Nostalgia: The Queen’s connection to Manchester football


Photo: The Queen presents the FA Cup to Harry Johnston, May 1953 © Mirrorpix

Most people in 1953 would have been thrilled to meet their new queen in person – and at Wembley Stadium too.

But not the players of the Bolton Wanderers football club.

In the late afternoon of Saturday May 2, they faced the rise of the pitch at the royal box after losing one of the most famous FA Cup finals of all time.

As they respectfully shook hands with their monarch, their minds were still on the thrilling 4-3 defeat handed to them by Blackpool and their magician on the wing – Stanley Matthews.

Our picture shows a smiling Queen presenting the FA Cup to Blackpool captain Harry Johnston with the Duke of Edinburgh, left, watching. On the right is Football Association Secretary Sir Stanley Rous.

The final had started well for Bolton with powerful centre-forward Nat Lofthouse scoring after 75 seconds. Stan Mortenson equalized after 35 minutes, but Bobby Langton made it 2-1 at Wanderers before half-time.

Ten minutes after the restart, Willie Moir puts Bolton further ahead. But then came the extraordinary turnaround that is still remembered today.

Mortenson scored twice to complete a hat-trick and Bill Perry wrapped up the game for Blackpool with seconds remaining, converting a Matthews cross.

After the disappointment of 1953, Wanderers were back at Wembley in May 1958 to contest the FA Cup final against a Manchester United side devastated by the Munich air crash in February.

Lofthouse controversially sent United goalkeeper Harry Gregg into the net to score his second in a 2-0 win for Bolton.

It was a happier occasion for Manchester United on May 27, 1963 when the Queen presented the FA Cup to captain Noel Cantwell after the Red Devils’ 3-1 win over Leicester City.

Manchester United captain Noel Cantwell receives the FA Cup at Wembley, May 1963 © Mirrorpix

David Herd scored twice for United after an early goal from Denis Law. Leicester’s goalscorer was Ken Keyworth.

As the match was broadcast live, Leicester were asked to play in white as their blue kit would have been indistinguishable from United’s red on monochrome TV.

Three years later, three United players made the squad for the 1966 World Cup in England – attacking midfielder Bobby Charlton, defensive midfielder Nobby Stiles and striker John Connelly.

They met the Queen ahead of the tournament opener – England v Uruguay at Wembley on July 11. In our photo, England captain Bobby Moore introduces Stiles and Charlton.

The game was tense and tight, ending in a 0-0 draw. Little did the United trio walk off the pitch that England would later rise to the pinnacle of English footballing success.

Bobby Moore and the England players meet the Queen before the opening of the World Cup, July 1966 © Mirrorpix

After the group stages, Argentina were defeated 1-0 in the physical quarter-final, then Charlton scored twice in the 2-1 semi-final win over Portugal.

Defensive midfielder Stiles more than played his part in keeping Eusebio quiet for most of the game. The Portuguese ace would still finish the tournament as top scorer with nine goals.

Then came the drama of extra time in the final against West Germany at Wembley – and the sheer joy of winning the World Cup by four goals to two.

Stiles, without front teeth and rolled up socks, did his famous victory dance while Charlton was emotionally overwhelmed. Connelly, who had played the opener, did not make the team.

Moore, majestic in defense, received the Jules Rimet Trophy from the Queen, then lifted it above his teammates to celebrate on the pitch.

Bobby Charlton was with the Queen again in July 1992 when he and his wife Norma met her at the official opening of Hopwood Hall College.

Bobby Charlton and his wife Norma meet Queen Elizabeth at Hopwood Hall, July 1992 © Mirrorpix

Ten years later, the Golden Jubilee year of her reign, the Queen was back in Manchester to open the 2002 Commonwealth Games.

Manchester United and England midfielder David Beckham presented him with the Jubilee Baton at the opening ceremony with inspirational children’s hospice lawyer Kirsty Howard.

Born in Wythenshawe in September 1995, Howard suffered from an exceptionally rare condition in which her heart was upside down and her internal organs were misplaced.

David Beckham and Kirsty Howard with the Queen at the Commonwealth Games, July 2002 © Mirrorpix

Her condition was inoperable and she needed a constant supply of oxygen. In October 2001, Howard was the mascot for England’s World Cup qualifier against Greece with Beckham accompanying him.

Commentator John Motson called her “the bravest person on the pitch”.

Howard, whose courage touched everyone she met, died in October 2015 after raising more than £7.5million for Francis House Children’s Hospice in Didsbury.

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