TRIBUTES have been paid to a former footballer who played a key part in Darlington’s history.

Keith Morton signed for the Quakers in 1955 and went on to play 195 games, scoring 55 times.

He was famed for his comeback after a broken neck threatened to end his career and a starring role in an FA Cup tie against Chelsea.

Morton died last week aged 87.

Darlington, perennially struggling in the Third Division North, had been drawn at Chelsea – first division champions just three years earlier – in the FA Cup fourth round in 1958.

The Quakers led 3-0 – goals from Morton, Harbertson and Wheatley Hill pit bricklayer Dave Carr – before Chelsea fought back to 3-3.

He said of the Stamford Bridge game in the Farewell to Feethams book: “It was a disgraceful pitch, but the conditions suited us. It was greasy on top, but underneath it was still hard. I twisted my ankle in that game, and it was the most painful journey home I ever had.”

The replay was four days later, but Morton was injured, however Darlington won 4-1.

The forward sustained a career-threatening injury on December 27, 1958 during a Feethams derby with Hartlepool United.

Darlington led 2-0, Morton already on the score sheet, when with 15 minutes remaining Pools full back Jack Cameron fell heavily on him following a tackle. The Quakers player was carried unconscious from the field.

He returned the following season but – “a yard slower” – retired soon afterwards to run a second hand car business in his native Consett.

“There weren’t many cars in Consett at the time but the ironworks was going well and there was a lot of interest” he said. “It was a licence to print money.”

Morton also played a big part in Darlington’s 1960 League Cup run, beating Crystal Palace and West Ham at Feethams, before going out to Bolton Wanderers in front a Feethams record crowd of 21,023. He also played in a marathon FA Cup tie against Hull City, which needed four replays before losing 3-0 at Ayresome Park.

Aged just 26, he retired in 1961.

In a statement, Darlington FC said: “The club is very sad to learn about the passing of one of our 1958 FA Cup heroes, Keith Morton. The club would like to pass on its sincere condolences to his family and friends.”

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