STANLEY MATTHEWSLegendary United Kingdom Footballer
- Date of Birth
- February 1, 1915
- Place of Birth
- Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England
- 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)
- Playing Position
- Outside right
Sir Stanley Matthews, CBE (1 February 1915 – 23 February 2000) was an English footballer. Often regarded as one of the greatest players of the English game, he is the only player to have been knighted while still playing, as well as being the first winner of both the European Footballer of the Year and theFootball Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year awards. Matthews’ nicknames included “The Wizard of the Dribble” and “The Magician”.
A near-vegetarian teetotaller, he kept fit enough to play at the top level until he was 50 years old. He was also the oldest player ever to play in England’s top football division and the oldest player ever to represent the country. He played his final competitive game in 1985, at the age of 70. Matthews was also an inaugural inductee to the English Football Hall of Fame in 2002 to honour his contribution to the English game.
He spent nineteen years with Stoke City, playing for the “Potters” from 1932 to 1947, and again from 1961 to 1965. He helped Stoke to the Second Division title in 1932–33 and 1962–63. In between his two spells at Stoke he spent fourteen years with Blackpool; where he became an FA Cup winner in 1953(known as the Matthews Final), after he was on the losing side in the 1948 and 1951 finals. Between 1934 and 1957 he won 54 caps for England, playing in the FIFA World Cup in 1950 and 1954, and winning nine British Home Championship titles.
Following an unsuccessful stint as Port Vale’s general manager between 1965 and 1968, he travelled around the world, coaching enthusiastic amateurs. Most notable of his coaching experiences came when he established an all-black team in Soweto known as “Stan’s Men” – this was despite South Africa’s harsh apartheid laws at the time.
Despite Port Vale being Matthews’ favourite team growing up, and despite rumoured interest from Wolverhampton Wanderers, Birmingham City, Aston Villa, and West Bromwich Albion; Tom Mather convinced his father to allow Matthews to join the Stoke City staff as an office boy on his fifteenth birthday for pay of £1 a week. He played reserve team football in 1930–31, coming up first against Burnley; after the game his father gave his usual realist assessment: “I’ve seen you play better and I’ve seen you play worse”.
He played 22 reserve games in 1931–32, shunning the social scene to focus on improving his game. In one of these games, against Manchester City, he attempted to run at the left-back and take him on with a deft swerve as the defender committed himself to a challenge, rather than follow the accepted wisdom of the day which was to first wait for the defender to run at the attacker – his new technique ‘worked a treat’. The national press were already predicting a bright future for the teenager, and though he could have then joined any club in the country, he signed as a professional with Stoke on his seventeenth birthday. Paid the maximum wage of £5 a week (£3 in the summer break), he was on the same wage as seasoned professionals before he even kicked a ball. Despite this his father insisted that Matthews save this money, and only spend any winning bonus money he earned. He made his first team debut against Bury at Gigg Lane on 19 March 1932; the “Potters” won the game 1–0 and Matthews learned how physical and dirty opponents could be – and get away with it.
After spending the 1932–33 pre-season training intensely by himself (as opposed to playing golf with his teammates), Mather selected Matthews in fifteen games, enough to earn him in a winners medal after Stoke were crowned Second Division champions, one point ahead of Tottenham Hotspur. On 4 March 1933 he scored his first senior goal in a 3–1 win over local rivals Port Vale at The Old Recreation Ground.
He played 29 First Division games in 1933–34, as Stoke secured their top-flight status with a twelfth-place finish. He continued to progress in the 1934–35 campaign, and was selected by The Football League for an Inter-League game with the Irish League at The Oval, which finished 6–1 to the English.His England debut followed, and so did a further game for the Football League against the Scottish League. Stoke finished the season in tenth place.
In 1935–36 Matthews continued to improve, and he added the double body swerve technique to his increasing arsenal of tricks. Largely out of the international picture, he put in 45 games for the “Potters” as Stoke finished fourth under Bob McGrory – the club’s best ever finish. He played 42 games in 1936–37, including the club’s record 10–3 win over West Brom at theVictoria Ground. At the end of the season he was paid a loyalty bonus of £650, though the Stoke board initially insisted he was only due £500 as he had spent his first two years at the club as an amateur – this attitude left a sour taste in Matthew’s mouth.