'I would never have had my career without Bert Williams' says former Wolves keeper Fred Davies
Former Wolves keeper Fred Davies today claimed he owed his career to Bert Williams.
Davies was a young shotstopper coming through the ranks at Molineux in the late 1950s and Bert had recently retired from playing.
The pair met in Bert's sports shop in Worcester Street, Wolverhampton, and it was the start of a friendship which lasted until his dying day.
"Without him, I would never had a career," said Liverpool-born Davies, who played 177 games for Wolves between 1961-68.
"In our day there were no goalkeeping coaches – it was a matter of teaching yourself. I'd gone to Wolves as a 17-year-old with people smashing balls against me and I went to him in his shop in Wolverhampton.
"I'd been at the club for about 12 months and was in the youth team but I couldn't see myself learning anything because I had no one to learn from, but he gave me reasons for doing what I was doing.
"I always remember saying to him 'you don't know who I am' and he said 'I do know who you are – you're Fred Davies'.
"I couldn't believe he already knew me.
"I told him I needed his help and he said 'get Jack Dowen, the reserve-team trainer, to put a bag of balls outside the away team dressing room on Waterloo Road and I'll meet you there and take you to Castlecroft' (Wolves' old training ground).
"He taught me so much it was amazing.
"He would teach me how to dive for a ball so that I always landed on my thighs and could roll, rather than landing on my backside.
"That way you never suffered injuries to your knees or hips, and even now, at the age of 74, I still haven't had problems there, so he knew what he was talking about.
"He was going to shoot at me once and he suddenly stopped so I said 'what's the matter?'
"He had a phrase which has always stayed with me – 'why are trees like that - straight?
"He said 'your legs are wide open – keep your legs closed. You should always be able to go wider but you shouldn't be able to go narrower.
"These things gave me a lot of confidence for when I went out there.
"We'd go through mistakes and correct things.
"He used to say 'it's all about your feet', saying that good goalkeeping was about good footwork – that's where his agility came in and enabled him to reach balls going into the top corner of the net.
"He always used to try to make sure his legs weren't apart.
"He taught me how to catch a ball too. I always remember at Cyril Sidlow's funeral (another former Wolves goalkeeper) a few of us were talking and a guy came up to me and said to me 'you made one of the best saves I've ever seen. How did you do it?'
"I couldn't remember it but said to him, pointing to Bert, 'you'd better go and ask that guy over there because he taught me'."
Davies believes Williams was a one-off talent. "He was unique, a one-off – you don't come across people like that very often in your life," he added.
"He has to rank as one of the best because he was self-taught."
The former goalkeepers rekindled their relationship when Davies moved back to the area after his playing career finished following spells with Cardiff and Bournemouth.
"It was as if I'd never been away – he was always giving me little bits of advice," he said.
"Even in the last few years he wanted to know this and that and I was always trying to make him laugh.
"He was nearly 20 years older than me but we used to talk about different goalkeepers and their styles."
Davies believes Bert's passing came at the right time after became frail and he lost weight recently.
"I used to see him regularly but he'd lost a lot of weight and at least now he's in peace and not in any pain.
"It's very sad – I shall miss him terribly."
Former Wolves goalkeeping coach Bobby Mimms believes Bert Williams set the standard for generations of English keepers to follow.
Mimms didn't meet Williams until he joined Wolves in 2001 but was already well aware of his legend.
"I knew of him," said Mimms, who was born in 1963 – six years after Williams retired.
"My father was a goalkeeper and used to talk about Bert all the time. I can still remember it."
He added: "Bert helped set the standard for English goalkeepers, he was so highly thought of.
"The thing about Bert is he was regarded as a great goalkeeper at a time when we had a reputation for producing a lot of great goalkeepers.
"He was one of the best of that group who were around at the time. The career he had, he was a true legend."
Mimms, who left Molineux in 2008 and is currently on the coaching staff at Oldham, recalls first meeting Williams following Wolves' first promotion to the Premier League in 2003.
And he also remembers the close relationship the legend had with then Wolves keeper Matt Murray.
"Bert had quite a soft spot for Matt and they always used to have chats about the game," he said.
"He was just such a gentleman, a lovely fellow and it really was a pleasure to know him.
"You just couldn't believe some of the stories Graham Hughes (Wolves historian) used to tell us about the games Bert had played in."
Mimms also acknowledged the part Williams played in the community following his retirement from the game.
"Back when Bert was playing people used to stay at the same club and they were closer to the fans," he said.
"Bert became such a key part of the community, anyone could talk to him about his career and so many people knew him because of his shop.
"He is going to be sorely missed."
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