Bert Williams MBE

I was at the Globe Arena, Morecambe for a Capital One Cup match against Wolverhampton Wanderers in August 2013 and was sitting on the scouts table where it is customary for friends to meet up before the game and at halftime for a coffee and a sandwich.  Asa Hartford was scouting for Norwich and Brian Greenhalgh for Leicester City and other scouts from Newcastle, Carlisle and Wolves were enjoying a pre-game chat.

At some point I was recounting the first game I had ever seen on television and the conversation went something like this, “when I was 12 years old in 1954 I went across the road in Caton to a neighbour’s house to watch a game of football on the television.  She was the only person on our street to own a television and it was a 9 inch screen with a huge magnifying glass in front of it.  The picture was very grainy, flickered non-stop throughout the game and it looked like it was snowing but we all settled down in a great state of anticipation to watch Wolves play Honved, the Hungarian champions.  This game was very important to me as it was the first time I would see one of my heroes in the flesh.  Great players were on view like Wright, Flowers, Wilshaw, Puskas, Hidegkuti and Kocsis but the one at the top of my list was the man wearing green, Bert Williams.

As soon as I uttered the name Bert Williams the wife of a Wolves director said, “He’s my dad” and she was quite emotional.  What are the chances of that happening?  People round the table could hardly believe it as she told us that Bert was still living at the age of 93 although he had just had a fall and broken his hip.  Ann immediately wrote her address and telephone number down and asked for my address saying that if ever I wanted photographs or memorabilia from Bert she would be more than happy to supply them.

The 1954 match was reported as follows:

The game started and building quick, controlled attacks Honved were 2-0 up after 14 minutes, to the despair of a crowd that was just a couple short of being the 10th of 55,000 at Molineux since the war. Wolves finally opened their account with Hancock’s penalty just after half-time, and from then on the atmosphere was electric. Only 15 minutes remained when Swinbourne got his head to a Wilshaw lob to give Wolves a deserved equaliser.  Within 100 seconds Shorthouse, Smith and Wilshaw combined beautifully to set up Swinbourne, who conjured up a fine hooked shot to put Wolves in front as a crescendo of noise filled the stadium. Even the legendary Puskas could not save Honved with the score staying at 3-2, a result that made front page headlines in at least one national newspaper as Wolves were proclaimed champions of the world.”

After the game in a dressing room full of noise and emotion, Stan Cullis pointed at his players and said, “There they are, the champions of the world.

The “World Champion” Wolves lined up as follows: Williams; Stuart, Shorthouse; Slater, Wright (captain), Flowers; Hancock, Broadbent, Swinbourne, Wilshaw, Smith

Bert had a distinguished international career and was capped 24 times between 1949 and 1956.  Bert was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2010 Birthday Honours for services to football and to charity.

Bert Williams saving from Eddie Firmani of Charlton Athletic but centre forward Hewie followed up to score in the FA Cup of 1955-56.  It was only a consolation goal as reigning champions Wolves ran out 4-1 winners.  They would lose to Sunderland in the next round and finish 2nd in the league to Chelsea.

Bert Williams is injured saving a penalty from Aston Villa’s Con Martin during a 4th round FA Cup tie in 1951.  Wolves won 3-1 and went on to reach the semi-final where they lost to eventual winners Newcastle United.

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