Tributes are paid to former Port Vale forward Mick Morris


Port Vale promotion winner and popular forward Mick Morris, has died, aged 77, following a long illness. Our Vale reporter Mike Baggaley looks at the career of a player who made a major contribution over his 200 appearances for the club.

MICK Morris was so keen to sign for Port Vale he cut short his honeymoon in the summer of 1967.

The lure of the Vale, or perhaps more accurately, the prospect of playing for Sir Stanley Matthews, swung the deal and so Mick and his wife Avis got an early flight home from Spain to complete his move from Oxford United.  

So, Morris became Matthews’ second signing as manager at Vale Park, after Roy Chapman, and the versatile winger or striker would at times get the number seven shirt his manger had famously worn.

Mick’s son Andrew takes up the story: “There was an extra significance with that, I think he was really quite proud and that is why it was a case of dropping everything to go and sign.

“Stan was the man, wasn’t he? A big deal, so he was very keen to grasp that.

“I don’t think mum was so sure when she first got here, but she met Stan and I remember her saying she thought he was an extremely nice man.

He asked her, ‘Can I interest you in a carrot juice?’

“He was a real health freak, way ahead of his time. She really quite warmed to him.

“That was in 1967 and they never went back. They were really happy here. They had lots of friends they were both very sociable, happy people, they had a good life.”

The couple lived in Oakhill before moving to Clayton and, although Sir Stan left Vale in 1968, Morris stayed and thrived.

Gordon Lee took over and Morris would become a key player in the team that won promotion from Division Four in 1969/70, starting 45 of their 46 league games that season as they also set a club record of 19 games unbeaten.

“We’ve got Micky, Micky Morris on the wing,’ became a regular chant as he also played every game the following season. However,  he was in and out of the side in 1971/72 before he was released having scored 25 goals in 200 appearances for the Vale. 

Despite the team’s success under Lee, he wasn’t a huge fan of the manager’s tactics, although son Andrew doesn’t think that was personal.

He explained: “I think it was more in terms of Gordon Lee’s philosophy as he (Lee) was a bit more cautious. It was just artistic differences as they would call it in the music industry!”

Port Vale fans had their own special chant for Mick Morris.

Morris, who was originally from East London, went on to play for Stafford Rangers who were then one of the best non-league sides in the country.

He helped them reach the FA Cup fourth round in 1974/75 when they eventually bowed out with a 2-1 defeat to Peterborough in front of more than 31,000 at Stoke City’s Victoria Ground, and was in the side that reached the FA Trophy final in 1976 when they lost to Scarborough at Wembley.

He moved on to Leek Town before retiring, but kept a keen interest in sport, as a golfer and part-time assistant greenkeeper at Barlaston, and also as a long-distance runner.

Andrew recalls: “I think his nickname from the days at the Vale was ‘marathon man’.

“I think that was a natural progression from finishing football. He went to Leek Town, and then with the Jubilee WMC, and really started to get into running in about 1982 and 1983. He really started to take it a lot more seriously.

“He did the first Potteries Marathon and managed to do it in under three hours. I think he really got the bit between his teeth from that point.

“He had been working at the Michelin for a while and it was an athletic focus for him. I bet a lot of players really miss not playing so it was a great substitute for that.

“He was a keen golfer as well. He was off about 11 which is a lot better than I ever got to.

“He was super keen, sometimes when he had time he would go out twice, maybe even three times in a day, he was really into it. It was the social side of it as well because he was a very friendly person. He seemed to get on with everybody.

“He was very sporting, but I remember as a kid, he never let you win anything!

“So, on the odd occasion you did beat him, it actually meant something. He was old school. We used to run together quite a lot and, if you were out training, you weren’t messing about chatting. He would definitely put you through your paces.”

Mick’s wife Avis died in 2008 and Mick was diagnosed with dementia in 2012 before his death on March 15 following a long illness, leaving children Andrew and Laura.

Andrew says he has been very grateful for the response from supporters.

He said: “It has been touching for all of us to think it was 50 years ago and people still remember him so fondly and are quoting the song.

“A mate of mine I play five-a-side with asked if I minded if he posted something on one of the forums, and he has posted a lot of the responses back. It blows you away that people still remember him and think so fondly of all those times.”

Vale fan Brian Lewis, who is the club’s lottery manager, cheered on Mick Morris and team-mates to promotion as a 15-year-old on the Bycars.

He said: “The team of 69/70 was a hard-working side. Gordon Lee had come in, no-nonsense and put that team together.

“They had that unbeaten run and there were 19,000 at the Racecourse Ground for a game against Wrexham.

“It was such an iconic era. The Bycars End was standing and, on the right-hand side of the tea bar were the mods and, on the left-hand side, were the rockers.

“Micky scored the goal against Notts County that secured promotion in front of the Bycars. I can see it now, a tap in from six yards.

“The team picked itself really: Ball, Boulton, Wilson, Green, King, Sproson, McLaren, Morris, Wookey, James and Gough.

“Nobody liked playing the Vale in those days. It was a great season, I still have the scrapbook.

“Micky Morris was one of those players you could always rely on. People have dips in form but Micky was consistent.

“I know you look back with rose-tinted glasses, but I never saw him have a bad game really. He was very mild mannered, never got booked or retaliated, he was just a consummate professional and a fantastic bloke. He was very much loved by the Vale in an era when  football was carefree, all singing on the Bycars. Happy days.”

Brian also got to know Morris after his playing days.

He explained: “He worked at the Michelin so I saw him there when I was playing table tennis. He always had time for you.

“I remember seeing him in the marathons. You’d shout up ‘Micky, Micky Morris on the wing’ and he’d give you a thumbs up.

“He was a likeable lad, always had a smile on his face, he was a thoroughly nice bloke.”

■ Mick’s son, Andrew, has asked if Port Vale supporters have any footage of his dad playing.

If you can help, please email michael.baggaley@reachplc.com





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