Sir Stanley Matthews,
CBE (February 1, 1915 - February 23, 2000) was a
football player, often regarded as one of the greats of the English game.
Gaining the nicknames The Wizard of the Dribble
and The Magician
Matthews retains his reputation as one of the finest dribblers of the ball in
the history of association football. A teetotaller and vegetarian, he kept fit
enough to play at the top level until he was 50 years old, the oldest player
ever to play in England's top football division.
Matthews was born in Seymour Street, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent and was the third
of four sons. His father, Jack Matthews (aka The Fighting Barber of Hanley),
was a renowned local boxer who fostered a sense of discipline, determination and
sportsmanship that would serve his son well during his long career. He attended
St Lukes School.
A natural right winger, he showed early promise and played for England
schoolboys against Wales. He signed professional terms with Stoke City F.C. in
1932. His international debut came in 1934, scoring for the England side which
beat Wales 4-0. Shortly after this, he was condemned in the Daily Mail:
"I saw Matthews play just as moderately in the recent inter-League match,
exhibiting the same slowness and hesitation. Perhaps he lacks the big match
The inaccuracy of this appraisal was soon illustrated by by Matthews's
hat-trick for 10-man England in a game against Czechoslovakia in 1937.
In 1938, Matthews asked for a transfer, causing a public outcry in Stoke.
More than 3,000 fans attended a protest meeting and a further 1,000 marched
outside the ground with placards. Matthews stayed.
The war interrupted his career, during which time he served in the Royal Air
Force and was stationed near Blackpool. Surviving records show that he played as
a guest for clubs such as Crewe Alexandra, Manchester United, Wrexham A.F.C.,
Arsenal, Greenock Morton and Rangers during this time. He even appeared for a
Scots XI. After the war, he fell out with Stoke and transferred to join
Blackpool F.C. in 1947, with whom he won the inaugural Football Writers'
Association Footballer of the Year award in 1948. His link-up with Stan
Mortensen was very profitable, and Matthews won an FA Cup winners medal in 1953
- a match dubbed the 'Matthews Final' where, despite Mortensen's hat-trick, his
outstanding dribbling in the last 30 minutes of the match when Blackpool were
3-1 down more than contributed to him finally earning the medal which had eluded
him in the finals of 1948 and 1951.
|Date of birth
||February 1, 1915
|Place of birth
|Date of death
||February 23, 2000
|Place of death
||The Wizard of the Dribble,
The Magician, Sir Stan
||Right wing, Midfielder
* Professional club appearances and goals
counted for the domestic league only and
correct as of July 23, 2006.
** National team caps and goals correct
as of July 23, 2006.
In 1950, Matthews only played in one World Cup game (a 1-0 defeat against
In total, Matthews made 54 official England appearances scoring 11 goals (as
well as 29 unofficial wartime appearances with 2 goals). He played his final
England game in 1957; he remains the oldest player to have played in an England
shirt. His England career is the longest of any player ever to play for the
side, stretching from his debut on September 29, 1934 to his last appearance on
May 15, 1957, almost 23 years later. His importance to the team is exemplified
by the post-war circumstances he found himself in. He was excluded from the team
for most of the 1946-47 season in favour of another England great - Tom Finney.
He returned to the team in triumph, however, as England beat Portugal 10-0. A
year later, he ran the Italian left-back ragged, helping England to a 4-0 win in
At the Football World Cup 1954 in Switzerland, England found themselves
struggling, so Matthews promptly switched to inside-forward, galvanised the
team, and helped it to a 4-4 draw.
Matthews travelled to various parts of the globe to take part in exhibition
matches and he was famous world-wide. For example, he attracted a large crowd at
Hartleyvale in Cape Town when he appeared there in about 1956.
In 1956, Matthews won the first ever European Footballer of the Year award.
In 1961 (aged 46) he rejoined his hometown club Stoke City. The following
season, Stoke City won the English Second Division Championship and he was voted
Footballer of the Year for the second time in his career. He remained with Stoke
City until the end of his playing career, appearing in his final game on
February 6, 1965, just after his 50th birthday, when he played for the first
time in 12 months due to a knee injury, setting up the equaliser for his team.
Even at the age of 50, he always proclaimed that he had retired 'too early'. A
testimonial game in honour of Sir Stanley was played in April 1965 at the
Victoria Ground, where 35,000 people watched a 10-goal thriller against a World
XI side that included greats such as Lev Yashin, Josef Masopust, Ferenc Puskas
and Alfredo Di Stefano. Stanley was carried shoulder-high from the field at
full-time. Also in 1965, he became the first football player to be knighted for
services to sport. He received a FIFA Gold Merit Order in 1992.
After playing 698 games in the Football League, Matthews managed Port Vale
F.C. (1965-1968), during which time it was alleged that illegal payments were
made to players. Port Vale were expelled, but subsequently re-instated to the
Football League. After this he moved to Malta, where he coached Hibernians, also
playing for them until he was 55. He played for numerous local sides, meaning
that he was still running down the wing in his 60s. He also coached "Stan's Men"
in Soweto, South Africa, and in Canada. He even played in a charity match at
Grangemouth as late as 1981.
During his illustrious career he gained respect, not only as a great player,
but also as a gentleman. This is exemplified by the fact that despite playing in
over seven hundred league games, he was never booked. Matthews was made an
Inaugural Inductee of the English Football Hall of Fame in 2002 in recognition
of his outstanding talents.
"When Sir Stan died in January [sic], 2000, at the age of 85, more
than 100,000 people lined the streets of Stoke-on-Trent to pay tribute. As the
cortege wound its way along the 12-mile route, employees downed tools and
schoolchildren stood motionless to witness his final passing." ('The
Sentinel' November 19, 2005)
There is a statue of Matthews outside Stoke City's Britannia Stadium and
another in the centre of Hanley. The dedication on the former reads: His name
is symbolic of the beauty of the game, his fame timeless and international, his
sportsmanship and modesty universally acclaimed. A magical player, of the
people, for the people.
February 1 has been made an unofficial 'Sir Stanley Matthews Day', one of the
themes of which is to promote dress-down days in which staff in offices are
encouraged to come to work in football shirts. The idea is to 'Wear it with
Pride for Sir Stan' to raise money for the The Stanley Matthews Foundation which
provides sports opportunities for under-privileged young people in the
Stoke-on-Trent area, although this hopes to be expanded in the future.
Matthews' son, also called Stanley, was Wimbledon Boy's Champion in 1962.
- When England beat Scotland 7-2 in 1955, the 40-year-old Matthews created
five of the goals. Duncan Edwards was making his England debut; when Matthews
made his, Edwards had not even been born.
- Sir Stan once said that only by the 1990s had the art of dribbling been
reinstated in the English game, praising the likes of Steve McManaman and Ryan
- The Stanley Matthews Collection is held by the National Football Museum.
"You're 32, do you think you can make it for another couple of years?" -
Blackpool manager Joe Smith, in 1947.
"The man who taught us the way football should be played" - Pele
"I grew up in an era when he was a god to those of us who aspired to play the
game. He was a true gentleman and we shall never see his like again" - Brian
"It is not just in England where his name is famous. All over the world he is
regarded as a true football genius" - Berti Vogts
"For me this man probably had the greatest name of any player ever, certainly
in Britain. I don't think anyone since had a name so synonymous with football in
England" - Gordon Banks
Matthews, S (2000), "My Autobiography; The Way It Was",
The Sentinel - North Staffordshire's daily newspaper
|European Footballer of
Association Footballer of the Year
Association Footballer of the Year