No-nonsense tackling, wild fans and bobbly pitches are all closely associated with English football in the late 1980s. That same period will always be marred by the Hillsborough tragedy, but on that very day in April 1989, football was blessed with the first edition of Bert Trautmann’s Helmet.
The first and only Manchester City fanzine to come from Manchester takes its name from a legendary goalkeeper whose 1956 heroics forever etched him into City folklore.
In the 75th minute of that year’s FA Cup final, Trautmann was knocked unconscious in a collision with Birmingham City striker Peter Murphy, cracking two of his vertebrae and dislocating three others.
Far from the days of the concussion substitution, Trautmann played on, collecting his winner’s medal with a crooked neck and even attending the winner’s banquet that evening.
With a name of that stature behind him, Noel Bayley, local government councillor by trade, gained notoriety by producing the fanzine until City’s departure from Maine Road in 2003.
Bayley said: “When we moved from Maine Road I stopped doing the fanzine because times were changing, the internet was coming in and people had their own devices so it was all there for them.
“Since the day we left we’ve got a new stadium, we’ve effectively got a different club, we’ve got a different team, I live in a different house, my relationship is a completely different one with a different person – my whole life has changed really.”
The societal shifts which prompted Bayley’s 17-year hiatus from Bert Trautmann’s Helmet have only got more extreme in that time. However, a combination of lockdown, fan pressure and curiosity have warranted a long-awaited comeback.
He said: “It was because I had been asked by about the billionth person when I’m bringing the fanzine back and it was the straw that broke the camel’s back, if you like.
“I went to the funeral recently of one of our other contributors so I really thought it was now or never. A couple of people have died but generally the same team is there 17 years later so it was a question of getting the band back together again.”
The latest edition features an interview with Kyle Walker, who although Bayley admits: “is not going to write any philosophical books or win a Nobel peace prize,” is still an essential part of a painstakingly assembled 52-page publication.
Financial incentive has nothing to do with this longstanding labour of love. Initially, Bayley would give out copies of Bert Trautmann’s Helmet for free. Even now, enough exciting copy to keep someone reading every night for a week nets him just 99p!
Bayley is an old-school character with old-school motives, but much has changed in the media world during his 17-year absence – most notably the change in focus from print to digital.
He said: “In the olden days, everyone read papers like the Manchester Evening News, every day of the week meant something different – the paper was the heart of the City printed right in the centre and it was a hive of activity, now obviously they don’t do that.
“It was like finding that the car doesn’t run on petrol anymore, it runs on electric – it’s practically been reinvented.
“For a lot of people, the information they got about football on the radio and in print was very limited, now you’re bombarded from every direction about football or anything else. It doesn’t bother me at all, though, everyone is entitled to their 15 minutes of fame.”
Bayley has been fortunate enough to enjoy much more than 15 minutes. For 14 years across the 80s, 90s and early-2000s he was one of the leading voices on Manchester City for a section of loyal supporters who heard about the fanzine via word of mouth. Since the comeback last year, it has been business as usual.
It is fair to say that the band reunion has been a roaring success, measured only by enjoyment and quality rather than numbers on a spreadsheet. Although the magic of print is lost to an extent, the virtues of digital are new and exciting for Bert Trautmann’s Helmet which can be produced constraint-free to a professional standard more easily than ever.
Be sure to visit the Facebook page for nostalgic City content and information on the newest edition of the fanzine, set to be released this summer. Bayley has got the bug again, and football is a better place for it.