A TALENTED goalkeeper who played at the World Cup before settling in Hastings has passed away.
Norman Uprichard represented his native Northern Ireland 18 times during a successful career which saw him play 182 times for Portsmouth and 73 games between the sticks at Swindon Town.
And, 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 – helping his team reach the quarter finals.
An international team-mate of legendary players like Tottenham Hotspurs’s iconic captain Danny Blanchflower and Burnley legend Jimmy McIlroy, Mr Uprichard 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 and on the south coast at Pompey where the goalkeeper really made his name.
Club historian Richard Owen was among those paying tribute to Mr Uprichard, who died on January 30 after suffering from a massive stroke.
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.
“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, the 82-year-old ended his professional career at Southend United before enjoying a stint in goal for Hastings.
Settled in the area he took over the Belmont Pub, before returning to Northern Ireland to run the university bar at Queens in Belfast.
Upon retirement he moved back to 1066 Country, where he lived with his beloved wife Lily, who sadly passed away eight weeks ago.
He maintained an interest in football – making annual trips to watch Portsmouth play and catch up with friends at the club – and was a regular fundraiser for bowel cancer charities.
The goalkeeper was inducted into the Northern Irish FA’s hall of fame and remains a popular figure at each club he represented.
Upon hearing of his death, a spokesman for the Irish FA said: “The Irish FA president, Jim Shaw; chief executive, Patrick Nelson and everyone at the association would like to send their thoughts and condolences to Norman and Lily’s daughters Pauline and Jill, son Stephen and to the family circle at this very difficult time.”