Following on from a couple of weeks ago, another reminder of what Blackpool FC means to members of Blackpool Supporters’ Trust and why change has to come at Bloomfield Road. Today’s column is mostly in the words of ‘W’ and recounts the personal impact of a couple of Blackpool heroes, Stanleys Matthews and Mortensen.
‘I was born at the latter end of 1947 and so only saw a limited number of games played by the best duo ever to grace a football field, but looking at them through a child’s eyes I can still remember them both and was to cross paths with them later in their lives.
Sir Stanley Matthews remains the only footballer to have been knighted whilst still playing the game. His skills were both magnificent and mind boggling, mesmerising opposition players who often resorted to severe bone crunching tackles to try and stop him. Sir Stan just ghosted past them and then provided the perfect cross or pass to a fellow forward, often Morty, to slot into the goal.
There was always a distinct feeling of excitement and anticipation in the crowd when Sir Stan was in full flow, the adrenaline pumped, the noise became louder and the poor opposition player often seemed to have the look of alarm and horror as he was expected to stop the unstoppable. Matthews’ runs were mesmerising, his crosses were perfect, his opponents were spellbound.
So much has been written about him and I can only add to those words by saying I had the privilege of cooking for him when I was a young Commis Chef in St Annes. One day Stan, a strict vegetarian, asked to meet the chef who had cooked his omelettes to perfection. I was paraded in front of him, humbled and exited by meeting the man, I have never forgotten his words: Thank you for providing perfection each time I dine’. Well Stanley, I’d like to thank you for providing perfection each time you played, truly one of the greatest players ever to don a tangerine shirt.
Stanley Mortensen scored 197 goals in 317 games for Blackpool, including the only hat trick in an FA Cup Final. That 1953 Wembley triumph should have been called the Morty not the Matthews final!
My memory of Morty is that he wasn’t a particularly big centre forward, not the typical number nine. He was quick and tricky, lethal with both his feet and his head and you just knew that if the ball came to him in front of goal he would score. My Dad always used to say if you want to head a ball properly just watch how Stanley Mortensen does it, he goes for the ball and guides it where he wants it to go. He wasn’t a mean player and would pass the ball to a colleague if he felt they had a better chance of scoring. That said, his record alone shows who the real goal scorer in the team was.
After retiring from playing, Morty became manager at Blackpool (1967-69) and was hugely popular with the fans. His sacking was not well received, and many still believe this was the beginning of the slide from grace that Blackpool suffered from the late ’60s onwards.
I was fortunate enough to see Morty regularly in the Cocktail Bar at the Blackpool Hotel where I was Assistant Manager and it would not be a lie to say he stole the show every time he entered the room. FA Cups made from the silver paper in fag packets adorned the ceiling each time he left. He was a charming, unassuming man with a lovely wife and he brought a great deal of pleasure to my life as a player, a manager and as a valued customer.
Morty is still loved by generations of Blackpool fans. His statue graces the northern approach to Bloomfield Road and it was a disgraceful act on behalf of the owners to remove it recently.
Together, the two Stanleys, giants of the game, encapsulate my earliest memories of football, a game I have loved ever since I was a twinkle in my Dad’s eye. I look forward to the day that I can once again see my heroes at home and not just away.’
A poignant reminder that it is all about the football (‘put football first’), the fans (‘the heart and soul of any football club’) and the community (‘make Blackpool great again’); and talking of heroes, on Saturday 11th November there will be Remembrance Day observances at football grounds around the country. Blackpool plays at home to Portsmouth on that day. Supporters' trusts represent football fans in the community and it is very sad that, in the current circumstances, the majority of Blackpool fans are unable to be part of the official Blackpool FC observance.
Therefore Blackpool Supporters’ Trust is organising a poppy wreath and two minutes silence on behalf of all the football fans who will not be inside the stadium. Everyone is welcome to stand with the BST committee, members of the Trust and visiting supporters from Pompey at our usual spot opposite the main entrance at the West stand, when two military veterans and our BST youth representative will lay a wreath in memory of all those who have given their lives in defence of our country. This will be followed by 2 minutes silence.