Friday, February 23, 2018

23 February 2000 - The Late Great Stanley Matthews

On 23 February 2000, Stanley Matthews, winner of the first Ballon d'Or, passed away at the age of 85.

A winger who is widely considered one of the greatest players in football history, Matthews acquired a long list of accomplishments over the course of his 33-year career, which he spent with only two clubs, Stoke City (1932-47, 1961-65) and Blackpool (1947-61). In all, he made a total of 783 appearances and scored 80 goals. But he won only one major trophy, claiming the 1953 FA Cup with Blackpool with an outstanding performance that led the game being called "the Matthews Final."

He came close twice before, reaching the FA Cup Final with Blackpool in 1948 and 1951, and also finished as league runners-up in 1956, the year he won the inaugural Ballon d'Or as Europe's greatest player. The following year, he was made a Commander of the British Empire, becoming the first (and so far only) English footballer to be knighted while still an active player.

Matthews also starred at the international level, making 54 England appearances and winning nine British Home Championships (three of which were shared titles).

His dedication to fitness and training sustained his career so that, at 50, he became the oldest player to appear in the English top flight. He is also the oldest person ever to play for England, making his last appearance at the age of 42 years, 104 days.

Upon his death in 2000, testimonials flew in from all around the world, including comments from Pelé, who said that Matthews "taught us the way football should be played" and Berti Vogts, who said "All over the world, he is regarded as a true football genius."

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