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Stanley Matthews

W ith the death
Ardath Famous Footballers 1934
Churchman Association Footballers 1938

of Sir Stanley Matthews it has to be accepted we are one step further away from the 'beautiful game'. If it ever existed it was when this man played.

Stan was himself aware the football world had changed and he had pretty determined views that in many ways it was not for the better. The outrageous wages, the poor sportsmanship, attacks on referees and tackling 'which is little short of common assault' were all things he felt were not part of the football he once graced.

And you have to accept that in a career which spanned from 17 years to 50 years in which he was never cautioned once by a referee he might have a point. This was despite some of the tighest marking of any player ever in the game of football (but that is not to say the leg breaking tackles the modern game specialises in).

He played for England 54 times

Despite retiring from the game at the age of 50 looking back he always thought there were a few more years left in him and rather regretted his 'early retirement'. Certainly he was a pioneer of diet and fitness which meant he could keep up with the younger players on the field. Ask anyone that knew him and they would tell of his great faith in 'deep breathing.'

That is not to say Stan was not a very modest fellow. Of the "Matthews Final" he would say 'Poor Stan Mortesen. People forget it was him that scored the hat-trick. It should really be called the Mortesen final.'

He played for England 54 times (plus 30 war time caps) in a time when there were more players to choose from (it has been said all you had to do was score a hat-trick in the Saturday game to get into the England squad. Matthews had 17 different inside right partners for example) What is more because of the football season was not as hectic as it is today players had time to recover from injuries which so bedevil the modern manager.

His first international was in 1934 aged 19 against Wales. His last international was aged 42 in a World Cup qualifier agains Denmark in 1957. Most think he should have been fielded more often in internationals and it would be hard to argue against this position.

He was one of the very few players who would fill a stadium whever he went to play. Indeed many stadia records were set at games where Matthews played.

The fact he played almost exclusively for Stoke is part of the past also. He had a brief sojourn at Blackpool for a transfer fee of £11500 (about $20000) in 1948, the year he his named footballer of the year. (although this was the club he won his FA Cup winners medal for on the third attempt) and when he returned to play for Stoke in 1961 with a £2500 (about $4000) transfer fee the match attendance rose from 8400 to 35000.

That's magic.