Due to a mix up, the below piece that the ace Matt Goodwin wrote for us unfortunately didn’t appear in WSB14. We’re putting it on here as it’s far too good for it to be lost. Matt was lucky enough to get to know Norman whilst part of the media team at Oakwell.
RIP Norman. Never forgotten.
Whenever I’m faced with the question ‘Who’s the most famous person you’ve interviewed?’ My answer is – and will always be – ‘Norman Rimmington’.
And of those ex-players I had the pleasure in interviewing, not one had a bad word to say about Rimmo. In fact, everyone had at least one amusing story to tell.
Now, a lot of my time has been spent with my nose in the history books regarding all things Barnsley FC. I happened to mention to Rimmo about what one particular book said about the up-and-coming Eric Winstanley. Barnsley’s bright young centre-half who read the game far beyond his years, was more than comfortable emerging from defence with the ball at his feet and was able to pick out a seemingly difficult pass with relative ease. Sound familiar?
This was around the time that, yes, a certain John Stones was making a name for himself in the first team and the comparison was uncanny…
“What do you reckon, Norm?” I asked. “Do you see a similarity between Stonesy now and what Eric was like back then?”
“Well yeah, you’re reight, kid…except Eric wanted to feight every f****r too!”
His profanities weren’t rare but they were always perfectly executed and certainly warranted.
“Where are you two going?” he exclaimed to Anderson de Silva and Hugo Colace, both donning bright-coloured boots on their way past the laundry room to the training field. “Are you playing football or going f*****g dancing?”
I’m not sure Norm’s dialect translated perfectly for the South Americans at times, but they certainly got the gist of this particular message.
One such thing the history books didn’t seem to pick up on was Norm’s successful – albeit brief – caretaker management stint of the first team when Johnny Steele (the manager) was in hospital during the sixties. The preparation and management of the team was left entirely up to Norm for a handful of games and after winning all of the matches, he was practically offered the job.
“Tha’s gorra Manager…fella’s in f*****g hospital, man! He’s t’manager and am stopping as t’coach.” That was Norm’s riposte, after being told by the Chairman he’d ‘love him to have the job’. This pretty much sums up his loyalty.
Many will remember our League Cup Quarter-Final tie at Anfield back in 1982. Norm’s memories weren’t really about the fog or the daunting task of facing a team full of internationals. “Get into ’em! They’re f*****g rubbish, these!” he shouted at the Reds from the sideline as they kicked off. Out of the opposition dugout popped Joe Fagan, Liverpool’s Assistant Manager.
“Who said that? Who’s saying we’re rubbish?”
“ME!” he replied, bold as brass and proud as punch.
Trevor Aylott remembered that after Allan Clarke or Norman Hunter had said their piece to the team in the dressing room before a match, that Norm would then be asked to address the lads.
“What would he say, Trev?” I asked excitedly.
“Well, you know…’give ’em some f*****g hammer’…that sort of thing.”
It would be easy for me to say that he had one of the finest footballing brains I knew of, but I would be telling the truth. He knew his stuff. The wiser managers and players we’ve had always consulted Norm when in need of any tactical or general advice.
When I had the pleasure of filming a pre-Wembley video to inspire the lads to victory (twice!) he called it on both occasions.
I’ll never forget his Millwall speech. “This is the one that matters…but we’ve got far better players than them. All they do is crack it up t’field and hump it up, they’ve no football at all.”
He was more than confident. He knew we’d get the job done. And we did, of course.
I still haven’t got to grips with the fact that I can no longer toss the odd obscure question his way regarding a reserves match he oversaw in the 50s, laugh with him about the time he went chest-to-chest in fury with Harry Gregg or even just to say ‘Oreight, Norm.’