Former England goalkeeper Bert Williams dies at 93
LONDON -- Bert Williams, the England goalkeeper who gave up the goal that allowed a team of journeymen Americans at the 1950 World Cup to produce one of soccer's great upsets, has died. He was 93.
His death was announced Sunday on the website of his former club Wolverhampton Wanderers. No cause was given.
Williams struggled to shake the memories of the 1950 trip to Brazil when England arrived at its first World Cup as one of the favorites, but departed after a 1-0 loss that left all of soccer in disbelief.
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 Joe Gaetjens in the first half for an American team that arrived at the stadium smoking cigars and wearing cowboy hats.
The result that was such a shock that some in the media wondered whether the score was 10-1 for England instead of 1-0 for the Americans. In the U.S., the game was labeled 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 top-tier 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 honor and a privilege to have been able to meet Bert on so many occasions since I arrived at the club in 2007."
Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press
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