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The Players Who Built British Football: Remarkable Interview Series

Photo by Yellow Book

The recent death the England legend known as The Lion Of Vienna recently took me on a hunt of archival footage and interviews of Nat Lofthouse. In doing so, I uncovered an incredible collection of audio interviews with football legends which is a required listening for any soccer fan and reader of this site.

The collection of interviews by the BBC feature the tag line “The players who built British football,” which is an entirely appropriate title given the treasure chest of guests available. Out of all of the collections of football interviews I’ve ever heard, this is by far the most impressive and comprehensive.

Each interview is just 20 minutes long and features chats with most of the famous British footballers who did, literally, build the game of British football.

The legends include:

  • Stanley Matthews — One of the nicest gentlemen you could have met (I met him in Miami in 1993 or 1994). The man played until he was 50 years-old and, by listening to the interview, you can hear how he felt he retired too young such was the stamina of the player at that age. His teammates and managers help paint his story beautifully told by Blackpool legend Jimmy Armfield. To hear the stories told about Matthews in this interview, it really does take you back in time to a different age where football and footballers were quite different.
  • Tommy Lawton — The interview with England’s greatest ever centre-forward includes his memories of what it was like playing with Everton’s Dixie Dean as well Tom Finney with England. He was chatted about what it was like for a Lancashire lad to play at Chelsea, as well as how he was a complete player for England and what it was like to play as centre forward with Matthews on one wing and Finney on the other, assisting on his goals. The man scored an incredible 510 goals in football.
  • Kevin Keegan — It’s remarkable to hear that Keegan originally wanted to be a goalkeeper before he decided to play as a striker. And how difficult it was for him to get his start in the game until Scunthorpe United gave him a chance after being turned down by Coventry City and Doncaster Rovers. The legend went on to be named European Footballer Of The Year on two occasions. In the interview, he talks about what he remembers about Liverpool manager Bill Shankly as well as how important John Toshack was to his success at the Reds. Keegan also discusses his time in Germany with Hamburg, and then his time with Southampton, which when he signed to the club was a massive shock in the football world. He closes the interview with memories of his magical time at Newcastle United.
  • Gordon Banks — Listen to the story of how the most famous England goalkeeper of all time got his first chance in football purely by chance. Plus, Banks talks about the tragic car accident which resulted in him losing sight in his right eye. Banksy also discusses his careers with England (including the most famous save ever against Pele), as well as at Leicester City and Stoke City.
  • Nat Lofthouse — The aforementioned Lion of Vienna could ‘run, shoot and head’.

In addition to the interviews, you can also hear segments with other heroes such as Len Shackleton, Jimmy McIlroy, Cliff Jones, George Hardwick, Lawrie Reilly, Johnny Haynes, Jimmy Greaves, Geoff Hurst, Jack Charlton, Denis Law, Pat Jennings, Billy McNeill, Ray Wilson, Johnny Giles, Bobby Charlton and Dave McKay.

Do yourself a favor and bookmark this page and then come back to it over the next few days to weeks to listen to all of the interviews. They’re a thing of beauty.

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