Maurice Norman obituary

<span>Photograph: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

The footballer Maurice Norman, a tall, powerfully built defender, who has died aged 88, was a mainstay of Tottenham Hotspur’s famous double-winning team of 1960-61 and played 23 times for England – including in the 1962 World Cup – before his career was ended prematurely by injury in a friendly match in 1965.

While at Spurs, Norman played first at right-back and then more notably at centre-half, where he was dominating in the air and a powerful tackler on the ground. He played his first game for the north London club in 1955, and remained at White Hart Lane for a decade, making 411 appearances, 357 of them in the league.

In the process he became a key member of Bill Nicholson’s great side that won both Division One and the FA Cup in 1960-61, retained the FA Cup in 1962 and won the 1963 European Cup Winners’ Cup final (5-1 against Atlético Madrid).

Maurice Norman, back row, second from right, with the Tottenham Hotspur 1961-62 squad at their Hertfordshire training ground, with the Football League championship trophy and the FA Cup.
Maurice Norman, back row, second from right, with the Tottenham Hotspur 1961-62 squad at their Hertfordshire training ground, with the Football League championship trophy and the FA Cup. Photograph: PA

Born in Mulbarton, Norfolk, Norman played for Norfolk Schools and started with the local junior side, Mulbarton FC, and Wymondham Minors FC. He was spotted by a Norwich City scout playing on the Mulbarton village green and was signed up in 1952. The Norwich manager Norman Low, himself once a useful centre half, extolled him as “the best Norwich discovery since Alf Kitchen”, referring to a famed outside-right of the 1930s and 40s.

Norman was then working as a farm hand but was able to pursue his footballing dreams thanks to a generous employer, who gave him time off to play. In 1998 he told the Eastern Daily Press: “There were times when I’d play for Norwich, miss the last bus back and have to walk the five miles back home. I’d be feeding pigs at midnight.”

Maurice Norman, left, for Tottenham Hotspur attempts to halt Chelsea’s 17-year-old star Jimmy Greaves in a Division One match at White Hart Lane, August 1957.
Maurice Norman, left, for Tottenham Hotspur attempts to halt Chelsea’s 17-year-old star Jimmy Greaves in a Division One match at White Hart Lane, August 1957. Photograph: Popperfoto/Getty Images

In 1955, after 35 league appearances for Norwich, Norman was transferred for the substantial sum of £28,000 to Spurs, where his team-mates fondly nicknamed him “the Swede” because of his agricultural background. In an interview to mark his 80th birthday in 2014, Norman recalled arriving for his first match that November: “Until then, I had never been to London and it was very strange finding my way around. Then, when I walked into the dressing room for the first time and saw the other players, many of whom were internationals, I really wondered what I was doing there. I really was overawed.”

He was a member of the England squad for the 1958 World Cup finals in Sweden, but did not get a game and had to wait another four years before he was at last capped for England, in the same game that saw the England debut of the future World Cup-winning captain, Bobby Moore. That was a friendly against Peru in Lima on the way to the 1962 World Cup finals in Chile, in which both players would figure.

Norman played in all England’s four games there. In the last, against Brazil, in the quarter final in Viña del Mar, he was famously outjumped at a corner by the remarkable Brazilian winger Garrincha, at 5ft 7in, who headed his team’s first goal. He would keep his England place until December 1964.

Norman described his Spurs double-winning team-mates as “like one happy family”, and thought that continuity played a large part in their success: “I think we felt almost invincible. We rarely looked at a team sheet to see who we would be playing because we had only used 15 players during those seasons.”

Alas, his White Hart Lane career came to a miserable end in the course of a game against a Hungarian Select XI, in November 1965, when Norman broke his left leg. After a year in plaster, followed by an operation in which his leg was rebroken, in 1967 he announced his retirement.

Thereafter Norman worked in various jobs: at a petrol station in Southgate, north London; as a mail order sports outfitter in Frinton on Sea, Essex, where, with his wife, Jacqueline, he also ran a haberdashery outlet, the Wool Shop; and as a gardener at Wickham Market in Suffolk.

He is survived by Jacqueline (nee Knight), a former nurse, whom he married in 1961, and their son, Michael, and daughter, Johanna, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

• Maurice Norman, footballer, born 8 May 1934; died 27 November 2022