Thousands bid farewell to Soccer Legend Sir Stanley Matthews
Well over ten thousand mourners paid their respects to the footballing legend Sir Stanley Matthew today, as his funeral cortege made its way through his hometown of Stoke-on-Trent. Matthews, who died last week at the age of 85, enjoyed a fantastic career and made over 700 football league appearances. He was twice named European Footballer, played international football for England 54 times, winning his final cap at the age 42 and played league football at the highest domestic level until he was 50. Stanley Matthews played for only two teams, Blackpool and Stoke City and it was from Stoke City's Britannia stadium that today's funeral cortege began. Having completed a circuit of the ground, in which many thousands of mourners had gathered, the procession journeyed 14 miles through the streets of the Midlands town, past Sir Stanley's old school, his statue in the town centre and past the site of the old Victoria ground where fans witnessed Matthews display his talents that saw labelled as 'The Wizard of the Dribble'. On arrival at St. Peter's Church former football stars Sir Bobby Charlton, Sir Tom Finney, Nat Lofthouse and Gordon Banks carried Sir Stanley's coffin into the service. Football fans throughout the world will remember Matthews fondly for his sportsmanship, modesty, skill and grace, not to mention his many mesmerising performances. Like the infamous 1953 FA Cup final dubbed 'The Matthews Final' after a performance so exquisite by Sir Stanley that he eclipsed the hat-trick hero that day, Stan Mortison. Few footballers have found such a place in the heart of a nation in the way Sir Stanley Matthews has and he will be sorely missed. The inscription on his statue in Stoke perhaps provides the most fitting epitaph for such an inspirational individual: "His name is symbolic of the beauty of the game, his fame timeless and international, his sportsmanship and modesty universally acclaimed. A magical player, of the people, for the people."