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Maurice at 80 - a special Q&A, Part 4

Posted on 5 June 2014  - 16:30

The legendary Maurice Norman turned 80 last month.

Maurice and the Double teamMaurice introduced to HRH Prince Philip ahead of the 1962 FA Cup Final

The defensive rock of our double-winning team and an England international who played at the 1962 World Cup, Maurice made 411 appearances for us between 1955 and 1965, when his career was cruelly cut short by injury.

To mark reaching his personal milestone, we asked Maurice to reflect on his glory, glory days with Spurs and his experiences with the England squad at the World Cup in Chile.

His answers to 40 questions - 30 on Spurs, 10 on England - provide a fascinating insight into the career of one of Spurs' and England's greats, almost 60 years after he first walked through the gates at the Lane.

In Part Four, Maurice recalls the moment every player dreads - being told his career was over.

That's where we start...

Unfortunately, you were forced to retire after breaking your leg, eventually calling it a day at the age of 33. What do you remember about the injury? It must have been a huge blow. Can you remember how it felt to be told 'that's it'?

Maurice: "I'd had to revert to right full-back because the club purchased Laurie Brown from Arsenal to play centre-forward but as it didn't work out, they asked me to go to full-back so Laurie could play centre-half! During a friendly match at White Hart Lane in November, 1965, I broke my leg badly. The bones in my lower leg were smashed. I was taken to local hospital and put in plaster and a month later, I came home to a bed downstairs on complete bed rest. This meant never getting out of bed, no crutches and my children - Michael (then three years, three months) and Johanna (eight months) - were quite confused by all this. Jacqueline, who had been a nurse before we married, was able to look after me. Cecil Poynton (physio) came to exercise my good leg three times a week.

"I was still in bed in 1966 when the World Cup came around and I watched on TV. Kenneth Wolstenholme, the commentator, sent me the good wishes of the team via the TV. My leg would not heal, as the bones kept slipping. After almost a year when the final plaster was removed, my leg was deformed, much shorter and very ugly. Bill Nicholson arranged for me to see a consultant in Harley Street who said I needed to have two bones in my lower leg re-broken, one higher and one lower than the original injury and for chips of bone from my pelvis to be grafted on to the front of my leg. I needed such a radical operation because my my leg was one and a half inches shorter than it should have been and because I did not want to limp. I had already begun to have problems with my spine and the consultant was worried about paralysis in later life.

"So I underwent the operation and after a couple of weeks I was allowed up and about on crutches, eventually out of plaster (this was now the summer of 1967) and I was as good as I'd ever be. The club said they did not tell the press the full extent of my injury because they wanted to 'pressure' other clubs into thinking I would play again. But it was already over two years and I was never going to be able to play again, even the consultant said there was no way.

"I cannot put into words how it felt. My football life was gone."

Below: Bill Nicholson with championship trophy and FA Cup, 1961

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Bill Nicholson went on to manage the club until 1974. Can you tell us what Bill Nicholson meant to the club and his players?

Maurice: "Again, it is often only after a person has gone that we appreciate just what they have meant to you and the club. I had played behind Bill when I first joined Spurs in 1955, he had been England coach when I was with the England team and was manager of Spurs in all the great years and into what turned out to be my latter days. Bill was probably one of the greatest managers of English football in those days, along with Bill Shankly and Matt Busby. He had to have things done right and it was his foresight that brought together and moulded the Double team. We remained good friends up until he passed away and whenever I went to a match at White Hart Lane I would always call at Bill's and have a cup of tea with him and Darkie and naturally, we always talked about football."

How do you look back at your fantastic career?

Maurice: "Naturally, I look back with a lot of pride. To have had 12 years with Spurs and all the success. To have played for my country and achieved 23 England caps. To have travelled and seen some of the good and the bad in the world. I have played on Copacobana Beach with the local lads and have walked up to the top of the mountain upon which the statue of Christ stands in Rio. I've passed through 'Check Point Charlie' from West to East Germany when the 'wall' was still there and seen the places where people died trying to escape to freedom in the west. I've seen and played inside Russia, seen Red Square, the Kremlin and St Basil's Cathedral. I've seen how people have to live in such poverty, been accosted by people asking for money or clothes and seen Armies and Police on the streets with guns, never being allowed out of our hotels alone. I enjoyed Israel but could hear the war guns over the valley and in South Africa, we were told not to leave our coach should it break down in any of the Townships.

"I feel extremely fortunate to have achieved so much from being born in a village cottage to have gone right to the top of my chosen career. My only sadness is that I would have loved to have returned to Norwich and finished my career with them. I suppose I'm still a Norfolk countryman at heart."

Do you keep in touch with your former team-mates?

Maurice: "Yes, Jacqueline and I have always kept in touch with the Double team and some of the 1950's Push and Run team until they passed away, and we keep in touch with several of those who arrived in the next era of the club. It is so very sad that most of the original Double side have passed away or are in ill health, but of course age catches up with us all!"

norman cartoon730

You were back at White Hart Lane for our 50th anniversary of the Double in 2011. How do you feel when you come back to the stadium? What memories stir?

Maurice: "Returning to Tottenham and White Hart Lane has always been so uplifting. Before I even reach the stadium people are always banging on the car, calling me by my nicknames of 'Monty' or 'Mo'. Most are too young to have seen me play but they still remember. It is wonderful that so many fans still want autographs, even asking from abroad! And I'm so surprised at the amount of entries there are on the Internet (I do not have a computer, but my family do). Walking onto the pitch is truly wonderful, especially with the other lads from the team. How can anyone feel old with such support?"

How are you feeling at the moment? Fans would love to know. And finally, how does it feel to hit the big 80?

Maurice: "All my life - except for injuries - I have kept exceedingly fit and well, playing golf, gardening, walking our dog and doing my weights. But since December, 2012, I have been rather ill with several medical problems attacking me at once. But with the help and diligence of the doctors and my wife I am improving again. Like most people, I have never felt my age in my head and naturally, often think of times past. But I have my family, my children, my grandchildren and now a great grandson. I am very grateful for the life I have lived, where I have been and the people I have known."

Tomorrow: In our fifth and final part of the Q&A, we turn our attention to England and Maurice's international career which included being named in squads for two World Cups and making his debut alongside a certain Bobby Moore...