Worcestershire CCC Cricket Steering Group Chairman Paul Pridgeon has led the tributes to Norman Gifford who on Monday 30th March celebrates his 80th birthday.
Gifford can rightly be described as a Worcestershire legend after a career which earned him 2,068 first class and 443 List A wickets and it is sixty years since he made his senior debut for the club.
He was part of three County Championship title winning teams with Worcestershire and skippered the side to their 1974 success when Pridgeon was also part of the team.
Gifford also made 15 Test appearances and, remarkably at the age of 44, two ODI caps when he skippered England in Sharjah.
Since retiring he has in recent years been a part-time spin bowling coach at Blackfinch New Road and his passion, love and commitment for the game burns as brightly as ever.
Pridgeon, who was also part of three Worcestershire squads which won the Championship, said: “Throughout his career, as a player and coach, a great thing about Norman is his enthusiasm. He still gets a big buzz out of coaching the youngsters and the knowledge and experience he passes on is invaluable.
“He still loves his cricket greatly and enjoys coming to Blackfinch New Road to watch.
“His record as a player is absolutely magnificent and, had he played in a different era to Derek Underwood, he surely would have won a lot more Test caps.
“I learnt a lot from him in my early years as a player and can only echo the sentiments of everyone at the club in wishing him a Happy 80th Birthday – and saying thanks for all he has done for Worcestershire over six decades.”
He has also been WCCC President in 2018 and 2019 and WCCC Chairman Fanos Hira described Gifford as “an excellent President – not afraid to challenge thinking – a great ambassador for our Club and the game. We were delighted he was unanimously approved as an Honorary Life Vice-President in March 2019.”
Ben Twohig has been one of the current Worcestershire spinners to have worked closely with Norman in recent years – and reaped the benefits.
Twohig said: “Norman has been a massive help. He is an absolute legend of the game especially in county cricket.
“He has helped me from 13-14 years old and I know that if I rang him and asked for a chat about something he’d be willing and able to do so. He is still as much help now as when I was 13.”
Kevin Sharp, Worcestershire’s Head Of Coach and Player Development and former Yorkshire batsman, said Gifford was a fierce competitor out in the middle and an ideal mentor for the young talent at Blackfinch New Road.
He said: “I first played against Norman when I was quite young and he used to frighten me to death!
“I remember the first time I played against him, I walked out to bat at Headingley and smiled at him and he said ‘what are you smiling at’?
“He was a great competitor and you knew you were in a battle. He bowled me a bouncer, something he had in his armoury as a spinner.
“Since I came to Worcestershire, and got to know him, it has been a privilege. We have shared lots of conversations and he is passionate about the development of young players.
“To have him around with the senior players and the Academy over the years, you can’t go wrong. He is a fantastic mentor to younger players.”