Looking back at: Norman Corner

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.

Corner v Swansea

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.

 

11 Comments

  1. OK, quiz question – who can identify the ‘well-known First Division centre forward’ of the time who shared similar abilities (and lack of) with Corner?

      • No, I think Wyn Davies was reasonably good with the ball on the ground. The player concerned, although a successful First Division player, wasn’t good enough to play for his country – but his son was.

        • The answer is Tony Hateley. It was a joke told by Liverpool supporters at the time Hateley played for them:
          “Tony’s great in the air but his footwork’s not so good.”
          “So was Douglas Bader, but he didn’t cost £100,000.”
          His son, of course, was Mark Hateley.

  2. As good as Tommy Lawton in the air, as good as my grannie on the ground but what a trier. He was obviously used to hard work and put every thing into 90 minutes. Remembered with respect.

  3. I have fond memories of Norman Corner – he was tall and big-hearted. At first we thought he was a joke, but he won us over in the end and I remember being sad to see him go.

  4. I was 7 at the time. It was amazing to see Norman in the box making those power headers. Remember the chant on the terraces? “Thank you very much for Norman Corner!”

  5. I look back at enormous fondness at Norman Corner’s time at Lincoln. He was almost a comedy figure when he first arrived but kept his head up and worked like mad. His purple patch was impressive. I used to stand behind the railway end goal and can remember clearly being in a great position to see his best headed goals. Rising above his marking defender the ball shot into the top corner of the net. Interesting my memory was that he was sold for the money offered rather than that he lost his place. Great memories thank you.

    • What I meant was he agreed to join Bradford City because he was afraid of losing his place in the team not that he had lost it.

      The following is how Maurice Burton reported it in the Football Echo:
      ‘When I disclosed to Corner…that he had been the subject of an offer from one of the Bradford clubs, he did not seem at all keen on the idea of moving, and he certainly was not thrilled at the prospect of living in Bradford.
      ‘Even after the deal had gone through, Corner told me that he was not keen on the idea, and that he had no desire to leave City.
      ‘Presumably, Corner believed that he was the one who would be standing down to let [Alick] Jeffrey into the side, and I believe that he preferred first team football at Valley Parade to reserve team soccer at Sincil Bank.’

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