Big-hearted World Cup goalkeeper remembered

It is ten years since we lost talented World Cup goalkeeper Norman Uprichard, a crowd pleaser and entertainer of the highest order.

Portsmouth Football Club players and fans joined in a minute’s applause at Fratton Park on February 5, 2011, after Norman suffered a massive stroke and died on January 30, 2011, at the age of 82.

At 5ft 9in tall, Norman was a small goalkeeper but he had a big heart and won the crowds’ admiration for his bravery.

Norman represented his native Northern Ireland 18 times during a successful career which saw him play 182 times for Portsmouth and 73 games at Swindon Town, before he settled in Hastings.

Norman Uprichard and his wife Elizabeth celebrated their diamond wedding in Janaury 2009

At the peak of his powers, he kept goal during the 1958 World Cup, performing heroics in a tie with Czechoslovakia despite suffering a broken hand, and helping his team reach the quarter finals.

An international team-mate of legendary players like Tottenham Hotspurs’ iconic captain Danny Blanchflower and Burnley legend Jimmy McIlroy, Norman was signed by Arsenal for £1,500 in 1948 but failed to oust Gunners stalwart George Swindin and moved to Swindon without making a first team appearance at Highbury.

He became a popular figure during his time at the Wiltshire club but it was the period between 1952 and 1959, while at Pompey, when the goalkeeper really made his name.

Club historian Richard Owen was among those paying tribute to Norman in 2011. He told the Observer: “If there had been a 1950s trophy for brave, entertaining and amusing professional football then he would have certainly been in the top three.

Fans during the one minute applause at Fratton Park in memory of Norman Uprichard. Picture: Sarah Standing 110428-1790

“He was a crowd pleaser and entertainer of the highest order, who thrilled Fratton Park fans with acrobatic saves to such a degree it was often worth the admission money alone just to watch him keep goal.

“Norman was a small keeper but he had a big heart and the won the crowd’s admiration for his bravery. He needed his cap to collect all the sweets and chocolate bars thrown to him during warm-ups before games, which were later given away to local charities.”

Born in Lurgan, Northern Ireland, in April 1928, Norman started football at an early age, signing for Distillery at 16. He ended his professional career at Southend United before enjoying a stint in goal for non-league Hastings United. He then took over The Belmont pub but returned to Northern Ireland in 1968 to run the bar at Queen’s University Belfast.

Norman and his wife Elizabeth moved back to 1066 Country when he retired in 1984 and celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary on January 29, 2009. She passed away just a few weeks before Norman.

Portsmouth Football Club players join in the one-minute applause for Norman Uprichard. Picture: Steve Reid 110426-388

In retirement, Norman maintained an interest in football, made annual trips to watch Portsmouth play and catch up with friends at the club, and was a regular fundraiser for bowel cancer charities.

He was inducted into the Northern Irish FA’s hall of fame and in 2008, he was invited to Belfast by the Northern Ireland Sports Writers’ Association to be presented with a plaque to mark the 50th anniversary of playing in the World Cup Finals.