It was by coincidence that Stoke City played Tottenham Hotspur the weekend after Jimmy Greaves had suffered a severe stroke in the spring of 2015.
It was not a coincidence that all four stands of the bet365 Stadium stood and applauded one of the greatest strikers that English football has ever known.
Yes, Spurs and Chelsea fans know that best – but, for one glorious night, so did Stoke.
As we join with Tottenham, West Ham, AC Milan, Chelsea and the rest to wish Greavsie well as he is back in hospital – and reportedly comfortable – this is the story of that magical evening at the Victoria Ground in 1965: an all-star turn out for Sir Stanley Matthews’ testimonial match.
IT is fair to say Stanley Matthews’ farewell match was a far cry from his debut at Bury in the second division some 33 years previously.
For a start, he had to conduct half-an-hour of interviews with media from around the world before he could put on a stitch of clothing after his post-match bath.
The 50-year-old newly-knighted winger and his testimonial committee had been planning this huge send-off for a year, and it caught the imagination of fans from Stoke to Moscow and Budapest to Madrid.
Playing was a galaxy of stars from around Europe, watching live on TV were 112 million people in 11 countries across the globe, while 156 Press and TV representatives were on hand to report on a special night.
And there was a crowd of 34,450 at the Victoria Ground on a wet Wednesday evening, April 28, 1965 to watch the occasion first hand.
Matthews had put together a team of international greats to take on a domestic side who would pull on Stoke strips and be led out by the great man himself.
The opposition made for an intimidating line-up.
Ferenc Puskas and Alfredo di Stefano reformed their Real Madrid partnership which had been in the Potteries two years previously for Stoke’s centenary game, and they were joined by Barcelona legend László Kubala.
Lev Yashin, the iconic Russian goalkeeper, was an impressive presence at the other end of the pitch.Karl-Heinz Schnellinger, who would play in four World Cups for West Germany, was left-back, while former European Footballer of the Year Josef Masopust roamed midfield.
It was a probably just as well for Matthews’ team-mates that apologies were received from Benfica’s Eusebio, who was in Hungary for a European Cup semi-final, and Real Madrid captain Francisco Gento, who was injured.
That’s not to say Matthews’ line-up wasn’t special too.
Tottenham trio Jimmy Greaves, Cliff Jones and Alan Gilzean arrived via ferry and car having played Anderlecht in Belgium the night before. They were joined by Fulham duo Johnny Haynes and George Cohen, Wolves favourite Ron Flowers and Rangers supremo Jim Baxter.
Before the main game there was a 30-minute warm-up match between two sets of post-war favourites featuring Stan Mortensen and Nat Lofthouse, who each scored twice in a 5-1 win for their side. Also playing were Danny Blanchflower, Jackie Milburn, Tom Finney and Stoke legend Neil Franklin.
Then came Matthews, led on to the Victoria Ground pitch by a member of the Dagenham Girl Pipers.TV and radio star Charlie Chester read out telegrams from well-wishers – including one from “Frank Sinatra and the gang in Hollywood”.
Sixty souvenir footballs were then kicked into the crowd before it was finally time for the game.Imagine the roar as Matthews quickly gained possession, but his side were soon 2-0 down following goals from Godfried van den Boer and Puskas, the second an unstoppable 30-yard shot.
The Sentinel quipped: “Quite obviously, it was not going to be a mere academic exhibition!”
Byran Douglas pulled a goal back after picking up Gilzean’s short pass, but Puskas, who was “audibly directing operations in several languages”, made it 3-1 with another blast of his left foot that left Waiters groping at thin air.
Greaves poached a second for Stan’s men, but Masopust casually strolled in a fourth for the internationals before Kubala cracked home another to make it 5-2 with 20 minutes remaining.
Puskas was being cheered for the astonishing accuracy of his unorthodox back-heel flicks, but it was not quite game over.Half-time sub John Ritchie had already forced a stunning save out of Yashin, and now he beat the world’s greatest goalkeeper which a drive that fairly ripped into the net.
Douglas made it 5-4 and the crowd seemed to be sucking in an equaliser when Willie Henderson broke away to knock in a sixth at the other end. Full-time: 6-4.
The players linked arms in the centre-circle to sing Auld Lang Syne before Matthews was lifted on to the shoulders of Puskas and Yashin and carried off down the tunnel.
“It was a wonderful night,” the knight told reporters, who stuck a microphone under his nose after invading the changing room.
“All the players played wonderfully in a match which a lot of people will remember for a long time.“And the crowd gave me an ovation which I shall remember to the end of my days.”
And with that it was all over. The curtain had finally come down on perhaps the most extraordinary footballing career.
SIR STANLEY MATTHEWS XI 4
Douglas (2), Greaves, Ritchie
INTERNATIONAL XI 6
Van der Boer, Puskas (2), Masopust, Kubala, Henderson
SIR STAN’S XI: Tony Waiters (Blackpool); George Cohen (Fulham); Bobby Thomson (Wolves); Johnny Haynes (Fulham); Ron Flowers (Wolves); Jim Baxter (Glasgow Rangers); Stanley Matthews (Stoke City); Jimmy Greaves (Tottenham); Bryan Douglas (Blackburn); Alan Gilzean (Tottenham); Cliff Jones (Tottenham). Substitute: John Ritchie (Stoke City).
INTERNATIONAL XI: Lev Yashin (Dynamo Moscow & Russia); Kai Johansen (Morton & Denmark); Karl-Heinz Schnellinger (AS Roma & West Germany); Svatopluk Pluskal (Dukla Prague & Czechoslovakia); Ján Popluhár (Slovan Bratislava & Czechoslovakia); Josef Masopust (Dukla Prague & Czechoslovakia); Willie Henderson (Glasgow Rangers & Scotland); László Kubala (Espanyol & Hungary); Alfredo Di Stéfano (Espanyol & Argentina); Ferenc Puskás (Real Madrid & Hungary); Godfried van den Boer (St Truidense & Belgium). Substitute: Jorn Sorensen (Morton & Denmark).
TV audience: 112 million