bill nicholson - fact file

1936 - 1955            midfielder
1954 - 1976            manager
1976 - 1991            consultant
1991 - 2004            president


Born on 26th January 1919 in Scarborough, Yorkshire, England.

Height : - .m  (' ")

Weight : -  - kgs    (st lbs)


Where do you start with the man they call "Mr. Tottenham" ?

Bill Nicholson will always be the name writ large in Tottenham Hotspur's history.

The man who won the first Double of the 20th Century created two successful eras at the club and made them a recognised name across Europe and the world.  His service to the club, over a period of 68 years is testament to the efforts he put to build Spurs into a famous name in the game and to set new records while always playing the game in the correct manner.

One of nine children raised in Scarborough by his parents, after he attended Gladstone Road School and Scarborough Boy's High School, Bill went out to work young in a laundry, but played football for the local Young Liberals side in the town, with the man who ran the team recommending him to Tottenham.

He was invited to join the Spurs ground staff and in 1936 he signed as an amateur and signed professional in 1938.  After playing a few games (often at left back), he coached the Durham Light Infantry when WWII broke out and while the conflict prevented him playing for many years (apart from war time guest appearances for Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Newcastle United), Bill learned the arts of man management in the role as a sergeant instructor in Physical Education.  He served time in Italy and was demobbed in 1946.

Returning to White Hart Lane after the end of the war, Bill resumed his football career as a centre half and then as a consistent tough-tackling right half, who linked well with team-mate Ron Burgess to make a formidable pairing.  They were the heart of the side that won the Second Division championship in 1950 and then went straight through the First Division, with Arthur Rowe's "Push and Run" side to win the championship the following year.  Nicholson also worked well with the right back behind him ... a player named Alf Ramsey !!

Won only one England cap against Portugal at Goodison Park, where he scored with his first kick of the match in a game England won 5-2.  Chosen for an international against Austria the following autumn, where the plan to counter the opponents style would have freed Billy Wright to mark Ernst Ocwirk was thwarted by injury to the Spurs man and he was never picked for a squad again.

While playing, he took on a coaching role with Cambridge University and enjoyed it very much, having gained his FA Coaching status on leaving the Army.  Was taken to the 1958 World Cup in Sweden with England as assistant to England manager Walter Winterbottom and devised a plan to play against Brazil which earned the team a draw.  Bill was a coach at Spurs before becoming assistant manager and then, when Jimmy Anderson retired through ill health, took over as manager.  Nicholson had a memorable first match in charge, as his side beat Everton 10-4 at White Hart Lane and while he was probably more focused on the four goals conceded, the ten scored were a hint that he would follow the Tottenham Way. 

After a poor start to the 1974-75 season, Bill resigned and took up a consultant's role with West Ham United, but gained an OBE for his service to football later in 1975.

Mr. Nicholson was brought back into the fold at White Hart Lane in 1976 by Keith Burkinshaw and employed as a consultant, which included scouting and in doing so, spotting players such as Tony Galvin, Graham Roberts, Gary Mabbutt and Glenn Hoddle, among others.  Bill fulfilled this role until 1991, when he was given the Life President title, as well as having the short road that lead from the High Road into the main gates named after him as Bill Nicholson Way in 1999.  A popular visitor to the Lane and a perfect gentleman to everyone he met, he was not just an elder statesman of the club, but an honourable man, who never really got the recognition he deserved outside of the club.

Building the club into a major European force and building two successful teams in different eras, Bill Nicholson would have been awarded a knighthood in more modern times, but despite campaigns to gain the honour for him, the powers that be over-looked him for others, who were not as worthy.

Bill Nicholson passed away on 23rd October 2004.

NICKNAME :   "Mr. Tottenham"; "Sir Bill"; "Bill Nick"

Career Record
Club Signed Fee Debut Apps Goals
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1938 - 22nd October 1938 v Blackburn Rovers (Division 2) (away)  lost 1-3 351 6

314 League appearances; 6 goals
12 FA Cup appearances; 0 goals
27 Football League South appearances; ?? goals
38 Other appearances; 1 goal

England international
Debut : 19th May 1951 v Portugal () (Goodison Park) won 5-2 (scored once)
1 full caps;  1 goal
Under-21 caps; goals
- Cup winners medal 19---

- appearance


Allegedly crawled around the floor of the family home when a baby - chewing coal !!
Married to Grace (affectionately known as "Darkie"), who he had been his only girlfriend and had two daughters - Jean and Linda.
A devoted Dad, he often used his carpentry skills to mend the children's toys.
However, he cried at one of his daughter's weddings, regretting that he hadn't seen her grow up, such was his dedication to his job.
Enjoyed playing golf.
When he became Spurs manager he did not tell Darkie, she found out found out through another source.
Born and lived at 15 Vine Street Scarborough.
Lived after that at 6 Quarry Mount, Scarborough.



What they said about Bill Nicholson
Sidney Wale (Spurs Chairman) ... on Nicholson's service to the club ... Summer 1975 (Club handbook)

"Bill will be remembered with gratitude as the most successful manager in the club's history.  his services to football were honoured with the award of the OBE by Her Majesty the Queen, a distinction which I personally think should have been bestowed upon him some years earlier."

Harry Redknapp ... on meeting Bill Nicholson as a youngster ...  01.11.2008 (THFC Programme)

"I even had the pleasure of meeting Bill Nicholson.  My Dad and I travelled down to Mile End from White Hart Lane station after being invited by Dickie Walker, the Club's chief scout.  Dickie told Bill that I played outside right and, after revealing that my name was not a regular on the score-sheet, the great man's assessment was simple : "The only great winger that did not score goals was Stanley Matthews and you are not going to be as good as him are you Harry ?"  He was right of course."

Darkie Nicholson (Bill's wife) ... on attending Spurs games ...

"I went to a match once early on and Tottenham lost so he told me not to come again."

N.B.  His daughters were also prevented from going to games

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What Bill Nicholson said about ...
... his players ... .. (-)

"I prefer players not to be too good or clever at other things.  It means they concentrate on football."

... a spying trip to Katowice to see Gornik Zabrze ahead of the 1961 European Cup tie ... (Spurs programme)

"I remember flying into Warsaw and the train journey down to Katowice took four hours.  It was a very depressed place.  It was a cold mining area.  Everything was grey.  They did their best for us.  I remember going to the stadium and seeing women on their hands and knees with scissors cutting every blade of grass.  The pitch was in immaculate condition. 

However, it was obvious in some cases that the best available was just not good enough in those days.  The hotel standards were a prime example,  It was supposed to be one of the best in that part of Poland.  But to show how wonderful those people were, when we returned with the team the whole hotel had been given a facelift.

It was not exactly the Ritz, but it was still a great deal better than before."

 ... playing the first European Cup match in Poland in 1961 .. (Spurs programme)

"We were a very good side, we knew that.  What we did not know was how to play in Europe. 

We did not know how to play games over two legs.  It made us realise that some teams on the continent prepare for the European ties very differently.  They played a much more containing game.  We had to learnt o eradicate other team's strengths without losing our own qualities.  Gornik did it to perfection and, but for our ability to play outstanding football, we would have been out.

It is so easy when goals are going in to be swept away.  It happened to Gornik at White Hart Lane.  They were crushed 8-1.  They were not that bad but they were caught in a domino effect.  When one goal goes in it is difficult to halt the flood.

It was an amazing start.  Maybe we learnt more in that 90 minutes than we had learnt in 90 years before.  Europe was certainly a different place."

 ... about playing Ipswich and missing out on the Double Double ... 19.08.2000 (THFC programme)

"We were due to play Ipswich and in our team chat before the match, I was keen that we should change tactics and have our wing halves mark their wingers instead of our full backs doing the job.

This was because they had wily Jimmy Leadbitter pulling the strings back from deep and I believed that if our full-backs could do a smothering job it would allow us to raid forward while, we hoped, Danny Blanchflower and Dave Mackay throttled them before they could set up anything. 

But there was a disagreement about playing it that way and I conceded the point, because I did not want them playing a tactical plan they were unhappy about.  They beat us home and away.  3-1 on our pitch.  If we had beaten them 3-1 at White Hart Lane would have done the Double again, it was as simple as that.  It was all a question of tactics."

The teams met in the Charity Shield at the start of the following season ...
"There was no nonsense this time.  I put my foot down and told them very firmly that we would play this one my way.  We beat them 5-1."

 ... players joining Tottenham ...

"Any player coming to Spurs, whether he's a big signing or just a ground staff boy, must be dedicated to the game and the club.  He must never be satisfied with his last performance and he must hate losing."

 ... on striving to achieve ...

"It is better to fail aiming high, than to succeed aiming low.  And we of Spurs have set our aims very high, so high in fact that even failure will have in it an echo of glory."

 ... on working for Spurs ...

"I always said it was an honour to serve Tottenham Hotspur and I feel the same every time I walk back into the stadium."

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Season League FA Cup League Cup UEFA Cup
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            For other articles on Bill Nicholson

          By - Various contributors on Bill Nicholson's death
          By - Wyart Lane on Bill Nicholson's Memorial Service
          By - -

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