The Early Years & Thompson’s

Bert Williams was born in the poorest part of Bradley, Bilston on January 31st 1920 and attended St Martin’s School where he can be seen with his classmates and also in the school football team that won the Cyril Green Cup.

Back Row
Norman Dimmock, Harry Randle, Harry Woodward, George Strong, Bert Williams (light hair), Fred Bytheway

Third Row
Gordon Fletcher, Bill Perrins, Jimmy Strong, Billy Hall, ?, ?, Arthur Downing

Second Row
Leslie Smith, Bill Dunn, Pinkie Wellings, ?, Albert Carter, Fred Bennett

Front Row
?, Harold Goodwin, Harold Kelsey, Leslie Broadhurst, Bill Baker

The class at St Martin's around 1930

St Martin's School around 1975

School football team, winners of the Cyril Green Cup

Bert is pictured in the middle row right hand side in the goalkeeper's strip

When he left school at the age of 14 in 1934 he went to work at Thompson Brothers of Great Bridge in the electrical welding department making tanks for milk lorries.  He played in goal for the works team during his time there and hadn’t been there long when he caught one of his fingers on a grinding machine and the doctor said the finger would have to be amputated.  Luckily for Wolves, England and the whole football world, Bert’s father insisted that the finger be saved and it was.

Bert quickly became a regular member in the works team.  His father had been a goalkeeper and taught him the skills of goalkeeping from an early age.  They would practice in the alleyway next to his house.  Bert’s dad would throw a tennis ball down the alley bouncing it off the walls and the young Bert would have to catch it.  As in all communities at the time very few lads owned a football and if someone in the street was given a football he quickly became very popular.  His dad gave his cap to his young son and he wore it for many years to keep the sun out of his eyes.  His dad always told him if ever anyone took a penalty Bert was to throw his cap into the corner of the net to show confidence and never show any nerves.  Those words of wisdom stayed with Bert all his career and so did the cap.  Whilst playing for Thompson’s there was a West Bromwich Albion scout working in the same department.  Bert constantly asked him to arrange a trial but the scout said he was too small.  Years later after being capped by England Bert went back to visit the Thompson works and the old scout said, “I got that bloody wrong, didn’t I?

Thompson’s works team with Bert complete with his dad’s cap

Andy Wilson, the Walsall Manager, had seen Bert playing for the works team.  One Friday evening he came to the Williams household and got Bert to sign on the dotted line before springing the bombshell that Bert was in the Walsall team to play West Bromwich Albion the next day.

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Design: David Ainsworth