Richie Norman

Former Player Remembers: Richie Norman (Part One)

Newcastle-born left-back Richie Norman played 365 games for Leicester City between 1960 and 1968. All of his league games for the Club were in the top division.
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He also played in two FA Cup Finals, two League Cup Finals and in European matches. His 194 consecutive games between August 1960 and February 1964 established a then Club record. Over the years, Richie has had many conversations with Club Historian John Hutchinson about his career in football, some of which are recounted here. 

After choosing to come to Leicester rather than Arsenal, Richie made his debut at Newcastle in January 1960 in front of friends and family. Four months later, he went with team-mate Gordon Banks to Wembley to watch the FA Cup Final between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers. 

“Me and Gordon were big friends,” Richie recalled. “We got a couple of tickets to watch the 1960 Cup Final. We went in Gordon’s car which was a little Standard 8. On the way down to Wembley he nipped into the bank and said: ‘Richie, you sit in the driver’s seat and keep your foot on the accelerator otherwise it will conk out!’ That was the state we were in. When we arrived at Wembley we stood behind the goal at the tunnel end. Gordon said: ‘Wouldn’t it be great to play here? It would be smashing’. Next year we were there, trotting out at Wembley for Leicester City in an FA Cup Final. Unbelievable really!

“It was a tough run (to the 1961 Final). We always played well against (final opponents) Tottenham. Against Spurs, Ken Leek had always been an outstanding performer, and he was dropped unexpectedly at the last minute for the final. That was a bit of a mistake. It upset the team because he was a good character. He’d scored in every round. Big Maurice Norman, the Spurs centre-half, didn’t like playing against him on the deck. 

When we arrived at Wembley we stood behind the goal at the tunnel end. Gordon said: ‘Wouldn’t it be great to play here? It would be smashing’. Next year we were there, trotting out at Wembley for Leicester City in an FA Cup Final. Unbelievable really!

Richie Norman

“It wasn’t fair on young Hughie McIlmoyle, who was thrown in to replace Ken Leek. It was such a big game. Not only that but (right-back) Len Chalmers was injured early on. In those days there were no substitutes. Len had to come back on and he was hobbling about on the left wing in front of me. They had to change the team. They put Frank McLintock, who was a dynamo in our side, to right-back. Ken Keyworth, a striker, was put in McLintock’s place. We struggled on but once they scored (in the 70th minute) our legs were gone. The Wembley pitch had drained us. We came away from the final with a lot of credit though.”

Because Tottenham Hotspur won the league and cup double that year, Leicester City took their place in the following season’s European Cup Winners’ Cup. Having defeated the Northern Irish team Glenavon in the first round, Leicester were drawn against the eventual winners Atlético Madrid in the second round.

“Ken Keyworth had a goal disallowed after 20 minutes against Atlético,” Richie continued. “Their hatchet man fouled him a split second before Ken scored, but the referee blew his whistle for the foul and awarded us a free-kick instead of allowing the goal to stand! Ken scored later in the match but they equalised with about 10 minutes to go. We went to Madrid for the second leg with about three players missing. We lost 2-0 but it was a good experience playing abroad. Atlético Madrid looked after us really well. We watched Real Madrid training. Gento, Puskás and Di Stéfano put on a bit of a show for us, showing off. Gento was backheeling the ball in mid air into the goal. If I did that, I’d break my back!

It was a few years before I knew why the League Cup has three handles. Two are for the captain to receive the cup, whilst the third handle is for the presenter.

Richie Norman

“The following season, we went to the top of the league when we drew with Blackpool one night in April. We were still top with five games to go and we were favourites to beat relegation threatened Manchester on Easter Monday when I scored a 20-25 yard volley against Harry Gregg, who was one of the best goalkeepers in the world. The next day, we beat them 4-3 at Filbert Street with both Ken Keyworth and Dennis Law scoring hat-tricks. We lost to them in the FA Cup Final though when none of us played, including our big players like Gordon Banks, Frank McLintock and Davie Gibson. It was good to win silverware the following year though when we beat Stoke City. It was a few years before I knew why the League Cup has three handles. Two are for the captain to receive the cup, whilst the third handle is for the presenter.”

Mentions of Stoke City reminded Richie of when he played against Stanley Matthews who, in his prime, was the most famous footballer in England. 

“I played against Stan Matthews when he was about 47 and playing for Stoke,” Richie recalled. “I wouldn’t have liked to play against him when he was 27! He was still a quality player. He could chip in perfect crosses. You couldn’t afford to let him beat you. If he did it was a goal. The press built him up, but it was an honour to play against him. I remember a throw-in. I was behind Stan. He went to get the ball and I rushed in to get my foot in and I hit him on the back of his leg. He said: ‘Steady on Richie. I’m an old man!’ After that I was frightened to tackle him like you would a normal player.”

I was up against Haller. I’m not kidding. He never got a kick. I beat him this way and stopped him that way.

Richie Norman

Richie also reflected on other formidable opponents he faced. 

“Everybody I seemed to play against as a left-back seemed to be an international. Bryan Douglas of Blackburn was a hell of a player. Peter Lorimer (Leeds United) was difficult as was Peter Brabrook at Chelsea. Mike Summerbee (Manchester City) was a handful and Cliff Jones (Tottenham Hotspur) was a flying machine who scored lots of goals. George Best was the best, but fortunately for me he often switched to the left wing, so when I played Manchester United, it was either John Connelly (who was in the 1966 World Cup squad) or Willie Morgan that I faced. 

“I remember after the World Cup, Leicester played Borussia Dortmund. Three of West Germany’s World Cup Finalists were in their side. They were goalkeeper Hans Tilkowski, left-winger Lothar Emmerich and right-winger Helmut Haller. I was up against Haller. I’m not kidding. He never got a kick. I beat him this way and stopped him that way. I thought I could have played comfortably against him in the World Cup Final.”

Another player who made an impression on Richie was Northern Ireland international centre forward Derek Dougan, who signed for Leicester City in May 1965.

“Derek was a strong and awkward player. Our centre-half Ian King used to say: ‘When I’ve been up against Dougan, I’d get a cut eye or a broken nose’. Derek was a character. When he came to Leicester (from Peterborough United) he started very quietly but his character came out as time went on. Leicester’s management at the time were a bit stiff-collared and didn’t like anyone stepping out of line. They liked to have everything under control. One morning Derek didn’t turn up for training. They sent trainer Dave Jones to his house in Anstey to find him. Dave was a stickler, a hard man and army trained. There was no answer when he knocked the door. He looked through the letter box and could see Derek flat out on the floor. Dave sent for an ambulance. He was fine!

“Dave didn’t like him because he queried everything in training, which was very army regimented. We’d be in the gym doing exercises and then run round and round the pitch. Derek didn’t like that. He was a bit of a playboy. He got special shirts made in Blackburn and sent down to him. But do you know what car he had? A Volkswagen Beetle and he was six foot four and had his knees up when he was in it! I used to say to him, ‘Why don’t you get a decent car?’

“He left the Club suddenly. We were on a training break in Brighton after one of the London games. Saturday night was a free night but then he disappeared for the weekend. Then he appeared as large as life at breakfast on Monday morning. Dave Jones came down and said: ‘Where have you been Dougan?’ Derek said he’s been visiting friends to which Dave Jones replied: ‘This is a football club. Pack your bags and get back to Leicester’.

When the rest of us got back to Leicester on the Wednesday there was a Mercury headline: ‘Dougan signs for Wolves’. He’d gone, and we’d lost our goalscorer.”

After 10 years in the first team, Richie finally left Filbert Street in June 1968. He had lost his place to the Leeds United full-back Willie Bell, who had signed for the Club in September 1967. 

I did everything there (at Burton Albion). Like selling lottery tickets, the lot.

Richie Norman

“I couldn’t understand that signing,” Richie mused. “Willie was on his way out at Leeds. I expected to be replaced by a youngster. Willie didn’t last too long at Leicester. I could run faster than him in training.

“I signed for Peterborough at the end of the season. Peterborough had been a Third Division side but had just been relegated to the Fourth Division. They were a good team and they made me captain. My first game was against Exeter. I was up against David Pleat on the right wing. John Newman, a good friend of mine who had played for Leicester was Exeter’s manager. I started playing in grounds I’d never been to before, like Halifax, Doncaster and Wrexham. Then I pulled my hamstring. Whilst I was out of the side, they beat QPR and West Brom in the League Cup, reaching the last eight. When we were drawn against Spurs away, the manager put me back in the side for this one. It was 0-0 with 10 minutes to go. Then Spurs got a corner. I was on the goal line. Their big centre-half hit the cross bar and Jimmy Greaves put the ball into the net. I was criticised by the press and I was dropped for the next match. At the end of the season I left Peterborough and my old Leicester City team-mate Ian King signed me for Burton Albion.” 

Later, in 1969, Richie succeeded Ian King as Burton’s manager. “I did everything there,” Richie said. “Like selling lottery tickets, the lot. We broke a Southern League record by going 33 games without defeat.” 

After three and a half years at Burton, Richie then coached at Coventry City, Derby County and Northampton Town. He also had a spell coaching in Qatar. He subsequently worked as a physiotherapist for Northampton Town, Northamptonshire County Cricket Club, the England Under-19s cricket team and Kettering Town, before spending 25 years at Nuneaton Borough, who granted him a second testimonial match (the first was in 2004) in 2021. These are all stories for another time. 

Richie is still a regular spectator at King Power Stadium on match days and was recently a guest of the Club in the Directors’ Lounge for the recent match against Norwich City. 

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