FOOTBALL films tend to be a little disappointing, the subject matter very often packed with cliché and the action shots lacking realism and accuracy. However, the film that documents Bert Trautmann’s life is one of the best examples of bringing the beautiful game to the big screen. Not that The Keeper’sopening minutes provides much in the way of beauty, depicting Trautmann and his Wehrmacht colleagues entering into battle with the British army.
Cinema has often painted Germans as the bad guys and the British as standard bearers for fair play and decency. Anyone watching the current Brexit debacle from afar will wonder where this all went, but the film does outline the prejudice Trautmann encountered after WW2.
It also confirms that people in Britain didn’t really understand what went on in Germany in the 1930s and that there was no clear acceptance of the distinction between Nazi hardliners and ordinary military personnel. Germany was a dictatorship and many of their own people were persecuted and the vast majority lived in fear.
Trautmann, who was born in Bremen in 1923, said himself that he didn’t have a choice about becoming a soldier, he told the girl he eventually married, Margaret Finch, that he would have preferred to have danced with her rather than enter a life in the army.
When the war ended, Trautmann was still only 21 years old. Manchester City were brave to sign the young goalkeeper in 1949, especially as there was still a lot of anti-German sentiment in Britain.
Trautmann was the replacement for the legendary Frank Swift, who, ironically, died in Germany in the Munich air crash that devasted Manchester United’s “Busby Babes” in 1958.
Trautmann played more than 500 Football League games for City, but he is best known for his bravery in the 1956 FA Cup final against Birmingham City. Trautmann sustained an injury to his neck which proved to be broken. He carried on playing until the final whistle, but a severe jolt to the head could have killed him at Wembley. The incident made Trautmann something of a folk hero – the story of the keeper that broke his neck at the Cup Final has been passed down the decades.
Trautmann’s neck brace found its way to the football museum at Hitchin Town Football Club in the 1960s. Today it is still part of the North Hertfordshire museum.
Trautman was the first footballer in Britain to wear Adidas boots, thanks to his friendship with Adolf Dassler.
As a player, he was exceptional at saving penalties, with a 60% success rate. Lev Yashin, the legendary Russian custodian, declared just before he died: “There have been only two world-class goalkeeper. One was Lev Yashin, the other was the German boy who played in Manchester – Trautmann.”
The Keeper is a heart-warming film with some excellent and very authentic football scenes. However, the song “Wemberley…Wemberley” really belongs to a very different era.
Watch it, enjoy it, and remind yourself why we created a united Europe in the first place.