Any City fan with an interest in the Club’s rich history will know the unbelievable courage Bert Trautmann showed during the 1956 FA Cup final.

It was a story passed down from one generation to the next, when the tale of how a former German prisoner of war became one of Manchester City’s greatest players and, of course, played on in goal despite breaking his neck in a nasty collision with Birmingham City forward Peter Murphy.

But how many people know the real truth behind the injury and how the great Frank Swift might have unintentionally made the injury worse?

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The Club were sad to hear of the passing of former physio John Beeston before Christmas – and John was the man who treated and identified the injury Trautmann had – but he rarely spoke of what happened at Wembley that fateful day.

After his passing, however, family members uncovered an interview where John recalled the whole episode, including Swift’s reaction to Trautmann’s injury.


                        COLLISION : The moment of impact...
COLLISION : The moment of impact...


What is particularly interesting is the revelation that Bert had been in pain with his neck and shoulders long before the 1956 cup final, as Beeston would later reveal.

“Twelve months earlier Bert had fibrosis in his shoulder and neck in the build-up to the final, but he was determined not to miss the game and assured the press he would make the final ‘even if I have to have my neck in plaster’.

“He’d had a bad neck in the week leading up to Wembley. It wasn’t true he’d ricked it while having a massage, as some papers claimed, though there were concerns he might not make it. The club kept him back from going to Eastbourne where the team were preparing for the final and Jack Savage might have had to stand in.

“Bert convinced us he was OK and he went later to join the rest of the players. After we’d won 3-1 and he’d carried on after the collision with Peter Murphy, Frank Swift came into our dressing room and by way of congratulating Bert he gave him an almighty whack on his upper back, right by his neck.

"Swifty had massive hands. It was meant in the nicest way but I often wondered if that didn’t actually break his neck. What he’d actually fractured was a bone, one of the transverse processes.”

Trautmann had no idea he’d been so badly hurt. He attended all the celebrations, where crowds cheered adoringly.

“Outside Manchester Town Hall he and Jimmy Meadows were pictured holding up Johnny Hart, who missed both the 1955 and 1956 finals through injury,” recalls Beeston. “They should have been propping up Bert! He was in a lot of pain but it was Tuesday before he went to Manchester Royal Infirmary. One of the young doctors asked if he’d ever been X-rayed through his mouth.

"Bert said ‘no’. That’s when they found he’d broken it. It wasn’t life-threatening, as some people said, but he could have made the break a lot worse by moving around. He was put in a special stabilising cast called a Minerva jacket and he eventually made a good recovery.”

Beeston treated more than 40,000 people during a lengthy career in which he was employed by both Manchester clubs and was labelled as ‘Britain’s foremost physiotherapist’ in his regular Daily Express column.

He left City by the start of the 1960s but did so with some incredible memories. It was Trautmann’s injury, however, and the fascinating story behind it, that he is most remembered for.