Richie Norman

Former Player Remembers: Richie Norman

In one of his conversations with Club Historian John Hutchinson, Richie Norman provided a fascinating insight into how, as a lad from Newcastle, he made a career in football at the highest level with Leicester City.
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City legend Richie, a left full-back, played 365 games for the Club between 1960 and 1968. He first came to prominence as captain of the Newcastle district of Newburn’s Schools team, which reached the English Schools’ Shield semi-final in 1950/51.

He then went on to play for Northumberland Boys and the North Eastern sides of Newburn, Ferryhill and Horden Colliery.

As a youngster he was a Newcastle United supporter at a time when they were FA Cup winners in 1951, 1952 and 1955. His heroes at the time included Joe Harvey, George Robledo and Jackie Milburn.

Richie signed for Leicester in November 1958 and went onto to make 365 appearances for the Club. He made his debut in January 1960 against, of all teams, his beloved Newcastle at St. James’ Park. He was an ever-present in the famous ‘Ice Kings’ team which came close to winning a league and FA Cup double in 1963, played in two FA Cup Finals, starred in Europe, and was also a League Cup winner in 1964 and a finalist in 1965.

Richie started by recalling how his distinguished football career began in the suburbs of Newcastle: “My school was in Newburn, a suburb of Newcastle. There were only about eight schools in the area, but playing against much bigger areas with more schools to choose from, we reached semi-finals of the English Schools Shield. We lost to Brierly Hill. 

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Newburn Schools 1950/51

Norman played for Newburn Schools in the 1950/51 English Schools' Shield, reaching the semi-finals.

"Their captain was Trevor Smith, who later played for England and Birmingham City. In an earlier round, we travelled to Chesterfield. We caught the same train as the Newcastle United team, who had a match at Stoke. Just before we left Newcastle Central station, as captain of our team, I shook hands with Joe Harvey, Newcastle’s skipper, and we wished each other the best of luck. We both won! 

"Joe Harvey was an icon up there. I have a photograph of this somewhere but I can’t lay my hands on it! A crowd of about 200 gathered at the station to see us off, and the Lord Mayor came with us.

“The semi-final itself was at Brierly Hill. We had to play at their place, it wasn’t a two legged tie. If we had won, we would have had the final at St. James’ Park.

“In our side were four players (including myself) who became professional footballers: Tom Brown, who went to Middlesbrough, Cyril Westwood, who was my best man when I got married, and Les Dodds, who went to Sunderland.

I was only small and when you got in the ground, with 50,000 there every week, you couldn’t see a thing. The only way you could see was to get passed to the front and be sat on the track around the pitch.

Richie Norman

“A formal photograph (pictured) of our semi-final team was taken at Newburn FC’s Grange Park Ground. Mr. Prendergast in the picture was the teacher who really started me off in football. I am the player with the ball at his feet.

“As a kid, I was black and white throughout. Newcastle United was all I could think of, especially as they won all three cup finals. I was about 10 when I first went to St. James’ Park. I was football daft. I couldn’t afford to go to any of Newcastle’s cup finals but I went to watch one of them at my auntie’s on one of those TVs with a small screen with a big wooden surround.

"We didn’t have a TV at home but my auntie’s husband was a travelling salesman, who was always wearing posh suits. They lived in Gosforth, a nice part of Newcastle.

“As a schoolboy on the terraces, I used go down with a couple of other lads. We would be passed down from the back over the crowd’s heads. I was only small and when you got in the ground, with 50,000 there every week, you couldn’t see a thing. The only way you could see was to get passed to the front and be sat on the track around the pitch.

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Leicester City 1960/61

Norman was part of the Leicester City side that reached the FA Cup Final in 1961.

“My favourite player was Jackie Milburn. He was wonderful to watch for his style, elegance, flair and goalscoring. The goalkeeper was Ronnie Simpson, who later won the European Cup with Celtic. My team was Ronnie Simpson, Bobby Cowell, Alf McMichael, Ron Batty, Joe Harvey, Frank Brennan, Charlie Crowe, Tom Casey, Tommy Walker, Len White, Jackie Milburn, Bobby Mitchell and George Robledo.

“I remember sitting on the track as a kid in an FA Cup tie, and Newcastle were 2-0 down against Aston Villa at half-time. I was right where Bobby Mitchell was playing on the left wing, kicking towards the Gallowgate End. He turned their right back big Stan Lynn inside out. He crossed the ball to make it 2-1. Then he did it again: 2-2. Then he scored himself: 3-2. We beat them in the end 4-2, he won the game by himself. Jackie Milburn didn’t have to do anything that day.

“I always had the feeling that I was going to end up being a footballer. That’s all I wanted to be. I left school at 15 to work in the chemist’s department at the Co-Op. I was playing for Newburn’s first team in the Northern Alliance and they put me in the men’s team.

"I was a left sided midfielder to start with. They said that football was too strong for me in midfield so they moved me to left-back to get me out of the way for a bit and that’s how I became a left back.

Leicester wanted to sign me but Ferryhill wanted to get a fee, but they couldn’t do this because I wasn’t a professional. I was an amateur, getting expenses, so I had to turn professional.

Richie Norman

“My ambition was always to play for Newcastle but it wasn’t happening, I don’t quite know why. For some reason, I was not grabbed. There were so many footballers up there. Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough could just take their pick. There was another lad called Geoff Strong (later of Arsenal and Liverpool) who lived in the same street and played in the same Northern League as me.

“I wasn’t too long at Newburn, which was a rough and tumble team, I wasn’t that type of player. I left when I was about 17 or 18. I was recommended by a scout to go to Ferryhill, which was in the Durham, Bishop Auckland area. They signed me on and I got straight into the team. I spent two seasons there, the team did well.

“I was playing well and I got a letter from the chairman at Bishop Auckland (the leading amateur side in England at the time), who was also chairman of the FA. He asked me to play for them. He said he could guarantee me an England amateur cap, and if I wanted, later, he could guarantee me a league club.

“But I didn’t want to leave Ferryhill. In the end, this paid off because scouts started to come to Ferryhill. The scout who spotted me there was called Ronnie Turnbull. He was Leicester’s chief scout in the North East. He had played for Sunderland as had David Halliday, who was Leicester’s manager at the time. Ronnie was a well-known centre-forward. He got in touch and asked me if I would like to go down to Leicester, he was connected to Horden Colliery FC.

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Richie Norman, Gordon Banks & Denis Law

Norman watches on as Manchester United's Denis Law tries to take the ball past Foxes 'keeper Gordon Banks during the 1963 FA Cup Final at Wembley.

"He told me that Leicester wanted to sign me but that Ferryhill wanted to get a fee, but they couldn’t do this because I wasn’t a professional. I was an amateur, getting expenses, so I had to turn professional. This is why I signed for Horden as a professional.  

“I was only there for about three months and then I was signed for Leicester by Halliday at the Newcastle Central Hotel. Before I signed, I’d played in their reserves on trial. The team was Johnny Anderson, Stan Milburn (Jackie Milburn’s cousin) and me, Eddie Russell, Gordon Fincham, Pat Ward, Howard Riley, Jimmy Walsh, Derek Hine, Ian McNeill and Billy Wright. It was a strong side, but I fitted in and they signed me. Six of that team were soon in the first team.

“At the time I signed for Leicester, Arsenal wanted to sign me and Geoff Strong. Sunderland and Middlesbrough were also knocking on the door. Arsenal wanted to put me and my mate Geoff Strong in digs together in London. The reason I chose Leicester was because I’d looked at their situation, they were very much an up and down team. I signed for them, even though I didn’t know a soul down there, because I thought I would get a better chance at Leicester.

“If you think about Leicester then, Gordon Banks came from Chesterfield just after me, and there was Len Chalmers, Frank McLintock, Ian King and Colin Appleton. We were all round about the same age, give or take a year. Jimmy Walsh, Ken Keyworth and Ken Leek were a bit older.”

By an astonishing coincidence, as well as making my debut against Newcastle, I was only two games off making my 300th appearance against Newcastle too, in April 1966.

Richie Norman

Richie established a new Club record by playing in 194 consecutive games between April 1960 and February 1964. This was in the days before substitutes, so he started in each of these games.

“I was disappointed not to get to 200 consecutive games but I was injured against Nottingham Forest," he recalled. "By an astonishing coincidence, as well as making my debut against Newcastle, I was only two games off making my 300th appearance against Newcastle too, in April 1966.”

That milestone came two games later (against West Bromwich Albion). After 10 years at Filbert Street, all of which were in the old First Division, Richie signed for Peterborough United in June 1968. While at Filbert Street, Richie had played in two FA Cup Finals and two League Cup Finals.

He was a League Cup winner in 1964 and he also played in the European Cup Winners’ Cup.

In 1969, Richie became player-manager of Burton Albion and then coached at Derby County and Northampton Town.

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Richie Norman & Albert Quixall

Norman battles for the ball with United's Albert Quixall during the 1963 showpiece at the national stadium.

He explained: “I trained as a physiotherapist when I went to Northampton Town, who shared a ground in those days with Northants County Cricket Club. That’s how I got to be physio at the cricket club. One of my highlights as a cricket physio was to be picked to look after the England Under-19s. I enjoy being a physio.

"I also worked at Kettering Town, that’s why I’ve stayed in the game. I enjoy working with the players and that’s what has kept me on the ball. For many years, I also worked as physio at Nuneaton Town.”

Before the pandemic, Richie was a regular spectator at King Power Stadium on matchdays and we look forward to seeing him again next season.

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