Although the BBC blamed the poor weather, there was a significant drop in attendances at league matches in London and Birmingham that day, the only two areas covered by television. Consequently, only the second half of the final was broadcast. It reported in May , noting that on cup final day first-class attendances fell in London by 42 per cent and 39 per cent in Birmingham. In the rest of England, where there was no television, there was a 34 per cent drop. There was just one second-class match in London that day, where attendances were down by 59 per cent.
The FA thus decided that the final could only be televised in full if postponed by a week. This was not possible and the game was not shown. Thus it was only in the face of scepticism from both the Football Association and the Football League that the final was broadcast at all. While television, the coronation and the conquest of Everest signalled a Britain that was entering a new technological age, the Britain of the early s was also a place caught up with a pride in its older traditions and heritage.
Indeed, the very celebration of the monarchy was both culturally and politically conservative. Matthews made his professional debut with Stoke City in , when he was 17, and his English debut two years later. He became a crowd-puller across England and famous for the intricate and entertaining dribbling skills that took him past defenders with deceptive ease.
In , after Matthews asked for a transfer, local manufacturers in the Potteries organised a public meeting, calling upon the club to retain him. He played in the and cup finals, but Blackpool were defeated in both. His popularity ensured a wider than normal interest in the match and a large support for Blackpool. The filming and editing of the final was also instructive, as it frequently presented Matthews in close-up.
Mellor He has brought magic to the football grounds of Britain during 22 seasons. Men who were schoolboys when they first watched and revered him now take their school sons to see him play.
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Now at least Matthews has won the Cup Final medal which he so desperately wanted to take with him into retirement. But though that honour will no doubt satisfy him, it should not satisfy the nation. For if there are to be knights of cricket, then why not also knights of soccer? The popular reaction to Matthews in reflected that of the national press. They ought to put a statue of Stanley Matthews on the cliffs of Dover. Reluctantly he, too, leaned out of the window, but only after he had persuaded his captain to stand beside him.
The masses could relate to him as an ordinary man with an extraordinary talent.
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He even looked and spoke like them. He was the opposite of glamorous: a non-drinker, non-smoker, careful with his money. He had a habitual little cough. He was representative of his age and his class, brought up among thrift and the ever-looming threat of dole and debt. He came from that England which had no reason to know that the twenties were Naughty and the thirties had Style. His modesty and dedication to honesty and fair play summed up what was best about British sport in the eyes of establishment. He also represented the kind of working-class man that the establishment liked to believe in.
He was not colourful, he neither smoked nor drank and he was respectful of his trade and social betters; he epitomised the image of the respectable working class. Celebrating heroes like Matthews, who encapsulated all that was best about the past, was thus reassuring in a time of change. Conclusion The media was key to how people experienced and remembered the cup final.
Far more people witnessed the game through the media than attended it, and even those who were there still, no doubt, read about it afterwards. The total circulation of daily newspapers in Britain remained at over 16 million throughout the s.
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Of course, there were overlaps in these different narratives but they all played their part in constructing different understandings and memories of the day. In , the Blackpool press printed a week-long series of articles and a special supplement to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the final. There was no special mention for Matthews.
The links to the coronation, with all its connotations of a reverent, unified and optimistic Britain, enhanced such memories.
The climax to the final may have been dramatic but there were more skilful cup finals in that era that are largely forgotten. The first two-thirds of the game were a little dull and slow. During his BBC television commentary, Kenneth Wolstenholme felt moved during the first half of the match to excuse the poor level of play with reference to the wind and the lushness of the Wembley playing pitch.
This, and injuries during the match to four other Bolton players Blackpool had two injuries during the game gave Matthews some freedom on the wing and Blackpool an overall advantage. Mellor While what the game meant varied across different groups, a common thread weaving these different discourses together was how the game intersected with the cultural spirit of the period, a time of celebrating both modernity and tradition. The media was integral to this: it drew recurring attention to the presence of the Queen, the impact of television and the popularity of Stanley Matthews, thus creating the idea that the match not only had a relevance beyond football but was historic too.
By all means recognise he gave the winning pass, but remember it all started somewhere else. Thus, for the historian, the media is not simply a window through which the past can be gazed at and then reconstructed. The media was also an actor in that past, an active contributor to rather than mere reporter of how people understood and received the world beyond their immediate horizons.
Newspapers mattered to contemporaries and thus they should matter to historians. The mood of pride and optimism that the cup final caught proved to be shortlived.
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By the end of the decade, the Suez crisis had shattered any sense of national confidence and revealed the major fissures in the political consensus. As the limits of British imperial power exposed at Suez showed, those traditions were more myth than substance. Football quickly found this to be true. This match forced English football to reassess its place in the world game and again the press was crucial to how that self-reflection took place , but amidst the sporting and national celebrations of the result was more an aberration for supporters than a disaster.
The first goal accredited to Mortensen was heavily deflected into the goal by Bolton player Harold Hassall.
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Even when a non-English club was involved, the narratives surrounding the FA Cup final were remarkably similar. See Johnes, Soccer and Society, ch. Akhtar and Humphries, Fifties and Sixties, On the growing centrality of television in social life see Williams, Entertaining the Nation. The BBC television broadcast of the match shows Johnston standing at a microphone in an orderly fashion and reading from a script when addressing the crowd. It appears that the incident was prearranged.
The impact of the wireless meant that such images were being presented in the press as early as the s. The FA was also trying to establish a more refined image for the association. For its ninetieth birthday celebrations in — 53 it held a fine art competition. Russell, Football and the English, Holt and Mason, Sport in Britain, Green, History of the Football Association, — Also see Black, Biggest Aspidistra in the World, ch.
Despite being a symbol of such wider conservatism, Matthews was actually quite progressive in his attitudes towards diet, fitness and training. References Akhtar, Miriam, and Humphries Steve. London: Boxtree, Available from Alexandra Palace Television Society, www. Accessed on 8 May Barnett, Steven. London: British Film Institute, Black, Peter. London: BBC, Bowden, Sue, and Avner Offer.
Economic History Review 47, no. Moments of Modernity: Reconstructing Britain — Fabian, A. Association Football, vol. London: Caxton, Green, Geoffrey.