THE 1953 FA Cup Final will forever be known as the Matthews Final.It was while playing for Blackpool against Bolton Wanderers that the legendary winger Sir Stanley Matthews (1915-2000) gave his career-defining performance and won the only major honour of a long career.
But how many pairs of boots did he wear for the game? This was
the question posed when Bonhams Chester offered
the Matthews Final boots at their Sporting and Golf Memorabilia
sale on February 24.
The boots, still apparently muddied by the Wembley turf and
missing a stud to the left shoe, were offered for sale by the
family of ardent Blackpool fan Wilf Coomer.
The lot included a magazine article from April 2001 which
details how Coomer became associated with Matthews, how he
travelled to Blackpool for every home game, met with Stanley for
lunch and then walked to Bloomfield Road where he would join the
home side in the dressing room.
It was a match day ritual both for Coomer and for Matthews.
The 1953 FA Cup Final weekend apparently saw Wilf Coomer stay in
the team hotel, travel to the match on the team coach and receive a
ticket for the dressing room (included with the lot).
After he watched the 38-year-old 'Wizard of the Dribble' inspire
his team to a famous 4-3 victory, he was presented with the boots
and his match programme was autographed by ten members of the
winning team including Matthews, Shimwell, Fenton, Taylor,
Johnston, Garrett, Robinson and Perry. Stan Mortenson, who scored a
hat-trick in the game (the only one in a Wembley Cup Final), had
Matthews and Coomer remained close friends. Later, when the
player, a vegetarian teetotaller, finally retired at the remarkable
age of 50, he controversially took the job as manager of Port Vale
and employed Wilf Coomer as administrator. Another lot in the sale
from the same source (and sold for £2600) showed that the two men
corresponded regularly - Matthews sending more than 20 postcards
from around the world.
But curiously the National Football Museum, which is based in
Preston, also claims to have the Matthews Final boots.
The pair they hold were apparently given by Sir Stanley himself
to the Cheadle Cricket Club and then auctioned in 1961 when
(according to a plaque still at the ground) the winning bid was
£11. They were to be offered at Christie's in 2000 but had been
withdrawn from sale and subsequently loaned to the NFM.
There appeared to be three solutions to the conundrum: that
Matthews changed his boots at half time (something thought unlikely
in this era); that one pair is a spare that travelled to Wembley
but was never used; or simply that the provenance to one pair is
less than watertight.
Bonhams' specialists Dan Davies and Chris Hayes investigated the
matter and watched the film of the 1953 Cup Final closely. They
were confident they had the winning hand - both in terms of family
history, documentation and in the design of the boots
Crucially the boots in the NFM have the screw-in studs that were
only introduced by Puma in the 1952-53 season when their
revolutionary Super Atom boot was made available to players in
Germany's Bundesliga. While Sir Stanley was himself something of a
pioneer in post-War boot technology, for the 1953 final he probably
wore more traditional bespoke boots with nailed leather studs.
His daughter Jean Gough, who still lives in the Potteries where
Matthews was born and played some of his best football until 1947,
said his boots were "made very light so he could have that extra
speed to go up the wing".
She was happy and so were bidders. Estimated to fetch £6000-8000
- considerably more than the £600-800 a pair of Matthews-worn boots
from a less memorable game might fetch - the boots and associated
ephemera attracted huge interest.
Five bidders had booked telephones but they were trumped by two
parties in the room who took bidding from £16,000 to £32,000 (plus
20 per cent buyer's premium). The buyer was a private collector and
Stoke City fan.
By Roland Arkell