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Maurice at 80 - a special Q&A, Part 1

Posted by Tottenham Hotspur on 2 June 2014  - 15:45

The legendary Maurice Norman turned 80 last month.

Maurice, right, in action against Birmingham at the Lane - February, 1956Maurice, centre, with his double-winning team-mates and Bill Nicholson

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.

We are running his Q&A this week, starting with his early days at Spurs...

How did you first get into football all those years ago? Did Norwich sign you after a scout had watched you play for Norfolk Schools?

Maurice: "I always 'knew' I would be a footballer. I know most boys want to be the next Greaves, Pele or Best but I had a feeling deep inside that nothing else would do for me. I played for my school and a local club called Wymondham Minors. I was tall and big for my age and so had an advantage over the other boys. Also, I lived in a small village called Mulbarton with a large village common where I spent hours of my life kicking a football about (this football was a pig's bladder stuffed with newspaper and I only had my first 'football boots' when I was about 12, these were ordinary boots with studs in) playing with my pals. Often I played at centre-forward and inside-left and I was spotted by a Norwich City scout when playing in the final of a cup with Wymondham Minors. I scored two goals that day at inside-forward."

When did you find out about Spurs' interest?

Maurice: "I only knew about Spurs' interest in me when I was called into Tom Parker's (Norwich manager) office. He advised me to take the offer - a transfer fee of £18,000 plus a swap with Johnny Gavin, who wanted to return to Norwich. Tom Parker said he needed transfer money to build floodlights as at the time, Norwich did not have any. It was a complete surprise to me. I was enjoying playing for Norwich and my Dad was always watched me from the terraces."

Was it a surprise, as you'd only played 35 games for Norwich?

Maurice: "As I said, a complete surprise. I felt a little anxious. Would I be good enough? It was strange to be leaving the village and the countryside, but I was also excited about the future."

Can you remember your first visit to White Hart Lane?

Maurice: "My first visit to White Hart Lane and my first match was on November 11, 1955 against Cardiff City. I had to travel up by train, then catch a bus and find my way to the ground. Until then, I had never been to London and it was very strange finding my way around. Then, when I walked into the dressing room for the first time and saw the other players, many of whom were
internationals, I really wondered what I was doing there! I really was overawed."

Arthur Rowe retired in April, 1955, so it was Jimmy Anderson who signed you for Spurs. Can you remember your first meeting?

Maurice: "Yes, I remember. He was 'old school', strict and expected to be 'obeyed'. When I was injured he would not let me go home to the village at weekends. I had to remain and get treatment. Although I was enjoying my football, I always wanted to get home to the country to walk through the woods, to think through the last match and my participation in the game."

You were brought in to replace Alf Ramsey at full-back. He was an England international who had won back-to-back titles in 1950, 1951 in the famous 'push and run' team. Was there a lot of pressure on you to perform?

Maurice: "The other players were so friendly and welcoming that I felt quite re-assured and just wanted to start the match and get on the pitch. Naturally, it felt odd to be taking Alf Ramsey's place, after all, he was a great Spurs and England player and was to become England manager in the 1960s, when he brought me back into the England squad for the 1962 World Cup in Chile."

Below: Maurice pictured in the club's 1956-57 handbook...

maurice_1955_instory

Your debut was against Cardiff City at home on November 11, 1955. Can you remember that day? How did it feel to pull on our famous white shirt for the first time?

Maurice: "I was so overawed by the players around me. They all shook hands with me and wished me well. I changed beside the legend that was Ted Ditchburn, one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time and a true gentleman - we kept in touch until he passed away. Bill Nicholson and Eddie Baily were also in the team that day."

You eventually moved position to centre-half in the 1956-57 season. How did you find the change of position?

Maurice: "When at least I was moved to centre-half I felt I had really arrived into the position I had always been meant to play and I began to really enjoy my football. I know my performances improved. But I would always play full-back if the manager required me to do so."

Tomorrow: The arrival of Bill Nicholson and the glory, glory days...