Colourful Uprichard ranked with greats
Football yesterday lost one of its most colourful characters — Norman Uprichard, the former Northern Ireland and Portsmouth goalkeeper who died in Brighton after suffering a heart attack. He was 82.
Uprichard can proudly take his place in the ranks of his country’s most accomplished keepers. His name can be listed alongside greats Pat Jennings, Elisha Scott, Harry Gregg, Tommy Breen, Ted Hinton, Hugh Kelly and Bobby Irvine.
With Gregg, his close friend hitting the heights in the 1950s, Uprichard’s international appearances were restricted to 18, but like Harry, he was one of the heroes of World Cup Sweden, 58.
His first appearance was against Scotland in 1951 and, ironically, his last in 1958. Sweden was the zenith of his career and a never-to-be-forgotten display in the 2-1 play-off win against Czechoslovakia in Malmo. He had taken over from the injured Gregg but found himself in the wars — smashing his hand against the post saving a shot from Jan Dvorak and twisting his right ankle. He continued, but every time he grasped the ball the pain was excruciating.
William Norman McCourt Uprichard was born in Lurgan on April 20, 1928 and as a teenager played both association football and GAA, but was subsequently banned by the GAA because he had made appearances for Glenavon.
After Glenavon he moved to Distillery who transferred him to Arsenal in 1948 for £1,500 but he never made the Highbury first-team.
Swindon Town snapped him up playing 73 matches for them between 1949-52 while in 1953 he became manager Eddie Lever’s first signing at Portsmouth where he developed into an iconic figure, making 182 appearances putting him in the Northern Ireland spotlight and selection for the two-month coast-to-coast United States and Canadian tour in 1953.
Uprichard’s passing further diminishes the survivors of the 1958 World Cup with only six remaining — Jimmy McIlroy, Peter McParland Sammy McCrory, Billy Simpson, Billy Bingham and Harry Gregg.
Uprichard, whose wife predeceased him some months ago, served his country well, was an acclaimed member of the Northern Ireland football family and the most likeable of men.