Stanley Matthews, Blackpool
The Wizard Of Dribble
In 1965 Matthews became football’s first knight. Two years earlier — and fifteen years after the first time — he again became Footballer of the Year and by when he was back playing for Stoke City at aged 48.
Matthews - ‘The Wizard of Dribble’ is rightly regarded as one of football’s greatest ever players and he played League football for longer than anyone else, 33 years in total. He also had the longest England international career, making a goal-scoring debut against Wales in September 1934 and retiring after making his 54th international appearance against Denmark in 1957. Matthews caps total would have, of course, been much greater except for WWII.
Matthews joined Stoke City, his local club, as an amateur in September 1930. In 1933, by which time he was a professional, he helped the Potters win the Second Division title. By then he already possessed wonderful ball control, a body-swerve that frequently left opponents mesmerised as he raced away from them and superb accuracy when crossing the ball with either foot.
He also scored some great goals when playing for England and his wing partnership with Preston’s Tom Finney was often too much for foreign defences. Matthews hit a hat-trick for his country in a 5-4 victory against Czechoslovakia in 1937.
When injuries began to interrupt his performances, Matthews was, despite vigorous protests by Stoke fans, sold to Blackpool, for whom Matthews had successfully played as a guest during the War, in May 1947 for £11,500. Some fans felt that Stoke might be getting the better of the deal as Matthews was now 32.
In the next six seasons Matthews played in three FA Cup finals. After losing the first two — against Manchester United in 1948 and Newcastle United in 1951 - the whole of the country outside of Bolton was desperate for ‘Stanley’ to get the winners medal he so desperately wanted. 2 May 1953 was Matthews final as he inspired the Tangerines to come from 3-1 down to beat Bolton Wanderers 4-3 with Stan Mortensen overshadowed despite scoring a hat-trick.
Over the following seasons Blackpool proved a tremendous draw wherever they traveled and in 1955-56 the Seasiders finished in second place in the table, the club’s highest-ever final League position. Matthews was voted European Footballer of the Year in 1956.
Matthews made his final appearance for Blackpool at home to Arsenal on 7 October 1961 and following which he left Bloomfield Road to rejoin Stoke City.
Back at the Victoria Ground he again aided Stoke to win promotion to the First Division as the Second Division title was won in 1962-63. At aged 50 years and 5 days, Matthews made his final League appearance on 6 February 1965.
Matthews, who off the field was a real gent, appeared in almost 800 competitive club matches and scored 80 goals. He also appeared in 69 WWII games and netted eight more goals. Overall, Matthews, who died in 2000, played in at least 2,000 football matches during his career, including 1,127 at a competitive level.