Skip to main content

Bert Williams' Career

PUBLISHED

13:58 19th January 2014

A look back at the life of 'The Cat'

Bert Williams is a man recognised by all as one of football's greatest ever goalkeepers.

He was born in Bradley, Bilston on the 31st January, 1922.

On leaving school he played for Wolverhampton works side, Thompson's.

At that time he was working in a factory in Great Bridge but his goalkeeping talents were spotted by the Walsall manager of that time, Andy Wilson and, at the age of 15, Bert joined the Fellows Park ground staff.

Former Birmingham and England goalkeeper, Harry Hibbs, took over the reins at Walsall within a year of Bert's arrival and it wasn't to be a long wait for the youngster before he found himself in the Saddlers first team at just 16 years of age.
Sadly, the arrival of the Second World War brought about a temporary halt to Bert's progress. He served in the RAF seeing a lot of the world, and he also found time to play for his country in two Victory internationals against Wales and France, as well as turning out as a guest player for Nottingham Forest and Chelsea. 
He had decided that he would sign for Chelsea but when Wolves came in with a £3,500 offer to Walsall for his services, he decided that he and his wife Evelyn would be happier staying in their native Black Country. So, in September 1945, Bert Williams signed for Wolves.
He made his debut on the same August day in 1946 as his former Walsall team mate, Johnny Hancocks, against an Arsenal team who were routed 6-1 by a rampant Wolves side. In his first season at Molineux, Bert missed only three games as Wolves narrowly missed out on the Championship finishing in third position after slipping up in their last game against Liverpool.

The following season saw Wolves finish fifth before, in the 1948/49 campaign, he won his first honours in the game with an FA Cup triumph.  After he had defied the might of Manchester United in the FA Cup semi-final and replay, Bert was a member of the side that was victorious over Leicester City in the Wembley Final.
This was followed by a call up to the full England squad and he replaced Frank Swift to play against the French in Paris just three weeks after picking up his FA Cup winners medal. In the November of that year he faced the World Cup holders Italy in front of a 71,000 crowd at White Hart Lane. His skill and daring defied the Italians and not only helped his country to a 2-0 victory, but also earned him the nickname of 'The Cat', a title bestowed upon him by the Italian press who were in raptures over his performance.

Bert was an England ever-present for the next two years and he played in the English World Cup campaign of 1950 after just missing out on domestic honours with Wolves who finished as runners-up in the Championship.
After the World Cup disappointment Bert had a pretty miserable season with Wolves as they slumped to 14th in the league and were denied the chance of a Wembley return when they were defeated by Newcastle in an FA Cup semi-final replay at Huddersfield. Also, injury cost him his England place and he was replaced by Birmingham's Gil Merrick.

But Bert was to bounce back in some style for both club and country.

A healthy third placed finish in 1952/53 was followed by Wolves lifting their first title the following season, pipping West Bromwich Albion to the honour.

He also regained his England place in December, 1954, and went on to play in five of the following six games. He played a major part in the famous Molineux floodlit friendlies and the huge crowds marvelled at his goalkeeping expertise.
Bert played in the following three seasons after Wolves’ Championship win and the team finished second, third and sixth respectively. He retired from the game at the end of the 1956/7 season his last match for the club ending in disappointment and a 4-0 beating as Wolves slumped to Aston Villa.
On retiring from the game he opened a sports shop in Bilston and later a sports centre in the town.

Living in Shifnal in Shropshire he continued to look as remarkably fit as he did as a player, long into his retirement.

Bert remained a keen follower of Wolves’ fortunes, in particular the goalkeepers, and stayed in regular contact with the club’s glovemen such as Mike Stowell, Matt Murray and Wayne Hennessey.

He also spent the final years of his life embarking on an incredible fundraising challenge, raising over £150,000 for the Alzheimer’s Society, in tribute to his wife Evelyn, who passed away in 2002.

In 2009 Bert was named as one of the inductees into the Wolves’ Hall of Fame, and in 2010 he became 'Buckingham Bert' as he received an MBE from the Queen.


WOLVES PLAYING CAREER 1945-1959
League Appearances 381
FA Cup Appearances 38
Other Appearances 1
TOTAL APPEARANCES 420

    Related Articles