Bert and Vicarious Goalkeeping

bertprofI am a child of the 1950s.
My recollections of that time are of play.
The sad news of Bert Trautmann’s death this week brought back these recollections today.
I was four at the time of the 1956 FA Cup Final that etched Bert into the nation’s psyche. In that game, he played the final 17 minutes with a broken neck.
There is an excellent post about Bert’s career on the Manchester City Project.
Two year’s after the epic Cup Final, Roger Caillois wrote:

All play presupposes the temporary acceptance, if not of an illusion (indeed this last word means nothing less than beginning a game: in-lusio), then at least of a closed conventional, and, in certain respects, imaginary universe. Play can consist not only of deploying actions or submitting to one’s fate in an imaginary milieu, but of becoming an illusory character oneself, and of so behaving. One is thus confronted with a diverse series of manifestations, the common element of which is that the subject makes believe or makes others believe that he is someone other than himself. He forgets, disguises, or temporarily sheds his personality in order to feign another. I prefer to designate these phenomena by the term mimicry

I did not read Caillois’ thoughts on the classification of games until twenty years after their publication but I was living the life of mimicry thanks to Bert.
I had started playing football in 1956 but have no real memory of the Cup Final. Between 1956 and 1960, I took to goalkeeping with a passion. My cousin, Gerald, gave me his old yellow goalkeeper’s jumper with the roll up collar. Whenever I could I played in goal in small sided games in our lane or at the recreation ground. After my jumper was worn out, my Mum knitted me a new jumper (a rather daring purple from some left over wool).
I was usually Bert Trautmann diving at the feet of oncoming players but my new jumper gave me the opportunity for a new persona, Lev Yashin. I thought the combination of the two goalkeepers’ identities was a world beater.
Those early experiences of standing between goals made up of coats for posts and an imaginary crossbar had an immense impact on my love and understanding of sport.
In 1961, I was 9 years old when my Primary School won the Hardwick Shield. By that time I had moved to play right half. I love the picture of the team. I am kneeling on the front left of the picture.
Whenever I look at this picture, I marvel at the size of our goalkeeper. He has the roll neck jumper and is the shortest member of the team. I wonder who his models were. They helped him soar too.
Vale Bert.

Photo Credits

Bert Trautmann



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