Supergran leads men to football promotion

THE MANAGERESS -- Norma Hatfield (front) and her Green Dragon team who have won promotion to the top division in the Notts Sunday Morning League -- DISPIC NHUD12-1042-1
THE MANAGERESS -- Norma Hatfield (front) and her Green Dragon team who have won promotion to the top division in the Notts Sunday Morning League -- DISPIC NHUD12-1042-1

IF you believe in stereotypes, then Sunday morning football is one of the last bastions of male bigotry.

The chance to get out of the house for a few hours, or to dump the missus and kids, or to run off the hangover or to share bawdy dressing-room banter about the previous night’s booze-and-birds exploits.

But in Hucknall, the barriers are being broken down — by a 57-year-old grandma!

For wonderwoman Norma Hatfield is manager of Notts Sunday Morning League team Green Dragon.

And, whisper it quietly in the corridors of male dominance, she is rather good at it.

For Norma has just led Dragon to promotion to the top division!

“It’s tremendous,” beams Norma, who is a former PE teacher, having spent 20 years at the old Henry Mellish School in Bulwell.

“Words cannot express how proud I am of all the players. There is a really positive attitude among the team at the minute. The team spirit is very good.

“Roll on next season when we will be playing lots of local derbies against the likes of T8’s and Plough Barflies.”

Victory in another local derby, against The Hucknall Empire, took Dragon to the brink of the runners-up spot in the league’s Premier First Division. And the honour was sealed when Empire, the only side who could have mathematically caught them, were beaten again.

For Dragon, it’s reward for nine years of continued progress from the lower levels of the league since they were initially formed by Les and Scott Sellers as Hucknall Community Centre back in 2003.

After a name-change to George Street, they enjoyed more success under Gaz Humphries. But when he was forced to resign because of work commitments five years ago, they were short of a manager.

Step forward Norma.

“I used to go and watch because my sons, Liam and Warren, played for the team,” she explained.

“I have always loved my football and they knew I had done some managing before at youth-team level, so they asked me to take over.”

The rest, as they say, is history. In Norma’s first season in charge, Dragon were promoted and now after three previous attempts, they have finally broken into the big time.

But that is not all. For Norma also manages a team called Mansfield AFC, who play in the little-known Derby Church League on Saturday mornings.

They have been crowned champions, winning 21 of their 23 games, and they have also won through to the final of the National Christian Trophy, to be played against a team from Surrey at Charlton Athletic’s The Valley ground later this month.

Several of the Dragon players also star for Mansfield, including son Liam (27) and crack striker Kane Matthews, who has plundered 50 goals in the church league and also looks set to win the Dispatch Specsavers Goals Awards’ Sunday prize.

Her other son, Warren (24), himself formerly a prolific striker in youth football, has fled the Norma nest but is making a name for himself with Retford United, who have just been crowned champions of the Northern Counties East League’s Premier Division.

Norma, who hails from the north-east but now lives in Kirkby, is retired but still works when required as a supply teacher. Other schools she has taught at in the past include Top Valley Comprehensive and the former Ald Derbyshire Comprehensive in Bulwell.

She receives lots of help from her husband, Eddie Collier. But there’s little doubt that she is the one who deserves the praise for her remarkable footballing success.

Norma is believed to be one of only a handful of female managers of adult male teams in the entire country.

But if England don’t perform at Euro 2012, Roy Hodgson had better watch out!