POW, giving him an innate sense of the British psyche of fair play.
He then went on to discuss the reaction to playing football by the British population. As a top handball player in Germany, he naturally fell into his role as a goalkeeper and became a good amateur keeper. So good that City wanted to sign him. He described how 10,000 marched in Manchester against signing 'a Kraut'.
But then I saw tears forming as he described how when he left City, 30,000 people turned out to say goodbye to him. More than anything, he said that this was his greatest achievement.
We never talked about the broken neck or the Cup Final as he got that all the time from the media and the public alike, but when I mentioned Gordon Bank's save against Pele, supposedly the greatest save ever, he was dismissive. 'He was out of position and should have caught the cross'. I have watched the save back many times since and still don't see that, but then again I am not one of the greatest keepers to have ever lived.
Of all my time in publishing, meeting Bert is in my top three highlights - alongside meeting Brian Clough and the Derby County championship winning side of 74-75 (I am a massive Rams fan) - but this is my favourite non-partisan memory of them all. A truly great, humble man, with dry humour and steely determination. My signed copy of the book is one of my most treasured possessions.
For details of the book, see Trautmann: The Biography – JMD Media Ltd