Matthews kept fit enough to play at the top level until he was 50 years old. Matthews was also the oldest player ever to play in England's top football division and the oldest player ever to represent the country. He was also an inaugural inductee to the English Football Hall of Fame in 2002 to honour his contribution to the English game.
He spent 19 years with Stoke City, playing for the Potters from 1932 to 1947, and again from 1961 to 1965. He helped Stoke to the Second Division title in 1932–33 and 1962–63. Between his two spells at Stoke he spent 14 years with Blackpool, where, after being on the losing side in the 1948 and 1951 FA Cup finals, he helped Blackpool to win the cup with a formidable personal performance in the "Matthews Final" of 1953. Between 1934 and 1957 he won 54 caps for England, playing in the FIFA World Cup in 1950 and 1954, and winning nine British Home Championship titles.
Following an unsuccessful stint as Port Vale's general manager between 1965 and 1968, he travelled around the world, coaching enthusiastic amateurs. The most notable of his coaching experiences came in 1975 in South Africa, where in spite of the harsh apartheid laws of the time he established an all-black team in Soweto known as "Stan's Men".
Stanley Matthews was born on 1 February 1915 in a terraced house in Seymour Street, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. He was the third of four sons born to Jack Matthews, a local boxer who was also known as the "Fighting Barber of Hanley". In the summer of 1921, Jack Matthews took six-year-old Stanley to the Victoria Ground, home of the local club Stoke City, for an open race for boys under the age of 14, with a staggered start according to age. His father placed a bet on his son winning, and he did. Matthews attended Hanley's Wellington Road School, and later described himself as "in many respects a model pupil". He also said the kickabout games the children played helped to improve his dribbling, and prepared the children for future life by giving them "a focus, a purpose, discipline, and in many respects an escape". At home he also spent "countless hours" practising dribbling around kitchen chairs he placed in his backyard.
Though he would later become indelibly associated with Stoke City, Matthews grew up supporting that club's local rivals Port Vale. His father wanted him to follow in his footsteps and become a boxer, but Stanley decided at the age of 13 that he wanted to be a footballer. After a rigorous training session that made Matthews vomit, his mother, Elizabeth, stood firm and made Jack realise that his son, who had one more year at school, should follow his passion of football. His father conceded that should he be picked for England Schoolboys then he could continue his footballing career; around this time his school football master picked Matthews as an outside-right, rather than as his then-preferred position of centre-half. Matthews played for England Schoolboys against Wales in 1929, in front of around 20,000 spectators at Dean Court, Bournemouth.