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The proud night I held Sir Stanley's FA Cup medal

By Eddie McIlwaine

It was sold at Sotheby's the other day for £220,000 -the most expensive piece of jewellery I've ever held in my hand. That is if you can describe a FA Cup medal as a jewel.

I'm talking about the medal Stanley Matthews won way back in 1953, the season he and Blackpool beat Bolton Wanderers 4-3 in that most famous of Wembley finals.

Sir Stanley, as he had become, let me hold that precious medal when he and I sat down to dinner one night in 1990 in a Lisburn hotel.

It was a magic moment as he described the match - called forever The Matthews Final because of his outstanding performance. Stanley Mortensen, who scored a Blackpool hat-trick, was there, too.

TV presenter Nick Hancock who bought the medal in 2001, the year after Sir Stan died at 85, for £20,000, put it up for auction at Sotheby's and it went for the amazing sum of £220,000.

Admittedly, when Matthews, always my hero, showed me that medal in 1990 neither of us had a notion of how much money it was going to be worth a quarter of a century later. It was special just being allowed to hold the most famous FA medal in the football business.

My only regret is that the medal had swiftly been locked away in the hotel safe when Sir Stan and I posed for the picture I reproduce here, the original of which hangs on my study wall.

That Matthews final got me into big trouble at my Ballyclare High School.

Senior Certificate exams were looming and deputy head Jim Grainger, who also taught physics, had ordered his class of sixth-formers in for extra lessons on Saturday, the day of the big match.

I was the only one in a class of 20 who disobeyed. I was perched in front of a black and white television in the home of my pal Laurie Lees to watch the big match instead of being perched on a stool in the physics lab.

On Monday morning the lines were dished out and the homework was piled high.

I don't think that teacher Grainger had ever heard of Stanley Matthews.

And, yes, I did fail physics in Senior. Sir Stan enjoyed that old schooldays story when I related it to him years later at our dinner date.

Suzi's ready to rock the Waterfront

Pop diva Suzi Quatro, who will be at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast, next spring, is the first female star I know who stumbled into the hit parade.

To put it another way Suzi had a massive success on both sides of the Atlantic with a song called Stumblin In' which she sang a duet with Smokie's frontman Chris Norman back in 1978.

Now, she will be singing the Stumblin' In love song at the Waterfront on May 29 next year.

Suzi claims to be the first female bass player to become a rock star. She was born in Detroit in 1950, the fourth of five children, to an Italian father, Art, and Hungarian mother, Helen.

From a young age, she was encouraged to play piano, bass, guitar and percussion.

She and her sister Patti formed a band, The Pleasure Seekers, in their early teens and achieved such strong local success that Suzi decided not to go back to school, leaving home for a life on the road.

She had a succession of hit singles in the 1970s including Can The Can, Devil Gate Drive, She's In Love With You and If You Can't Give Me Love and has sold more than 50 million albums down the decades.

Actor Ken still waxing lyrical over stage debut

Actor Ken Stott, a Scot, who is now 60 and stirring things up in the chilling BBC1 drama The Missing, started his career at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast when he was only 18.

His parents, back home in Edinburgh tried to persuade him not to go to Northern Ireland where the Troubles were at their height.

"But I stayed at the Lyric for quite a while and remember being in Dom Behan's The Folk Singer," Ken recalls.

"I enjoyed Belfast and in the end my mum came over to see me on the Lyric stage."

Ken adds: "The theatre has, of course, been rebuilt since my time, but I still have an affection for the old place."

Ken is probably best remembered for his tough detective role in The Vice and for playing a dwarf in the Hobbit.

He also starred in gritty police drama Rebus.

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