He was football’s first superstar, considered by many the greatest player ever and the game’s first knight.
Revered by supporters of Stoke City as well as Blackpool, where he has a unique place in the history books, and renowned as the only modern-era player to take to the field beyond his 50th birthday, the word legend doesn’t even begin to sum up the incredible talent of Sir Stanley Matthews.
Seventeen years after his death at the age of 85, his extraordinary, inspirational life is covered in a fascinating new documentary which is released on DVD on Monday.
It features glowing tributes from the likes of Gary Lineker, Sir Michael Parkinson and Sir Richard Branson as well as plenty of archive footage of the great man in his pomp.
That includes a comprehensive section on his time at Bloomfield Road, with the undoubted highlight the 1953 FA Cup triumph over Bolton, which was immortalised as the Matthews final and earned Stan, then 38, the cup winner’s medal, he had sought throughout his career.
Sir Stan’s son Stanley Jr is an executive producer of the film and recalls, as an eight-year-old at the time, how much that cup win meant to his dad.
“My father’s father said to him on his death-bed ‘I want you to do two things for me, son: take care of your mother’, which he did of course, ‘and win me the FA Cup’,” said Stanley Jr, who has lived in the US for the last 44 years.
“It came about after a pal who is involved in the film industry suggested the idea and I was delighted to be involved.
“As we started putting it together and researching the footage, it became a very emotional experience.
“I have probably seen the film 50 times at various stages of the production process, but the tears flow in the same two places - that ‘53 cup final win because I know how much that medal meant to dad and his funeral in 2000, when the streets of Stoke and the stadium were packed.
“For a long time I didn’t realise how important he was - he was just dad.
“Only later do you realise what a person he was. We could never take a walk without people wanting to shake hands and get an autograph.
‘He was very shy. As a family we would go to the movies and wait in the manager’s office until the film had started before taking our seats, so as not to disrupt the show, and we would leave 10 minutes before the end.
“We never saw the beginning or end of a movie.
“When the buses brought the tourists to Blackpool Illuminations, the drivers would pull up outside our house and we’d see the driver pointing and telling people that was where Stanley Matthews lived.”
Sir Stanley is considered by many to be one of the great athletes of the 20th century and well ahead of his time in terms of the fitness and nutrition disciplines which are such a key part of the modern game.
Ahead of training with the Blackpool team, he would start the day with punishing sessions on the beach and maintained fruit juices and salads as essential to his diet.
“We had a machine to make the juice. He loved doing that, he thought it was good for him.
“The things he did were way ahead of his time and he never drank or smoked.
“It’s also wonderful that he was never booked and to think he played on to 50 years of age at the top level of the English league game makes me incredibly proud,” added Stanley Jr, a former Wimbledon junior champion who went on to coach tennis in the USA and is now 72.
“His father was a boxer and he learned a lot from him about fitness, diet and dedication to his sport.
“From about 10, I joined dad on his runs as often as I could and he made me want to go into sport but I was never much good as a footballer.
“I got into tennis and I was lucky enough to make a life out of the game.”