Our in-house historian Malcolm Johnson takes another look back at a hero of yesteryear, this time we’re focused on Norman Corner.
Date of birth: 16.2.43 Born: Horden, County Durham Height: 6ft 2in Position: Centre forward/centre half
City apps: League: 44 (1), goals: 12, FA & League Cups: 7, goals: 2, Total: 51 (1), goals: 14
After leaving school Norman Corner worked as a miner and played youth football for Horden Colliery Welfare before joining Wolverhampton Wanderers in 1961 playing in their youth setup. He then returned to Horden before joining Hull City in August 1962 making just five appearances for the Tigers in five years and scoring four goals (two of them on his debut).
In October 1967 Corner joined City for a fee of £1,000 as manager Ron Gray saw the big centre forward as the solution to a lack of height in the Imps forward line. Although initially cup-ted, he was in the side beaten in the League Cup Fourth Round by Derby County in front of Sincil Bank’s record crowd.
It was said of a well-known First Division centre forward at the time that like the World War 2 fighter pilot Douglas Bader who had artificial legs: “He’s great in the air but his footwork is not so good”. This description applied equally well to Corner, who despite his heading ability was not the most skilful of players with the ball at his feet. He soon began to draw a lot of criticism from supporters and after taking six games to score his first goal was banished to the reserves.
However, with Gray unable to bring another centre forward to the club Corner returned to the side at the beginning of April in a match against Southend United and really won the fans over with not only two goals but a bustling performance, putting himself about, and – something not seen before – standing in front of the opposition goalkeeper to prevent him clearing the ball –which the crowd delighted in!
Probably his best ever game for City came soon afterwards at Bradford (Park Avenue) when his three headed goals in a 5-1 win all came from left-wing crosses.
Having ended the season with eight goals from 19 appearances Corner was a key man in City’s successful start to 1968/69 but his scoring burst had dried up and an attempt to remedy the lack of goals saw the signing of first Bobby Svarc then Alick Jeffrey – although neither was the target-man type. Perhaps suspecting the presence of Jeffrey in the side would mean another banishment to the reserves ‘Big Norm’, reportedly rather unwillingly, agreed to join Bradford City in January 1969 for a fee of £5,000 after registering just six goals in 33 games for the Imps that season.
Despite his lack of goals his presence in the team certainly created opportunities for others and it could be argued that his departure put paid to City’s chances of promotion that season. In fact, his presence, plus a contribution of eight goals saw the Valley Paraders put together an unbeaten run of 19 games to rise from mid-table to take the last promotion place. The year 1969 was to be a golden one for Corner as Bradford ended it in third place in Division Three before eventually finishing 10th. He went on to make a total of 124 appearances for Bradford City, some of them at centre half, scoring 23 goals before being given a free transfer in March 1972 and joining the other Bradford club by then playing in the Northern Premier League. He returned to his native north east in the summer of 1973, playing for South Shields, Wingate and finally back to Horden Colliery again.
It was said of ‘Big Norm’ that there was hardly a greater trier in League football, always giving 100% effort, able to trouble the best with his tremendous headwork and his constant nagging of defences.
He died in 2011 after a long illness at the age of 68.