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Sir Stanley Matthews



Nigel Johnson
by Nigel Johnson
BBC Radio Stoke commentator

Sir Stanley Matthews
Sir Stan hangs up his boots for the last time at the Victoria Ground

Forty years ago on 28th April 1965, the Victoria Ground was rocking to the roars of 35,000 Stoke City supporters saying goodbye to one of the most gifted footballers the world has ever seen.

Stanley Matthews, the Wizard of Dribble and Son of the Potteries, was parading his awesome talents for the last time.

The media was there in full force. The occasion was beamed across Europe through Eurovision and around the rest of the world by radio.

More than 112 million people watched or listened to the game.

I sat in the Butler Street Stand and was enthralled by the whole event.

Charlie Chester, a comedian and friend of Stanley, was the Master of Ceremonies.

Before the big game between Stan Matthews XI and an international XI, we witnessed Harry Johnston's XI and Wally Barnes' XI.

Harry Johnston was the former Captain of Blackpool and Wally Barnes was a former Arsenal skipper.

This game was 20 minutes each way. The teams included Bert Trautmann, Neil Franklin, Don Revie, Stan Mortenson, Nat Lofthouse, Tom Finney, Danny Blanchflower, Jackie Milburn, Jimmy Dickinson, Ken Barnes and Jimmy Hill.

It was a nostalgic trip watching these legends - not quite as lithe as in their playing days, but still capable of some delightful touches.

A galaxy of stars

Sir Stanley Matthews

The moment for the arrival of the main event was heralded by a Dagenham Girl Piper.

The two main teams came onto the pitch and went to the centre-circle.

The piper came down the tunnel in front of the man of the moment, and the crowd erupted as Stanley strode onto the pitch.

And what a galaxy of stars was assembled: Lev Yashin, Aldredo di Stefano, Frerenc Puskas, Eusebio, Uwe Seeler, Wolfgang Overath, Francisco Gento, Dennis Law, Jimmy Greaves, Bobby Charlton, Johnny Haynes, Roger Hunt and George Cohen to name but a handful.

The International XI defeated Stan's XI 6-4, but that was irrelevant. The night had arrived to say "Goodbye to Stanley".

The Wizard of Dribble was never booked in his career and when he played you could guarantee an extra 10,000 on the gate.

On the shoulders of giants

As he left the field on the shoulders of Yashin and Puskas, 35,000 voices engulfed the ground with "Auld Lang Syne."

Tears rolled down my cheeks along with many thousands more.

We had been privileged to have seen him play - captivating crowds and persecuting players - and been present at his farewell.

We shall not see his like again.




SEE ALSO
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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