When Manchester City’s legendary goalkeeper Frank Swift retired in September 1949, his replacement would become another legend between the sticks.
In November 1949, City signed goalkeeper Bert Trautmann from the Liverpool County Combination League side St Helens Town.
Bert had been turning out for St Helens since the summer of 1948 and had played a major role in the side that won the club’s first ever trophy – the George Mahon Cup.
At the time, signing Bert was a courageous step for City. He had been a German paratrooper who had chosen to stay in Britain on his release from a prisoner-of-war camp.
With the war still fresh in the minds of many and bomb sites all around, Trautmann had to overcome the hostility of press and people alike.
He went straight into the first team, making his League debut on 19 November in the away fixture against Bolton Wanderers.
One national newspaper reported that though struggling Bolton had splashed out a record £20,000 to sign Bobby Langton from Preston, and their left-winger Harry McShane would play on the right, it was City’s German goalkeeper who would draw the crowds.
Trautmann’s fearless goalkeeping – often diving to snatch the ball from an attacking forward’s feet – soon earned him the respect and adulation of the fans.
The story of him heroically playing on after breaking a bone in his neck during the 1956 Cup Final is well known. Though in the days before substitutes, goalies carried on even if they were partially concussed.
Salford-born Harry Dowd joined City as an amateur in 1958, turning professional a couple of years later. Standing in for the injured Bert Trautmann, he made his League debut against Blackburn Rovers on 21 December 1961.
However, he did not get a regular first team slot until the 1962-63 season when he kept goal in 27 out of City’s 42 Division One games. He shared 1964-65 ‘keeping duties with Alan Ogley.
On 21 September 1967, City and Stockport County concluded a transfer deal in which Ogley went to Stockport and Ken Mulhearn came to City.
Two days later, Harry Dowd injured himself and Mulhearn was thrown in at the deep end, making his League debut in the home tie against Manchester United.
Though City lost 2-1, Mulhearn played well enough to become first choice keeper, making 33 League appearances that season and winning a 1967-68 League Championship medal.
However, his reign would be short. Malcolm Allison held him responsible for City being dumped out of the first round of the 1968-69 European Cup.
City were drawn against the Turkish side Fenerbahce. The first leg ended 0-0 and the second leg was 1-1 when, in the 76th minute, Mulhearn failed to collect a cross and Fenerbahce’s Ogun Altiparmak stuck the ball in the net.
Harry Dowd regained his first team place, though making his League debut in the game against Ipswich Town on 11 March 1969 was a young keeper by the name of Joe Corrigan.
Manchester-born Corrigan joined City as a junior in 1966, making his debut in the 1967-68 League Cup third round tie against Blackpool.
It took time for Corrigan to establish himself in the first team. Not only did he have Harry Dowd and Ken Mulhearn ahead of him, Corrigan also lacked consistency.
His chance to prove himself came with the game against Ipswich Town. Though Dowd returned to first team duty, Corrigan went between the sticks for three more games that season – against Nottingham Forest at Trent Bridge on 24 March, against Leeds United at Elland Road on 5 April and against Liverpool at Maine Road on 12 May.
The following season Corrigan was first choice, though on 21 March 1970 he came close to losing it. Maine Road was a mud bath with hardly a blade of grass to be seen. The visitors were West Ham United, and they went on to hammer City 5-1.
For Corrigan, the crawl in a hole and die moment came when he cleared the ball, only for it to land in front of Ron Boyce. Corrigan was still heading back toward his goal when Boyce’s return volley went in the back of the net.
In December 1973, Ron Saunders replaced Johnny Hart as manager and Corrigan soon found himself out of favour. Saunders bought Keith MacRae from Motherwell and in February 1974 Corrigan was placed on the transfer list.
However, Saunders’ reign at Maine Road only lasted five months. He was sacked a month after City’s 1974 League Cup Final defeat by Wolves.
Following Saunders’ dismissal, Tony Book was appointed. Corrigan’s confidence and consistency improved so much that he made 41 League appearances in 1975-76 and 42 appearances in each of the following five seasons. Corrigan had become a worthy successor the great Frank Swift and Bert Trautmann.
Corrigan made 476 league appearances for City and a further 116 in cup competitions. He was capped nine times for England. In March 1983 he transferred to Seattle Sounders.