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Thursday, 24 February, 2000, 09:54 GMT
A Blackpool fan remembers Sir Stan

BBC News Online's Anna Thompson knew Sir Stanley Matthews through her work as a local football reporter in Blackpool.

Here she offers a personal tribute to him.

I was never privileged enough to see Sir Stan play in the flesh.

Although he didn't retire until he was 50, I was still a decade away from being born.

But I used to love video clips and footballing tales from my father and grandfather, who was at the mesmerising 1953 FA Cup Final.

My grandad used to see him training on Blackpool beach and told how the crowds at games were always huge because holidaymakers and locals just wanted to say they had seen him play.

Sir Stan put Blackpool Football Club on the map and the northern seaside town will be forever in his debt
My father, although very young and not very appreciative at the time, was taken to see him at Bloomfield Road on a regular basis because my grandfather recognised Sir Stan's genius winger and dribbling qualities.

He now appreciates the legend he saw.

Sir Stan put Blackpool Football Club on the map and the northern seaside town will be forever in his debt.

Ask anyone in Blackpool, football fan or not, and they all knew who Sir Stanley Matthews was because of his heroics at the age of 38 when Blackpool beat Bolton 4-3 in the cup final at Wembley.

During my time as a Blackpool football reporter I met and spoke to him on a number of occasions.

He was a very shy man who was always amazed journalists still wanted his footballing opinions so long after he retired.

He had forthright opinions on today's game, including "ridiculously inflated" players' wages, and footballers "feigning injury", which he felt was disrespectful. The great player never earned more than 20 a week.

Sir Stan was also dismayed at the lack of true wingers today which he felt were a luxury any team should fight to retain.


But he never lost his enthusiasm for what he called the beloved game.

The last time I was in his company was at the 1995 Coca Cola Cup Final at Wembley.

He was delighted at Steve McManaman's top dribbling form and marvelled at his two wonder goals as Liverpool beat Bolton 2-1 and wished there were more like him.

The town of Blackpool and true football fans everywhere are mourning the loss of the first gentleman of soccer.

We are mourning not only the passing of a great sportsman but the respected sporting Britain that he and his generation represented.
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See also:
24 Feb 00 |  Football
Football world mourns Matthews
24 Feb 00 |  Football
Motson's boyhood memories of Matthews
24 Feb 00 |  Football
The Matthews Final
23 Feb 00 |  Football
The first gentleman of soccer
23 Feb 00 |  Football
Sir Stanley in pictures

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