Spotlight on Tony Matthews

Euro-Weekly News and Spectrum Radio sports reporter


STANDFIRST: Former footballer Tony Matthews, a statistician-historian and collector of football memorabilia, is the author of over 100 football books, more than anyone else in the world! In 1989 he topped the WH Smith’s best-seller’s list, ahead of Joan Collins and Barbara Cartland. In an interview for EWN, Tony revealed his life story.


 First in a 3-part series

BORN in West Bromwich in the heart of the Black Country in 1943, I attended Christ Church Junior and George Salter High Schools before spending two-and-a-half years as an amateur centre-forward (striker) with WBA, playing with England stars Ronnie Allen, Don Howe, Bobby Robson and Derek Kevan and future internationals Tony Brown and Bobby Hope.

Not knowing what might transpire at The Hawthorns, I also worked at Halfords and had trials with Cliftonville (Ireland), St Johnstone and Walsall and turned down offers from Port Adelaide (Australia) and Cape Town Spurs (South Africa). Perhaps I should have given one a go!

Unfortunately things didn’t work out with Albion (too many better players around) and in 1961, I joined Swiss club Sachseln as a part-time professional.

I was back and forward from Switzerland for four years during which time I also played for Lucern, who qualified for the ECWC, Sarnen and Grasshoppers. And blowing my own trumpet, I scored 80 goals.

I made a lot of friends in Switzerland, including home international Josef Hugi, Swede Kurt Hamrin, who played in the 1958 World Cup final, coach/agent Jack Sontagg and manager Karl Rappan who encouraged me greatly.

Returning to England in the mid-1960s, I had spells with Coventry (under Jimmy Hill), Shrewsbury (Arthur Rowley) and with various non-League clubs including Stourbridge, Kingsbury United, Sutton Coldfield and Albion Nomads. But annoyingly, a recurring back injury sidelined me for long periods.

I then joined the Birmingham Police, based in Handsworth. However, I quit the force soon after the 1974 bombings, which I’ll never forget.

Earlier, in 1969, WBA secretary Alan Everiss asked me to contribute football-related articles to the club’s programme. Two years later, I became Albion’s official statistician, a position I held until 2004. During this time I edited (periodically) and continued to write in, the programme (Albion News), served on seven players’ testimonial committees (I arranged for the Three Degrees to meet Albion’s Black trio of Batson, Cunningham and Regis, got Red Rum to walk round the pitch before one game and George Best to play in another), organised ground tours at The Hawthorns, opened a museum and commentated on various Albion matches, visiting some dodgy grounds and countries!

In 1974, a year after been given my own sports column in a West Midland newspaper (I contribute to The Black Country Bugle today) I compiled my first book with help from ex-player and Director Cliff Edwards. A soft-back, entitled Albion At War 1939-45, it cost 40p (how times have changed). Now I average three books a year, which certainly keeps me busy, as each one comprises around 100,000 words.

And I must add here, that between 1989 and 2003, while engaged by The Lion Press and Windmill Print, I contributed to the official programme of Aston Villa, Birmingham, Bolton, Bristol Rovers, Burnley, Charlton, Coventry, Crystal Palace, Grimsby, Hull, Luton, Mansfield, Notts County, Oldham, Southampton, Stoke, Wolves, and even England.

Tony Matthews works, by eight publishers, many up-dated, include full histories of Aston Villa, Birmingham City, Leicester, Stoke, Walsall, West Bromwich Albion and Wolves… Who’s Who of Arsenal, Aston Villa, Birmingham, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United (1946-85), Nottingham Forest, Sheffield Wednesday, Stoke City, WBA, Wolves and England (World Cup: 1950-2002)… Encyclopaedias of Aston Villa, Birmingham, Huddersfield, Manchester United (foreword by Bryan Robson, copies sold in Kuala Lumpur), Sheffield United, Stoke, Spurs (first edition, leather-bound, cost £125, the dearest football book ever at that time), WBA and Wolves… 100 Years at The Hawthorns (WBA: 1900-2000)… History of West Midlands Football (1874-2000)… Black Country Derbies (WBA v Wolves)… The Unique Double (WBA, 1931 Cup & promotion)… The Complete Footballer (Ronnie Allen Story)… ‘Smokin Joe’ (Cyrille Regis: 25 years in Football: 1977-2002 – foreword by Ian Wright)… Football Oddities… Football Firsts… six picture books… Team Scotland (with Kevin Gallagher) and two Wartime Books.

Out soon (hopefully)… Champion Goalscorers 1888-2011; Soccer Sensations; England Who’s Who 1872-2012; Arsenal Who’s Who (update); Birmingham City Miscellany and Real Madrid A-Z.

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