The night football great Sir Stanley Matthews played at South Shields in front of 10,000

What a legend. What a player. What a day for South Tyneside.

It happened 56 years ago and 10,000 eager fans turned up to watch footballing wizard Sir Stanley Matthews play in a floodlit challenge match at Simonside Hall in South Shields.

We are heading back to 1966 for the day that one of England’s finest sporting heroes turned out for Port Vale against South Shields.

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And it was Sir Stanley who requested the game as a recognition of the club’s growing reputation.

1966 and all that, the year Sir Stanley Matthews played in front of a bumper South Shields crowd.

He wrote a letter to South Shields FC to say: “The marvellous people of South Shields love their football and are right behind their club.”

It was eagerly anticipated and the Shields Gazette said at the time: “Obviously, this is a great scoop for the Shields club.”

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It described the forthcoming game as a ‘gala occasion’ which would attract fans from all over the North East.

The prediction was spot on and the spectators were treated to a thriller, especially as Matthews was not the only well known player in the Vale team at the time.

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The Shields Gazette announcement that Sir Stanley Matthews was coming to town.

Sir Stanley, then 51 years old, was joined by his right flank partner from his Blackpool days, Jackie Mudie, then Vale’s player manager.

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The match ended in a 1-1 draw and Sir Stanley said: “I am amazed that South Shields gets such crowds. Gate wise, they are doing better than many League clubs.”

During the match, he delighted the bumper crowd with flashes of his trademark mazy runs.

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A capacity crowd at Simonside Hall for a match in the 1960s.
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A great day for South Shields and another footballer was in the area.

Scottish international Jim Baxter, then playing for Sunderland FC, was in town to open Prince Edward Road’s Youth Club’s new coffee bar.

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About 40 youngsters at the club had been working for six months to redecorate the room and they turned out in force to see Jim pour the first cup of coffee.

Another famous visitor to the area was singer Dickie Valentine who was starring at the Latino in Crossgate. He was on twice a night at 8pm and midnight.

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Also on in South Shields in 1966 was Dickie Valentine who was appearing at Club Latino.

In between was a cabaret at 10pm and the Les Bailey girls were also on the bill.

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Do you remember Sir Stanley Matthews playing at South Shields? Or have you seen another celebrity grace the South Tyneside area?

Tell us more by emailing [email protected]

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An aerial view of the ground.
Simonside Hall in the late 1960s.