Born on February 1, 1915, at Seymour Street, Hanley, Sir Stanley Matthews was one of the greatest football players of the English game. He was the first footballer to win both the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year and European Footballer of the Year awards. His quick feet and quick speed earned him the nicknames, “The Magician”, and “The Wizard of the Dribble.” Matthews lived for the game, and worked very hard to improve his fitness and performance. Here’s more about his career.
Despite Port Vale being his preferred team while growing up, Stanley Matthews joined Stoke City as an office boy at the age of 15 for a pay of £1 per week. Between 1930 and 1932, he played several reserve games against teams such as, Burnley and Manchester City. With his performance improving with each game, the national press predicted a bright future for him. On his 17th birthday, Matthews signed his first professional contract with Stoke City, and began playing matches regularly.
During his 2nd season, Matthews became a key player in Stoke City’s midfield, and was awarded his first England cap in 1934. In his England debut, he was able to score a goal, in a game where Wales was thrashed 4-0. He went on to score 51 goals for Stoke in 259 appearances between 1932–1947, rising quickly to become the biggest star in English football.
Stoke were among the twelve founding members of the Football League as it was introduced back in 1888. Having said that, the club later went bankrupt and joined non-league football until 1914, and the outbreak of First World War. Once football was restored in August 1919, Stoke re-joined the football league.
Matthews would later assist the former non-league team to achieve promotion as champions from the Second Division in 1932-33, scoring his first goal for the club in a 3-1 Potteries derby win versus local opponents Port Vale. With Matthews in the side, Stoke continued to succeed on the pitch and under manager Bob McGrory, he helped steer the side to their best ever league finish, fourth place within the First Division.
League football was postponed during World War II, and as a result, Sir Stanley was sent to Blackpool, where he served in the Royal Air Force.
Transfer to Blackpool
It was in Blackpool that Matthews’ career took off permanently. After scoring more than 50 goals in 262 matches at Stoke, he was transferred to the Seasiders in 1947 for £11,500. In his first season in Blackpool, the team suffered two defeats in F.A. Cup finals against Manchester Unites and Newcastle United, but that didn’t dampen his spirits. While playing Bolton Wanderers in 1953, Blackpool was 3-1 down by half time, but Matthews managed to pull the score back to 3-2 by the end of the match. In 1955, he also helped his team to rise to number 2 in the football league. The following year, he became the first winner of the European Player of the year award at the age of 41.
Return to Stoke City
In 1961, Matthews returned to Stoke, at the time when the team was almost at the bottom of the 2nd division. He managed to transform it, and the following year, they were promoted. Unfortunately, because of a knee injury, he retired from professional football at the age of 50. In April 1965, a match was played in honour of Matthews at Victoria Grounds. The game, which was played in front of over 35,000 people, attracted global stars of the time like, Ferenc Puskás and Lev Yashin. He went on to become the first player to ever be knighted, in the same year.
After his retirement, Matthews took on the task of reviving Port Vale, as a manager. But after trying unsuccessfully, he became a coach in South Africa and Malta. He spent his last years living in Penkhull district in Stoke City. On February 2000, Sir Stanley Matthews died at the age of 85. He will forever be remembered as one of the greatest players in the history of football.