‘Put Morty Back’

The Stan Mortensen statue

The Stan Mortensen statue

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Blackpool chairman Karl Oyston has been told to ‘put Morty back’ by angry supporters.

Oyston and Blackpool FC have refused to comment on the reasons, although The Gazette understands it was removed in response to planned protests ahead of Saturday’s final league game against Huddersfield.

Those organising the protests had asked fans to lay memorabilia and messages at the foot of a statue on the 62nd anniversary of his hat-trick in the Seasiders’ FA Cup triumph.

While there has been no official word on the reason for the removal, Lancashire Police were quick to distance themselves from any involvement. They told The Gazette.“The removal is nothing to do with Lancashire Police.

“We have had no involvement at all in the process and the decision was solely that of Blackpool FC.

“Our only involvement is to ensure the peaceful passing of Saturday’s planned protest.”

One of the club’s greatest ever players Jimmy Armfield, – who played alongside the great Mortensen, explained why the statue means so much to fans and why it should be returned.

“Stan was the idol of the town when I was growing up,” said Armfield, who has a statue of his own at the south end of Bloomfield Road.

“While Stanley Matthews was the talisman of the team, Mortensen was the people’s hero. I hope to see the statue back in place as soon as possible.”

Fan groups responded in similar fashion and were quick to criticise the club for the statue’s removal. Blackpool Supporters’ Trust and the Tangerine Knights issued a joint statement.

It reads: “We and football fans throughout the country call on Blackpool Football Club to immediately return the ‘Morty’ statue to its rightful place after its removal earlier this week.

“To remove the statue of someone so beloved by the fans of the club that they themselves helped pay for it is beyond contempt.

“Stan Mortensen is a hero to tens of thousands, most of whom never saw him play. He is an icon of all that is good about BFC and the community to which it belongs.”

The statue was created in 2005 to honour the prolific striker who scored 197 goals for the Seasiders, including three in the iconic 1953 FA Cup Final, and was unveiled by his widow, Jean.

She said at the time: “Of all the honours that Stan won in football, he would think this was top of the league.”

The tribute was paid for by council grants, Blackpool FC and fan donations after a campaign led by life-long supporter Chris Hull.

He is disgusted the great man’s name has been dragged into the current mess.

Hull said: “I hope it is put in its rightful place, properly, as soon as possible.

“To allow a great man like Stan Mortensen to be dragged into these shocking times leaves me – and I am sure many others– very upset.

“I do not recognise this club at this present time as the one I have supported for almost 40 years.”

With total silence from Blackpool FC, many fans have speculated on the statue’s whereabouts, with some even reporting it as stolen to the police.

One of those is 80-year-old Malcolm Brocklehurst, who listened to Mortensen’s 1953 hat-trick on the radio while on national service.

He said: “I made a donation towards the statue and I’m absolutely appalled by its removal. The statue belongs to the people of the town, the supporters and the club.

“It appears to be a spiteful act to remove it.”

Saturday’s planned protests, billed as Judgement Day by organisers, are expected to go ahead whether or not the statue is returned.

Steve Smith, from Tangerine Knights, said: “I think it’s very clear now that the protests are getting to Karl. Our ultimate aim is to remove him from power at the club and we’ll continue to protest until that happens.”