Stanley Matthews - The Wizard of the Dribble
Stanley Matthews was the Leo Messi of his day. Winner of the first Balon D'Or in 1956, he was twice voted Footballer of the Year, played 54 times for England (scoring 11 goals and tearing Brazil apart at Wembley in the process), played in two World Cups and was part of the England team which won the British Championship 9 times. He made 697 appearances for Stoke City and Blackpool, scored 71 goals and carried on playing at the top level until he was 50 years of age.
He was knighted in 1965, the only player to receive a knighthood while still playing professionally. A lightning quick winger with fantastic dribbling ability, his presence could add an extra 10,000 supporters to any away game in which he played and it was said by Franz Beckenbauer that the speed and skill Matthews possessed meant that "almost no one in the game could stop him"
On his retirement from playing Stan had a brief spell in management before turning to coaching young players, famously ignoring the South African apartheid regime to found a team of black players in Soweto, taking them to play in a tournament in Rio.
Stan passed away in 2000 aged 85. As his funeral wound its way through Stoke 100,000 people lined the streets to pay their respects to one of England's greatest footballing sons.
“Stanley Matthews taught us the way football should be played” - Pele
“He told me that he used to play for just twenty pounds a week. Today he would be worth all the money in the Bank of England” – Gianfranco Zola - Chelsea F.C. and Italy
“I couldn’t believe he was just a man. He was the best player in the world” – Sir Bobby Charlton CBE - Manchester United F.C. and England
“Prince among wingers….no one can hold a ball like Stan. He has uncanny control,” – Tommy Lawton - Notts County F.C. and England
"The secrets of Stanley Matthews as I have seen him: Perfect fitness and faithful attention not only to fitness but to playing gear. Superb balance. Complete confidence in his own ability. Tremendous pace over a distance of up to twenty-five yards, but especially over twelve yards, the distance that really matters in football. A beautiful body swerve. Mastery of the ball. He can "kill" it stone dead from all angles and paces. Complete two-footedness. He doesn't mind which foot he has to centre with….in short, the ideal poker player – on the football field.” – Stan Mortensen - Blackpool F.C. and England
"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." - Brian Clough
"It is not just in England where his name is famous. All over the world he is regarded as a true football genius." - Berti Vogts