WITH football's European Championship now under way in Germany it gives us an opportunity to share our town's link with the host nation.

Of course, that link is provided by goalkeeping legend Bert Trautmann, who passed away in 2013 at the age of 89, after remarkable life and a football career that started in Sutton.

Trautmann’s story is part of sporting folklore. Generations of football followers grew up with the tale of how the Manchester City shot-stopper broke his neck in the 1956 FA Cup Final, but played on making brave saves to help his team to a 3-1 victory.

Few people beyond the borough know that Trautmann’s football career started at St Helens Town.

And it was not simply the sporting break he was thankful for, Trautmann also credits our town with giving him a new life after the war.

Trautmann was captured by the Allies during World War II and was held as a prisoner of war at Northwich and then Ashton-in-Makerfield.

On his release in March 1948, Trautmann spurned repatriation and began playing for St Helens Town.

He became a popular figure at the club – and crowds boomed at Hoghton Road with the Bremen-born keeper between the posts.

Speaking to the Star from his home in Valencia, Spain, in October 2009 Trautmann revealed that St Helens had a special place in his heart.

Trautmann said: “I will always have such fond memories of St Helens in my heart. If I had to write a CV my time there would be at the top of the list.

“St Helens gave me a new life. The war and the subsequent three years as a POW took eight years out of my life.

“When I came out of the POW camp I was welcomed into a beautiful community in Sutton. It was a mining district – miners are the same the world over and very warm-hearted and the people too to me.”

Attendances at Town’s matches rocketed from 300 to 6,000, allowing the club to build a new stand on their ground in Sutton with the proceeds.

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“The club were very kind to me,” Trautmann added, “and at Christmas 1948 I was called to a meeting.

“When I arrived the 10 members of the committee sat me down and explained the predicament of the club and how times were hard in the country after the war.

“They then presented me with a trunk weighing about 70 kilos, which was packed with everything.

“Then they handed me an envelope with £150 in it, which was an awful lot of money back then. It was a sign of my acceptance.”

Trautmann was fully integrated into the St Helens sporting scene and even trained up at Knowsley road.

“Some of the Saints players were friends – especially Stan McCormick, who had just joined from Belle Vue Rangers for a record fee and I would regularly train with him.

“St Helens motorcyclist Geoff Duke, who went on to win the World Championship six times, was another personal friend. I had a great life there in St Helens.”

Trautmann met and later married the club secretary’s daughter Margaret Friar and credits the time he spent here as being a big part of his learning curve about life.

He said: “My first father-in-law Jack Friar was a real gentleman and had a real effect on my life and was like a father to me.”

His performances were catching the eye, particularly during the 1948-49 season – and within months of the start of the following season Trautmann was snapped up on a free transfer by Manchester City.

There were protests when Trautmann first started playing in front of the big post-war crowds in the English first division – and even some City fans, objecting to the signing of a German, returned their season tickets.

But Trautmann won them over, although he has his own theory on the matter.

“It was not my ability of my performances that ‘won them over’. I love people and would always go out and talk to people outside the ground. I think my education really started when I came to England,” Trautmann said.

His signing for City led to a long and successful career which lasted 545 games until 1964 –with the Wembley game in which he played on despite five broken vetrebrae being the stand-out.

After finishing at City Trautmann's managerial stint took him from Stockport County to Burma, Liberia and Pakistan.

But he was still in touch with Town and gave them items to auction to raise money for the club in 2009.