Stanley Matthews

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Sir Stanley Matthews
Personal information
Full name Stanley Matthews
Date of birth February 1, 1915
Place of birth  Hanley, England
Date of death  February 23 2000 (aged 85)
Place of death  Stoke-on-Trent, England
Nickname The Wizard of the Dribble,
The Magician, Sir Stan
Position Right wing, Midfielder
Senior clubs1
Years Club App (Gls)*
Stoke City
Stoke City
259 (51)
380 (17)
059 0(3)
698 (71) 
National team
1934-1957 England 054 (11)

1 Senior club appearances and goals
counted for the domestic league only.
* Appearances (Goals)

Stanley Matthews, (February 1, 1915 - February 23, 2000) was a soccer player known for his dribbling abilities and the longevity of his professional playing career. Regarded as one of the best players in the history of the English game, he was the first soccer player to be knighted and, as of 2007, was the only player to have been knighted while still playing. He was also the first player to win European Footballer of the Year award and the first to win Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year prize.

Because of his fine dribbling skills, Matthews gained the nicknames The Wizard of the Dribble and The Magician, and is regarded as one of the finest dribblers of the ball in the history of the sport.

Brazilian star Pelé said that Matthews was "the man who taught us the way football should be played." A teetotaler and vegetarian, Matthews followed a daily strict exercise regime and remained fit enough to play at the top level until he was 50 years-old, the oldest player ever to play in England's top soccer division. Known also for his high standards of sportsmanship, Matthews was never once booked for a yellow card in more than 700 professional games.

Early Career

Matthews was born in Seymour Street, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent in the Midlands region of central England, 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. Luke's School. A naturally speedy right winger, he showed early promise and played for England's schoolboy national team against Wales.

Matthews joined Stoke City as an apprentice and signed professional terms with the club in 1932, making his debut at Bury in March at the age of 17. His international debut for the English national team came in 1934 in a 4-0 win over Wales in which he scored a goal. Matthews scored a hat-trick (three goals) for England in a game against Czechoslovakia in 1937. In 1938, he asked to be traded from Stoke, causing a public outcry in the city. More than 3,000 fans attended a protest meeting and a further 1,000 marched outside the ground with placards. Matthews decided to stay at the team.

War Years

The Second World 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 Blackpool, Crewe Alexandra, Manchester United, Wrexham, Arsenal, Greenock Morton, Stenhousemuir and Glasgow Rangers during this time. He even appeared for a Scots XI team. After the war, he fell out with Stoke and was transferred to Blackpool on May 10, 1947 for £11,500 at the age of 32 (Calley 1992). He won the inaugural Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year award in 1948.

The Matthews Final

Perhaps Matthews' most famous game came at the 1953 Football Association Cup. It is one one of the most celebrated F.A. Cups in the history of the event. Matthews put on one of the greatest individual dribbling displays in the history of soccer and at the age of 38, finally won a F.A. Cup medal which had eluded him in 1948 and 1951.

In the game, Matthews linked up with Stan Mortensen to lead Blackpool to a 4-3 victory over Bolton Wanderers. Even though Mortensen scored three goals in the game, the match went down in history as the "Matthews Final"[1] because of Matthews' outstanding dribbling in the last 30 minutes of the match when Blackpool were 3-1 down. Mortensen is the only player to score a hat trick in the F.A. Cup Final, but even that amazing feat was overshadowed by Matthews' skill in the game.

Playing For England

Matthews was excluded from the England team for most of the 1946-1947 season in favor of another England great—Tom Finney. He returned to the team in triumph, however, as England beat Portugal 10-0 in May 1947. A year later, he ran the Italian defenders ragged, helping England to a 4-0 win in Turin. In 1950, Matthews was added to the World Cup team for the trip to Brazil, even though as legendary soccer writer Brian Glanville noted that he was "held in deep suspicion by the English selectors as too brilliant, too agelessly indestructible an out-right to trust," (Glanville 1997). Matthews played just one game at the World Cup in Brazil, a 1-0 defeat against Spain. He was left out of the 2-0 win over Chile, and also the stunning 1-0 loss to the United States, a result that shocked the soccer world. At the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland, England struggled in its opening game against Belgium, so Matthews promptly moved from playing on the flank into an inside right position, a move that helped salvage a 4-4 tie. He also played against Uruguay, where England bowed out in the quarterfinals losing 4-2. When England beat Scotland 7-2 in 1955, the 40-year-old Matthews created five of the goals.

When not playing for England, Matthews traveled to various parts of the globe to take part in exhibition matches and was famous world-wide. In 1956, Matthews won the first-ever European Footballer of the Year (Balon d'Or) award, and the following year was awarded a CBE in the Queen's New Year's honors list. 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 national team, stretching from his debut on September 29, 1934 to his last appearance on May 15, 1957, spanning almost 23 years later. He is also the oldest player ever to appear for England.

Later Career

In 1961, at the of 46, Matthews rejoined his hometown club Stoke City. The following season, Stoke City won the English Second Division Championship and Matthews 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. His last game came on February 6, 1965, just after his fiftieth birthday, when he played for the first time in 12 months due to a knee injury. He had an assist on a goal in the game, setting up the equalizer for his team. Even at the age of 50, he proclaimed that he had retired "too early."

A testimonial game in honor of Matthews 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 Puskás and Alfredo Di Stéfano. Stanley was carried shoulder-high from the field at the final whistle. Also in 1965, he became the first soccer player to be knighted for services to sport. He received a FIFA Gold Merit Order in 1992.

As a coach

After playing 698 games in the English Football League, Matthews coached at Port Vale (1965-1968), during which time it was alleged that illegal payments were made to players. Port Vale was expelled, but subsequently re-instated to the Football League. After this he moved to Malta, where he coached a team called Hibernians in the town of Paola, also playing for them until he was 55. He played for numerous local sides in his 60s. He also coached "Stan's Men" in Soweto, South Africa, and coached in Canada as well. He even played in a charity match at Grangemouth near Falkirk in Scotland, as late as 1981.


During his illustrious career Matthews gained respect, not only as a great player, but also as a gentleman. This is exemplified by the fact that despite playing in nearly 700 league games, he was never once booked, or in today's parlance, given a yellow card. Matthews was made an Inaugural Inductee of the English Football Hall of Fame in 2002 in recognition of his outstanding talents.

At Matthews funeral, 100,000 people lined the streets of Stoke-on-Trent to pay tribute in the bitter cold and heavy rain. As the cortege wound its way along the 12-mile route, employees lowered their tools and schoolchildren stood motionless to witness his final passing. The pallbearers at St. Peters Church, included Bobby Charlton, Nat Lofthouse, Gordon Banks and his England teammate Tom Finney.

There is a statue of Matthews outside Stoke City's Britannia Stadium and another in the main shopping district of Hanley, where the ball from the statue has been stolen a number of times. The dedication 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.

In the Stoke-on-Trent region, February 1 has been made an unofficial "Sir Stanley Matthews Day," when workers are encouraged to go to the workplace in soccer shirts. Volunteers also raise money for the the Stanley Matthews Foundation, which provides sports opportunities for under-privileged young people in the Stoke-on-Trent area. In 2007 a badge in the shape of his number "7" was introduced to replace the wearing of sports shirts.

Matthews brilliant career is best summed up by the legendary English coach Brian Clough, who said: "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."

Matthews' son, also named Stanley, was a tennis player, who won the Wimbledon Boy's Champion title in 1962 and a played as professional through the 1970s.


  1. The Matthews Final, BBC. Retrieved June 11, 2007.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Calley, Roy. Blackpool: A Complete Record 1887-1992. Breedon Books Sport, 1992. ISBN 9781873626078
  • Glanville, Brian. The Story of the World Cup, Faber & Faber, 1997. ISBN 9780571190812
  • Hughes, Rob. "Football mourns its shining knight." The Times. 1. February 24, 2000.
  • Matthews, S. My Autobiography; "The Way It Was" London: Headline, 2000. ISBN 9781840323375
  • Mourant, Andrew and Jack Rollin. The Essential History of England. Headline. 2004. ISBN 9780755313648
  • Ponting, Ivan. "Sir Stanley Matthews." The Independent. 6. February 25, 2000.
  • Scoot, Gregg. "Sir Stanley Matthews 1915-2000: Magic Exploits From Knight of the Round Ball." Birmingham Post. 20. February 24, 2000.
  • Viner, Brian. "Great players stand together with 100,000 fans to cheer football's wizard on his way." The Independent. 3. March 4, 2000.

Preceded by:
new creation
European Footballer of the Year
Succeeded by:
Alfredo Di Stéfano
Preceded by:
new creation
Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year
Succeeded by:
Johnny Carey
Preceded by:
Jimmy Adamson
Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year
Succeeded by:
Bobby Moore

Flag of England England squad - 1950 FIFA World Cup Flag of England

DF Aston | MF Baily | FW Bentley | MF Cockburn | MF Dickinson | GK Ditchburn | DF Eckersley | FW Finney | MF Hughes | FW Mannion | FW Matthews | FW Milburn | FW Mortensen | FW Mullen | MF Nicholson | DF Ramsey | DF Scott | DF Taylor | MF Watson | GK Williams | DF Wright | Coach: Winterbottom


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