‘The boys deserve caps’ - victory internationals

(Played from 26th May 1945 to 19th May 1946)

During World War 2 a number of international matches were played each year and these were known as 'Wartime Internationals'. They were considered unofficial. HOWEVER, 'Victory in Europe Day' (VE Day) on 8th May 1945 marked the end of World War 2. Following this England played a series of 10 celebratory international matches against; France, Switzerland, Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Belgium.

The matches were called the Victory Internationals and they attracted enormous crowds of up to 140,000. I believe that the 'Victory International' games differed from the 'Wartime Internationals' and so should be classed as 'official'. Certainly at the time they were considered official.

For example, 2 of the games listed against Switzerland (Billy did not play in these games) have been post-historically classed as Services XI Internationals (Combined nations and services teams). HOWEVER, the England team was all English, they wore England shirts and all the big English stars of the day were selected; Mercer, Swift, Shackleton, Williams, Franklin, Matthews, Lawton, Hagan, Wright, etc.

For each game all competing players received an *Illuminated Address. The games were listed as official in The Official FA History (1953). Although one of the games was played against Switzerland B (Billy did not play in this game), it should be noted that the Swiss B's had beaten the Swiss A's 3-1, so this was no weakened team. Other sources too, indicate that at the time these matches were classed as 'official'.

A complete list of the 10 Victory International Matches appears on this site (The Victory Internationals - List of matches). I believe that all who played in these post-war celebratory games should be credited with caps. Let us not forget… most of these lads had been serving King and country, some since 1939. Their lives and careers had been shattered. Also, names that might have been on the England team sheets, like Bolton's brilliant young prospect Walter Sidebottom and Wolves Joe Rooney… are not th ere because those particular boys didn't make it home. Arsenal alone lost 9 young players and players from many clubs gave their lives.

The lads who played in the Victory Internationals deserve their caps; Sir Stanley Matthews for example won 54 England caps, but also played in 7 Victory Internationals, so his total England caps should be 61 (Plus he played 26 wartime internationals 1939-45). Joe Mercer a great player is only credited with 5 full England caps, because the war broke out early in his career. Joe played in 7 of the Victory games though, so his total number of caps should be 12 (Plus he played 23 wartime internationals 1939-45), Tommy Lawton won 23 full caps and played in 8 Victory games, so his total should be 31 (Plus he played 20 wartime internationals 1939-45), Sir Tom Finney won 76 full caps for England and played in 2 Victory games, so his total should be 78 and Billy Wright who holds 105 England caps, also played in 5 Victory Internationals, so his new total should be 110 caps etc.

*Illuminated Address From the late 19th to the early 20th century Illuminated Addresses were a popular way to mark a special occasion or an individual's outstanding service. Often on paper or parchment that was framed, they were beautifully hand written and decorated, sometimes by leading artists, with formal wording used to praise the addressee.