100 years today, Blackpool's FA Cup legend Morty was born
As this year’s FA Cup final ended in a single goal victory, Blackpool and its football fans were able to take further pride in a record which has stretched now for nearly seven decades.
In 1953, as, in a classic final, the Seasiders lifted the FA Cup for the only time in the club’s history – so far – Stan Mortensen scored three goals in the 4-3 win against Bolton Wanderers.
It was the first hat-trick in a Wembley FA Cup final and, 68 years on, it remains the only one - a stunning, still ongoing, achievement but just one of an incredible list of accolades earned by the man who was born 100 years ago today.
Sixty six years after he played his last match for Blackpool, he remains the club’s all time greatest scorer, with 226 including 197 in 316 League appearances, all in the top flight.
He scored 23 goals in 25 games for England and was the first England player to score in a World Cup final tournament.
In the FA Cup, he scored 31 goals in 34 ties for Pool and, along with his Wembley hat-trick, his record of scoring in 12 consecutive rounds (including the final of 1948 against Manchester United) remains unmatched.
Popularly known as Morty, Stanley Harding Mortensen really was a special footballer and an unforgettable part of Blackpool’s history, who in my early days as The Gazette’s sports editor and football writer, I had the honour of meeting on several occasions.
The first was at a dinner held at the Savoy Hotel at North Shore in November 1989, to celebrate 50 years since he first signed for Blackpool FC as well as his support for the resort and its good causes which extended throughout his retirement.
Fellow Pool stars such as Sir Stanley Matthews, Jimmy Armfield, George Farm and fellow 1953 heroes such as Jackie Mudie, Cyril Robinson and scorer of the winning goal Bill Perry were among the guests, along with World Cup winner Roger Hunt, other football notables such as Sir Tom Finney and representatives of other sports and the town.
As a lifelong football fan, I was so honoured to be The Gazette’s representative in such illustrious company but what instantly struck me about Morty as he was so deservedly saluted that evening was how humble he remained.
His health was sadly failing by that time, but it came across that it was he who felt honoured to have done so much for Blackpool, for the town as well as the club, and for his country.
A great man indeed, who rarely if not uniquely at such events while working, I asked to sign my menu card and I treasure it to this day.
He was on the top table that night, of course, but over the next year or so, I was in his closer company at events such as the annual Harry Johnston Trophy dinner, in aid of schools football in Blackpool and held in memory of the Seasiders’ 1953 captain.
Morty’s health situation sadly meant his memory was not what it was by that stage, but it was fascinating to be in the company of one of the beautiful game’s absolutely greatest stars and hear of the intense pride he always retained for the resort he called home. That humility always shone through.
On May 22, 1991, I was in the press box at Bloomfield Road ahead of Blackpool’s Fourth Division (now League Two) play-off semi-final second leg against Scunthorpe, when the death of Morty and the intention to hold a minute’s silence in his honour before the game was announced.
Under then manager Billy Ayre, Pool had staged an incredible run to reach the play-offs after a poor start to the season under Graham Carr and following a 1-1 draw at Scunthorpe in the first leg, the team was bidding to reach Wembley for first time since that 1953 final.
The minute’s silence was immaculately observed, Pool came from behind to win 2-1 on the night and go through on aggregate and many fans said that night that Stan’s spirit was guiding that Wembley return.
The play-off final against Torquay ended in an agonising defeat but they were back a year later to make amends and since then of course they have returned to such finals on several occasions and become the most successful club in English play-offs.
As the centenary of Stan Mortensen’s birth falls today, it’s fitting that the Seasiders are again preparing for a Wembley final - and here’s hoping they can be winners again in his illustrious and cherished memory.
The Tower will be lit up tangerine tonight to mark the centenary of Morty’s birth.
The football legend is commemorated with a statue at the north end of the Bloomfield Road stadium and the tribute on the 100th anniversary of his birth is being organised by the lifelong fan who co-ordinated the statue, Chris Hull.
Chris plans a ceremony at which Tony Green, another Pool great who Stan signed when he was manager of the club, will say a few words and fans are invited to show their colours. Limited edition artworks depicting Stan, along with books on him, will also be available.
Chris is also hoping to have Mortensen’s 1953 FA Cup Final winners medal at the event for fans to have their picture taken with it.
Afterwards, as darkness falls, the Tower will light up, including a ‘Morty 100’ message with a heart shape.
In addition, a tangerine flag is being flown from the top of the Tower for the rest of the week to mark the anniversary and Pool’s latest Wembley appearance.
Guests at the statue ceremony will include Stan’s great niece Nicola Heaney, who campaigned for the statue to be sited at the ground.
She said: “I’m so looking forward to it, as it shows that even 30 years after his passing, the town and its people still remember him. Not only as an amazing footballer, but as a great townsman. He loved this town.
“The tribute at Bloomfield Road with the fans would have filled him with pride and joy. The fact the Tower is being lit up tangerine for him would probably have overwhelmed him.
“This celebration is a true honour to him and even more proof, not that any is needed, that Blackpool FC fans are the greatest in the country with their unswerving determination, support and spirit for all things tangerine.
“Thanks to them and to Blackpool Council, for this celebration of the man I am so proud to call my great uncle - and a special mention to Chris Hull for all he has done to the tribute.
“I try to keep his memory alive as I can these days. Stan and his wife Jean didn’t have children themselves , and I lived overseas for 23 years, but since I have been back I do everything I can.”
Chris said: “Stan is for one of the greatest servants the town has ever known.
“As well as his unsurpassed football record he also served the council and helped saved the club by selling his memorabilia in the 1980s. The tribute is a message from the town that he will never be forgotten.”
Coun Lynn Williams, leader of Blackpool Council, said: “It is fitting that in a week the town turns tangerine ahead of the play-off final, we pay tribute to one of Blackpool’s most famous players.
“The name Stan Mortensen is known around the country but nowhere more so than here in Blackpool where his years of service both as a player and a manager put him in the history books.
“A few minutes’ walk from his statue at Bloomfield Road is a road named after him in the Foxhall Village housing development. He will be never be forgotten in Blackpool and I’m delighted to see the Tower turn tangerine in his honour.”
It is thanks to our loyal readers that we can continue to provide the trusted news, analysis and insight that matters to you. For unlimited access to our unrivalled local reporting, you can take out a subscription here and help support the work of our dedicated team of reporters.
Support us and become a subscriber today. Enjoy unlimited access to local news, the latest football stories and new puzzles every day. With a digital subscription, you can see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Click here to subscribe