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Sir Stanley Matthews, CBE (1 February 1915 – 23 February 2000) was an English football player. Often regarded as one of the greats 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 the Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year awards. His nicknames included The Wizard of the Dribble and The Magician. A vegetarian teetotaller, 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. He played his final competitive game in 1970, at the age of 55, for Hibernians in Maltamarker, which team he also coached at the time. Matthews was also an inaugural inductee to the English Football Hall of Fame in 2002 to honour his contribution to the English game.


Early life

Matthews was born in a terraced house in Seymour Street, Hanleymarker, Stoke-on-Trentmarker, Staffordshire. He was the third of four sons born to local boxer Jack Matthews (aka The Fighting Barber of Hanley), who fostered a sense of discipline, determination and sportsmanship that would serve his son well during his long career.

As a child, Stanley Matthews attended St Luke's School near his home.

In the summer of 1934, Stanley married Betty Vallance, daughter of Stoke trainer Jimmy Vallance and granddaughter of early Rangers pioneer Tom Vallance.

Playing career

A natural outside right showing early promise, Matthews played for England Schoolboys against Wales and left Stoke St. Peter's to sign professional forms with Stoke City in 1932. His international debut came in 1934, scoring for an England side that beat Wales 4-0. Matthews also played in the famous Battle of Highbury where England defeated the World Champions Italy 3-2 with a brace from Eric Brook and one goal from Ted Drake. Matthews later recollected that this was the most violent match that he had been involved in with Brook suffering a broken arm and Drake acquiring two black eyes. Shortly after this, Matthews 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 temperament."

The inaccuracy of this appraisal was soon illustrated by Matthews' 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 Stokemarker. More than 3,000 fans attended a protest meeting and a further 1,000 marched outside the ground with placards. Matthews stayed.

The Second World War interrupted his career, during which time he served in the Royal Air Force and was stationed near Blackpoolmarker. Surviving records show that he played as a guest for clubs such as Blackpool, Crewe Alexandramarker, Manchester United, Wrexham, Arsenal, Airdrie, Greenock Morton, Stenhousemuir and Rangers during this time. He even appeared for a Scots XI. After the war, he fell out with Stoke and was transferred to Blackpool on 10 May 1947 for £11,500 at the age of 32.

"You're 32, do you think you can make it for another couple of years?" - Blackpool manager Joe Smith, in 1947.

During an international against Italy in 1948, with England 4-0 up, Matthews went on a run to the corner flag to waste time. On getting there, he wiped the sweat from his hands on his shorts, and before his marker could arrive, pushed his hair back into place. People in the crowd believed Matthews had been audacious enough to pull a comb from his shorts pocket and comb his hair. As revealed in his autobiography, this legend followed Sir Stanley throughout his lifetime. 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 subsequently dubbed the 'Matthews Final' in which, 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 his finally earning the medal which had eluded him in the finals of 1948 and 1951. With Blackpool spending the entire 1950s in England's top division, including a highest-ever finish of second in 1956, the decade was the most successful in the club's history to date. Matthews was at the club throughout the 50s as was goalkeeper George Farm, defenders Hugh Kelly and Tommy Garrett, forward Jackie Mudie and outside left Bill Perry.

In 1950, Matthews only played in one World Cup game (a 1-0 defeat against Spain).

In total, Matthews made 54 official England appearances scoring 11 goals (as well as 29 unofficial wartime appearances with 2 goals). His England career is the longest of any player ever to play for the side, stretching from his debut on 29 September 1934 to his last appearance on 15 May 1957, almost 23 years later, an appearance which, as of 2009, makes him the oldest player ever to appear for England. 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 Turinmarker.

At the 1954 FIFA World Cup in Switzerlandmarker, England found themselves struggling against Belgium, so Matthews promptly switched to inside-forward, galvanised the team, and helped them to a 4-4 draw. 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.

Matthews travelled to various parts of the globe to take part in exhibition matches and was famous worldwide. For example, he attracted a large crowd at Hartleyvale in Cape Townmarker when he appeared there in about 1956.

In 1956, Matthews won the first-ever European Footballer of the Year (Ballon d'Or) award, and the following year was awarded a CBE in the New Year's honours list.

In 1961 (aged 46) he rejoined his home town 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 the Potters until the end of his playing career, appearing in his final game on 6 February 1965, just after his 50th birthday, when he played for the first time in 12 months owing to a knee injury, setting up the equaliser for his team. Even at the age of 50, he always claimed that he had retired 'too early'. A testimonial match in honour of Sir Stanley was played in April 1965 at the Victoria Groundmarker, where 35,000 people watched a 10-goal thriller against a World XI side that included greats such as Lev Yashin, Josef Masopust, Ferenc Puskás and Alfredo Di Stéfano. Matthews 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.

During the twilight of Matthews' career, his son, also named Stanley, was achieving some sporting fame of his own, as a tennis player. He became Wimbledonmarker Boy's Champion in 1962 and a professional of the sport in the 1970s.

Blackpool F.C. Hall of Fame

Matthews was inducted into the Hall of Fame at Bloomfield Road, when it was officially opened by former Blackpool player Jimmy Armfield in April 2006. Organised by the Blackpool Supporters Association, Blackpool fans around the world voted on their all-time heroes. Five players from each decade are inducted; Matthews is in the 1950s.

Management career

After playing 709 games in the Football League, Matthews was appointed general manager at Stoke's rivals Port Vale in July 1965 alongside Jackie Mudie. Matthews' focus was on developing a youth policy, a choice perhaps influenced by the failed policy of big money signings under previous manager Freddie Steele. Handed complete managerial control following Mudie's resignation in May 1967, Matthews couldn't guide the Vale to glory. Rather the opposite, as the club were fined £4,000 in February/March 1968 and expelled from the Football League for financial irregularities. Standing down as manager in May 1968, despite being owed £9,000 in salary in expenses he agreed to stay at Vale Parkmarker to continue his work with the youth team. A 'final settlement' was reached in December 1970, Matthews was given £3,300, with the other £7,000 he was owed to be written off. Player Roy Sproson later said that "he [Matthews] trusted people who should never have been trusted and people took advantage of him. I am convinced a lot of people sponged off him and, all the while, the club were sliding."

After this he moved to Maltamarker, where he coached the Hibernians, also playing for them until he was 55. He spent a brief period as President of non-league club Walton & Hersham.

He continued playing for numerous local sides, meaning that he was still running down the wing in his 60s. He also coached "Stan's Men" in Sowetomarker (South Africa), Australia, the USAmarker and Canadamarker. He even played in a charity match at Grangemouthmarker as late as 1981.

He later served as president of Stoke City, honorary vice-president of Blackpool and president of the City Vale Club.


Matthews received a FIFAmarker Gold Merit Order in 1992.

Sir Stanley Matthews died in February 2000, three weeks after his 85th birthday. His death was announced on radio just before the start of an England vs Argentina friendly match. He was cremated following a funeral service in Stoke on 3 March 2000. His funeral was attended by many footballing greats, such as Bobby and Jack Charlton, Gordon Banks, Nat Lofthouse and Tom Finney. His ashes were buried beneath the centre circle of the Britannia Stadiummarker (Stoke City's home since their relocation from the Victoria Ground in 1997).


Matthews was made an Inaugural Inductee of the English Football Hall of Fame in 2002 in recognition of his talents.

The International Federation of Football History & Statistics voted him the 11th greatest footballer of the 20th century.

After his death, more than 100,000 people lined the streets of Stoke-on-Trent to pay tribute. As the cortège wound its way along the 12-mile route, employees downed tools and schoolchildren stood motionless to witness his final passing.

There is a statue of Matthews outside Stoke City's Britannia Stadium and another in the centre of Hanleymarker. 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.

During his 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 nearly seven hundred league games, he was never booked.

The Stanley Matthews Collection is held by the National Football Museummarker.

1 February 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. In 2007 a badge in the shape of his number "7" was introduced to replace the wearing of sports shirts.


"The man who taught us the way football should be played" - Pelé

"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 Clough

"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

"He [Stanley Matthews] told me that he used to play for just twenty pounds a week. Today he would be worth all the money in the Bank of Englandmarker" - Gianfranco Zola

Football honours


Stoke City (second spell)





  • My Autobiography; The Way It Was (2006)

External links

1931-32 Stoke City Second Division 2 0 0 0 0 0
1932-33 15 1 0 0 0 0
1933-34 First Division 29 11 4 4 33 15
1934-35 36 10 1 1 37 11
1935-36 40 10 5 0 45 10
1936-37 40 7 2 0 42 7
1937-38 38 6 3 0 41 6
1938-39 36 2 2 0 38 2
1939-40 3 0 0 0 3 0
1945-46 0 0 8 0 8 0
1946-47 20 4 5 1 25 5
1947-48 Blackpool First Division 35 1 6 1 41 2
1948-49 26 3 3 0 29 3
1949-50 31 0 3 0 34 0
1950-51 38 0 8 0 46 0
1951-52 19 1 1 0 20 1
1952-53 24 4 7 1 31 5
1953-54 32 2 7 0 39 2
1954-55 33 1 1 0 34 1
1955-56 36 3 1 0 37 3
1956-57 24 2 4 0 28 2
1957-58 30 0 1 0 31 0
1958-59 19 0 6 0 25 0
1959-60 15 0 0 0 15 0
1960-61 27 0 1 0 28 0
1961-62 2 0 0 0 2 0
1961-62 Stoke City Second Division 18 2 3 1 21 3
1962-63 31 1 0 0 31 1
1963-64 First Division 9 0 4 1 13 1
1964-65 1 0 0 0 1 0

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