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Maurice Norman remembers... getting injured and 'the greatest' fans

Posted on 23 June 2017  - 12:19

It’s 50 years since double-winner Maurice Norman was forced to retire – and in this third and final part of our exclusive interview, the defensive rock recalls the difficult months he endured in the wake of his career-ending injury.

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After winning the double with us in 1961, in addition to the FA Cup in 1962 and European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1963, Maurice (pictured, above, with Bobby Smith and Danny Blanchflower in our changing room in 1958) lined up in a friendly match against a Hungarian Select XI at White Hart Lane in November, 1965. Unfortunately, it would change his life forever.

Aged just 31, he badly broke his leg in the game and, after battling to recover fitness for 18 months, he had to call it a day in the summer of 1967.

Fifty years on, Maurice recently put pen to paper to share his fascinating stories and memories with us. After touching on his arrival here at Spurs and his thoughts on White Hart Lane in the first instalments earlier this week, he finishes off by talking us through that horrific injury and addressing the fans following the recent closure of our world-famous home of 118 years...

Unfortunately, you were forced to retire after breaking your leg, eventually calling it a day at the age of 33 in the summer of 1967. 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'?
“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 a 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."

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Above: Maurice goes in for a tackle on Jimmy Greaves, then of Chelsea, in 1957.

“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 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.”

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Finally Maurice, if you could have addressed the fans and some of your former team-mates at the White Hart Lane Finale, what would you have said?
“I would have said thank you all, for giving a country boy brought up in humble country surroundings the chance to achieve so much of what I had dreamt of as a child, and happiness. The best life ever. The 10 years with Tottenham were the greatest, even with all the pressure it brought. Meeting, knowing and playing with and for people of like mind was beyond measure. We had fun but trained and worked hard. Although there are so few of us from the double team left now, their memory is with me daily. Tottenham fans are amongst the greatest and most dedicated. After all, without them (throughout the ages) there would be no Club. Thanks to everyone for the wonderful letters and kind words and thoughts, these help keep those fond, fond memories alive for me and are part of my life.”