Sport: Star-studded cast lace their kinky boots with a size-10 haul

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The Independent Online
Kinky's boots might have failed to do damage to England's goals against column in Georgia, but elsewhere last weekend the shooting boots were obviously on the right feet. The Dutch, Yugoslavs and Macedonians blasted 24 goals between them in their World Cup qualifiers; Bury, Walsall and Hartlepool put four each past York, Scarborough and Peterborough respectively, while Falkirk got their shooting boots on in time to score four in the last seven minutes against rivals Stirling Albion. Peter Van Vossen, meanwhile, could have been wearing clogs: his miss in Thursday's Old Firm match was that bad. But the drubbing his Dutch team-mates gave Wales will have left Bobby Gould's boys dreading Turkey at Christmas. England, conversely, will enjoy their Christmas turkey, and approach the game against Italy in March with more optimism than will be afforded them by the record books: they've won just six of their 17 encounters with Italy, the biggest victory, 4-0, coming in Turin in 1948. No mean feat that - which was certainly true of a forward line that day which boasted Finney, Matthews, Mannion, Lawton and Mortensen.

Sir Stanley Matthews says it was "the best England forward line I ever played in". But the comprehensiveness of the victory was due in no small part to the revolutionary pair of go-faster boots the Wizard of Dribble was wearing for "that extra edge" (as if he needed one; the joke was that Matthews was so fast he could turn off his bedroom light and be in bed before the room got dark).

Matthews had decided that if he was going to be quicker than anyone else, he also had to be lighter (a belief the spindly Steve McManaman, arguably the nearest thing to a latterday Matthews, clearly shares). "Before the War we had big boots with steel plates and toe caps," Matthews remembers. "I wanted to wear black rugby boots, which were lighter, but I was too shy - everyone wore brown boots in those days. But after the War I asked the Yorkshire factory where the boots were made if they could make them lighter. They removed the plates and toe caps and nailed in the studs; later we got screw-in studs. The boots were so thin they never lasted more than five games, the studs would come away."

Matthews still keeps a pair of those old boots in his car, unceremoniously wrapped in a plastic bag. He was he was "in love with them". "I could fold them in half and put them in my pocket, they were so light." In fact they weighed just 1lb 6oz. No wonder Johnny Carey likened playing against Matthews to "playing against a ghost".

Matthews got pounds 50 from the Co-Op Wholesale Society for endorsing the boots, which seems peanuts compared with deals like the one Ryan Giggs has recently signed with Reebok, worth between pounds 6m and pounds 8m (depending on which tabloid you believe). Giggs first signed with Reebok in 1993, but looked to have burned his boats - and his boots - when he cut off his flowing locks, infuriating Reebok; a case of them getting too big for their boots, perhaps? Obviously not, for the locks soon reappeared.

Now Reebok clearly consider Giggs to be a good investment - according to their spokesman, Chris Lewis, "he transcends football's tribal barriers in that, although he plays for United, he's still respected by other fans. He's an idol across the board" - and won't be giving him the boot until well into the 21st century.

So whether they are red (John Fashanu, John Barnes, Stan Collymore), white (Alan Ball, Paolo di Canio) or even yellow (Herbert Chapman); or whether they're size 12s like Bill Shankly's or tiny size eights like Dwight Yorke's, boots - like everything else in football - are big business. The launch of Adidas' Predator in 1994 highlighted this, but the other boot companies have come out all studs showing in an attempt to wrestle the biggest market share away from Adidas.

As yet, in vain; the biggest seller is still Adidas' Predator Traction boot pounds 99.99), although Umbro's Shearer Speciale (pounds 79.99), the Mizuno Pro SI (pounds 79.99) - as modelled by Jamie Redknapp - the Giggs Pro Sidewinder (pounds 69.99), Diadora's George Weah boots (pounds 85.99) and Nike's Rio (pounds 69.99), responsible for Ian Wright's brace against Stoke, are close on the Predator's heels. One wonders about sales figures for the Cole Sidewinders...

For the most expensive boots on the market, however, look no further than the feet of Tony Adams, who has just signed a two-year deal for Asics to wear their TSS900s. With all due respect to Adams, perhaps it is lucky he is no role model in the mould of Giggs or Redknapp, because the Asics boots will set some poor unsuspecting parent back a cool pounds 120, or pounds 200 for the ultra-light version.

One presumes that, being a defender, the boots give Adams greater adaptability. But try telling that to Matthews. "Who defends now?" he asks. "In my day we were raiders; it was the defenders' job to stop us. They stuck to us like glue. I remember Mel Hopkins of Spurs following me into my own goalmouth. I sweated buckets trying to get away from him. I never spoke to my opponents but I told him I'd had enough, was off to the dressing-room. He replied: 'I'll follow you!'

"Nowadays, no one knows how to tackle. Defenders sit back, and when they come up against the player, they just can't do it."

Well, Sir Stanley always did know how to put the boot in.

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