Terry Matthews was one of Britain’s most talented players and coaches, being selected to play for his national team many times in the 1960s and 1970s and going behind their bench in later years.
An almost lifelong player and coach at Whitley Bay, he broke into senior hockey with the Bees at the age of 17 in the ice rink which had opened two years earlier virtually opposite his home. Alternating between defence and attack, he and the Bees won the play-offs in 1959 and 1960, beating their fierce local rivals Durham Wasps.
When the Bees folded in 1961 he was forced to move away from the Bay for one of the few times in his career. He and several team-mates went down to Cheshire and joined Altrincham Aces for their successful inaugural campaign when they collected the Altrincham Tournament, and the Southern Cup in Southampton. His defensive contributions were rewarded by the readers of the monthly Hockey Fan who voted him the country’s Most Promising Young Player in 1961-62.
An intense and enthusiastic player, Matthews then returned to his home rink and in 1966 he signed for their new club, the Warriors, when they became founder members of the nine-team Northern League. A stalwart of their first attacking line, for nine seasons he was rarely out of the league’s top five points scorers.
His career season was 1971-72 when the Warriors captured the Autumn Cup and the Icy Smith Cup and he was named the league’s Player of the Year after scoring 129 points (74 goals). He and the Warriors went on to win the league title in 1973-74 and 1974-75.
After a year with rivals Durham Wasps, he retired for the first time before deciding to make a comeback in 1977-78 as player-coach of the neighbouring Billingham Bombers. A spectacular return it was, too, as he took them to the play-off final in their first season at the top level and earned himself a berth as coach on the All-Star A team. This brought his tally of All-Star places to six as either player or coach, going back to 1968.
After shedding his coaching duties in the 1979-80 campaign, he celebrated turning 40-years-old by scoring 40 goals and 105 points in just 25 games, earning the Bombers second place in the league and himself the runner-up spot in the scoring table. His playing years came to a close with him in third place in the Northern League’s all-time points scoring list with 1,088 (640 goals) from 299 games. He spent 344 minutes in the sin-bin.
This wasn’t his final farewell, however, as he was tempted back in the middle of the 1985-86 season to coach his old club, Whitley Warriors, and the following year he guided them to the English final of the Norwich Union Cup. In the next two seasons – the first with a then unknown Canadian by the name of Mike Babcock on the team – the Warriors reached the semi-finals of the Heineken British Championships at Wembley Arena.
Matthews finally quit the game at the end of 1993 to concentrate on his sports equipment business, but only after coaching for 12 months back at Billingham where
he gained cult hero status by leading them to their first win over local rivals Durham Wasps after 45 defeats.
Throughout Terry’s playing career he was a shoo-in to play for England whenever they took on Scotland, and for Great Britain when they entered the World Championships. Capped 38 times for GB in six World Championships between 1962 and 1976, his most productive games came in 1971 in Holland when he scored 11 points (eight goals). He was subsequently appointed head coach of the national team in 1977 (Pool C) and 1989 (Pool D) and mentored the 1980 and 1981 under-19 squads in the European Junior Championships.
Harold (Terry) Matthews was born in Whitley Bay (now in Tyne & Wear) on 18 February 1940 and was a coalminer in his early working life. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987 and was one of the first inductees in 1998 to the North East Wall of Fame.
Written by Tony Boynton with research by Martin C. Harris, 1987.