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Should The Cat be cast in bronze at Molineux?

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: February 17, 2014

By Steve Gordos

  • Bert in characteristic mid-air pose

  • A young Bert at Walsall with his goalkeeping mentor, Harry Wait

  • Above:

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SHOULD there be a statue at Molineux of Bert Williams, one of the greatest footballers the Black Country has ever produced?

That was the question posed when a memorial service was held at St Peter's Collegiate Church, Wolverhampton, for the former Walsall, Wolves and England goalkeeper who died last month aged 93.

Addressing a packed congregation, broadcaster Bob Hall mentioned that there were already two statues outside Molineux – of Billy Wright and Stan Cullis.

"Perhaps it's time for a third," said Hall. What do Bugle readers think? Should such an honour be paid to the man they called The Cat?

Hall's contribution was part of a stirring tribute to a proud son of Bradley, Bilston, led by St Peter's rector Rev David Wright who is also Wolves' chaplain.

The congregation arrived to the strains of Edith Piaf's Je Ne Regrette Rien as the music reflected Bert's tastes – continuing with football's most famous hymn, Abide With Me, and followed by The Battle Hymn of the Republic and Jerusalem. At the end, the 700 mourners left as Land of Hope and Glory was played.

Cannock Chase Orpheus Male Choir volunteered to perform during the service, wearing Wolves, Walsall and England scarves.

Bert joined Walsall in 1937, moved to Wolves in 1945 and played 24 times for England. The choir's guest soloist Sharon Burns gave a fine rendition of Bert's favourite song Somewhere over the Rainbow.

Wolves vice-president Baroness Rachael Heyhoe-Flint gave the Bible reading, Bert's son in-law David Crawshaw read Joyce Grenfell's poem If I Should Go and daughter-in-law Tanya read a poem written by Bert himself, ending with the lines: 'My life has been a fulfilled dream, you can see how lucky I have been.'

Ian Winter, Midlands Today sports editor, thanked on behalf of the family the many people who had cared for Bert during his illlness in recent months.

England's 1966 World Cup-winning goalkeeper Gordon Banks, a childhood fan of Bert's, led an impressive guest list, along with Club England managing director Adrian Bevington and FA board member Mervyn Leggett.

Also there were keepers who followed in Bert's footsteps – Malcolm Finlayson, Fred Davies, Phil Parkes, Mick Kearns and Wayne Hennessey, recently transferred to Crystal Palace.

Matt Murray, who grew close to Bert during his own career, could not be present but attended and spoke at the private family funeral held the previous week in Shifnal, where Bert lived for many years.

Also at St Peter's was a delegation from Bert's first club Walsall as well as Wolverhampton Mayor Councillor Milkinder Jaspal, and former Albion director Joe Brandrick. Wolves officials present included chief executive Jez Moxey, director John Gough, club secretary Richard Skirrow, and Baroness Flint's fellow vice president, Steve Bull.

Reverend Andrew Cullis, son of another Wolves legend, was also there as was Maureen Stobart, widow of Barry, and Nicky Horne, daughter of Des. Barry Stobart and Des Horne were members of Wolves' 1960 FA Cup-winning side.

Other former Wolves men in church included Ron Flowers, Peter Knowles, Derek Parkin, John McAlle, Mel Eves, Steve Daley, Ted Farmer, Gerry Taylor, Bobby Mason, Alan Jackson and Alf Crook.

What do you think? Should Bert be immortalised in bronze at the stadium which was home to his incredible career? Send your thoughts to the editor, via post at the usual address, or via email: editor@blackcountrybugle.co.uk.

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