Even after being ‘clogged’ the great Stanley Matthews gave the perpetrator his autograph – unwisely as it turned out

  • September 21, 2018 16:12
  • Jon Henderson

Matthews could appear remote and inaccessible during his playing days, but he had a reputation for acts of kindness and consideration.

Don Ratcliffe, who was established in the Stoke City first team when Stanley Matthews returned to the club in 1961, has particularly fond memories of the legendary outside right who played in the Football League until he was 50.

One story Ratcliffe tells concerns the boots Matthews wore. ‘I kept asking Stan if I could have some of his handmade boots, but he wouldn’t give me them.

‘He’d say,  “No, you’ll hurt yourself.” They were very soft, you see, just like skin. Very light.

‘Anyhow, when I signed for Middlesbrough and was leaving Stoke he gave me two pairs, two brand-new pairs. I was really chuffed with them.’

Sadly, this story of Matthews’s kindness is in sharp contrast to what happened next. ‘When I took them to Boro,’ Ratcliffe says, ‘somebody pinched them, one of the players.’

Even if Matthews could be tetchy at times, Ratcliffe says the mood soon passed. ‘I remember playing the ball to Stan and he came running up to me, “Don’t you ever pass a ball like that to me again,” he said. “Just remember I’ve got three gorillas trying to kill me. If you’re going to give me the ball just smack it straight to me, very hard.”

‘Anyhow, soon afterwards I got this ball and I was ten yards away from him and I thought, “Yeah, I’ll show you for telling me off.” So I smacked it really hard, but mis-hit it and it was going about four-foot high into the crowd. And he just put his foot up and killed it dead.

‘I couldn’t believe it. He got it on the end of his toe. “That’s better,” he said and put his arm up to say thanks.’

Howard Riley of Leicester City has a curiously touching anecdote about the man whose Football League career with Stoke and Blackpool lasted 33 years, until he retired in 1965, and who made 54 England appearances. ‘It was only towards the end of his career that I played against Matthews,’ Riley says, ‘and when he turned up to play in a testimonial at Filbert Street he said to me, “All right, Howard.”

‘He played against so many other players more than he did against me that I hadn’t really expected him to remember who I was. I considered it a compliment.’

Colin Collindridge, who played for Sheffield United from 1938 and later for Nottingham Forest and Coventry City, testifies to Matthews’s ‘gentleman’s way of doing things’. The occasion was an FA Cup tie in 1945-46 – the only season when ties were played over two legs. Collindridge scored three times in the second leg but Sheffield United still lost 4-3 on aggregate to a Matthews-inspired Stoke City.

‘As I was running off the pitch this fella came up to me,’ Collindridge says. ‘I looked round and it was Stanley Matthews, who was the best right winger for years. He shook my hand and said, “I know you’ve lost Colin but thanks for a great match.” And that was it; off he went.

‘Now I thank Matthews for this. I wasn’t in his class as a footballer but he still had the time to congratulate me.’

Matthews’s capacity for being courteous brought a rather different reaction from Dave ‘Crunch’ Whelan after a match between Blackpool, Matthews’s club from 1947-61, and visitors Blackburn in the 1950s.

Whelan, Blackburn’s young right back, says he clogged Matthews in the match itself – ‘I cleaned him out, got the ball and took a bit of him with it’ – then sought him out afterwards for his autograph. ‘I mean he was a legend, still playing in his forties’

But had Matthews been able to read Whelan’s mind he might not have been quite so charitable in obliging his impudent assailant.

Whelan recounts his conversation with Matthews in the doorway of the Blackpool dressing room:

Matthews: ‘You’re Dave Whelan, aren’t you?’

Whelan: ‘Yes, I’m Dave Whelan. Can I have your autograph, please?’

Matthews: ‘You kicked me out there and you kicked me quite deliberately didn’t you?’

Whelan: ‘Yes, sir.’

Matthews: ‘But that’s against the rules.’

Whelan: ‘I know but it’s the only way I could stop you.’

Matthews: ‘You won’t do it again, will you?’

Whelan: ‘Oh, no.’

Matthews: ‘Give me your book.’

‘And he signed it, “Best wishes, Stan Matthews”,’ Whelan says. ‘And next time I thought, “You’re going to get clogged.” He was a great player.’


This is an edited extract from When Footballers Were Skint by Jon Henderson / @hendojon published by Biteback Publishing


Goalie who made good thanks to bumping into an old school chum

  • September 20, 2018 12:40
  • Jon Henderson

Roy Wood’s successful Football League career with Leeds United had its origins some years before when he was being demobbed fom the RAF.


Chance meetings are what make the world go round. Always have done.

They do not necessarily have desirable outcomes, but in Roy Wood’s case there was one in particular that did. It led – eventually – to a successful career as a Football League goalkeeper with Leeds United.

But first Wood had that other sort of chance meeting, one he could have done without, a bone-crunching collision on a football pitch that was nearly the death of him.

It was in the late 1940s on the Saturday before he was due to start his national service.

Wood, still a teenager, was making his way for Harrowby in the West Cheshire League, although the match on this occasion was a preliminary round of the FA Cup at Holywell Town. ‘We got beat 16-0,’ he says, ‘but, having said that, I was carried off at halftime with three cracked ribs and one nearly broken.’

On the way home Wood’s teammates stuck him in the back of the coach. They then forgot about him as they cut and shuffled their decks of cards. Behind them Wood winced and grimaced as the coach bounced along on its ancient springs.

‘When the doctor saw me, the x-rays and one thing and another, he said if that coach had gone over a decent bump I wouldn’t have been there to tell the tale. I thought, “Thank you very much”.’

The story continues. On the Monday, Wood, swathed in strapping, missed his appointment with His Majesty’s Armed Forces. Presumed to be skiving, he received visitors on the Tuesday. ‘There was a loud knock on the door and there were two Military Policemen standing there. “Where is ’e?” they asked my mother. “Well, ’e’s upstairs,” she said. “You can ’ave him.”

‘They took it all as a good joke. They had a couple of cups of tea before leaving and I went into the RAF six months later.’

It was straight after his stint in the RAF that Wood had his more desirable chance meeting.

He had just arrived back in England from the Far East when ‘I went to get my identity card changed and met an old schoolmate, Alfie Peers, who’d been in the army and was also having his card changed.

‘Alfie’s father was a director of New Brighton. Alfie said we could go and train down with the club and keep ourselves fit, which seemed a good idea.

‘And that’s how I came to play a couple of games for New Brighton in 1951 at the end of their last season in the Third Division North.’

Wood never actually signed for the club. As he tells it: ‘I only played because they didn’t want to bring their regular goalkeeper from a long way away, which would have meant them having to pay his expenses. They knew I was a keeper so they stuck me in because I cost them nothing.’

New Brighton, who had been members of the Football League since 1923, had been floundering for some time and were kicked out, never to return, when they finished bottom of the League.

Wood proved more buoyant, resurfacing two years later when he joined Leeds United where he played a significant, ever-present role in their gaining promotion to the old First Division in 1956. In fact in the three seasons from 1955-58, Wood played 125 out of 126 League games for Leeds. In all he made 196 League appearances for the Yorkshire club and played in seven FA Cup ties.


This is an edited extract from When Footballers Were Skint by Jon Henderson / @hendojon published by Biteback Publishing.


Jones heard it right – Spurs were going to watch the Bolshoi Ballet

  • September 19, 2018 11:20
  • Jon Henderson

Nearly 60 years ago an evening at the ballet in Moscow watching Rudolf Nureyev dance had a profound effect on how Tottenham prepared for their greatest season.


The year was 1959 and Bill Nicholson, the Tottenham manager, never a man averse to trying something new, decided a trip behind the Iron Curtain, to Moscow, would be good for the team that he was building into one of the most successful in Football League history.

Cliff Jones, the Wales international winger who is arguably the best left-sided attacker Spurs have ever had, was on that trip, a wide-eyed 24-year-old who had recently moved to London from Swansea. He still remembers it as vividly as any excursion he ever went on with club or country.

‘Bill took us on the pre-season tour and I’m telling you something Communism was rife, people were like queuing to go into the mausoleum to see Lenin and Stalin lying in state; they were very patriotic people … It was just unbelievable and we had three games against club sides and they were all battles.’

Jones describes the trip as ‘a great bonding experience because we all really came together as a team, but it was such a difficult tour.’

Not least of Jones’s personal difficulties was bonding with the no-nonsense Scotland player Dave Mackay. ‘I roomed with Dave, a very unfortunate experience,’ Jones says. ‘For a start, he was so untidy, our room was a complete khazi, and I couldn’t understand a word he said.’

When Jones asked if he could have an interpreter, Nicholson presumed he meant a Russian one. ‘No a Scottish one,’ Jones told him, ‘I don’t know what Mackay’s saying. Nay ou, ay ouze. Dear me.’

At the other end of the cultural spectrum from sharing a room with Dave Mackay was a night out at the Bolshoi Ballet, an experience Jones believes significantly influenced the way the great Spurs team of the 1960s played.

When Nicholson told Jones that was where they were going Jones thought he was joking. ‘No,’ Nicholson repeated emphatically, ‘we’re going to the Bolshoi Ballet.’

‘So we went there,’ Jones says, ‘and a young Nureyev was dancing. Can you believe that. It was an amazing experience. These ballet dancers, they were so fit and powerful. And of course Bill Nicholson was so taken with this he wanted to find out how they were so fit. And a lot of it was down to weight training.’

As a result, when Nicholson returned to London he sought out Bill Watson, who had been an Olympic weightlifter. Watson taught that everything came from the stomach, this was the core of a person’s fitness and reactions.

‘Watson got quite a lot of work after helping us,’ Jones says, ‘because our fitness definitely went up a gear. Bill’s whole approach to football was that you will play the way you train. He said that if you train with method and if you train with effort you’ll play exactly the same way, you’ll take that out on the field. And it just worked for us.’

A year later Spurs embarked on perhaps their finest endeavour, the 1960-61 Double-winning season.


This is an edited extract from When Footballers Were Skint by Jon Henderson / @hendojon published by Biteback Publishing


Even the meticulously organised Ron Greenwood had his difficult days

  • September 14, 2018 13:56
  • Jon Henderson

Before he became a manager of England respected for his studious devotion to the game, Greenwood was a fine player – although things did not always go the way he would have wished.


It was the Christmas holiday 1951 when Brentford, ‘going great guns’ near the top of the Second Division, met Southampton at Griffin Park on an afternoon of filthy weather.

Ron Greenwood and Jimmy Hill were playing for Brentford that day, and so was Johnny Paton.

‘It was a heavy day. Raining,’ Paton says. ‘It was a terrible pitch, muddy, hardly any grass on it. We were drawing and it was just before halftime.

‘Southampton had an inside-right, Frank Dudley, who was a big fellow. Not a great player but dangerous, unpredictable. He got the ball in his own half and started running with it and I thought, “He’s too far away for me, I can’t chase him. He’s 30 yards away.” It was heavy mud and in any case it wasn’t my job.’

The problem was that it was no one else’s job either, the consequence of a system devised by Greenwood, later to become the England manager but at this point still playing for Brentford as a defender.

‘Ron, a great tactician, had evolved a system at Brentford known as the retreating defence,’ Paton says. ‘So no one went out and tackled big Dudley and he kept running with it, running with it, running with it. Then I think he must have shut his eyes and taken a big a swing at it. The ball flew into the net.’

In Paton’s estimation, the effect of Dudley’s blind swing at the ball has reverberated down the decades for Brentford FC. ‘We came in at halftime and I think that what happened next ruined Brentford football club right to the present day,’ he says.

Jackie Gibbons turned on Greenwood, holding him responsible, as captain and author of the retreating defence, for Dudley’s goal. ‘Why the hell didn’t someone go and tackle Dudley,’ Gibbons said. ‘Ron Greenwood, you’re the captain.’

Greenwood pointed out that it was thanks to the retreating defence that Brentford had one of the best defensive records in the League.

Paton kept his mouth shut, ‘but, unfortunately, poor old Jimmy Hill, who couldn’t resist giving his opinion, joined in and took Ron Greenwood’s side’.

‘You don’t know what’s going on. You don’t even come in for the team meetings on a Friday,’ Hill said, referring to the fact it was Greenwood who took charge of these meetings.

‘Shut up,’ Gibbons snapped at Hill.

Brentford lost 2-1 and that was the end of Hill and Greenwood as Brentford players. Hill moved to Fulham and Greenwood headed to Chelsea.

Not only that, Paton says, his memories still deeply etched, ‘we sank from near the top to down in the middle of the table [they ended up in tenth place] and the atmosphere at the club was never the same.

‘The next home match after Dudley’s goal – and I have a picture in my mind of this – I came running out of the tunnel before kick-off and passed Ron and Jimmy in their civvies. I’m not sure about Jimmy but Ron never kicked another ball for Brentford.

‘It’s almost unbelievable but the club never recovered from that defeat. You look at the history books and that was the highest up the Football League Brentford have ever got since their First Division peak in the late Thirties.’

Greenwood, though, was far from finished. He went on to play for Chelsea and Fulham before becoming the much-respected manager of West Ham United from 1961-74. At West Ham his role in developing the playing skills of Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst were reckoned to have played a major part in England’s success at the 1966 World Cup.

Sixteen years later Greenwood himself was the manager when England reached the second round group games of the World Cup finals in Spain. They were eliminated at this stage despite not having lost a match.


This is an edited extract from When Footballers Were Skint by Jon Henderson / @hendojon published by Biteback Publishing.


'I Still Find That Offensive!' by Claire Fox || REVIEW by Lauren Kirton

  • September 14, 2018 10:56
  • Lauren Kirton

'I Still Find That Offensive!' || REVIEW by Lauren Kirton


Originally published in 2016, Claire Fox’s book ‘I Find That Offensive!’ has recently been re-released with a new preface. Expanding on her original polemic, Fox establishes that society continues to suffer from oversensitive ‘snowflakes’ who take issue with everything, to conclude that if you hear the words, ‘I find that offensive’, you’re probably being told to shut up. This updated edition shows that, for Fox, nothing has changed, as reactions to certain opinions – particularly from young people – are still over the top and unnecessary.

Cover 123A particularly timely release for this month – with new students flocking to universities in their thousands – Fox begins with a brief comment on the issue of censorship, recognising that there has been an increase in the amount of campus debates and events being shut down. Though some try, it cannot be denied that this trend has gained traction in recent times, and this book questions how valid this is: why do the feelings of a few matter more than the right to free speech?

Refusing to walk on eggshells, Fox faces this issue head on, and considers the possible causes of a generation she takes credit for dubbing ‘snowflakes’, in an attempt toughen up our society. With this work, Fox doesn’t attempt to silence this group but, in fact, she calls for a wider debate; a debate that may offend some, but which will allow for a more open conversation.


Click here: 'I Still Find That Offensive!' by Claire Fox/@Fox_Claire

Published: 16 August