Burly striker Les Mutrie joined Hull City immediately after impressing City manager Mike Smith in an FA Cup tie against Blyth Spartans, Mutrie scoring in all three matches. This began a four year career at Boothferry Park that won a place for Mutrie in the hearts of many Hull City fans – for his goals, for his skillful approach to the game and for his regular positive interactions with supporters off the pitch. Mutrie came late to regular professional football at the age of 28 and he appeared to enjoy every minute of it while at Boothferry Park
Mutrie made his debut for City on Boxing Day 1980, four days after the third of the Blyth cup ties at Elland Road Leeds had ended in a Tigers victory. Paired with predatory goalscorer Keith Edwards, Mutrie opened his City goal account in a 3-1 win at Exeter at the end of January 1981 and added two further goals before he struck a brace against Newport County on the final day of the season. Despite that victory, City were relegated to Division Four that season as Mike Smith’s grand plans for promotion borne out of investment in the playing squad had the reverse effect.
During the 1981 close season Keith Edwards moved back to Sheffield United and Mutrie took the role of creative forward alongside the powerful and sometimes downright frightening presence of centre forward Billy Whitehurst. This arrangement clearly suited both players and after opening his account on the first day of the season at Torquay, Mutrie scored regularly and reached 11 goals in 24 starts by the time City knocked Hartlepool United out of the FA Cup on the first Saturday of 1982, the club’s first game for a month after a spell of poor weather. A narrow win over Torquay and barren spell of three goalless games in the League followed City’s exit from the FA Cup to Chelsea after a replay, but City returned to form with a mid-February 2-2 draw at Tranmere. Mutrie scored both City goals at Prenton Park, then the following week hit four goals as City demolished Hartlepool United by a 5-2 scoreline. Mutrie’s goals continued to flow over the next seven games, six of which were City victories, and a club record was set when Les scored against Port Vale in mid-March to rack up goals in nine consecutive senior appearances. During this period Mike Smith was dismissed, the club had announced its bankruptcy and players were being forced into taking a pay cut by the club’s administrators, all of which made Mutrie’s achievement even more impressive. Les ended the 1981/82 season with 28 goals in all competitions and his place in the hearts of City fans was assured.
The 1982/83 season was helmed by new boss Colin Appleton, his expansive style of play suited Mutrie well. With new goalscoring threats emerging in the shape of winger Brian Marwood and pacy striker Andy Flounders, Mutrie led the line for much of the season and netted 12 goals as the Tigers cruised to promotion back to Division Three. He scored braces against York in September 1982 and Torquay in October 1982 – Les loved to punish those South West sides! Although promotion had already been secured two weeks earlier at Chester, Mutrie capped off his season with a last day goal in a 3-1 win at Rochdale.
Elevated back to the third tier, Mutrie started the season on City’s bench and while he did spend two months in the first team and scored five goals, including a brace against Millwall in a 5-0 thumping, the combination of advancing years and playing at a higher level meant that from November 1983 onwards Appleton looked elsewhere for striking options – Flounders, Whitehurst and later loanee Alan Taylor. Mutrie spent a month on loan at Doncater Rovers, scoring once in six appearances, before leaving Hull City for good in January 1984. Mutrie’s penchant for scoring goals on the last day of the season was sorely missed four months later at Burnley when the Tigers fell one goal short of a big enough victory to secure a second successive promotion.
Leslie Alan Mutrie was born in Newcastle Upon Tyne and came into football via the North East’s non-league scene. He started playing for Northern League side Ashington in 1972 and moved to Gateshead United two years later. This was one of several incarnations of Gateshead sides to ply their trade south of the River Tyne, when Gateshead United went bust in 1977 Mutrie was freed up to join Division Three side Carlisle United. Les managed only five appearances for the Cumbrians during the 1977/78 season and injuries led to his release after one season. Les returned to newly formed Gateshead at the start of the 1978/79 season and started scoring goals at a rate that led to his move to Blyth Spartans in March 1979. Blyth were one of the North of England’s most prominent non-league teams in the 1970s and the acquisition of Mutrie fired them to greater success as they lifted the Northern League and Northern League Cup double in May 1979. Mutrie’s goals continued to flow and when he left the Spartans in December 1980 he had scored 58 times in 86 appearances and finished the 1980/81 FA Cup’s overall top goalscorer. Mutrie was as warmly remembered in Blyth as he was in Hull.
In January 1984 Mutrie joined Colchester United who were managed by Cyril Lea, who had been assistant manager to Mike Smith at Hull City during Les’s Boothferry Park heyday. He spent the rest of the season at Layer Road, scoring twice in 16 appearances before transferring to Hartlepool United in the 1984 close season. He scored four goals in 22 appearances for Pools but by the turn of the year it was apparent that injuries had caught up with Les and he gave up the professional game during the 1985 close season at the age of 33. He returned to the Tyneside area and became player manager for local side Dudley Welfare while running a local pub. Over the next thirty years Les and his wife Sandra ran five pubs in the North Tyneside area, ending up in Camperdown. Les died in October 2017 of throat cancer, news of his demise led to an outpouring of grief amongst fans of a certain age who followed both Blyth Spartans and Hull City. Les was inducted into Hull City Southern Supporters’ hall of fame at this time and a book commemorating his career was prepared for his three children and eight grandchildren.
Les’s goalscoring record at Blyth Spartans was recognised when he was called up for the England C semi-professional squad in May 1979. He scored on his England C debut, a 5-1 beating of Scotland in a four-nation tournament played at Stafford, then won his second cap in the final against Netherlands four days later. In June 1980 Mutrie added two more England C caps to his tally in the same tournament played this year at Veenendaal in the Netherlands – he scored a consolation in a 2-4 revenge victory for Scotland, then two days later he started in a 2-1 win against the host nation.
Date/Place of Birth: 1 April 1952, Newcastle Upon Tyne
Hull City First Game: 26 December 1980, Rotherham United H (Division Three), 28 years, 269 days old
Hull City Final Game: 12 November 1983, Newport County H (Division Three), 31 years, 225 days old
Ashington (1972-1974), Gateshead United (1974-1977), Carlisle United (1977-1978), Gateshead (1978-1979), Blyth Spartans (1979-1980), Hull City (1980-1984), Doncaster Rovers (1983-1984, loan), Colchester United (1984), Hartlepool United (1984-1985), Dudley Welfare
Hull City Record
Career: 132 apps, 50 goalsLes Mutrie
|1981/82||43 (0)||27||6 (0)||1||2 (0)||0||-||-||-||-|
|1982/83||40 (0)||12||2 (0)||0||2 (0)||0||-||-||3 (0)||0|
|1983/84||11 (1)||5||-||-||1 (1)||0||-||-||-||-|