City Blogger: Victoria Gregory
- 17 September 2013 10:30
- Posted by @vic_bird
Following the recent announcement of the team of eight City Bloggers from around the world who will be writing for us this season, it's time for the next piece courtesy of Victoria Gregory...
It’s August 19th 2013, 2pm local time in Chicago and, finally, it’s time for Manchester City to kick off the new season. After our opening game was cruelly rescheduled from the weekend to a Monday afternoon the Chicago MCFC faithful quickly set about booking time off from work to be in attendance at our HQ: The Globe Pub.
A month earlier, on July 19th 2013, the legendary Bert Trautmann passed away at the age of 89 and City dedicated the match against Newcastle to his memory. A former German Luftwaffe paratrooper, Trautmann made 545 appearances for City between 1949 and 1964 and was probably best remembered for playing on after breaking his neck in the 1956 FA Cup final win against Birmingham.
Arriving at Maine Road not very long after the end of the Second World War, as a former member of the Luftwaffe, and also of the Hitler Youth, Trautmann wasn’t going to be welcomed with open arms. My Granddad was a police officer in Manchester who regularly worked at Maine Road for match days and he was on duty for Bert’s home debut between the posts.
Leading up to this game there was a fair amount of unrest amongst City fans, and across the country, so in anticipation of some potential argy-bargy during the match the police doubled their presence, which my Granddad loved to say with a chuckle meant “there were 20 of us that day”. He had been instructed by his superiors to watch the crowd for the entire game, and not the football game at all; which he ignored (it’s obviously a Gregory trait to disregard authority figures!). As Granddad would tell the story: “when the team first came out of the tunnel there was an eerie silence, nobody was cheering, or saying anything for that matter, there was just this odd silence. As the game kicked off I could hear mutterings from the crowd behind me, nothing threatening but people weren’t happy: “there he is, that’s the German fella”, “he flew German fighter planes, that one” and so on. About 4 or 5 minutes in, Trautmann saved a header that was destined to be a goal, followed by another save from a corner and then another save. Three saves in the first 15 minutes of the game. The “grumble grumble” mutterings started to dissipate then, and I heard one chap say “you know, he spent most of his time in a Prisoner of War camp” someone else said “I heard that he never actually killed anyone” and by the end of that game they were all cheering him on. Just goes to show that six years of armed conflict can be wiped away in 90 minutes. That’s football for you.”
This was one of my Granddad’s favourite stories to regale us with. He was a massive City fan, not that you’d always know as after any loss he’d telephone my Dad within mere seconds of the final whistle to announce the team was “a load of rubbish”. That’s how he’d open the conversation – not with a “hello” or “do you know the result”, but simply “load of rubbish”; but he loved our Blue Boys and passed that adoration to my Dad, who in turn has passed it to me. I don’t have any kids, and my two nieces are following in my brother-in-law’s steps as Sheffield Wednesday fans, despite our best efforts to turn them. So I do what I can to pass on my passion, stories and anecdotes for City to new members of our MCFC Family at the Chicago branch of the Official Supporters Club. Our membership has grown over 80% in the off-season this year and, despite the Monday afternoon timing, we had a solid turnout for the 2013/14 opener against Newcastle.
It was touching to see the players warming up in goalkeeping shirts which read “Trautmann 1” on the back, and exemplified how expertly the club remembers and honours its history. The “old-timers” of the branch were able to enlighten fellow members about Bert Trautmann which ultimately led to a discussion on favourite goalkeepers.
Mine is a bit of a wildcard as he wasn’t technically a goalkeeper: April 20th 1991, City versus Derby County at Maine Road, Tony Coton gets sent off and Niall Quinn (after scoring his 20th goal of the season earlier in the game) picks up Coton’s thrown gloves, pulls on the goalkeeper’s shirt and goes on to save the penalty. As a teenager I didn’t have posters of boy bands on my bedroom wall, I had posters of Big Niall; so this moment only solidified his legendary status in my eyes. So to close and in continuation of City’s tribute to Bert Trautmann, please take a moment to reminisce about your favourite goalkeeper or goalkeeping moment.
Rest in Peace, Mr Trautmann.