Memories of Orient and leading ref Norman

THIS weekend the quarter-finals of the FA Cup will be played, with Arsenal one of the teams still in contention after they were taken to a replay in the fifth round by Leyton Orient from the third tier of English football. Orient succumbed 5-0 at the Gunners’ Emirates Stadium last week, having held them to a draw at home.

Leyton Orient also reached the fifth round 60 years ago but the Gunners’ 3-0 victory stopped them reaching the quarter-finals. Arsenal lost to Newcastle in the final.

So what? Well, Orient did well in that 1951-52 season by ousting Wrexham and Everton (both after replays) and then Birmingham, but had struggled in the the first round – against Gorleston.

Yes, that was the season when the amateur Greens battled through the qualifying rounds and then twice drew with the London professionals before losing in a thriller. There must be many old Gorleston fans who still clearly recall that run whenever Leyton Orient are mentioned in the media, particularly in an FA Cup context.

In the first round proper, the Greens held Orient to a 2-2 draw in London and to a drab goalless draw in the replay I watched at Gorleston Reccer, only to be knocked out in the decider on the neutral turf of Arsenal’s Highbury Stadium.

Gorleston trailed 3-1 at half-time, pulled the score back to 3-2, conceded two more (5-2) but fought back defiantly to close the gap to 5-4, causing Orient many anxious moments as they strove successfully to keep their slender lead intact. Legend has it that Fleet Street star sports reporters left at the interval when giant-killing looked impossible and their story had apparently evaporated, then had some explaining to do to their editors.

Gorleston were captained by local boy Bert (“Sailor”) Brown who had returned to the Reccer as player-manager after a professional career with top British clubs and winning England international caps and an FA Cup runner-up medal with Charlton Athletic.

Most Read

Soccer of yesteryear was also recalled recently when long-retired international referee Norman Burtenshaw, a Gorlestonian now resident in Suffolk, received a personalised embroidered England international cap for his contribution to the game. It rekindled memories of his career which had its share of controversial moments although he was acknowledged as a fair official who got on well with the players. He officiated five times at the old Wembley, including a symbolic fixture to mark entry into the Common Market, and was awarded an OBE in 1974 for services to football.

Norman, a fellow member of Gorleston Rotary Club with me in the Seventies, had been involved in various football incidents that had hit the headlines. That combination of controversies, characters and travels he related in his 1973 book, Whose Side Are You On Ref?, resulting in it being hailed by readers and reviewers. One noted that its detail included the little parcel containing a pair of laces and a jockstrap the FA left in his dressing-room before the 1971 Cup final!

On one occasion, ambulancemen carried him unconscious off the Millwall pitch, knocked unconscious by zealous home supporters after a defeat for their side. It was the latest of a series of incidents at Millwall that resulted in the FA ordering the club to erect fencing around the terraces at The Den.

An FA clampdown on fouls led him to send off Manchester United favourite George Best who had berated him in uncompromising terms. The story goes that when Burtenshaw got out his notebook and pencil and asked the player for his name, receiving the honest reply of “Best,” he then demanded to know his initial.

Norman also appeared in an action photograph snapped by the renowned Monte Fresco reckoned to be one of the most iconic soccer shots of the era. The referee was pictured racing to prevent a flashpoint bust-up between two acknowledged hard men – Dave Mackay, of Spurs, and Billy Bremner (Leeds). Mackay, in his first match after a long lay-off with a broken leg, was clutching Bremner’s shirt-front, threatening retaliation for a foul he alleged was aimed at that leg.

And the entire Benfica team attacked Burtenshaw during a pre-season friendly at Arsenal.

Trouble followed him abroad. In Africa frenzied fans pelted him with stones when the Zambian national side was beaten by Leicester City, and in Johannesburg, South Africa, he was embroiled in a riot. His award of a penalty in a match in the United States caused the stadium to erupt. Two youths were stabbed, a dozen fans were injured, and the roof of the half-complete stand collapsed!

When Norman officiated at the 1971 FA Cup final between Arsenal and Liverpool, Mercury readers learned that two Gorleston men were on the Wembley pitch: the other was the Gunners’ Peter Simpson, a local lad who was on the winning side, their 2-1 extra-time victory earning them the coveted league and cup double. Both were old boys of the Alderman Leach School, now the sixth form college, whose ex-pupils included Mike Bailey (Charlton, Wolves and England) and David Stringer, a Norwich City player turned manager.

The late Charlie Lynes, of Runham Vauxhall, a former referee, once recalled: “I started Norman Burtenshaw in refereeing,” explaining: “I was in charge of a Yarmouth Thursday League match between Yarmouth Post Office and Lowestoft Railway Social on the Beaconsfield.

“Norman was playing centre-forward for the Post Office and got knocked about a bit. After the match he asked me, ‘What’s refereeing like, Charlie?’

“I told him it all depends on how you handle a game – lots have taken it up but couldn’t control a game. He said he’d thought of taking it up and I suggested he came along to the next Yarmouth referees meeting at Johnson’s Rooms in Northgate Street. He came along and joined, and cut his teeth refereeing local and schoolboy fixtures.”

At one time Norman and Charlie worked together for builder Bert Holmes at his Gorleston Riverside Road premises.

Burtenshaw’s treasured medal for refereeing the FA Amateur Cup final was stolen from his Bradwell home in 1989 but, after newspaper publicity, was returned to him a fortnight later accompanied by a note signed “Raffles”.