Bert Williams, the England goalkeeper who conceded the goal that allowed a team of journeymen Americans to produce a great upset at the 1950 World Cup, has died. He was 93.
Williams’ death was announced Sunday on the website of his former club Wolverhampton Wanderers. No cause of death was given.
Williams struggled to shake off memories of the 1950 trip to Brazil when England arrived at its first World Cup as one of the favourites but left after being on the receiving end of one of the tournament’s biggest shocks.
Williams spent almost the entire 90 minutes in Belo Horizonte watching his England teammates make wave after wave of attacks in the group game.
But the only goal was scored by the Americans, who arrived at the ground smoking cigars and wearing cowboy hats.
Joe Gaetjens scored in the first half to clinch the 1-0 win — a result that was such a shock that some parts of the media queried whether the score was 10-1 to England instead of 1-0 to the Americans.
In the U.S. media, it was labelled the “Miracle on Grass.”
“It’s been 60 years. It’s taken a lot of forgetting as far as I am concerned,” Williams told The Associated Press before England played the U.S. at the 2010 World Cup.
“We thought the score should have been 8-1, 10-1 even — and I was virtually one of the spectators,” he added.
Behind a team that included England greats such as Tom Finney, Stan Mortensen and Alf Ramsey, who coached the team to its 1966 World Cup triumph, Williams said he was little more than an onlooker.
“There was no shaking of hands after the game, but no animosity at all. Just utter, sheer dejection. We just couldn’t believe it,” Williams recalled. “I think what lost us the match against Spain was the utter dejection from losing 1-0 to the Americans. Our spirits were so low. I felt sorry for everyone who was on that tour.”
Although Williams played only 24 times for his country, he was one of the most recognizable names. When he played in a 2-0 victory over Italy in 1949, the Italians nicknamed him “The Cat” for his spectacular saves.
He spent most of his playing career at central England club Wolves, winning the FA Cup in 1949 and the topflight title in 1954.
“Bert was not only a fantastic footballer both for club and country, but also a true gentleman who loved Wolves,” chairman Steve Morgan said Sunday.
“As a young football fan who used to read about the achievements of that all-conquering Wolves team of the 1950s, it was an honour and a privilege to have been able to meet Bert on so many occasions since I arrived at the club in 2007.”
—By Rob Harris in London