Sir Stanley Matthews: So did he play at South Shields or not?

Sir Stanley Matthews shadowed by South Shields defender Billy Thompson during the game at Simonside Hall.
Sir Stanley Matthews shadowed by South Shields defender Billy Thompson during the game at Simonside Hall.

The recent articles about Sir Stanley Matthews playing in South Shields has certainly put the cat among the pigeons.

As you will remember, I told how the “wizard of the dribble” had travelled to South Tyneside with a Port Vale XI to play a challenge match against the local team at Simonside Hall, on Monday, April 25, 1966.

The match programme for the South Shields v Port Vale XI game.

The match programme for the South Shields v Port Vale XI game.

But 64-year-old reader Phil Hughes, is convinced that although Sir Stanley made the trip, as manager of the Potteries’ side, he didn’t actually play.

“Stanley Matthews was the manager of Port Vale, and he was due to play in the match, but he didn’t.

“He sat in the box with Alf McMichael, who was the manager at South Shields for about six to seven years (and who went back to Belfast, in Northern Ireland, where he got a job in the stores at Harland and Wolff), but he didn’t put his boots on.

“Port Vale had the youngest forward line in the Football League, they had Roddy Georgeson and Mike Cullen, they were young kids. They both played that night.

Billy said that Matthews was hard to play against even then, so he must have been a nightmare when he was younger!

Val Coyne

“I was there that night, I was about 15 years old. Everyone was very disappointed that Stanley Matthews didn’t play.

“They were expecting to see him turn out. He didn’t like playing in the North-East.”

Another reader, Val Coyne, however, remembers things quite differently, saying her brother played for South Shields in that game – defending against Sir Stanley.

Val wrote to me saying: “I have been following with interest your stories regarding Stanley Matthews.

The Gazette's Dick Kirkup previews the big game.

The Gazette's Dick Kirkup previews the big game.

“My brother Billy Thompson, who played against Matthews at Simonside Hall that night, is still fit and well, aged 73 and living in East Boldon.

“We have great memories of the game, and of all the times when Billy played for South Shields.

“Billy said that Matthews was hard to play against even then, so he must have been a nightmare when he was younger!

“He was really fast over five to 10 yards.

“Billy remembers that everyone thought Alf McMichael would have played himself on the night, as they were old adversaries, but that he wanted Billy to play instead.

“He did give him some good advice on how to handle him though.

“The family kept a scrapbook of press cuttings and photos which we still have, including the FA Cup third round match against Queens Park Rangers in 1970.

“Terry Venables and Rodney Marsh were playing that day – another memorable time to look back on.”

One thing is for certain though, many of you are keen to hear more about the area’s footballing past.

So back to Mr Hughes, who recalled the exploits of another South Shields’ player, “King” Lenny Smith.

“I remember Lenny Smith, who had a season as a goalkeeper at Middlesbrough before joining South Shields at number nine.”

Mr Hughes believes the Shields’ striker scored 1,000 goals, with his 1,000th coming in a game in which, he thinks, Charley Hurley was playing against him at centre half.

• Please get in touch with any of your football memories.