Look at that fat bloke, Stan (3)

Please don’t look at this series of blog posts and just think “I don’t like football” and then go on your merry way. All of these blog posts are about much more than football. In particular they concern the eternal battle between sporting genius and cream cakes.

In the last post, I talked about the one football match I wish I had seen. It was England v Hungary, played on November 25th 1953 at 2.15 pm because there were no floodlights at Wembley. This game would later be called the “Game of the Century”. Hungary were the Olympic champions, undefeated since 1950. The programme took comfort in offering us pictures of previous successes by the England team. The first one shows an exhibition game against FIFA, the World Federation of Football, only a few weeks previously. General Montgomery was the guest of honour. He was brilliant at beating foreigners :

Another picture showed Stan Mortenson being hypnotised by a cheating foreign goalkeeper and his brightly striped socks:

This photo from the game would have been used for the “Spot-the-Ball” contest until somebody eventually spotted that the ball had never ever been there in the first place:

A full programme of activities would precede the match itself:

I don’t know if there were many Hungarians in the crowd, but the effort had certainly been made  to include some appropriate music with ‘Hungariana’ and ‘Bond of Friendship’. And then , at 2.05…. pm….

I’m not too sure that anybody would have stayed behind for a second go at the national anthem.

If you didn’t like foreign music, then you could content yourself with reading the players’ pen pictures. I copied a couple of the best English ones. First of all Stanley Matthews:

Alas, Stan would soon be proved NOT to be the “greatest ball manipulator in the whole history of the game”. The second Stan was Stan Mortensen, who also played at Blackpool:

I don’t know about “the gay courage that every Englishman loves” but Stan Mortenson was a very brave man. He was a wireless operator in the RAF and was almost killed in a practice parachute jump. A short time later, after a serious plane crash in a conifer plantation while flying in a Vickers Wellington, Stan escaped death by the narrowest of margins.  Both the pilot and the bomb aimer were killed. The navigator lost one of his legs and Stan suffered severe head injuries, necessitating 12 stitches. He was plagued by insomnia for the rest of his life:

Like Stan Mortensen, my Dad was stationed in Lossiemouth in northern Scotland. He met the famous footballer on one occasion:

“My Dad was a fellow wireless operator in the RAF. One day he was travelling on the train from Elgin in northern Scotland down to Crewe in north western England. He was in the same compartment as Stan Mortensen, the famous professional footballer. Mortensen played on many, many occasions as a centre forward both for Blackpool in the First Division, and in international games for England. Indeed, during the course of his career, Mortensen managed 222 goals for Blackpool in just 354 appearances, and 23 goals in 25 games for his country. In later years, he was to appear in the 1953 F.A.Cup Final, when the whole country was firmly behind Stanley Matthews in his third attempt to win a cup winner’s medal. Blackpool duly triumphed against Bolton Wanderers, but, in the euphoria over Matthews’ medal, the fact that Mortensen had himself scored three vital goals has always tended to be rather forgotten. Indeed, the match itself was to become known as “The Matthews Final”, with never a mention of Mortensen’s unique feat. In later years as an old man, Mortensen was to joke grimly that when he finally passed on, they would call his interment “The Matthews Funeral”:

On this particular occasion, another RAF man was in the crowded train compartment, and, during the long and tedious journey south, he began boasting about his extensive triumphs in the world of football. He had played in any number of games and scored any number of vital goals. He went on and on, with everybody else in the compartment, who were all well aware of Mortensen’s identity, acutely embarrassed. Finally, the man turned to Mortensen and said “Do you play at all, mate?” and Mortensen replied “Yes, just a bit.” Mortensen left the train shortly afterwards, and everybody was then able to tell the boastful buffoon just who his erstwhile travelling companion had been. The stupid young man was completely mortified.”





Filed under Bomber Command, Football, History, Personal

18 responses to “Look at that fat bloke, Stan (3)

  1. Interesting to one who prefers rugby union 🙂

    • To be honest, while rugby union was never played at Wembley, the rugby league cup final was, and the programmes are virtually the same as the football ones, with the same type of events and the same products being advertised.

  2. I always have felt that these posts are more about youth and camaraderie.

  3. I suppose the selection of music was representative of the FIFA team players? Interesting that the FIFA team made a substitution at half time. I didn’t know they had substitutes in 1953?

    • As far as I know, there were no substitutes in proper competitive games but in exhibition games, like the FIFA one, it was up to the officials of each side to get together and discuss what would be allowed. In many exhibition and friendly matches, it was probably a case of trying to get as many people on the field as possible, so that the crowd could see not just 11 players from the rest of the world but 16 or 17. One interesting substitution during a wartime game between Wales and England in 1943 involved an injury, and substitutes were allowed but Wales had run out of players. England lent them a player. This was in fact the as yet uncapped Stan Mortensen who therefore made his international debut for the wrong country!
      Mortensen apparently could actually have played for Norway, as his grandfather, Hans, was born in Norway,

      • That is a great story – almost worth a post of its own.

        I remember my dad always blamed the no substitution rule for Leicester City losing the 1961 Cup Final against Spurs after the right back Len Chalmers broke his leg early on and couldn’t be replaced. Amazingly he played on until 10 minutes from the end before retiring and going off to hospital. Dad always said that if there had been substitutes then City would have beaten Spurs that year.

        When it came to all matters Leicester City he kept that pair of rose tinted spectacles right up until he died!

  4. Spot the ball! Now there’s a gambling delight that hasn’t seen the light of day for many a year! Adding that little cross was so much fun!

  5. John, in Guyana, cricket was our national sport. It was not until I migrated to Brazil that I developed a passion for football. How could I not!?

    • In actual fact, football is the only thing that all of mankind agrees on. All across the planet the rules are the same. The size of the pitch, the ball, the number of players, the goalposts and so on. Every single person on earth plays their official football games to the same rules…England, Russia, Guyana, Brazil, China, Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, Israel, Palestine, the USA, every single country. (And you can’t say the same for religion, can you?)

  6. How long ago was there any significant change in the rules?

  7. I think it was round about 1990 when the goalkeeper was no longer allowed to pick up a pass from his own defenders. Around this time, there were also attempts to outlaw the tackle from behind because so many top players were spending so much time out injured. The main point is though, that these changes were immediately accepted world wide, and there was no schism in the sport. That can’t be said for a lot of other sports particularly rugby and the hockey type games. I suppose that cricket comes close to being universally accepted, unless you want to argue that baseball and rounders etc are variations on the theme.

  8. Ah, the Laws of the Game. You are right about the importance of a world-wide code – in Rugby Union the north and south interpret the Laws of Rugby Union differently. In Rugby League they actually have different rules at times.

    Just one of the reasons that football is universally accepted.

    The lack of 20 stone forwards with broken noses and a desire to dismember people probably also helps…


  9. Well I certainly enjoyed this post.

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