Gordon Banks & Richie Norman

Former Player Remembers: Richie Norman

Richie Norman’s distinguished career as a left full-back at Leicester City between 1958 and 1968 is well documented. What is less well known is his career after he left Filbert Street. Last week, Richie sat down with Club Historian John Hutchinson and talked about his uninterrupted post-Foxes career.
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This lasted for over 50 years, during which time he was not only a football coach and manager, he was also a physio for football clubs and for elite cricket, working with Northamptonshire CCC and being part of the England cricket set-up. 

Richie began by reflecting on the reasons why he left Leicester City in 1968 after playing 365 games.

“It was weird really when I left Leicester after 10 years, during which I played all my league games in the old First Division as well as playing in cup finals and in Europe,” he said.

“The players I had played with during the early 1960s were leaving, one by one. From the 1961 FA Cup Final team for example, Gordon [Banks] went. So did Len Chalmers, Frank McLintock, Ian King, Colin Appleton, Howard Riley, Ken Keyworth, Jimmy Walsh and Albert Cheesebrough along with several others.

“Until they signed Willie Bell from Leeds in 1968 for a lot of money, I was still playing in the first team... I didn’t really want to leave Leicester but it was time to go. Towards the end of the season, Leicester said: ‘You’ve been a good servant’ and gave me a cheque.

“Clubs like Peterborough, Walsall and Mansfield came knocking. I went to Peterborough to play against a select team. I had a good game. They said they wanted to sign me and make me captain. They had just been relegated to the Fourth Division for paying the Peterborough players a bonus in the FA Cup which they shouldn’t have paid.

“Peterborough wasn’t too far from home. They were a good side with a nice set-up and favourites to get promoted.

“The first game I played for them was against Exeter and I was in direct opposition against their winger David Pleat. Unfortunately, after about two or three games, I pulled a hamstring at Doncaster. It ruined my season. I was captain and couldn’t do anything. I’d only ever been injured once at Leicester! Peterborough didn’t really have the facilities for treatment and it took me ages to get back. It was really frustrating.

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Richie Norman
Richie Norman

Richie Norman became a popular member of an exciting Leicester City team.

“I left at the end of the season. Then Nuneaton Borough phoned me up to ask me to play for them against Derby, who had just been promoted from the Second Division. After the game, they asked me to sign for them. I said I’d wait and let them know after the weekend. Then, on the Sunday, Ian King asked me to go to join Burton Albion, where he was manager. I’d played in defence with him for years at Leicester. Burton was easy to get to from home and was offering more money, so I signed for them (in July 1969). However, Ian got the sack by Christmas and I was given the job as player-manager. Ian joked: ‘I signed you, got the sack and now you’ve got my job!’

“The club was in a bad way. Wages weren’t being paid and there was the threat that the FA would chuck us out of the league if we didn’t pay. Anyway, the team started picking up. I knew the local soccer scene. I signed Howard [Riley], Micky Allsopp, a goalkeeper who was only about 19, a right-back from Enderby Town and a centre-forward from Wigston.

“The finances were progressively improving. It was hard work. I was the manager. I was playing. I was coaching and, during the day, I was organising the lottery, which was one of the best around, and collecting the money from the pubs and clubs.

“Results were good. I think we went 32 games without getting beaten. We were promoted (in 1972) to the Southern League Premier Division and we had good runs in the FA Trophy.”

After three and a half years, Richie resigned.

He explained: “The directors were falling out with the Supporters’ Club and I got offered the job of youth coach at Coventry with Gordon Milne and Joe Mercer. I enjoyed my two years there, coaching players like Willie Carr, Dennis Mortimer and Les Sealey, who went to Manchester United. We had a good scouting system at Coventry. I trained the players every day and they lived in a hostel run by a couple near to the Highfield Road ground.

“When my contract ended, I got a phone call from Derby’s reserve team coach. I’d met him at Lilleshall when Leicester had paid for me, Jimmy Goodfellow and Frank McLintock to study for our coaching badges there. Brain Clough had just left Derby and taken his staff with him and the club had a vacancy for a youth team coach.

“Dave Mackay was the manager. I’d known him for years personally. I’d played against him many times, including an FA Cup Final, and he’d seen what I’d done at Burton and Coventry. We had a chat and he offered me the job.

“I was at Derby for nine years. When Dave won the league title with Derby in 1975, I was in Africa on a three-week tour with the Under-19s team to Zimbabwe. Also on the tour was a director and the chief scout, Bert Johnson, who had been assistant manager all the time I’d been at Filbert Street.

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Richie Norman
Richie Norman

Meeting Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh ahead of the 1963 FA Cup Final.

“We played six games there, won five and drew one. When Derby won the title in 1975, I was sitting in the warm having a drink by the Victoria Falls waiting for the result to come through. You could hear the Falls in the background. When we heard that Derby had won the league, there was champagne all round!

“Later, I got moved up to be the reserve team coach. We had some great players at Derby. David Nish and Rod Thomas were full-backs. Colin Todd and Roy McFarland were England’s centre-backs. Then there was Archie Gemmill, Bruce Rioch, Charlie George and Leighton James. Gordon Hill came from Manchester United when Tommy Docherty became manager. I was among football royalty and I was training and coaching them.

“Tommy Docherty loved me. When he left to go to Queens Park Rangers, he wanted me to go with him but I didn’t want to move my family and, anyway, Tommy was only there for four months!”

In November 1982, Peter Taylor, Brian Clough’s assistant manager returned to the Baseball Ground as manager.

“My reserve team was near the top of the league and then he told me that was bringing in Roy McFarland back to Derby,” Richie continued. “Roy was manager at Bradford and had wanted me to go with him when he’d taken that job but I didn’t want to move. And then Peter Taylor brought him back to Derby and I lost out.

“That’s when I moved to Northampton. A few clubs came in for me to be their coach, but Clive Walker (who had been Richie’s understudy at Filbert Street) was manager there and he asked me to become his assistant and I accepted.

“After about six months, I thought: ‘The club never have any money and if anything goes wrong I’m out of a job.’ So I decided to go to Lilleshall and study to be a physio. I’d already done a first aid course to get the basics. The top doctors were at Lilleshall and I started watching operations and learning about Achilles tendons and hamstrings and all that.

“I went to Lilleshall twice a year in the summer and for two courses in the winter and then I got my diploma. I now had experience and qualifications for what I wanted to do. I thought it would keep me in the game longer than if I’d kept on coaching.

“I was still at Northampton Town. Graham Carr was the manager. I’m very friendly with Graham and his son, the comedian Alan Carr, and his other son.  

“One day I got a phone call from Northamptonshire County Cricket Club who shared the ground with the football club, with no boundary between them. Their physio was retiring at the end of the season and they wanted me to help out just for the day. I went over and did the physio and then they offered me a contract. This meant that I ended up doing the football in the winter and the cricket in the summer.

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Richie Norman
Richie Norman

A testimonial match at Nuneaton Borough this summer after 25 years of service.

“At that time, Northants were a top team. Allan Lamb, Wayne Larkins, Nick Cook, Jeff Cook and David Capel all played for England. I used to drive to games with Allan Lamb, who was the captain, because he wanted to talk about who was injured and who wasn’t.

“I heard that I was in line for the England cricket physio’s job, and I did become the England Under-19s – or was it Under-21s?! – physio and a lot of them became top England players. I also treated someone who was royalty and have a certificate which says ‘By Royal Appointment.’

“I was at Northants for about nine years. I was leaving at eight in the morning, driving to Northampton and also to away matches and staying overnight for four-day games. Also, I found myself looking after opposition players too because other clubs often didn’t bring their physios with them. They paid me extra which was fair enough. That’s how I got on with Mike Gatting, Ian Botham and Dennis Lillee. I was often working from eight in the morning until nine at night.

“By that time, I’d left Northampton Town Football Club and had gone to Kettering Town, on a part-time basis. Their manager, the ex-Ipswich player Peter Morris, saw what I was doing with the cricket and asked me to be their physio in the winter, which suited me fine. Then my friend Graham Carr, a Geordie like me, became Kettering’s manager and I worked with him.

“In the end, the cricket was getting a bit much. I was getting on a bit and doing a lot of driving to and from matches so I left Northants, who have since made me a life member of the club.

“When Gary Johnson became Kettering’s manager in 1995, he brought in his son as the physio, so I left. No sooner had I left, I got a phone call from Brendan Phillips, who asked me to become physio at Nuneaton Borough, and I stayed there for 25 years.

“In 2004, Nuneaton gave me a testimonial for 10 years’ service. Leicester’s manager Micky Adams brought his first team to play at Nuneaton for my testimonial match only days after they had played Arsenal in the last match of the season. His assistant, Alan Cork, had been one of my young players at Derby.”

Richie continued as Nuneaton Borough’s physio for 25 years and he was rewarded with another testimonial match last month when Nuneaton Legends played Nuneaton All-Stars at Nuneaton’s Liberty Way Stadium. He is also in line to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the FA.

Richie has spent many decades working in football and cricket as a player, coach, manager and physio. He is still a regular at King Power Stadium for Leicester City’s home matches and we look forward to seeing him supporting the Foxes again throughout the coming season.

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