Some of you will have seen the new Bert Trautmann film “The Keeper”, which premiered last week.
I had the privilege of attending the blue carpet showing in Manchester last Thursday and can wholeheartedly recommend the film when it comes around on general release on Friday next, 5th April.
It gives a wonderful, if not comprehensive, overview of Bert’s life, from the time he was captured by British forces in Europe in 1944 up to the period following his infamous injury in the FA Cup Final of 1956.
It is not just a football film, though. Far from it.
Above all, it is both a love story showing how he met, married and settled down in England with Margaret Friar, the daughter of St. Helens Town’s manager of the time; more than that, it is the story of how a man with a background in the Hitler Youth and Nazi Wehrmacht came to be accepted, not only as a footballer, but as a British citizen, by the people of St. Helens, Manchester, the Jewish community and the United Kingdom and who did so much in his life to bring about and project Anglo-German reconciliation.
The only gripe I had when viewing the film was the almost total factual inaccuracy of Bert’s career at St. Helens Town.
Whilst Trautmann’s exploits at Manchester City are well-chronicled – the film was well supplemented with actual footage of Bert in action for City during various games in the 1950s - the game action, supposedly at Hoghton Road, had no basis at all in fact.
Given that virtually all cinema-goers would have no knowledge at all of Trautmann’s deeds at St. Helens Town, the inaccuracy of the footage probably did not matter one jot, but having spent 10 years and upwards making the film and a not inconsiderable budget (they even purchased a 1956 FA Cup Final programme from me, which appeared for all of a few seconds in John Henshaw’s hands), I would have expected the makers might have asked the club to check the basic facts!
However, who am I to let the truth get in the way of a good story. Here we have Jack Friar introducing Trautmann to his team-mates as “Bert from Bradford” in the dressing room, replacing regular ‘keeper Alf Myers (who never existed, according to Town’s records).
St. Helens were apparently fighting a relegation battle at that stage of the season, needing to win virtually every game to stay up, only for Trautmann to save the day in the last game of the season, at home to Burscough, which they duly won 3-1, having been 0-1 down at one stage.
The truth of the story is that Trautmann made his debut at the beginning of the 1948/49 season, playing 37 games that campaign and 9 the following season, before leaving for Manchester City during the first week of October 1949.
I even checked back to the end of 1947/48 season, to see whether he might have played under an assumed name, but Eric Holmes and Ray Cooper shared the goalkeeping duties that season, Holmes playing most of the early games with 24 appearances and Cooper rounding off the season with 12.
That was Town’s first season following reformation and they finished comfortably in mid-table with a 50% record and the Burscough home game was played on 8th November 1947, ending as a 2-2 draw.
The 1948/49 season ended in triumph for Town and for Bert, for they won promotion to the Lancashire Combination from the Liverpool County Combination. On the season’s closing day, Bert and the team won the George Mahon Trophy, beating Runcorn 2-1 in the Final at Prescot in the morning and 10 of the same 11 players turned out again in the afternoon to beat Orrell (Bootle) 4-2 in the final league game.
That would have made a good story for the film in itself – just a pity nobody asked anyone at the club!
The trailer for the film that was relased on Twitter is shown below.
An extraordinary tale of love, forgiveness and overcoming the odds, The Keeper tells the incredible true story of footballing legend Bert Trautmann. Starring David Kross and @FreyaMavor_, The Keeper is in cinemas 5 April! #TheKeeperFilm pic.twitter.com/oXYaIj4qZx— The Keeper (@TheKeeperFilm) February 6, 2019