The boots worn by Sir Stanley Matthews in the 1953 FA Cup Final plus associated ephemera including a match programme signed by 10 of the winning Blackpool team, sold by Bonhams Chester for £32,000.

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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 also signed.

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 They were to be offered at Christie's in 2000 but had been withdrawn from sale and subsequently loaned to the NFM.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 themselves.

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