Former Manchester City goalkeeper Bert Trautmann, who famously played on in the 1956 FA Cup final despite breaking his neck, has died at the age of 89.
The German made 545 appearances for City between 1949 and 1964, winning the FA Cup and the Footballer of the Year award in 1956. He is regarded as one of City’s greatest ever and most popular players.
But he had arrived in England as a prisoner of war and 20,000 people protested at City’s decision to sign a soldier who had fought against the Allies.
He went on to become the first foreigner to win the Footballer of the Year award and received the OBE for helping improve Anglo-German relations.
“Bert Trautmann was an outstanding sportsman and a true gentleman," German football federation president Wolfgang Niersbach said in a statement. "He came to England as a soldier and therefore a wartime enemy and he became a celebrated hero. During his lifetime he already was a legend. His extraordinary career will remain in the history books forever.”
Trautmann, a paratrooper in the Luftwaffe, won the Iron Cross for his bravery on the Eastern Front before being captured by the British on the Western Front and being imprisoned in Lancashire, where he was noticed for his footballing ability.
After his release, he opted against returning to his native Bremen and played for St Helens Town before joining City and, despite the controversy about his recruitment, establishing himself as their first-choice goalkeeper.
Trautmann helped City win promotion to the old Division One, reach the 1955 FA Cup final and, despite breaking his neck in a challenge with Birmingham’s Peter Murphy, win it the following year, when he played the full 90 minutes in a 3-1 victory at Wembley.
By the time he left Maine Road in 1964, he had made a record number of appearances for City and since then, only Alan Oakes, Joe Corrigan and Mike Doyle have represented the club more often.
City ambassador Mike Summerbee told the club's official website: "The word legend is bandied around far too often but Bert was a man for whom the word might have been coined.
"What a life story he had. Those from older generations know all about his war stories and the fact that he broke his neck playing in a memorable FA Cup final win in 1956 and the folklore will not be buried with him.
"He was a big man, a giant of a man, in every sense of the word. He was courageous, determined, intrepid and above all that one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time who always retained a deep interest in Manchester City and kept a place in his heart for the club’s fans."
As Germany had a policy of only selecting players who played in their homeland, Trautmann did not feature in international football even though he was seen as one of the outstanding goalkeepers of his generation.
But he went on to manage Burman, Tanzania, Liberia and Pakistan before retiring in Spain.