When Rev ‘Gib’ Gregory moved to Derby in 1941 it was the beginning of a ten-year relationship not just with a large family of members at Normanton Road Congregational Church, but with Derby County - the Rams. It had been a toss-up whether young Gabriel continued a career with the cotton industry in Bolton, his birthplace, or enter the Christian ministry. He had been ‘converted’ at a meeting in Bolton market place and as a determined disciple of Jesus Christ was intent on training for a career in the independent nonconformist churches.His widowed mother was strongly opposed to necessary university education for such a career, and needed his paltry wages from the cotton mill. She even threw his study books into the fire. But Gib persevered, and after a spell in a Manchester Church, moved on to Derby. During his Manchester ministry he played for a local team, at Prestwich, and would arrive on Sunday to take the morning service, bruised and battered from the previous day’s match. He was an excellent centre half, suffering, as all players did, from heading the often wet and heavy leather ball.
I will never forget my first match: a big European game under the lights as Dutch giants Ajax came to town. I wasn’t really there for the football. Although I was just nine years old, I was there for the atmosphere, the experience: the noise, the smells, the kinship, the camaraderie.
People talk about culture, and this was real working class culture.
When I was nine and at primary school, my dad took me to my first football match at the Victoria Ground, Stoke. There were no boys in our family but dad and I were close and often went on expeditions, so it was natural for him to include me in his football excursions. Sometimes we went on the train from our home in Meir, sometimes on the bus, and sometimes we cycled.
Jean Gough is the daughter of Sir Stanley Matthews, and patron of the Sir Stanley Matthews Coaching Foundation. She has very generously shared this article (previously published on the Foundation’s web site) and some photos from the family’s photo albums as a very personal insight into Sir Stanley, the family man.
It just had to be 72
Unlike most football fans, I can’t really remember my first Stoke game. My first clear memories of watching us were against Middlesbrough at Vale Park and then having a season ticket in 1977 in the Butler Street Stand. Relegation, inevitably, soon followed.