Trautmann hopes Man City's time has come again
Bert Trautmann will be at his home near Valencia when his beloved Manchester City take on Manchester United in Saturday's FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. He would like to watch the game but won't be able to as he does not subscribe to any of the satellite TV channels showing the match in Spain.
But if City do beat the odds - and their red neighbours - to set up a return to Wembley for the final next month, then the spritely 87-year-old does not want to miss a thing.
For a man synonymous with FA Cup folklore, a return to the scene of his legendary triumph in 1956 is long overdue. The Nazi paratrooper turned prisoner of war turned heroic goalkeeper, who broke his neck in that year's final but famously played on, has not been back since the ground was rebuilt and, more poignantly, has never been invited to a major final by City since he retired in 1964.
In fairness, there have been no opportunities in the 30 years since City's last FA Cup final, against Spurs in 1981, but City's visits to Wembley for showpiece games in the late 1960s and 1970s were a lot more frequent.
Like many other Blues fans, Trautmann is hopeful Saturday will be the first of many more but he is not overly optimistic about City's prospects this weekend.
Trautmann broke his neck diving at the feet of Birmingham forward Peter Murphy. Photo: Getty
The talent in City's squad is not in doubt but their resolve is. Anyone who witnessed the abject collapse at Anfield on Monday would recognise that manager Roberto Mancini is lacking men like the German in his squad, players that would literally put their neck on the line for their club.
"When I have seen City this season, they are always missing passion," Trautmann told me. "Their players should be dying for the game, dying for Manchester and dying for the club. That is what they are missing.
"Saturday is a derby, so it will be full of tension but when I came off the field I wanted to be half-dead, absolutely drained of everything. I don't think that is the case anymore."
Those cracked vertebrae from 55 years ago are the reason Trautmann can talk with much more authority than any pundit or journalist when it comes to questioning commitment and bravery. He was knocked out by the collision with Birmingham forward Peter Murphy's knee but, when he came round, saw out the final 16 minutes, making some superb late saves to ensure City triumphed.
Perhaps someone should show Mario Balotelli and co the Pathe News footage of that incident and tell the whole squad the extraordinary tale of Trautmann's earlier life, which took him from Hitler Youth to the Luftwaffe and the atrocities of the Eastern Front, where he won an Iron Cross. It is some story, brilliantly told in Catrine Clay's biography, which was released last year.
I knew from reading that book that Trautmann likes to tell it how it is, even if his honesty, whether it be about his involvement in the war or some of his relationships in England afterwards, does not always paint himself in a favourable light.
An affable and engaging interviewee, he is just as forthright when we discuss City's current side, although he does have some sympathy for Mancini.
"It is a difficult position because City are measured by the money they have available," Trautmann, who played more than 500 games for the club between 1949 and 1964, said. "Then they have to buy players with inflated prices and wages. Some of them can hardly run and I am told they are on more than £200,000 a week.
"Today, on that sort of money, I couldn't tell you if I would have been the same player. It is very different. You could say it is more difficult to score goals today because teams are more defensive-minded and they don't want to lose games. But in our day we earned £10 a week and we went out to win games because we depended on the £2 bonus."
So what are City lacking? "I don't want to want to criticise the manager," Trautmann said with a laugh, knowing he was about to do just that. "But there is one thing this City team really needs and that is a schemer. There is no Don Revie, nobody in their midfield demanding the ball and making things happen.
"With the calibre of players in their side, they should be doing better. Compare them to United, who are always good for goals. United attack all the time and they get their reward. Look at their win at Stamford Bridge in the Champions League as an example."
In the absence of the injured Carlos Tevez at the weekend, City might be relying on the fragile temperament of 20-year-old Balotelli against United. Providing he cuts out his petulance, Trautmann thinks the young Italian can still come good.
"I know Balotelli is one of the 'bad boys' but there is nothing wrong with that," he explained. "We had one or two players who had a bit of a temper, like Ivor Broadis. I think all really good players have a bit of an edge. Wayne Rooney has got it, too, although he can be stupid sometimes. But you do need to have that desire."
Trautmann is helped off the field after his 1956 FA Cup final triumph. Photo: Getty
Trautmann's talk about City's prospects is peppered with mentions of players from the club's past - ex-team-mates like Broadis or Revie, who would go on to be a controversial England manager but at Wembley 55 years ago was a somewhat revolutionary deep-lying centre-forward operating in what we would now call 'the hole'.
Trautmann's memories of that game are a snapshot of a top footballer's life in that era. He recalls that his pre-match routine for the final involved a meal of poached egg on toast and an early night, "which meant that in my head I had already played the game on Friday night", and that his neck, which was not discovered to have been broken until three days after the game, ruined his night out afterwards.
"I was not in any state to celebrate after the game," he told me. "I just sat there with a bit of a headache and I was not very happy."
A lot has changed since then. In those days, the nation stopped to follow the final. This year, even the Premier League will continue, with at least three top-flight games taking place on 14 May. The diminishing status of the FA Cup is something that Trautmann regrets but can understand.
"I think we are talking about money now," he said. "That is what it boils down to. How much do you get for reaching the Cup final at Wembley and how much do you get for being in the Champions League? It is nowhere near as much for reaching the Cup final. If you asked any chairman, then they might say they prefer Wembley. But, being honest, they would go for the Champions League, wouldn't they?
"It's sad because, for me, football is about glory and winning things. That is not the case so much for others anymore. It is all about the money."
During the course of my blogs on the FA Cup this season, I have tried to cover many of the aspects that I think made the competition great during Trautmann's time - some of which still hold true in the present day.
Through the tears of FC United fans when their side reached the first round proper for the first time, I saw the emotional power the Cup still has for many people, while Leyton Orient's exploits demonstrated the huge financial impact the competition can have on a club in the lower leagues.
I have written about the magic that rejuvenated Dover's former Arsenal striker Adam Birchall and the romance that keeps Torquay keeper Scott Bevan dreaming of a career-defining moment. Sadly, he did not manage it this season, missing out on a trip to Old Trafford despite saving two penalties in the fourth round.
There are always going to be disagreements about the future of the competition - as I found out before the quarter-finals - but you cannot dispute its rich history. Inspirational tales like Trautmann's should remind all players, pampered or otherwise, that the Cup is something worth fighting for.
Who will prevail in Saturday's battle? We have to wait and see. But the nostalgic amongst you might be siding with Trautmann. United fans eyeing a second treble in 12 years will disagree but I think it would be fitting if one of the greatest FA Cup heroes of the 20th century gets to see his side compete in their first final of the 21st century.
Does Trautmann think City will book an instant Wembley return? Possibly. "You always need a little bit of luck in the Cup - and City will need a lot against United," he said. "But, being a Blue, I hope they will be in the final - and that I will be going, too."
You can follow me throughout the season on Twitter @chrisbevan_bbc