How good was Wilf Mannion?

There’s a quote from Nat Lofthouse that should tell you how respected he was in his time.

"When I watched Pele playing I thought of Wilf. Great though Pele is, I am proud to think I played with as great a player - perhaps even greater."
Not just Nat either as for many sir Stanley Matthew’s was the greatest English player ever and one of the finest to have played the game and here is quote on wilf.


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Never saw him play but loved the story of him weaving through the opposition defence and rounding the keeper, before flicking the ball up and sliding it down his own back into the net. Then apparently apologising to his team mates at half time for showing off because his girlfriend was in the crowd!
There's precious little footage of Mannion, but there's newspapers and word of mouth from non-Boro sources. When I was a student I met a lad who recalled his dad saying that he went to see Spurs vs Boro to see how Mannion compared to their star playmaker Tommy Harmer. 'Different class' was his assesment of Wilf.

In newspaper reports you can see that Boro were building a rep' for quality football. They had defenders who were comfortable on the ball, and lots of movement. Mannion didn't play a 'static' inside forward role, he popped up everywhere across the width of the pitch like a modern 'number 10'.

Wilf's best years, of course, were claimed by the Army in WWII. It can't have been good for him. Unlike other star players of the day, he was not able to see out the war as a PT instructor.
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Not quite old enough but my Dad used to go on about Wilf. He was at the match where he destroyed Blackpool, to impress his fiancee. He used to say Juninho was very good...... but
We have had a thread about players that have had a match named after them and they were very few.
I'll go with my Dad and say, Wilf simply the best.
You would have to be mid 80s now to see him play and be able to take in his quality, say around 1948 - 50.

My mum saw him around 1952, but I got the impression, she didn't go to games for the football.🥰

I just remember blokes talking about him in the early 1970s saying he was like George Best, but more reliable. Opposition fans would turn up at their local club to see Wilf Mannion. National football training oosters featured him, thefre was one at the Design Museuem in London, last year.
He use to spoil our game of footy when he was going to the bookies and would boot our ball down the road for us to chase. We would slag him off and then go to look in Heageny's window at Wilf Mannion's caps and trophies. We never realised they belonged to the guy who spoilt our game.
Looking at the GB game - the pitch is awful for skilled ball players, the ball is bobbling all over the place, and the ball its like a light medicine ball looks 5 times heavier than a modern football.
I have heard lots of people who had seen him say just how brilliant he was. This, not just locally but all around the country. Whenever I travelled anywhere in the country and i told them I was from Middlesbrough the first words out of their mouths was "Wilf Mannion".
On comparing Wilf to Juninho. When Juninho came here all of the old timers would say that Wilf was better because when he ran with the ball into the penalty area, he didn't fall over!! (Hey, i'm only the messenger)