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Maurice at 80 - a special Q&A, Part 5

Posted on 6 June 2014  - 15:45

Legendary double-winning defender Maurice Norman turned 80 last month.

maurice730

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 our fifth and final part today and with the World Cup fast approaching, we asked Maurice about his experiences with the England squad in Sweden 1958 and Chile 1962...

You went to the World Cup as part of the England squad in 1958. What do you remember about that experience? What was it like to be with Bobby Smith, your Spurs team-mate?

Maurice: "I had already played in the Under-23s for England, so already knew many of the players. I went out in 1958 to Sweden thinking I would probably get my chance of a game but although Billy Wright had some stomach problems, he was still fit enough to play. We were able to watch other teams including Brazil and of course, the young Pele, and we were enthralled. As I had joined Spurs in 1955, I already knew Bobby Smith and we usually roomed together when playing away matches, but in Sweden I was paired with Derek Kevan. Bobby was nicknamed 'The Tank' as he was very adept at bundling the goalkeeper and ball into the net. It was legal then and often resulted in a goal."

Some of England's greats were in that squad - Billy Wright, Tom Finney, Johnny Haynes, Bobby Charlton - what were they like?  

Maurice: "Billy Wright captained the team and was always approachable and talked to me a lot about the possibility of taking over his role one day, and we talked tactics. Billy was not that tall, about 5ft 9ins and said that height and strength were not everything, positional sense was more important and good directional passes. Tom Finney, who was to become a life-long friend and played in my XI team against Enfield as a testimonial for me in 1967, was one of the greatest wingers of all time and a lovely man. When playing against him, I found it so difficult because he was able to take the ball away from me instead of coming onto me as other players normally did. Johnny Haynes always wanted the ball, was always calling for the ball and at hand to pass to. He was very keen. Bobby Charlton could play on the left wing or if needed at centre forward. He was quiet but friendly and like myself, fairly new to the squad. He was still coming to terms with the Munich Disaster."

Below: Brazil greats Garrincha and Pele

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Pele made his name in that tournament. Can you remember the Brazil team with players like Garrincha and Didi as well? England drew 0-0 with them in the group stage.

Maurice: "Brazil were becoming one of the greatest teams in the world at this time. We were naturally in awe of them and the way they played and although Pele was only 17, he stood out as a remarkable young player for the future. Garrincha, nicknamed 'Little Bird', with his odd legs (one shorter than the other) came up with the 'banana kick', which meant he could bend the ball around the wall or a player and that was new to us all. Didi, Vava and the Santos brothers were all in this Brazilian team and I would find myself playing against them in World Cup 1962 in Chile. They were older then but so formidable."

You finally won your first cap against Peru in 1962. Can you remember that? It must have been a very proud moment.

Maurice: "After Sweden 1958, I was so disappointed that when Billy Wright finally hung up his boots, I did not then automatically get a place in the England team. They tried Brian Labone, Joe Shaw and Peter Swan before finally settling on Peter Swan at centre-half. In 1962, I was picked in the squad for the Chile World Cup, then just before we flew out to Peru for a warm-up match on our way to Chile, I was told I would be playing as Peter Swan was ill. I remember the match well. It was of course fantastic to pull on the full England shirt at last, I was 28 by then. Bobby Moore was also getting his first cap, although he was only 21. During the match we were all aware of the heat. In fact, we were lucky not to suffer from heat stroke - in those days you were not allowed to take in water during playing time. I lost half a stone in weight and we were all de-hydrated. We won 4-0."

You then went to the World Cup in Chile. What was that like? It must have been tough in South America.

Maurice: "We were up in the mountains in a disused copper mining camp - 'Coya Camp', some 8,000 feet above sea level. There was no interaction with the outside world, no communication, just a bus in and out each day. There were no proper facilities to keep us amused and we slept in miners' cabins, which were very frugal."

England got through the group stage but lost to Brazil in the quarter-finals. Brazil went on to win it. What are your memories of the tournament?

Maurice: "Arriving in Chile was a real eye-opener for us and it had a profound effect on me, the differences between the native population who lived in such poverty and yet yards down the road, 'others' lived in the lap of luxury. We played first against Hungary with only a small crowd to watch.  The atmosphere was lacking, they played well, we lost 2-1 and were disappointed. Two days later, we played Argentina and we had to win or go home! We knew they were a very physical side and that it would be a hard match. We arrived only 40 minutes before kick-off because of a delay behind goods wagons on the train line. It was so hot and humid but at least there was a better crowd, we played really well and won 3-1. Our final group game was against Bulgaria. It was not a good match to watch because they only wanted to defend and rarely came over the half-way line and we drew 0-0. Brazil were our opponents in the next round and although Pele was injured they still had greats such as Didi, Vava, Amarildo, Zagallo and Garrincha. Although our confidence was quite high we knew we would have to play really well to succeed, but we lost 3-1. The heat, the noise, the incessant beat of the drums - we were out!"

Below: Maurice (second from top) and team-mate Jimmy Greaves (fourth from top) with the England boarding for the 1962 World Cup in Chile

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As we mentioned earlier, you made your England debut alongside Bobby Moore and he was in that 1962 squad. What are your thoughts on him?

Maurice: "At the beginning, he was underestimated. He had strong positional sense and was dependable, determined and had youth on his side. He could read the game well and as he developed, he became calmer and showed many good skills, especially in his distribution. Many of us felt he would remain in the team for years to come."

England would win the World Cup in 1966. In 1962, was there a sense that England could do it, on home soil, four years later?

Maurice: "We did quite well in Chile in 1962 and there was talk of the possibility of doing better and maybe even winning at home in 1966. However, many of the team were becoming a little too old, so there would have to be changes. Also, a new manager was installed, Alf Ramsey. So there would be new ideas, new challenges and new tactics."

You have been to two World Cups - how proud of you of that achievement?

Maurice: "Yes, I was at two World Cups, 1958 and 1962 and was probably have been at the next World Cup in 1966 in England had I not broken my leg in 1965. Alf Ramsey told me later that I would at least have been in the squad. However, breaking my leg in a friendly at White Hart Lane put paid to that chance. I came from a very humble background, born in a cottage in a small village just outside Norwich with no electrity, gas or water installed (we used a village pump for water, candles for light and had a toilet at the end of the back garden). I went to the village school but did not always attend because I preferred to play on the village common. I knew what I was to become - a footballer!"

England go back to South America this summer and Brazil for the 2014 World Cup. How difficult will it be in South America in June and July? How do you think England will fare? Who do you think will win it?

Maurice: "England in South America this summer will be so much more than a football tournament. The heat, the fanatical fans, the stadia, the food, the surroundings will all play a part. The South American fans are always so excitable. Knowing Brazil, they are bound to be in the final mix, although I feel the Argentinians could go far with the likes of Messi and Tevez in the team."