the bill nicholson memorial service


The passing of Bill Nicholson was a big blow to everyone at the club.  His achievements over his years of service to Tottenham Hotspur will never be eclipsed and deserved more recognition than they achieved when he was alive.

The staging of a Memorial Service at the White Hart Lane ground was a fitting way for fans to pay their respects to the great man and to do so in a place he regarded as his second home.

The club should be applauded for their production of this event and the way they have handled the whole two weeks since Sir Bill's death.  The books of condolence and the leaflets produced have been spot on and the respect for the man shines through in the way that fans have flocked to pay their own tributes to Bill.

With a stage erected on the edge fo the penalty area at the Paxton Road end, the North Stand was almost full for the Service with the lower tier packed and the top tier was well populated as family, friends, the current players, staff and dignitaries were seated in the Lower West Stand at the Paxton end.  Some of the scarves, shirts and banners were laid out on the running track in front of the North Stand to provide a memory of the tributes people had laid at the club's offices.

Some of the players who played under Bill Nick and who were at the club while he was a Consultant attended with other colleagues from throughout football.
Those I spotted included ...

Jimmy Greaves Cliff Jones Les Allen Ron Henry Bobby Smith
Peter Baker Terry Dyson Frank Saul Tommy Harmer Mel Hopkins
Phil Beal  Dennis Bond Alan Mullery Steve Perryman Martin Chivers
Pat Jennings Ralph Coates Martin Peters Joe Kinnear Jimmy Robertson
Glenn Hoddle Gary Mabbutt John Pratt Terry Naylor Paul Miller
John Gorman Jimmy Neighbour  Ray Clemence Tony Galvin Colin Calderwood
Mark Falco Peter Shreeves David Pleat Doug Livermore Ted Buxton
Irving Scholar Douglas Alexiou David Lammy MP Frank Clark John Motson
Frank Arnesen Martin Jol Chris Hughton Dominique Cuperley Roy Reyland
Clive Allen Hans Segers Most of the first team squad

Matchday announcer Brian Alexander was the MC for the service and he took to the stage with Reverend Toni Smith from St. Winifred's Church Chigwell.  The service began with the video montage of the last two weeks and the moving sequence aired at the Bolton Wanderers match to the haunting melody of "Into The West" by Annie Lennox.

The Reverend made some comments about Bill's life and although she did not know him personally, she was aware of how he had touched many people's lives.  Toni lead the singing of the FA Cup Final hymn "Abide With Me".

Chairman Daniel Levy took the first slot to pay homage to Sir Bill and told the assembly that it was Nicholson who had made Spurs world famous and that we should not forget the debt that we owed him.  The way that things were done nowadays should reflect the way Bill would have done them and the club will always strive to meet the high standards he set for himself and the fans.

Some footage form the 1962 FA Cup semi-final preceded the pairing of Cliff Jones and Jimmy Greaves climbing the podium to add their memories of the man.  Cliff remembers that Bill would rarely give you a pat on the back when you had done well, but once did so, adding that "A pat on the back is only two feet from being a kick up the arse !!"  The Welsh winger remembered that Bill was always meticulous in his attention to detail, from his first match, when Bill noticed that Cliff's studs were worn and when he slipped in the act of shooting in a 4-4 debut draw with Arsenal, Bill told him so at the end of the game, but told him that the club would look after his boots from now on.

Greavsie, as always, remembered Bill for the dour Yorkshireman he was !!  Jimmy told of Cliff going in to see the manager and reckoning he was the best winger in the world, so should be earning 100 a week.  Bill replied "That's your opinion, not mine !"  But he told of the man who turned up to Milan to sign him in trilby hat, tweed coat and gloves, who went on to be the major influence on his career.   "When you run out in front of the crowd, these are the people that pay your wages. Their expectancy is high, their value of you is high, their opinion of you is high. Do not let them down. Entertain them and you can only do that by being honest with yourself, respect your team mates, your opponents, and as a team, play as one."  Greaves said that Bill always regarded the fans as the most important thing at the club.

A couple of Spurs goals form a home match with Arsenal preceded the scorers - Martin Chivers and Steve Perryman - being called upon to give their reminiscences.  Chivers was close to Bill and perhaps more so after he finished playing, having been one of those Bill found difficult to motivate during his playing days.  His tribute was short and personal and you felt he was still feeling the loss very acutely.

Steve Perryman told that he came to the club and it was almost entirely on the fact that Bill Nicholson was in charge.  He told Steve's parents that he would be treated exactly the same as everyone else at the club and from the day he started there to the day he left, that had been the case.  Bill's hatred of anything red brought big sheers from the crowd too.  During his time under Sir Bill, Steve remembered some of the sayings he used and had put them to use in the clubs where he had been in charge.  These included ...

If one ball goes back, the next goes through and forward.
Play the ball the way you're facing.
If you're not in possession - get in position.
When the game dies, make sure you come alive.
No spectating on the football pitch - you can stand in the crowd and pay to do that.

Stevie P said that he felt sad every time he said them to his players, as they were Bill's words and not his own.  Steve praised Keith Burkinshaw for bringing Nicholson back to the club from West Ham, where he went after his resignation.  His disgust at the club, around the time he was in charge with Ossie Ardiles, was expressed, as the past was attempted to be wiped out and Bill would have been part of that.  Steve did not sound like he would forgive those in the boardroom at the time for trying to marginalise Sir Bill.  Perryman said he would miss Bill, but although he never received the knighthood he deserved, he would always be a 'Sir' to us and a gentleman.

Hoddle's wonder goal against Oxford at the Lane and Mabbutt lifting the 1991 FA Cup were seen on the big screen before they told of their encounters with Sir Bill.  Hoddle thought that a hat-trick in the youth team would earn a favourable comment from the boss, but he pointed out that Hoddle had taken a risk with the third goal and he should have passed to a colleague.  Hoddle was shocked, but realised that he was pointing out that Hoddle was not playing for the team and was going for personal glory.  From that he learned that valuable lesson.  He said that he hoped that Bill would reap the spiritual reward his earthly efforts deserved.

Burkinshaw and Shreeves were away at the 1982 World Cup, leaving Sir Bill to deal with the faxed CV's of players who were available in the summer.  He saw Gary Mabbutt's and rang his club, who in turn rang the young Mabbutt to inform him that Bill Nicholson would be phoning him in the next ten minutes.  When asked if he would like to travel up to London as Spurs were interested in signing him, Mabbutt jumped at the chance.  When he arrived at the club, he walked in and met Sir Bill, saying "Hello Mr. Nicholson, I'm Gary Mabbutt."  "I know.  I'm Bill," said the great man.  Immediately, he had put Mabbutt at his ease and on the way to the Cheshunt training ground, he talked non-stop about the club, what the had done, where they were going and how it all worked.  by the time they got there, Mabbutt was decided that this was the club he wanted to play for.  He said that he had spoken with warmth and passion, but never from a position where he was telling Gary about it, just recalling the good old days.

It was fitting and most moving when Bill's daughter Linda spoke about her father.  The family had to share Bill with his "second family" - Tottenham Hotspur.  Linda said that there were so many wonderful memories that they have of her father ad the ground was at the centre of most of them.  Bill had always said that the most important thing was the fans.  Without them, there would be no game.  There would be no chance for players to play the game they love.  There would be no spectacle.  Linda said the family had lots of fabulous memories of their father from the books of condolence and many tributes to Bill.  They thanked everyone who had passed their best wishes to the family and the club for everything they had done including the staging of this fitting service.

The service concluded with the singing of "Jerusalem", the saying of the Lord's Prayer and the release of one white dove for every year of Bill's life - 85 in all.  As the dignitaries moved back towards the tunnel, some more pictures were shown on the Videotron and "Glory Glory, Hallelujah" was played.

Some Spurs songs were sung to echo eerily around the ground, with applause for the old and current stars as the assembled fans trooped out.  It was a fitting way for those who were there to say their goodbyes to Sir Bill.

Most of all, it gave me the chance to say ...

Thank you.


Wyart Lane

To view photos from the service click here.

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