magical skills graced the soccer pitches of the world
for an unprecedented third of a century; his name will
live as long as Roy of the Rovers; truly Stanley
Matthews, the only man to be knighted before the end
of his playing days, was a unique phenomenon.
Matthews mystique did not stem from his footballing
ability alone. Throughout his career he remained a
self-effacing, undemonstrative figure, utterly
dedicated to the work ethic.
received the Footballer of the Year trophy twice (1948
and 1963) and after being knighted in the 1965 New
Year's Honours list, that February he achieved the
even more remarkable distinction of playing in the
First Division five days after his 50th birthday.
the ball at his feet. He was the true winger, the
fastest man in the game at that time over 10 yards
which most consider are the ones that matter. Stan
would shuffle slowly towards a defender, then sway to
his left, as would his opponent - only to find himself
tackling thin air because the Wizard of Dribble had
changed direction at the last split-second and darted
away on the outside! Once he was past there was no
hope of catching him. He did it so often that
opponents knew what was coming but, such was the great
man's balance, timing and dexterity, they were unable
to prevent it. Some critics reckoned his wiles slowed
the game, but in reality they lured defenders out of
position and created space for colleagues.
drank, never smoked and ate salads, starved on Mondays
and got up before six to exercise! He played for
England between 1934 (aged 19) and 1957 (aged 42) and
graced the English game for over 30 years. He
scored on his first outing for his country, but was
thereafter to find himself in and out of the England
reckoning, playing in only 54 out of 119 full
internationals between 1934 and 1957, a shocking
statistic and one which constantly outraged fans.
the Stoke ground staff at 14 on £1 a week, he played
his first League match for them six weeks after his
seventeenth birthday and his last, five days after his
1938 Stan fell out with his Manager and asked for a
transfer. The dispute was such that businessmen
claimed production was being affected and, following a
massive protest meeting, it was settled amicably.
After the war, though, there was further animosity
and, in 1947 aged 32, he was sold to Blackpool for £11,500.
a bargain that turned out to be as the veteran reached
new heights, proving the leading light as the
Seasiders reached three FA Cup Finals in six seasons.
Despite overwhelming support by neutrals desperate to
see their hero pocket a winner's medal, Blackpool lost
to the Manchester United (1948) and Newcastle (1951).
Come 1953 it seemed a third final was going to end in
dismay, this game
is best remembered as the "Stanley Matthews
Final". Blackpool were three one down with 20
minutes to remaining; 3-2 down with three minutes left
and 3-3 with less than one minute of injury time to
go. The ball went to Matthews on the wing - losing
left-backs was Stan's favourite past-time - he
skipped past the full back and raced for the
goal-line. The Bolton centre-half had abandoned hope
of catching him and went to cover Stan Mortensen in
the centre. The Wizard pulled the ball back behind
Mortensen and Bill Perry the left winger grabbed the
fourth and most important goal.
was still undoubted when he returned to his original
club Stoke City in 1961. They paid Blackpool £3,500
for the privilege and offered Stan the highest wage he
had known. The week before his return Stoke's gate was
8,409. Two weeks later with Stan on the wing it was
dismissed the transfer as a gimmick; it was anything
inspired them to win promotion out of the Second
Division and played in 35 of their 42 matches at the
age of 48. As mentioned he completed his 33-year
career, aged 50 years and 5 days playing for Stoke and
then he went out in style with a testimonial match at
Stoke City which included stars such as Di Stefano,
Puskas and Yashin.
General Manager of Port Vale for a short time
(1965-1968) and managed Hibernian (1970) and then took
coaching and exhibition courses around the world, in
particular in Africa. Later he lived for many years in
Malta before returning to settle in England.