Issue Norman Corner: A folk hero of his time

As told by Paul Firth

Not all of us at BfB are too young to remember watching Norman Corner. Some of us – well, this one, anyway – have the fondest memories of the big fella and feel a little upset by the crass comment on the club website about his not being the cleverest of players.

Norman played in an era when every lower league team had a big centre forward with a clearly defined set of objectives. Bannister may have most famously become part of the ‘smash and grab’ pairing only when he played alongside Warboys at Bristol Rovers. Toshack and Keegan were not to form the most famous such partnership until 1971. But Corner and Ham did their fair share of damage to City’s opponents in 68/69 and 69/70.

The stats will say that it was Bobby Ham that scored all the goals, but Bobby would be the first to say that he couldn’t have done it without Norman, whose task it was to win and hold the ball.

It has to be remembered that the Valley Parade pitch in those days was little more than a quagmire from about November onwards. I can still picture Norman, having won one of the thousands of headers that he had to get to, given that passing along the ground was a recipe for disaster. Norman, having done the aerial stuff and by now trapped face down in the mud, managed to stick out a leg to score one of the goals that brought Bradford City promotion.

A few seasons ago I was in conversation with Bobby Ham, then a director at Bradford City, before kick off at Yeovil – that game where a brilliant Dean Windass free kick brought three totally undeserved points. Bobby got talking about the kit back in those days, when there were no names on shirts and one shirt had to last all season.

Bobby reckoned they all came in one size, Norman Corner size. Given the disparity in their heights, it is no wonder that Bobby recalled his own shirt was always so long that, despite always tucking it into his waistband, it stuck out below his shorts.

He also remembered how, when he was playing in the rain, the shirt got heavier and heavier, until he would end up trying to run around with the equivalent of another half stone in weight. I guess Norman, with his power, wouldn’t have noticed a few extra pounds to quite the same extent.

Jimmy Wheeler, a more astute manager than many City have had, paid £4,000 for Norman, a lot of money in January 1969. His first game was a 0-0 draw at Park Avenue. Little did any of us know that this was to be the third game of an unbeaten 21 match run on the way to promotion.

Norman played his full part in that run, scoring eight goals and assisting in countless more.

He deserves the recognition of the current generation, even though many of them never saw him play. A minute’s applause and the unofficial naming of the North West stand would both be appropriate for a folk hero of his time.