'sir' bill nicholson
26.01.1919 - 23.10.2004
18-year Spurs playing career 1936-1954 (making his debut in 1938), winning Second and First Division Championship
medals in 1950 and 1951.
Bill even served with the Durham Light Infantry in World War Two during
his time at Spurs.
318 League appearances -
12 Football League South appearances
27 FA cup appearances
38 other appearances
- 1 goal
Total = 395 appearances - 7 goals
One England cap - one
goal (scored with his first kick of the match)
Three England 'B' caps
One appearance representing the Football League
Bill also coached the Cambridge University team and the England
Under-23s in 1954 and then became Spurs assistant manager in 1955, until
Jimmy Anderson resigned with health problems, when he moved into the manager's
office in October 1958, memorably winning his first game in charge 10-4
at home to Everton.
In 16 years in charge of
Tottenham Hotspur, he had taken Spurs to become the first club to
achieve the double in the 20th Century, the first to win the League Cup
twice (1970 and 1972), the first British club to win a European trophy
(European Cup Winners Cup 1963) and, with a UEFA Cup victory in 1972,
the first British team to win two different European competitions.
That was in addition to two more FA Cups and three Charity Shields.
And another UEFA Cup Final reached in 1974.
what the statistics don't tell you is what a great human being Sir Bill
My only meeting with him
came when I was about 18 and was watching the youth side at the old
Cheshunt training ground one sunny Saturday.
Stood on the earth bank
alongside the small stand there, I was engrossed in the match and a
voice asked me "What's the score, son ?"
Turning around while
saying we were winning 1-0, I was faced with Bill Nick.
I was a little bit lost
for words and even more so when he asked "How are we playing
What was I to say ?
Me, a mere watcher of the game trying to tell a man who had managed a
team to the Double, won European trophies and been in charge of two
great Spurs side, as well as playing for one in the 1950s.
Well, I mumbled a few
callow observations and he thanked me for that, telling me he liked this
player and that.
But I never felt that he
was talking down to me. It was more like chatting to an uncle than
talking to a legend of the game, who you had revered for years.
And that was his abiding
charm. His humility. No airs and graces. No big
"I am". Yes, just plain Bill Nicholson.
When managers nowadays
appear to be bigger than the team and some bigger than the game, Bill
viewed his job as just that. Something to be done and left behind
him. Except he never could leave it behind, as he was 24 hours a
day Tottenham Hotspur. Even when Spurs showed him the door and he
moved to West Ham as a scout, his one and only love was Spurs and when
they called him back, he bore no grudge and came back home.
Sir Bill made a rod for
the back of every Spurs manager that followed him, but that success is
what they should try and emulate with the club.
What they might not be
able to copy is the way he conducted his life.
Our sympathy is with his
relatives at this time as they have lost a loving member of that family.
Spurs have lost their
most favoured son of all those who have been associated with the club.
But the world has lost a
wonderful human being.
times when the coverage of football and the hype was no so great, a man
achieved what others nowadays would find impossible to do.
Because he was not
flamboyant nor outgoing nor political, he did not gain favour among those
within the corridors of power.
He said what had to be
said. Nothing more, nothing less.
He did his job and went
He did his job well.
He did his job better than
And he was 'Sir' Bill
Maybe not in the Honours
List, but in our hearts.
May you Rest In Peace and
reap the rewards of the joy you gave to many.
|I was shocked
to tune into the radio and hear that Sir Bill Nicholson had died. Although
I had not seen him this season, apparently he had been to some games, but
his illness had got worse over the last few months and he had entered a
nursing home. Bill had been very frail for some years, but was always
happy and humble and I think it was this that makes him more of a human
being than some of today's supposed "character" managers.
The atmosphere at the game was odd.
Like a family member had died, but wanting the team to do well to show him
that the Spurs spirit will carry on. The result was not important
and the whole day was all very sad.
Shame his achievements were in a day and
age when they were not recognised as being out of the ordinary rather than
those of today, which are commonplace. Arsenal fans say that we won
the Championship in black and white (there being no colour TV back then),
but that was when it was a proper game and when it really meant something
... not like today.
Bill, if there is a heaven, I am sure you
will find success with a team up there.
If not, you will be eternally remembered for what you did for Tottenham
Hotspur on Earth.
was a man who had few equals in the history of the game.
that is not true. In 1961 he had no equals in the game in the 20th
century. The Double, which was then the holy grail of English
domestic football had eluded all the best teams England had yet produced
and was considered by many to be near impossible. Spurs under
Nicholson not only won it, they cantered to the title with such style and
swagger that all those old enough to have seen them still rate them as one
of the very best English sides of all time. 43 years later.
when Nicholson’s side had won the FA Cup Final in 1961 to complete this
ground breaking achievement, this particular manager was not overcome with
joy. He felt they had not won it in the style they were capable
of. This reaction, confirmed by the man himself in his rare
interviews, explains why he never again won the League Championship.
As the pragmatic ‘win at all costs’ approach took hold later in the
decade, Nicholson found himself up against more ruthless, less principled
managers who scorned the more attacking theories and were not afraid to
send teams out to stop the opposition playing, rather than picking a team
to beat the opposition. Football, like life as the 60’s wore on,
became less innocent and more cynical and the likes of Revie’s Leeds
United prospered while Spurs became more a ‘Cup Team’, capable of
beating anyone on their day, but lacking the necessary ruthlessness to
kill off teams week in week out.
the great Double achievement was emulated a decade later, even the most
avid Arsenal supporter could not claim that Bertie Mee’s team had
achieved it with anything like the style of Nicholson’s. But it
was in the record books. Just like the teams that have achieved it
since. But Nicholson got there first and that is something that
cannot be taken away.
amazing long link with Tottenham, which dated back to 1936, is unlikely to
ever be repeated. The very fabric of all the club stands for and the
vast majority of all of its finest hours had Nicholson’s involvement
either directly or indirectly stamped on them. This is a club that
has only ever won the title twice. Nicholson played in the team that
landed the first title on 1951 and after retiring to become coach and then
manager in 1958, was of course at the helm in that history making season
of 1960-1. The lack of adequate TV coverage at the time makes it
hard for those not old enough to make an objective judgment on just how
good this team was. Although comparisons between era’s are often
pointless, there is no doubt that this was a magical collection of players
blended together by Nicholson through a mixture of shrewdness and
intelligence rarely seen before or since.
following season Spurs retained the FA Cup having by now added Jimmy
Greaves to the great double team, but consider how close Nicholson came to
an achievement that would, to this day, have probably earned him the title
of the greatest British manager of all time. A highly unexpected
defeat to eventual champions Ipswich in Easter 1962 was all the stood
between them and a second consecutive double. In the same month,
Nicholson's team came within a whisker of beating Benfica and claiming a
place in the European Cup Final. The Treble, not achieved until 1999
Ferguson’s Manchester United, was almost
within Tottenham's grasp 37 years earlier. Football is a game of if
next season, 1962-3, did though see another memorable first - no British
team had won a European trophy until Tottenham carried of the European Cup
Winners Cup that year. A dynasty, like the one’s built at
and Manchester United, should
have been built. It was not to be. Injuries (Dave Mackay being
the most obvious), retirements (Blanchflower), tragedies (John White’s
death) and complacency from the Spurs directors meant that the standards
set could not be maintained.
heroes were signed, and in most cases they would be excellent signings (Gilzean, England, Mullery, Chivers, Jennings etc),
but the new players and their manager had an almost impossible legacy to
live up to.
the 60’s Spurs remained a force, but they were never able to mount a
realistic challenge again for the title. The FA Cup was won again in
1967, although this was the last trophy of that decade. The early
70’s saw the cabinet doors open again three years in succession, but
whilst the success was welcome, League Cup wins over Aston Villa and
in 1971 and 1973 were a long way
short of the triumphs of before. Even a record breaking second
European Trophy in 1972 – the UEFA Cup – had some of the gloss taken
off as it was an all English affair against Wolves.
game had well and truly changed and it wasn’t just opposing managers
that had sacrificed principles that Nicholson was now up against.
The culture of the ‘celebrity footballer’ was taking hold, although it
was a long way short of the situation we know today. All the same,
Nicholson found it hard to get the best out of players who did not always
show the respect he deserved. Added to that was the well known
culture of ‘under the counter’ payments in the transfer market.
Rightly or wrongly, Spurs refused to be involved in such antics and it is
therefore no coincidence that the ‘star’ signings started to dry up at
Spurs. The name of Tottenham and Nicholson were no longer enough to
attract the best.
were in decline by the time Nicholson conceded defeat to this new
era. He still guided Spurs to the UEFA Cup Final in 1974, but the
subsequent defeat and the violence on the terraces during that game rather
summed up just how things have moved on. He finally resigned in
September of that year after 16 years in charge and eight trophies
won. Whilst he may have left behind a team that took several years
to rebuild, there is no escaping the harsh facts for Spurs fans - in the
30 years since his retirement, the club has won only five trophies.
why the Tottenham board chose to ignore Nicholson’s advice that a
‘dream team’ of Danny Blanchflower and Johnny Giles was the best way
of regenerating the club in 1974 is something the fans were never
told. Quite how Nicholson’s ties with the club were allowed to be
severed and he ended up at West Ham as a scout is another question these
men were unable to answer. The fact that they ignored his advice and
appointed ex-Arsenal player Terry Neill speaks volumes for their judgment
at the time.
successor, Keith Burkinshaw ensured Nicholson returned to the club in a
scouting/advisory capacity in 1976 and although he remained behind the
scenes, Nicholson was responsible for identifying and brokering some of
Burkinshaw's key signings. Burkinshaw’s Spurs of the early 80’s
remain the only team to have come consistently close to matching the
achievements and style of Nicholson's great teams of the past.
mis-management of Spurs since the true glory days of the 60’s by various
boards of directors and ill suited managers is a tragic collection of self
inflicted wounds that Nicholson must have found hard to stomach. His
comment ‘if we are not in
we are nothing’ remains true to
story recounted by Hunter Davies at the weekend of Nicholson modestly
struggling to take his seat at Wembley amongst the ordinary fans (and not
in the royal box) before the 1999 League Cup Final rather sums up how the
clubs traditions and pride were eroded over too many years by men who had
no feel for the true spirit of the club. Here was the greatest man
in the club’s history fighting his way into the dilapidated old stadium
like the other mere mortals, whilst directors and a chairman not fit to
clean his boots, let alone lace them, were enjoying the pomp and glory in
the royal box. The clubs President, it's greatest manager, not to
mention it's most loyal servant, was apparently not worthy of VIP
invitation. A shocking and shaming story that those responsible for
should be ashamed of.
great man lived long enough to be the first to be inducted into the Spurs
Hall of Fame in March 2004. Just in time. Without Bill
Nicholson, a Spurs Hall of Fame would have had few candidates worthy of
the title. Thanks to him the name Tottenham Hotspur is famous the
that the man has passed away, it is up to the current custodians of the
club to never forget Bill Nicholson. Never forget the standards that
he set. Never forget the way he wanted the game to be played.
And therefore never be satisfied with anything but the best.
is one hell of a legacy. It’s been a legacy few have been able to
live up to since 1974. Many have failed to even understand it.
it’s a legacy Spurs fans can be proud and if Nicholson is watching from
somewhere else, one he would not want to see squandered forever.
just like to tell you about one Summer Holiday morning, me and my pal (we
were about 11-12), were at
hoping to see various
first team players in for pre season training.
day I will never forget, as it was the day that Bill Nicholson took time
out of his busy schedule to cast a glance at us two, and say something so
profound and meaningful, I can still hear his words now
TWO, GET OUT OF THE F**KING GOALMOUTH !”
I’ve never forgot it and and treasure the moment, I really do.
day I met Bill Nicholson is one I will never forget.
was only an eight-year-old boy, but already I knew who he was and had an
idea of the incredibly high esteem in which he was held. The reason
I knew this was my school mate continuously bragged about living next door
to him, told me all about him, what he had achieved and most of all what a
lovely man he was.
asked if I could meet him one day when I was playing at my mate’s house
and Mr. Nicholson was more than happy to oblige.
was at that moment that I truly understood what supporting Tottenham
Hotspur was all about.
hung on his every word, as I imagine all the great players who played
under him did. He told me what a great club Spurs was and how proud
I should be to support them and he did so without ever talking down to me
or treating me like the child I was.
I have ever read or heard about Bill Nicholson since then has been backed
up by my own personal encounter with him.
agrees that he was a great motivator, a tactical maestro and ahead of his
time in his coaching, but above all that he was a great man, a gentleman,
a man who firmly believed in himself and his ideologies and would hold
true to those no matter the cost.
me, Bill Nicholson is everything the club stood and should stand
for. He valued the club and its fans, largely because he was the
biggest fan of them all. Football, and all associated with Tottenham
in particular, owe Bill Nicholson a great deal - more than mere words can
do justice to.
he was never knighted is a travesty, but to the many who have been touched
by his greatness, he will always be Sir Bill Nicholson.
he rest in peace.
Nicholson (no relation)
was born in February 1962, less than a year after Spurs completed what
many thought impossible in the modern game; the first league and cup
double of the twentieth century.
few months later, they had retained the cup and had just missed out on a
second consecutive league title.
saw the first European trophy by a British club.
Record breaking feats for a football club, all under the guidance
of Bill Nicholson.
of my earliest memories is of the 1967 FA cup being paraded along the High
Road on an open-topped bus. I didn’t realise what was going on, I was
only five. I had never heard of Bill Nicholson, Jimmy Greaves, Dave
Mackay, Danny Blanchflower, Bobby Smith, John White or any number of the
outstanding players to pull on the lilywhite jersey.
It wasn’t until three years later when my dad started taking me
to the Lane, that I had any idea of who or what it was all about.
It, was, of course the Mighty Tottenham Hotspur, and meant players of the
calibre of Martin Chivers, Martin Peters, Pat Jennings, Cyril Knowles,
Alan Mullery and Alan Gilzean, all under the leadership of Bill
cousins helped fill in my areas of ignorance. They lived in George
Lansbury House along White Hart Lane, and I
stayed with them occasionally. They showed me their scrap
books and told me all I needed to know. Once indoctrinated, there
was no turning back. I collected scrap cuttings of my own, my dad
used to bring back broadsheet colour specials from the long-defunct London
Evening News featuring the team, I cut out photos and stuck them on my
were everything to me.
saw the first of two league cup triumphs, sandwiching the second European
trophy in the club’s history; the 1972 UEFA Cup. There always
seemed to be something to celebrate and gloat to school friends
back now it seemed such an exciting time. Triumphs seemed to happen
as a matter of course, trying to hear what was happening in European
matches on a barely audible transistor radio was a thrill.
in 1974, a few months after losing the UEFA Cup final to Feyenoord amid
scenes of mayhem and violence, Bill resigned as manager of
Tottenham. I was stunned. As a twelve year old I had no real
conception that managers of football clubs changed. Of course,
players came and went, but the manager always stayed. I couldn’t imagine
Spurs without Bill Nicholson in charge. He was Spurs and always had
been. Things could never be the same again. How could the club go on
without Bill in charge?
club did go on, managers came and went, some good, most indifferent. How could
anybody ever hope to live up to the legend that had created the most
beautiful football team ever to kick a ball in England ?
sad truth is, nobody could. Not for the want of trying, of course.
a short spell working for West Ham, Bill returned to his club. The
club he had been with since the age of sixteen. He became a
consultant to the next most successful manager at the Lane, Keith
Burkinshaw, assisting in the FA cup wins of 1981, 1982 and second UEFA cup
win of 1984.
seems impossible to believe that one person could be associated with the
same football club for sixty-eight years, but as the club went through
many changes, there was always one constant. I often fantasized
that, whilst visiting my cousins, or visiting the graves of relatives in
the garden of remembrance on the Lane, that, with him living nearby, I’d
bump into him and get chatting about the club, the team and what was
needed to return it to it’s position at the top of the league.
I’d ask him about his time as manager and how was he able to mould such
feared yet beautiful football teams ?
never did meet him. The nearest I ever came was at a TISA meeting to
support Terry Venables. The room erupted when he came through the
door and he took the podium to the sound of wild applause and his name
being chanted as if he was Jesus Christ himself. He said a few
words. Quiet, unassuming and yet with the passion of a man who had
the love of the club running through him like the letters in a stick of
seaside rock. He was the club, and he was one of us.
amazes me now that when Spurs supporters talk of the glory years and of
the Spurs way, and of the tradition o f the club, football journalists
sneer and say that is all in the past. But now the great man has
left us, they are using those very words to describe the club as if they
somehow understand what it means to us. I despise them.
They are a collection of two-faced, hypocrites. Where were
they when supporters were campaigning for Bill’s knighthood ?
Those who decide these things must surely hang their heads in shame for
their criminal omission.
so now the club must look to the future without its greatest
talisman. The signs are promising but we must be patient. The
club needs us all to stand together for the sake of the memory of Billy
Nick. He loved the club like one of us, we cannot let him down.
Sir Bill. You’ll always be in our heart.
With reference to Bill
Nicholson, I have to say I felt that he should have been treated with the
same respect as Brian Clough. However it appears that only Tottenham
held a minutes silence in his honour.
I do not understand the
logic of a minutes silence at matches as sometimes great football men are
given the national respect they deserve and on other occasions they are
not, as was the case in my opinion with Bill Nicholson. Even though
it is my natural inclination to detest everything Tottenham related, it
doesn't mean to say I can't appreciate a great footballing gentleman, nor
does it mean that as a lover of the beautiful game I wouldn't give him his
It would seem there is a
grey area here as to whom gets a minutes silence and who doesn't. Of
course if there was a minutes silence for every notable football legend
who died during the week we would probably have a minutes silence before
I suspect in the case of Mr.
Nicholson it was because he was only an important figures to Tottenham
fans and the older generations of fans, such as myself, that he wasn't
given a national send off, so to speak.
Brian (an Arsenal fan)