Wolves and England goalkeeper, he went to the 1950 World Cup
One of the finest English goalkeepers since the second world war, Bert Williams, who has died aged 93, won the league championship and FA Cup with Wolverhampton Wanderers. For the national side, he played in their first World Cup finals, in Brazil in 1950.
He had first been chosen to play for England in an unofficial Victory International against France at Wembley in 1945, which the French surprisingly drew 2-2. He returned to the England team against France the following year in Paris: England lost 2-1, one of the French goals coming when Williams was forced over his goal line with the ball.
His official international debut came in Paris in 1949, when England won 3-1 despite an untypical mistake from Williams that gave away an early goal. It was plain by then that Frank Swift, who had for years been England's first choice keeper, was approaching the end of his career. With a superb display at home against Italy in the same year, Williams secured the succession.
The first of three dramatic saves, all in the first half, came from Rinaldo Martino, the Argentine, playing inside-left for Italy that day. Put clean through by Amedeo Amadei with an inspired pass, he had only Williams to beat. His shot was hard and true, but Williams catapulted himself across his goal to reach it. Next he blocked Riccardo Carapellese's point-blank drive, and finally he twisted in mid-air to save a shot by Benito Lorenzi that suddenly changed course when it hit the England left back, John Aston.
Now assured a spot in the international team, Williams was England's goalkeeper the following year in the World Cup finals, and it was hardly his fault that they should fail so embarrassingly. He kept a clean sheet when Chile were beaten 2-0 in Rio in the opening game. Then came catastrophe; a 1-0 defeat by a scratch team from the US, followed by defeat against Spain by the same score. In all, Williams won 24 full England caps between 1949 and 1955, his last against Wales.
Born in Bradley, Staffordshire, Williams had joined the ground staff of Walsall, then a Third Division club, at the age of 15, and at 16 made his league debut. At 5ft 10in, it was originally thought he might not be tall enough for a professional goalkeeper, but he was fortunate that the manager of Walsall was the celebrated ex-England goalkeeper Harry Hibbs, who stood at 5ft 9in and displayed a sympathetic attitude towards his stature.
Williams's fledgling career was interrupted by the second world war, and he joined the Royal Air Force as a fitness instructor. Afterwards he joined Wolves in September 1945 for just short of £4,000, and under the legendary managership of Stan Cullis won the FA Cup against Leicester City at Wembley in 1949 and a League Championship medal in 1954. Aside from his outstanding goalkeeping abilities, his quick and accurate distribution often helped to set up attacks that led to goals.
After he retired, with 420 Wolves appearances to his credit, Williams opened two sports outfitter shops and ran a smallholding before setting up a coaching school for goalkeepers. It had much success, producing at least 10 League keepers, among them Phil Parkes of Wolves and Joe Corrigan of Manchester City. "There is a bigger wastage of manpower in soccer than in any other industry,'' Williams lamented in 1970. "All herded together, doing the same exercises. Nobody to give them the individual coaching they need.''
The school closed in 1971, but a leisure centre in Wolverhampton bears his name.
After the death of his wife Evelyn in 2002, he devoted himself to fundraising for the Alzheimer's Society, and in 2010 was appointed MBE for services to football and charity.
He is survived by his children, Annette, Vaughan and Paul.
• Bert Frederick Williams, footballer, born 31 January 1920; died 19 January 2014
• This article was amended on 21 January 2014. The original stated that Joe Corrigan played for Manchester United. This has been corrected.