Bert Trautmann has one of the most unique stories in English football history.
The German was transported to the UK during the Second World War as a prisoner-of-war after being captured on the Western Front.
Upon his release from the POW camp in Lancashire, Trautmann refused the offer of repatriation to Germany and settled in England. He played one season in goal for Liverpool County Combination club St Helens Town, before a move to First Division Manchester City.
Anti-German sentiment was rife at the time and a crowd of up to 25,000 turned out to demonstrate against a former-Luftwaffe paratrooper representing City.
Over time Trautmann won the fans around through his heroic goalkeeping performances, one in particular away to Fulham leading to a standing ovation from home and away supporters alike.
The goalkeepers most famous game was, of course, the 1956 FA Cup final, just two days after becoming the first non-British or Irish player to receive the FWA award.
With 17 minutes left to play Trautmann dived at the feet of Birmingham City forward Peter Murphy and suffered a broken neck from the collision. He was later told that ‘according to all medical know-how he should have been dead’, as it was Trautmann was revived with smelling salts, played out the remainder of the game and even enjoyed the victors banquet before finally going to hospital.
Trautmann played more than 500 games for City establishing himself as a club legend and was admired throughout the country going on to be awarded an honorary OBE in 2004 for his work in Anglo-German relations.
Trautmann received an Iron Cross in Germany during the Second World War for bravery on the Eastern Front and in later life an Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.
It is highly likely Trautmann is the only man to have ever been awarded both a British OBE and a German Iron Cross, a truly unique man beloved in his native Germany and adopted England.
What Bert said:
“It was my great honour to be the first foreign player to be elected Footballer of the Year. How could I forget it? Just two days after receiving the award I broke my neck in the FA Cup final at Wembley!
“I played for the rest of the game in a daze, with my head tilted to one side to try to ease the pain. Of course, I had no idea then just how serious the injury was.
“I returned to action halfway through the next season and continued to play for City for another eight years.
“I had watched the Hungarians beat England 6-3 in 1953 along with several of my city team-mates, and we decided we should try the Hidegkuti style, of a deep lying centre-forward. Don Revie played the role to perfection, and we reached two successive FA Cup finals and I followed Don as Footballer of the Year.”