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Bernhard Carl "Bert" Trautmann, OBE (born 22 October 1923), is a retired German footballer who played for Manchester City from 1949 to 1964. Brought up during times of inter-war strife in Germany, Trautmann joined the Luftwaffe early in the Second World War, serving as a paratrooper. He fought on the Eastern Front for three years, earning five medals including an Iron Cross. Later in the war he was transferred to the Western Front, where he was captured by the British as the war drew to a close. One of only 90 of his original 1,000-man regiment to survive the war, he was transferred to a prisoner-of-war camp in Ashton-in-Makerfieldmarker, Lancashiremarker. Trautmann refused an offer of repatriation, and following his release in 1948 he settled in Lancashire, combining farm work with playing as goalkeeper for local football team St Helens Town.

Performances for St Helens gained Trautmann a reputation as an able goalkeeper, resulting in interest from Football League clubs. In October 1949 he signed for Manchester City, a club playing in the highest level of football in the country, the First Division. The club's decision to sign a former Axis paratrooper sparked protests, with 20,000 people attending a demonstration. Over time he gained acceptance through his performances in the City goal, playing all but five of the club's next 250 matches.

Named FWA Footballer of the Year for 1956, Trautmann entered football folklore with his performance in the 1956 FA (Football Association) Cup Final. With 17 minutes of the match remaining Trautmann suffered a serious injury after diving at the feet of Birmingham City's Peter Murphy. Despite his injury he continued to play, making crucial saves to preserve his team's 3–1 lead. His neck was noticeably crooked as he collected his winner's medal; three days later an X-ray revealed it to be broken.

Trautmann continued to play for Manchester City until 1964, making 545 appearances. After ending his playing career he moved into management, first with lower-division sides in England and Germany, and later as part of a German Football Association development scheme that took him to several countries including Burmamarker, Tanzania and Pakistanmarker. In 2004 he was appointed an honorary Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for promoting Anglo-German understanding through football.

Early life in Germany

was born on 22 October 1923 in Walle, a middle class area in west Bremenmarker, living with his father, who worked in a fertiliser factory by the docks, and his mother Frieda, a housewife. He had one brother, Karl-Heinz, three years his junior, with whom he enjoyed a close relationship. The bleak economic climate of the early 1930s forced the Trautmanns to sell their house and move to an apartment block in the working class area of Gröpelingen, where Bernhard lived until 1941. The young Bernhard had a keen interest in sports, playing football, handball and völkerball (a form of dodgeball). To this end he joined the YMCA and football club Blau und Weisse. He took to playing for the football club with enthusiasm, but the YMCA activities did not hold his attention to the same extent. In August 1933 he joined a new organisation instead, the Jungvolk, a precursor to the Hitler Youth. The following year, he won several local junior athletics events and was awarded a certificate for athletic excellence signed by Paul von Hindenburg, the President of Germany. At the onset of the Second World War, Trautmann was working as an apprentice motor mechanic.

Second World War

In 1941 Trautmann joined the Luftwaffe, initially as a radio operator. During training he did not show much aptitude for radio work and so he transferred to Spandaumarker to become a paratrooper. He served first in Occupied Poland, though a station far behind the front line resulted in boredom for his regiment, which resorted to sports and practical jokes to pass the time. One such practical joke involving a car backfired on Trautmann, resulting in a staff sergeant burning his arms. Trautmann was court-martialled, and received a three-month prison sentence. At the start of his confinement Trautmann came down with acute appendicitis, and spent the remainder of his sentence in a military hospital. In October 1941 he rejoined the 35th at Dnepropetrovskmarker, Ukrainemarker, where the German advance had halted because of the early onset of winter. Over-winter hit-and-run attacks on Soviet Army supply routes were the main focus of the unit, and in spring Trautmann was promoted to corporal. Gains were made in 1942, but the Soviet counter-offensive hit Trautmann's unit hard, and by the time it was withdrawn from the Eastern Front, only 300 of the original 1,000 remained. Trautmann won five medals for his actions on the Eastern Front, including an Iron Cross First Class.

Promoted to sergeant, Trautmann was part of a unit formed from the remnants of several others which had been decimated in the east, stationed in Francemarker in preparation for the Allied Invasion of Normandymarker. In 1944 he was one of the few survivors of the Allied bombing of Klevemarker, and with no unit left he decided to head homeward to Bremen. By this point German soldiers without valid leave papers were being shot as deserters, so Trautmann sought to avoid troops from either side. However, a few days later he was captured in a barn by two American soldiers. Deciding that Trautmann had no useful intelligence to give them, the soldiers marched him out of the barn with his hands raised. Fearing he was about to be executed, Trautmann fled. After gaining enough distance to evade his captors, he jumped over a fence, only to land at the feet of a British soldier, who greeted him with the words "Hello Fritz, fancy a cup of tea?" Earlier in the war he had been captured by the Russiansmarker and later the French Resistance, but escaped both times. With the war drawing to a close, Trautmann did not attempt a third escape. He was initially imprisoned near Ostendmarker, Belgiummarker, then transferred to a transit camp in Essex, where he was interrogated. As a volunteer soldier who had been subject to indoctrination from a young age, he was classified as a category "C" prisoner by the authorities, meaning he was regarded as a Nazi. Trautmann, one of only 90 of his original regiment to survive the war, was then transferred to a prisoner-of-war camp in Northwichmarker, Cheshiremarker, interned with other category "C" prisoners. He was soon downgraded to non-Nazi "B" status, following which he was taken to PoW Camp 50 in Ashton-in-Makerfieldmarker, a small town in Lancashiremarker between St Helensmarker and Wiganmarker, where he stayed until 1948. Football matches were regularly held at the camp, in which Trautmann played outfield. However, in a match against amateur team Haydock Parkmarker, Trautmann picked up an injury while playing centre-half. He asked to swap positions with goalkeeper Gunther Luhr, and from that day forward played as a goalkeeper. It was during this time he became known as "Bert", as the English had trouble pronouncing "Bernd", the abbreviated version of his name.

Early football career

With closure of the PoW camp imminent, Trautmann declined an offer of repatriation and stayed in Britain, working on a farm, and subsequently working on bomb disposal in Liverpoolmarker. He also played amateur football for the Liverpool County Combination club St Helens Town, through which he met the club secretary's daughter, Margaret Friar, whom he later married. Over the course of the 1948–49 season Trautmann's goalkeeping reputation steadily grew, and a series of high crowds were attributed to his displays, including a record 9,000 attendance in the final of a local cup competition, the Mahon Cup.

Manchester City

As the following season commenced, a number of League clubs showed interest in signing Trautmann. The first to offer him a contract was Manchester City, and on 7 October 1949 Trautmann signed for the club as an amateur, turning professional shortly after.

Supporter discontent

Some Manchester City fans were not happy about having a former member of the Luftwaffe on the team. Season ticket holders threatened a boycott and various groups in Manchester and around the country bombarded the club with protest letters. Besides the difficulties with his nationality, Trautmann was replacing the recently retired Frank Swift, one of the greatest keepers in the club's history. Though privately expressing doubts about the signing, club captain Eric Westwood, a Normandy veteran, made a public display of welcoming Trautmann by announcing "There's no war in this dressing room". Trautmann made his first team debut on 19 November against Bolton Wanderers, and after a competent display in his first home match for the club protests shrank, as fans discovered his talent. He continued to receive abuse from crowds at away matches, which affected his concentration in some of his early games; in December 1949 he conceded seven goals at Derby County.

City's match against Fulham in January 1950 was Trautmann's first visit to London. The match received widespread media attention as the majority of the British press were based in London; several leading sportswriters were watching Trautmann in action for the first time. The heavy damage caused to the city by the Luftwaffe meant former paratrooper Trautmann was a hate figure for the crowd, who yelled "Kraut" and "Nazi" at him. City were struggling in the league, and were widely expected to suffer a heavy defeat. However, a string of saves from Trautmann meant that the final scoreline was a narrow 1–0 defeat instead. Upon the final whistle Trautmann received a standing ovation, and was applauded off the pitch by both sets of players. The Manchester City team continued to struggle throughout the season, and were relegated to the Second Division.

Successive cup finals

Manchester City returned to the top flight at the first attempt, and in the following years Trautmann established himself as one of the best keepers in the league, playing all but five of his club's next 250 league matches. By 1952 his fame had spread to his home country, leading Schalke to offer Manchester City £1,000 for his services. The offer was flatly refused, the club responding that they thought Trautmann to be worth twenty times more.

In the mid-1950s Manchester City manager Les McDowall introduced a new tactical system using a deep-lying centre-forward, which became known as the Revie Plan after Don Revie, who played the centre-forward role. The system depended on maintaining possession of the ball wherever possible, which required Trautmann to make use of his throwing ability. For goalkeepers of Trautmann's era it was usual to kick the ball as far as possible downfield after making a save. In contrast Trautmann, influenced by the Hungarian goalkeeper Gyula Grosics, sought to start attacks by throwing the ball to a wing-half, typically Ken Barnes or John McTavish. The wing-half would then pass to Revie, who developed the attack further. Using this system the club reached the 1955 FA Cup Final, in which Trautmann became the first German to play in an FA Cup final. City faced Newcastle United, the winners of the cup in 1951 and 1952. Nerves affected the City players, and they went behind to a Jackie Milburn goal after only 45 seconds. Further problems were caused by the loss of Jimmy Meadows to injury after 18 minutes, leaving City with 10 men. The man advantage meant Trautmann's ability to start attacks from throws was limited. Though City equalised in the first half, they struggled in the second, and after 57 minutes Trautmann was outwitted by Bobby Mitchell, who scored Newcastle's second goal. The match finished as a comfortable 3–1 win for Newcastle, and Trautmann gained only a runners-up medal.

Though defeated in the 1955 final, Manchester City had another strong season in 1955–56, finishing fourth in the league and again reaching the FA Cup final, in which they faced Birmingham City. Trautmann was one of the team's most prominent performers. He had won the FWA Footballer of the Year Award shortly before the 1956 cup final, the first goalkeeper to win the award. Two days later Trautmann stepped out onto the Wembleymarker pitch for the match that gained him worldwide acclaim. During the previous final, nervousness had contributed to the opposition scoring an early goal. The City team were more settled on this occasion however, and scored an early goal themselves, a left footed strike by Joe Hayes. Birmingham equalised on 14 minutes. The match remained level until midway through the second half, when Jack Dyson and Bobby Johnstone scored two goals in as many minutes to give Manchester City a 3–1 lead. Birmingham attacked strongly in the next ten minutes. In the 75th minute Trautmann, diving at an incoming ball, was knocked out in a collision with Birmingham's Peter Murphy in which he was hit in the neck by Murphy's right knee. No substitutes were permitted, so Trautmann, dazed and unsteady on his feet, carried on. For the remaining 15 minutes he defended his net, making a crucial interception to deny Murphy once more. Manchester City held on for the victory, and Trautmann was the hero of the final because of his spectacular saves in the last minutes of the match. His neck continued to cause him pain, and Prince Phillip commented on its crooked state as he gave Trautmann his winner's medal. Trautmann attended that evening's post-match banquet despite being unable to move his head, and went to bed expecting the injury to heal with rest. As the pain did not recede, the following day he went to St George's Hospitalmarker, where he was told he merely had a crick in his neck which would go away. Three days later, he got a second opinion from a doctor at Manchester Royal Infirmarymarker. An X-ray revealed he had dislocated five vertebrae in his neck, the second of which was cracked in two. The third vertebra had wedged against the second, preventing further damage which could have cost Trautmann his life.

Recovery from injury

Trautmann's convalescence took several months, resulting in him missing a large part of the 1956–57 season. Jack Savage deputised during his absence. At the start of December Trautmann played two reserve matches, but lacked confidence. He was restored to the first team on 15 December for a match against Wolverhampton Wanderers, but conceded three goals. He continued to struggle for form in the remainder of the season, leading to some calls from fans and media for him to retire. Others criticised the club, believing that Trautmann had been forced to play while still not fully recovered from injury.

The 1957–58 season was an unusual one for Manchester City, who became the first and thus far only English team to both score and concede 100 goals in a season. Trautmann played in 34 of these matches, and though he did not play in the 9–2 defeat to West Bromwich Albion, an 8–4 defeat to Leicester City was a record for the most goals conceded by Trautmann in a match at any point in his career, and in the entire season he kept only two clean sheets.


He appeared in 545 matches for City during the 15-year period between 1949 and 1964.

In 1964 he finished his career with a testimonial in front of an official crowd of 47,000, though the actual figure was estimated to be closer to 60,000. Trautmann captained a special joint Manchester City & Manchester United XI that included Bobby Charlton and Denis Law, against an England team that included Tom Finney, Stanley Matthews and Jimmy Armfield.

International football

Though recognised as one of the leading goalkeepers of his era, he never played for his native country. Trautmann met with German national coach Sepp Herberger in 1953, who explained that travel and political implications prevented him from selecting a player who was not readily available, and that he could only consider including Trautmann if he was playing in a German league. Consequently, Trautmann's international isolation prevented him from playing in the 1954 World Cup, in which his countrymen were victorious. Trautmann's only experience of international football came in 1960, when the Football League decided to include non-English players to represent the Football League in representative matches for the first time. Trautmann captained the League against the Irish League, and also played against the Italian League.

Later career

After leaving City Trautmann played briefly for Wellington Town, who offered him £50 per match. Age had diminished his abilities, but his debut at Hereford showed he still had the ability to draw crowds. However, he was sent off for violent conduct in his second match, and never played again.

Style of play

Trautmann excelled at shot-stopping, particularly penalties, saving 60% of those he faced over the course of his career. Manchester United manager Matt Busby went so far as to mention Trautmann's anticipation in his pre-match team talks: "Don't stop to think where you're going to hit it with Trautmann. Hit it first and think afterwards. If you look up and work it out he will read your thoughts and stop it." Similar sentiments were expressed by Manchester City midfielder Neil Young who recalled that "the only way to beat him with a shot in training was to mishit it". As a former handball player Trautmann was adept at throwing the ball long distances, an attribute he used to start attacking moves, particularly after witnessing Hungarian goalkeeper Gyula Grosics use such tactics to good effect in Hungary's 6–3 victory over England in 1953.

Trautmann found it difficult to accept criticism, and he allowed only close friends to suggest changes to his game. He occasionally dwelt on mistakes to the detriment of his concentration, a tendency his friend Stan Wilson called "picking at daisies". A short temper also caused occasional problems; he was sent off on more than one occasion.

Over the course of his career Trautmann received many plaudits from leading football figures. When Russian goalkeeper Lev Yashin was asked to name the greatest goalkeeper ever he replied "There have only been two world-class goalkeepers. One was Lev Yashin, the other was the German boy who played in Manchester – Trautmann." Former Arsenal goalkeeper Bob Wilson names Trautmann as his boyhood hero, and Gordon Banks cited him as an influence on his playing style.

Coaching career

After a couple of months pondering his future career plans he received a telephone call from Stockport County chairman Victor Bernard, who offered him the position of general manager. Stockport were a struggling lower league team with a small budget, and Trautmann's appointment was an attempt to improve the image of the club. Many people in the local area supported one of the two Manchester clubs, so to stimulate interest Trautmann and Bernard decided to move matches to Friday evenings, when neither Manchester club would be playing. This improved revenue, but the team continued to struggle. Trautmann resigned in 1966 following a disagreement with Bernard. From 1967 to 1968 he was manager of the German team Preußen Münster, taking them to a 13th-place finish in the Regionalliga West, following which he had a short spell at Opel Rüsselsheim. The German Football Association then sent him as a development worker to countries without national football structures. His first posting was in Burmamarker, where he spent two years as the national coach, qualifying for the Olympics in 1972, and winning the President's Cup, a tournament contested by southeast Asian countries, later that year. His work subsequently took him to Tanzania, Liberiamarker, Pakistanmarker and Yemenmarker, until 1988, when he retired and settled in Spain.


He was appointed an honorary OBE in 2004 for his work in Anglo-German relations. In 2005 he was inducted into the National Football Museummarker's Hall of Fame.

Personal life

Trautmann married a Manchester woman, Margaret Friar, in 1950, but they divorced in the 1960s. The couple had three children, John, Mark and Stephen. John, his firstborn son, was killed in a car accident a few months after the FA Cup Final in 1956, aged five. According to Trautmann his wife's struggle to come to terms with the loss ultimately resulted in the breakup of their marriage. He married Ursula Van der Heyde, a German national, while living in Burma in the 1970s, but divorced in 1982. Since 1990 Trautmann has lived with his third wife Marlis in a small bungalow on the Spanish coast near Valenciamarker. He has since helped found the Trautmann Foundation which aims to use his example to improve Anglo-German relations through football.




  1. Rowlands, Trautmann: The Biography, p13
  2. Rowlands, Trautmann: The Biography, p14
  3. Blau und Weisse later became part of the Tura Bremen club, so some sources list Tura as the club he played for as a junior.
  4. Rowlands, Trautmann: The Biography, p19
  5. Rowlands, Trautmann: The Biography, p22
  6. James, The Official Manchester City Hall of Fame, p134
  7. Rowlands, Trautmann: The Biography, p38
  8. Rowlands, Trautmann: The Biography, pp. 43–44.
  9. Rowlands, Trautmann: The Biography, p. 49.
  10. Rowlands, Trautmann: The Biography, p. 57.
  11. James, The Official Manchester City Hall of Fame, p. 135.
  12. Rowlands, Trautmann: The Biography, p63
  13. Clayton, Everything under the blue moon, p196
  14. James, The Official Manchester City Hall of Fame, p135
  15. Rowlands, Trautmann: The Biography, p85
  16. Penney, The Maine Road Encyclopedia, p194
  17. James, The Official Manchester City Hall of Fame, p76
  18. Rowlands, Trautmann: The Biography, p97
  19. Rowlands, Trautmann: The Biography, p99
  20. James, Manchester City – The Complete Record, p366
  21. James, The Official Manchester City Hall of Fame, p139
  22. James, The Official Manchester City Hall of Fame, p137
  23. Rowlands, Trautmann: The Biography, p118
  24. Rowlands, Trautmann: The Biography, pp157–158
  25. James, Manchester City – The Complete Record, p49
  26. Rowlands, Trautmann: The Biography, p168
  27. James, Manchester City – The Complete Record, p159
  28. Rowlands, Trautmann: The Biography, p184
  29. Wallace, Century City – Manchester City Football Club 1957/58, page 200
  30. Rowlands, Trautmann: The Biography, p195
  31. Wallace, Century City – Manchester City Football Club 1957/58, page ix
  32. Rowlands, Trautmann: The Biography, p199
  33. James, Manchester City – The Complete Record, p383
  34. Brandon, A–Z of Manchester Football: 100 Years of Rivalry, p220
  35. James, The Official Manchester City Hall of Fame, p142
  36. Rowlands, Trautmann: The Biography, p123
  37. Rowlands, Trautmann: The Biography, p216
  38. Penney, Manchester City: The Mercer-Allison Years, p11
  39. Rowlands, Trautmann: The Biography, p162
  40. Rowlands, Trautmann: The Biography, p247
  41. Rowlands, Trautmann: The Biography, p218
  42. Rowlands, Trautmann: The Biography, p223
  43. Rowlands, Trautmann: The Biography, p234
  44. Rowlands, Trautmann: The Biography, p226
  45. Rowlands, Trautmann: The Biography, p242


Further reading

  • Streppelhoff, R. (2009). Zwei Deutsche in England: Die Fußballkarrieren von Bernd Trautmann und Alois Eisenträger. In Peiffer, L. (Hrsg.), SportZeiten. Sport in Geschichte, Kultur und Gesellschaft. (S. 33–51). Göttingen: Werkstatt

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