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Customer Review

on 3 March 2009
Stanley Matthews memoir is filled with meticulous details of a bygone era. I'm under the impression that Matthews in British sport must hold a place similar to the way we see such figures as Lou Gehrig or Stan Musial and the like. The breadth of detail is in fact a bit cumbersome, I really think the book should be read alongside Matthews' contemporary Tom Finney's My Autobiography which has a nice easygoing flow to it and is highly readable compared to this one. Still, it easily merits a top rating. The print in this book seems to even be smaller but historically it is an excellent account.

Matthews accounts are of the utmost intimate matters, as an example: playing a friendly against Nazi Germany in May, 1938 before a crowd of over 100,000 people in Berlin. The English players actually gave a Nazi salute before the game and there is a famous photograph of this. In this book, you will find out what was going on behind the scenes.

You will find out in those early days of International soccer fixtures, friendlies were regarded as just as important as the World Cup or Olympic games, whereas some tournaments were boycotted back then or not even attended at all with the ominous signs of war growing in Europe and around the world.

The summer of 1939 saw a similar incident, as the English team went into Milan to play the Italian team, the streets were filled with thousands of well-wishers. In the hotel lobby was a Maltese fans expressing their support for the 3 Lions buoyed it seems by a feeling of vulnerability to the Axis powers, Germany and Italy. In this famous game at the San Siro stadium, just like in the 1934 World Cup where referees were suspended for aiding Italy in its wins, this game again, saw farcical refereeing by a German to aid the host team. In reference, the movie Victory with Pele, Caine and Stallone is not really far from the truth in the manner it was directed. The game ended 2-2. 1948 and 1949 again, reflected the true matters at hand, with England winning at home over Italy 2-0 and then in Italy 4-0. Of course, don't tell anyone, Ireland won over England in England 2-0 less than a year before the USA's momentous victory at Belo Horizonte.

Matthews playing in the service during World War II, Matthews receiving a bit more than a pick me up from a doctor during his career and in fact, even Matthews playing until he was seventy years old and yes, retiring due to injury are all covered in this book along with apparently Matthews being a bit of a health nut way back in the day, maintaining a healthy diet and not drinking. One will also read of other major sports figures of the day and of course, of Matthews professional career mainly with Stoke City and Blackpool

The editorial reviews above reads: "'A gracefully crafted autobiography filled with entertaining anecdotes reflecting an age when the game was uncorrupted by greed and hooliganism' -- Birmingham Post

Okay, basically right but it was not uncorrupted as before a players' union was set up in England, the owners were the benefactors of much of the revenue. Likewise, I don't know about hooliganism, but this book does contain an extraordinary memoir of the Burnden (fire) stadium tragedy which demonstrates that events like Hillborough was not the first time events like this had marred the sports scene though it seems to largely be the last time an event of that magnitude happened.
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4.9 out of 5 stars