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Sir Stanley Matthews

Sir Stanley Matthews
Sir Stan made almost 700 professional appearances and won 84 England caps

Sir Stanley Matthews - the first professional footballer to be knighted - was the most renowned player of modern times.

Known as 'The Wizard of Dribble', Sir Stan's professional career covered some 33 years.

When he retired in 1965, aged 50, he had made nearly 700 League appearances for Stoke City and Blackpool.

He was also capped for England 84 times, including two appearances for Great Britain.

A thin, frail-looking man, Sir Stan had a marvellous sense of balance and timing.

His sudden bursts of speed over 20 yards or so was one of the wonders of the game, and earned him his nickname of "The Wizard of Dribble".

His passing was extraordinarily accurate, and he was not so much a scorer as a creator of goals for others.

His sportsmanship was exemplary and he was never booked in his career. He was often referred to as "the first gentleman of soccer".

It was said Matthews' presence in a team could add 10,000 to away gates.

Sir Stan's early days

Sir Stanley Matthews
Sir Stan's skills earned him the nickname the Wizard of Dribble

Stanley Matthews was born on February 1, 1915, at Seymour Street, Hanley in Stoke-on-Trent.

The son of a professional featherweight boxer, he joined Stoke City straight from school at the age of fourteen.

In 1932 he became a full-time professional player, and two years later played for England in a full international for the first time.

In 1947, after war service in the RAF, he left Stoke City, and joined Blackpool Football Club, where he stayed for 14 years.

The Matthews final

It was during the period with the Seasiders that Sir Stan achieved his greatest triumph in the 1953 FA Cup final.

It became known as The Matthews Cup Final of 1953, paving the way for Blackpool's last-minute victory against Bolton Wanderers.

In 1956, the first-ever European Footballer of the Year award ceremony was held, and, almost inevitably, it was Sir Stan who received the tribute.

He played his last international - against Scotland - in 1957, and in the same year was made a CBE.

Victoria Ground return

Matthews rejoined Stoke City in 1961, when they were near the bottom of the second division.

The team was transformed, gates rose from 9,000 to 36,000 and the following year they were promoted.

Blackpool 1953 FA Cup final
Sir Stan inspired the comeback which saw Blackpool win the 1953 FA Cup

The player was knighted in 1965, and played his last game in the same year, five days after his 50th birthday.

Great players from all over Europe including Lev Yashin, Alfredo di Stefano and Karl-Heinz Schnellinger came to Stoke to take part in his testimonial match on April 28, 1965.

It's astonishing to think that the man only won one major medal, in that famous 1953 FA Cup final.

However many Stoke City fans believe that their team would have won the First Division title in 1947, had not the club decided to sell him to Blackpool with just a few games remaining in the season.

Managing and coaching

After giving up playing, Sir Stan took on the thankless task of reviving Port Vale's fortunes as their manager (he was a Vale fan from his youth, ironically).

After that unsuccessful stint in management he went on to become better known as a coach, particularly in Malta and South Africa.

He never lost sight of his home town though, and in his last years returned to Stoke to live in the Penkhull district.

He was feted by Stoke City and made Club President - an honorary title, but one that Sir Stan much appreciated.

Recently, the club has teamed up with the Stanley Matthews Foundation to mount a small museum in his memory at the Britannia.

Death of a legend

Following the death of his beloved wife, Betty, Sir Stan became more and more frail, and died in February 2000, 3 weeks after his 85th birthday.

Many footballing greats, such as Bobby and Jack Charlton, Gordon Banks, and Tom Finney attended his funeral, and it's estimated that 10,000 people stood in tribute as his funeral procession passed through the city.

His ashes were buried beneath the centre circle of the Britannia Stadium, and a statue showing different stages of his career was put up in his honour outside the ground.

In 2002 Sir Stan was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame.

Final farewell to Sir Stan
03 Mar 00 |  UK
Your memories of Sir Stanley
27 Feb 00 |  Talking Point
Fans mourn Sir Stanley
24 Feb 00 |  Football
Tributes for 'magical' Sir Stanley
23 Feb 00 |  Football


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