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Wednesday, 23 February, 2000, 19:50 GMT
The first gentleman of soccer

Sir Stanley Matthews
Sir Stanley played his last match aged 50

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

His professional career covered 34 years; when he retired in 1965 -aged 50 - he had made nearly 700 League appearances for Stoke City and Blackpool and played for England 56 times.

As an outside-right he was without compare. A thin, frail-looking man, he 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 the nickname "the wizard of dribble".

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

Stanley Matthews: "Wizard of dribble"
The son of a professional feather-weight boxer, Stanley Matthews was born near Stoke-on-Trent, in the Potteries, and joined Stoke City straight from school at the age of fourteen.

In 1932 he became a full-time professional, 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, with which he stayed for 14 years.

It was during this period that he achieved his greatest triumph in what became known as "the Matthews Cup Final" of 1953, paving the way for Blackpool's last-minute victory against Bolton Wanderers.

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

Clean slate

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.

The player was knighted in 1964, and played his last game in 1965, five days after his 50th birthday.

Reflecting his reputation for fair play, Matthews did not receive a single booking during his long career. Great players from all over Europe - men like Yashin, di Stefano, Masopust and Schnellinger -came to Stoke to take part in his testimonial match on 28th April.

Sir Stanley went on to play in many exhibition games at home and abroad, and he became general manager of another club in the Potteries - Port Vale.

But the Club never got out of the Fourth Division, and in 1968 it was fined and expelled from the Football League for contravening Association and League regulations. Sir Stanley resigned, and later made his home in Malta, where he became coach of a local team.

Honourary degree

In 1974 he was coaching a team of Bantu players in South Africa. In 1982 he went to live in Ontario in Canada, where he continued to coach and play occasionally in charity matches. He still returned regularly to Soweto, as well as going to coach in the United States and Australia.

In June 1987 it was announced that Sir Stanley would receive the 1986 International Pierre de Coubertin Trophy, and in July 1987 he was awarded an honorary Master's degree by Keele University.

Shortly afterwards he returned to live on the outskirts of Stoke. He handed over most of his memorabilia to decorate the walls of a restaurant at the football club. In November 1989 he became President of Stoke City.

Sir Stanley married twice. His first marriage, from which he had a son and a daughter, was dissolved in 1975. He remarried the same year.
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See also:
24 Feb 00 |  Football
Football world mourns Sir Stanley
23 Feb 00 |  Football
Tributes for 'magical' Sir Stanley
Links to other Football stories are at the foot of the page.