Scot-lov­ing Brazil­ians, breath­tak­ing Hun­gar­i­ans and the tea lady who sealed a trans­fer – the early-50s had it all

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Vet­eran winger Stanley Matthews, 38, helps Black­pool come from be­hind to beat Bolton 4-3 in May’s FA Cup fi­nal. The Wizard of the Drib­ble’s bril­liance be­comes so syn­ony­mous with the tie, Stan Mortensen’s hat-trick – still the only treble in Wem­b­ley show­piece his­tory – is a foot­note. When Stan dies in 1991, a pop­u­lar joke is that his wake would be called ‘The Matthews Fu­neral’.


Barns­ley striker Tommy Tay­lor joins Manch­ester United in March for the bizarre fee of £29,999. Not want­ing to bur­den the 21-year-old with the tag of a ‘£30,000 player’, man­ager Matt Busby hands a £1 note to tea lady Lily Wilby, who treats her­self to a new hairdo. The move agreed, the pro­jec­tion­ist at the front­man’s lo­cal cin­ema in­ter­rupts a film with an on-screen plea: “Would Tommy Tay­lor re­port to the foot­ball ground as soon as pos­si­ble.” Tay­lor would be one of the eight United play­ers to lose their lives in the Mu­nich air dis­as­ter five years later, hav­ing hit 112 goals in 166 league matches.


Arse­nal de­feat Burn­ley 3-2 in May to clinch the clos­est cham­pi­onship in English league his­tory. They claim the ti­tle by just 0.099 of a goal on goal av­er­age, af­ter the Gun­ners and run­ners-up Pre­ston win 21 games, draw 12 and lose nine. At full-time, left-half Joe Mercer an­nounces his re­tire­ment on the High­bury pitch. “Joe has been promis­ing to re­tire for years,” huffs a scep­ti­cal wife No­rah. She was right, too – Mercer plays in an­other 19 league games the fol­low­ing sea­son.


“We should be all right here, Stan,” Eng­land cap­tain Billy Wright tells striker Mortensen as they pre­pare to host Hun­gary – wear­ing light­weight footwear “cut away like slip­pers un­der the an­kle bone” – in Novem­ber. “They haven’t even got proper kit.” Twenty-four min­utes later, the vis­i­tors are 3-1 up as Ferenc Puskas (right) drags the ball past Wright (left) to score one of the game’s great goals. Deep-ly­ing cen­tre-for­ward Nan­dor Hidegkuti hits a hat-trick as Hun­gary win 6-3, the first for­eign side to beat Eng­land at Wem­b­ley in ‘The Match of the Cen­tury’.


Real Madrid fi­nally win their tug-of-love with Barcelona for Ar­gen­tine for­ward Al­fredo Di Ste­fano’s sig­na­ture in Septem­ber. The lat­ter had reached an agree­ment with River Plate, the club who held the Blond Ar­row’s rights, while the for­mer had done a deal with Mil­lonar­ios in Colom­bia, for whom he was star­ring. The Span­ish FA sug­gest the pair share Di Ste­fano by sea­son, start­ing with Real, but an irked Barça pull the plug. They blame Spain’s dic­ta­tor for the “strange fed­er­a­tive ma­noeu­vre with Fran­coist back­ing” which meant they missed out on a player who bags five con­sec­u­tive Euro­pean Cups.


Hiber­nian head over to Brazil in June to con­test an in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal event the Brazil­ian FA dubs the ‘World Club Cham­pi­onship’. Af­ter a drain­ing trip, the Scots draw 3-3 against Vasco da Gama be­fore los­ing to Botafogo and Flu­mi­nense. But the flair of for­wards Bobby John­stone and Gor­don Smith (be­low) wows the South Amer­i­cans, prompt­ing Botafogo’s chair­man to tell his Hibs coun­ter­part Harry Swan: “Name your price for Gor­don Smith.”


Af­ter a 50-50 chal­lenge with Pre­ston goal­keeper Ge­orge Thomp­son on Valen­tine’s Day, Sh­effield Wed­nes­day striker Derek Doo­ley’s leg is am­pu­tated to save his life fol­low­ing the on­set of gan­grene. “I shall have to think about the fu­ture,” said a sur­pris­ingly chip­per Doo­ley, who left school at 14 to work in a hear­ing-aid fac­tory. “I hope it will be some­thing in foot­ball.” The lo­cal lad takes charge of Wed­nes­day in the ’70s, later be­com­ing man­ag­ing di­rec­tor and chair­man of steel city ri­vals United.

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