norman : a human colossus

First featured in MEHSTG Vol.2 Issue 16 - September 2000

At a time when we are considering whether we should sell Sol Campbell before he could walk for a free at the end of the season, we once had a huge barrier at the back called Maurice Norman who had a really big influence on our defence just as Sol does now.  Norman was signed from Norwich City In 1955 and he played at both centre-half and right back, just as Sol has for England.  Big Mo portrayed a huge figure with black hair and he had great battles with many centre forwards.  He was powerful in the air and neat on the ground and great at clearing crosses with his head. Signed by Jimmy Anderson when he was the manager, Danny Blanchflower innovated by pushing Maurice into the centre forward position in some games, because he saw how Monty could change a game by his powerful presence and ability to head in from corners.

The manager who got the best out of Maurice was Bill Nicholson, who used him well at centre half in front of goalkeeper Bill Brown who was weak on crosses.  It was Norman's strong aerial power that covered up some of his goalkeeper's mistakes.  In one particular game at Chelsea in September 1963, I remember Norman standing on the goal-line on many occasions clearing with his head, his feet and his body after the rest of the defence had been beaten.  He was a true honest battler and Spurs went on to win that game 3-0.  How we would settle for a result like that against Chelsea now !

Monty or Swede as he was known, because of his move from East Anglia, was reliable and a lynchpin in our star sides that won the Double in 1960-61 and the FA Cup in 1962.  His game reached new heights in the two European campaigns of 1961-62 and 1962-63, which saw Spurs reach the European Cup semi-final against Benfica and win the European Cup Winners' Cup.   He was the star of the defence, playing alongside Dave Mackay who inspired him.  Maurice helped organise Peter Baker and Ron Henry at full back and was himself inspirational to them with his effort and skill.  He also helped the attack by scoring four goals in the Double season and by hardly missing more than six games in the next three seasons.  This was a remarkable feat considering the huge physical effort and strong tackling aspects to Maurice's game.

Danny had been the first to use Maurice as a target at corner kicks.  Other teams were to go on and copy this tactic, including England for whom Maurice starred in the early Sixties.  He would have gone on to be England's centre half in the 1966 World Cup, but he was tragically injured in a friendly against a Hungarian Select XI for Spurs on 18 November 1965, when he broke his leg.  Maurice never played again for Spurs.  This was such a shame, because he was playing at the top of his game at the time and would have gone on to even greater heights.

Hugely influential, Maurice Norman was a colossus, a leader of the defence and effective in the air and tidy on the ground.  No one would be able to deny his injury was a great loss.  Only Mike England and Sol have come near to his importance since.  Maurice would have been a great asset today.


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