NORMAN UPRICHARD

norman uprichard action 10/1955
norman uprichard action 10/1955

Fan who collapsed during friendly game dies

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Portsmouth Football Club were saddened to learn of the death of long-serving goalkeeper Norman Uprichard on Sunday, January, 30, 2011, following a long illness in hospital.

If there had been a 1950s trophy for a brave, entertaining and amusing professional footballer, then the Northern Ireland and Pompey keeper would have surely been in the top three.

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

Born in Moyraverty, Lurgan, in April 1928, Norman started football at an early age, signing for Distillery at just 16.

From there, he signed for Arsenal in 1947 but was unable to oust George Swindin.

He was discovered by a Pompey scout at Swindon Town where, at just 22, he made the Northern Ireland squad.

In only his second game for Pompey in November 1952, Uprichard suffered smashed knuckles in a clash with Sheffield Wednesday’s Derek Dooley at Hillsborough.

Happily, he returned by Christmas wearing a special padded glove.

As the full-time replacement for Ernie Butler in goal, Norman lived in a club house on the corner of Carisbrooke Road and Milton Lane.

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

He needed his cap to collect all the sweets and chocolate bars thrown to him during warms-ups before games, which were later given away to local charities.

The jolly Irishman’s tremendous command of his penalty area did not end there. When his madcap heroics got the better of him, occasionally in a reserve game, he adapted to a more-than-useful winger and scored the winning goal in a 3-2 reserve away win at Nottingham Forest in 1959.

Norman was Pompey’s most established Northern Ireland international, chosen to play for his country 18 times, including the 1958 World Cup clash against Czechoslovakia in Sweden.

It was in this game he sustained another injury to the same hand as 1952 but he carried on bravely in goal, unaware he had actually broken bones.

In 1959 he was part of an exodus of players who left under the management of Freddie Cox and, aged 31, he joined Southend United.

After spells at non-league Hastings and Ramsgate, he took on the Belmont pub in Hastings, East Sussex, before returning to Belfast in 1968 where he ran the bar at Queens University.

He returned to retire in East Sussex, often raising money for bowel cancer charities, himself battling with osteo-arthritis.

He visited Fratton Park twice a season to watch a game and renew old friendships.

It was while Norman was undergoing a toe amputation only eights weeks ago in the Royal Sussex Hospital that sadly his wife Lily died.

Norman passed away, aged 82, suffering a massive stroke on January, 30, 2011.

The funeral, which will take place in Hastings, has yet to be arranged.

– Richard Owen