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From the Archives: Matthews given hero's welcome by Villa

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From the Archives: Matthews given hero's welcome by Villa


It's fair to say with Liverpool, Newcastle, Man City and Tottenham as our opening four home games, that the atmosphere will be red-hot at Villa Park.

It's also safe to assume that star names like Luis Suarez, Yohan Cabaye, Yaya Toure and Gareth Bale will be met with hostility from the stands as the crowd look to stoke up the home advantage.

But it was a very different story on February 1, 1958 as Stanley Matthews arrived in B6 on the date of his 43rd birthday.

At the time, winger Matthews was nicknamed the 'Wizard of the Dribble' and had helped Blackpool to the 1953 FA Cup Final, beating Bolton in what became known as the 'Matthew's Final.'

He was also renowned as a vegetarian teetotaller, a role-model and was also an established England international, winning 54 caps between 1937 and 1957.

Villa Park officials - staff and players - put out the welcome mat for Matthews as he arrived with the Seasiders for the game.

As the Villa News & Record commented: "Today, on his 43rd birthday, we hope to have the pleasure once again of seeing in action the greatest and most famous footballer of all times - Stanley Matthews - and in all sincerity we wish him many happy returns of the day.

"We at Villa Park, along with millions of football followers throughout the world, have always had the greatest of admiration for Stanley, surely one of the most modest of sportsmen, who, throughout an illustrious career of 22 years has always played the game in its truest sense and has never failed to adorn the white shirt of old England.

"May the nimbleness of those magical feet, together with fleetness of foot, never leave him."

But these words of praise weren't the only accolades that Matthews received on the day as the match report in the following edition of the Villa News & Record revealed.

It added: "Saturday last - February 1 - will no doubt live long in the memories of the 45,000 spectators and the 22 players who took part in this game, not perhaps for the game itself, but for the happy and unrehearsed scenes in and around the Villa dressing room when Stanley Matthews received a number of presents to mark his 43rd birthday.

"The chief presentation was on behalf of the Villa players themselves and it took the form of a travelling case inscribed with the monogram S.M.

"It was a happy thought of someone for the presentation to be made by Walter Hazelden, the youngest player in league football, to Stanley Matthews, the oldest player in the league - and young Walter, ably backed by Stan Lynn, did the job very well.

"Then, when the teams turned out, the spectators had a chance to join in the celebration, for as the Blackpool team ambled across the pitch, the music struck up "Happy Birthday to you" and most of those 45,000 people let themselves go.

"It must have been heard even at Aston Cross!"

It's amazing to think back now at the atmosphere applicable from games of that age where opposition players would be serenaded so warmly by the home crowd.

It's fair to say, I can't see the same level of ebullience at Villa Park anytime soon!

For accuracy sake, the game finished 1-1, Peter McParland firing home our goal.

Snap up some of our retro shirts from years gone by.

AVFC Official
By @AVFCOfficial 23rd July 2013
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