England international forward Stan Mortensen, one of the country’s finest strikers of the 1940s and 1950s, joined Hull City in November 1955. While undoubtedly a remarkable signing, the fee involved – £2,000 – belied the fall in form that Stan had suffered in his mid 30s due to persistent knee injuries. The Tigers had won one and drawn two of the opening fifteen League fixtures of 1955/56 season and the Needler family that owned the club were convinced by manager Bob Brocklebank to invest in the forward line – Bill Bradbury had joined from Birmingham a month earlier and Mortensen was added to deliver raw firepower in front of goal. The early signs were good – Stan scored in his first two appearances against West Ham and Port Vale, both of which ended in victory. Three further goals in December contributed to another two victories, but three defeats over the festive period saw City slide back down the Second Division table. Mortensen scored three goals in February and early March but all three games ended in defeat – Mortensen’s goals then dried up and a thigh injury ended his season in early April, while City plummeted into Division Three North.
Mortensen no doubt didn’t anticipate playing in the third tier for his new club, but despite persistent knee problems he evidently gave his best as he scored an August brace against Tranmere, a September hattrick at Workington (a match that City lost 3-4), an October double against Southport and an FA Cup brace in November against Gateshead. However by early January 1957 his goals had again dried up and he was sold to Southport, the team he punished with two goals a few weeks earlier.
Stanley Harding Mortensen was born in South Shields to a father whose family hailed from Norway. Stan’s father died when he was five years old and he was raised in conditions of considerable poverty, but his footballing skills were identified early and by the age of 9 he was playing schools football against boys several years his senior. Mortensen left school at 14 and worked in a timber yard before being signed by First Division side Blackpool in 1937. During his teenage years Mortensen struggled to make an impression in the Tangerines’ first team.
In 1939 he signed up for the Royal Air Force and worked as a radio operator in Wellington bombers. Stationed at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland, Mortensen suffered severe head injuries in a plane crash that killed of the three other crew members – his injuries meant he was withdrawn from operational duties and advised to stop playing football. This latter advice was ignored and after he recovered in 1943 Stan he scored numerous goals in wartime matches for Aberdeen, Blackpool, Bath City, Sunderland and Arsenal. He also represented the RAF against the Army, playing alongside famous international players like Raich Carter, Ted Drake and Stanley Matthews. He represented England in a number of wartime matches and even played a half for the Wales international team when he was selected as England’s 12th man and Wales were reduced to ten men by injury.
Mortensen scored four goals in five starts for Blackpool in the 1945/46 FA Cup, which was played even though the Football League had yet to resume. When the Football League did commence in 1946 Mortensen was approaching his peak as a footballer and was an immediate first team success for the Tangerines. For nine consecutive seasons between 1946/47 and 1954/55 Mortensen was Blackpool’s top league goalscorer. He played in the 1948 FA Cup Final, scoring Blackpool’s second goal to take a 2-1 lead before Manchester United hit back in the second half to win 4-2 – ex-Tigers goalkeeper Joe Robinson also played for Blackpool in that Final, Mortensen became the first player to score in every proper round of the FA Cup including the Final. Stan’s most productive season in front of goal came in 1950/51 when he netted 35 times in all competitions, finishing top goalscorer in the English First Division as Blackpool finished third in the table and scoring goals that were pivotal in Blackpool reaching the 1951 FA Cup Final – Newcastle won the final 2-0.
Mortensen and his main supplier of chances Stanley Matthews (seen together right), who he first played alongside in the RAF side of the 1940s, had twice failed to win a Cup Final. In 19252/53 Blackpool went on another Cup run, though Mortensen missed the early round ties due to a thigh injury. The Tangerines made their way to the Final by beating Arsenal and Tottenham in the quarter finals and semi-finals and took on Bolton Wanderers in the Final. Despite a first half Mortensen goal (which was perhaps would be considered an own goal if later events hadn’t transpired) with 25 minutes left to play Blackpool were trialling 1-3. Stanley Matthews then put in a mesmerising performance to haul Blackpool back into the game and Mortensen scored two more goals to become the first player to score a hattrick in a Wembley FA Cup Final. The Tangerines lifted the trophy thanks to an injury time goal by Bill Perry that secured a 4-3 victory in what was termed “The Matthews Final” in recognition of the winger’s supply line – though this was a tag that Matthews himself rejected, preferring to focus on the pivotal importance of Mortensen’s three goals.
When Mortensen reached ten years of senior first team football with Blackpool in the 1955 close season he had scored 222 goals in 341 starts – a remarkable goalscoring record that included setting a record for netting in eleven consecutive League games. As well as his raw pace and deadly finishing, Mortensen was a superb header of the ball, a sign of his true bravery given the head injuries he suffered during the War. In 1955/56 he added five more goals in 11 starts but by November he was out of the first team and allowed to join Hull City.
In February 1957 Mortensen signed for Southport, he played a season and a half for the Sandgrounders and scored ten goals. He announced his retirement from professional football in April 1958 but was soon lured into the non-league scene – he scored 27 goals in the Southern League for Bath City in 1958/59 season and then assisted Lancaster City until the early 1960s. He ran a sports shop in Blackpool for several years before being appointed first team manager at Blackpool in February 1967. He was unable to avoid relegation to the Second Division but stayed in charge at Bloomfield Road for two more years before being sacked at the end of the 1968/69 season. He subsequently ran a postcard shop on the Blackpol sea front and served on the local council.
In 1989 Bolton Wanderers drew Blackpool in the FA Cup First Round and Stan led out the Blackpool team while Bolton’s striker in the 1953 Final, Nat Lofthouse, led out the Trotters. Mortensen received a number of awards during the later years of his life. He had shown symptoms of Alzheimer’s from the early 1980s onwards and he eventually died of the disease in May 1991, four days short of his 70th birthday on the day that Blackpool reached the the Fourth Division play-off final – meaning they would play at Wembley for the first time since that 1953 Cup Final. At his ceremony in Blackpool a wry journalist commented that it would likely be called “The Matthews Funeral”. A statue to “Morty” was erected in August 2005 on a sectioned off area outside the North Stand of Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road ground.
Stan Mortensen was a decorated England international striker during the late 1940s and early 1950s. He won his first cap in May 1947 and started with a bang, scoring four times in a 10-0 victory over Portugal. He scored further hattricks in November 1947 against Sweden and October 1948 against Northern Ireland. In October 1949 he scored England’s first ever goal in World Cup qualifying match and June 1950 in Brazil he scored England first ever World Cup Finals goal. He won his final England cap in 1953, a 2-4 defeat at Wembley against Hungary in which he scored to end his international career with a remarkable 23 goals in 25 appearances.
Date/Place of Birth: 26 May 1921, South Shields
Hull City First Game: 12 November 1955, West Ham United H (Division Two), 34 years, 170 days old
Hull City Final Game: 12 January 1957, Crewe Alexandra A (Division Three North), 35 years, 231 days old
Blackpool (1941-1955), Hull City (1955-1957), Southport (1957-1958), Bath City (1958-1959), Lancaster City (1960-1962)
Hull City Record
Career: 46 apps, 20 goalsStan Mortensen