Norman Deeley

Norman Deeley

Norman Deeley was born in Wednesbury on 30th November 1933. A talented footballer he played for England Schoolboys in 1947. It was claimed that he was the smallest ever player to represent his country. As Deeley later pointed out: "I was only 4 feet 10 inches when I left school, although I grew to a whopping 5 feet 4 eventually. But I was never worried about my height. I had bags of skill and plenty of pace and I knew I was a good enough footballer to be able to make it in the game."

Stan Cullis, the manager of Wolverhampton Wanderers, signed Deeley in 1949 and played for the reserves as a right-half at the age of 16. After the war he helped the team to capture three successive Central League (reserve) championships. Deeley made his debut in the first-team in a 2-1 home victory over Arsenal in August 1951. The team at the time included Johnny Hancocks, Sammy Smythe, Jesse Pye, Jimmy Dunn, Jimmy Mullen, Billy Crook, Roy Pritchard, Billy Wright, Bert Williams and Bill Shorthouse. He remained a fringe player in the team that won the First Division championship in the 1953-54 season.

Deeley played the occasional game at inside-forward but it was only when he was switched to the wing in 1957 that he became a regular in the side, taking the place of Harry Hooper. He now joined a forward-line that included Jimmy Mullen, Jimmy Murray, Peter Broadbent and Bobby Mason. As Ivan Ponting pointed out: "He compensated amply in skill, determination and bravery for what he lacked in physical stature."

Wolves won the First Division league title in the 1957-58 season. Deeley scored 23 goals in 41 appearances that season. This included a spell of 13 in 15 outings during the autumn. It was an outstanding total for a winger and he finished second only in Wolves' scoring chart to the centre-forward Jimmy Murray.

Deeley won his first international cap for England against Brazil on 3rd May 1958. England won the game 2-0 and Deeley was retained for the game against Peru. However, England lost the game 4-1 and this was the end of his international career.

Wolves continued to do well and finished in 2nd place in the 1959-60 season. They also won the FA Cup in 1960 with Deeley scoring two of the goals in the 3-0 victory over Blackburn Rovers. Deeley later recalled he could have had a hat-trick: "Barry Stobart made a good run down the left and got to the byline and whipped a cross in. I'd charged down the middle and Mick McGrath, the Rovers left-half, went with me. He actually reached the ball just before I did by stretching and sliding. With their keeper coming out to collect the cross I watched as the ball beat the keeper and rebounded off McGrath and into the net. It didn't really matter as I would have scored anyway."

After scoring 75 goals in 237 league and cup games, Deeley joined Leyton Orient in 1961. In his first season he helped his new club gain promotion to the First Division. In 1963 he joined Worcester City. He also played for Bromsgrove Rovers and Darlaston Town before retiring. He later worked at a community centre in Walsall.

Norman Deeley died in Wednesbury on 7th September 2007.

Primary Sources

(1) Ivan Ponting, The Independent (22nd September 2007)

Norman Deeley was a tiny ball of high-octane energy and verve that never lost its bounce during his medal-rich prime with Wolverhampton Wanderers at the end of the 1950s.

An irrepressibly dynamic goal-scoring winger versatile enough to thrive on either flank, he excelled as part of the second thunderously powerful combination moulded by the formidable disciplinarian Stan Cullis, helping to lift two consecutive League titles and the FA Cup, and earning England recognition along the way.

There was never very much of the effervescent Midlander. When he made his entrance onto the international stage at schoolboy level during 1947/48, he stood a mere 4ft 4in and was said to be the smallest ever to play for the team. Indeed, he was to grow only a foot taller, but he compensated amply in skill, determination and bravery for what he lacked in physical stature.

Deeley might have joined West Bromwich Albion as a teenager, encouraged by his Throstles-supporting father, but the boy had his heart set on Wolves and he got his way, enlisting at Molineux as an amateur straight from school in 1948 at the outset of the successful Cullis managerial era. Nothing daunted at being surrounded by comparative giants, the diminutive newcomer played for the reserves at 16 and assisted in the capture of three successive Central League (reserve) championships, earning his first professional contract in December 1950.

(2) Norman Deeley, Match of My Life (22nd September 2007)

You don't tend to settle down in the first five minutes or so. My stomach butterflies stopped after that and I felt much more with it, settled and concentrated. Blackburn did create one decent early chance when Peter Dobing went through on Malcolm Finlayson, but Malcolm saved at his feet and that turned out to be their only real chance. We started to play a bit then too. My job was always to get into the box from the right-hand side when the ball was on the left wing. It had worked the opposite way round for my goal which won the semi-final. Anyway, Barry Stobart made a good run down the left and got to the byline and whipped a cross in. I'd charged into the middle and Mick McGrath, the Rovers left half, went with me. He actually reached the ball just before I did by stretching and sliding. With their keeper coming out to collect the cross I watched as the ball beat the keeper and rebounded off McGrath and into the net.

It didn't really matter as I would have scored anyway. Once the ball had beaten the goalkeeper, if Mick had missed it I was only a couple of yards behind him waiting to tap it in. But own goals are a nightmare to put behind you at the best of times and this one was in the biggest game of all. As it turned out that cost me a hat-trick in the FA Cup final. If only you'd missed it, Mick! I'm sure you wish you had too.

As I was racing in behind him ready to score I couldn't stop myself from following the ball into the net and clinging onto the rigging in celebration. I didn't normally celebrate too much, not like they do these days, but a goal at Wembley is special...

As we walked off the pitch after the half-time whistle, BBC TV asked me if it was actually my goal. Live on air, at half-time! I told the nation that Mick had scored it. I could have claimed the goal then and I would have had my hat-trick, but I knew Mick had got the touch not me and I thought it was obvious. I also didn't know what destiny had in store for me in the second half.

When we got into the dressing room all Stan said to us was "Keep going". I saw him change his shirt as the one he was wearing was wringing with sweat. It was a hot day, but I think he was so nervous, with us being favourites and then having the man advantage. He didn't want us to make any silly mistakes. We didn't have that luxury. I remember my shirt was wet through too, although at least I'd been running around! But we couldn't change. To be honest I had been hotter the previous summer when I'd played for England on tour in South America.

We played extremely competently in the second half. Blackburn didn't really threaten us. But we still needed another goal before we could say "That's it." And it came my way. Des Horne crossed from the left towards me. I was running into the area and hammered it first time. I knew it was in as soon as I stuck it and when it hit the back of the net it felt tremendous. There was even some controversy about this goal as Blackburn claimed Horne was offside. But what happened was that McGrath was standing on the goal-line playing him onside and he jumped off the pitch backwards leaving Des technically offside. But the referee allowed play to continue. Quite rightly in my opinion as I scored!

At least we'd scored a goal ourselves, rather than just win the Cup with an own goal. No-one got over-excited. I just got a pat on the back and a couple of handshakes. I think a bit of the shine had been taken off the whole thing for a lot of the lads by Blackburn going down to ten men. And anyway, we were always of the opinion that it was a team effort. In those days it really was. None of these individualist stars. In fact if anything the real stars were the players who made goals rather than those that finished them off that won the plaudits.

Then I scored again. Des Horne played a short corner routine and crossed it into the box. He mishit it a bit and the ball actually hit the post and came out in front of goal. Woods tried to clear it, but he mishit it too. It fell to me perfectly on the volley. I timed it well and hit it.

I had spent hours in the "Dungeon" beneath the stands at Molineux banging balls off the rugged walls and practicing shooting on the volley. That paid off then as I turned and hit it cleanly. There was just that small delay while I saw the ball fly into the net and then I knew it was all over. 3-0 versus ten men. We'd won.

(3) Tom Edwards, The Birmingham Express and Star (8th September, 2007)

Norman Deeley, who scored twice in Wolves’ FA Cup victory in 1960, has been found dead in his Wednesbury home at the age of 73.

Tributes have been pouring in for the player, who played for the club as a winger during the golden era of the 1950s when Wolves were crowned top-flight champions three times.

Mr Deeley has been described as “a true Wolves legend” who gave his all for the club - he made 237 appearances, scoring 75 goals in 11 years.

Former player Bill Slater, who was captain of the Wolves team that beat Blackburn Rovers to lift the FA Cup in 1960, said: “This is very sad news indeed - Norman was a fine player who was immensely popular.

“He spent many years at the club and scored a lot of goals. I remember when we beat Blackburn 3-0 and he scored twice, and if I remember right he fired in the shot for the other goal that actually came off a Blackburn player before going in.

“He did joke that he thought he should claim it so he could have a cup final hat-trick. That’s the lively character he was. It’s very sad news and he will be missed.”

Ex-player Ron Flowers, who spent 15 years at Wolves from 1952 to1967, said: “Norman was a great player and I reckon he could have played just about anywhere.

“He was a cheeky fellow, as all little players are, and will be missed an awful lot.”