- Feb 1, 2005
Bill Nicholson OBE (26 January 1919 - 23 October 2004)
Born in Scarborough, Yorkshire, the eighth of nine children, he worked briefly in a laundry after leaving school, but at the age of 16 he was invited to a trial at Tottenham Hotspur, where he arrived on 16 March 1936. [ar]
After a month's trial, he was taken on as a ground-staff boy at £2 a week. He signed as a full professional at the age of 18 and played a few matches for the first team before he joined the Durham Light Infantry on the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. As a professional footballer he was sent on a Physical Education course and was made a sergeant-instructor, training new intakes of troops throughout the war. Although the war probably cost him half his playing career, he did not regret it as his experiences taught him the man-management skills which were to have such a great effect later in his career.
In 1946 Nicholson returned to the Spurs first team, playing at centre half for two seasons, then moving to right half for a further six years. He was a vital part of the legendary "push and run" Tottenham team which won the league championship in the 1950-51 season.
He made his full international debut for England on 19 May 1951 against Portugal at Goodison Park, Liverpool, and made an immediate impression by scoring with his first touch of the ball after only 19 seconds. Unfortunately this was his only international appearance, because of injuries, the dominance of Billy Wright, and on many occasions he put his club before his country, saying "My duty is to get fit for Tottenham. Well, they pay my wages, don't they?" Of his only appearance he said "Stan Pearson nodded it back and I ran on to let go a first time shot which, from the moment I hit it, I knew was going in. But for the next game they brought back Billy Wright and I accepted that because he was the better player."[al]
Nicholson took an FA coaching course and joined the coaching staff at Tottenham upon his retirement as a player. He quickly rose through the ranks of the coaching staff to become first team coach in 1955.
On 11 October 1958, Nicholson was called to the Tottenham boardroom and appointed manager of the club in succession to Jimmy Anderson. At the time the club was sixth from the bottom of the First Division and there was little indication that the greatest period in the history of the club was about to begin. That afternoon, in the club's first game under Nicholson's management, Tottenham Hotspur beat Everton 10-4 at White Hart Lane.
Less than two years later Spurs wrote their place in the history books when they won the Football League championship and the FA Cup in the 1960-61 season, the first "double" of the twentieth century. Spurs dominated the opposition that year, winning their first eleven games and scoring 115 goals in 42 games. The following year they won the FA Cup again, and narrowly missed a place in the European Cup Final, losing to Benfica in the semi-final.
In the 1962-63 season, Nicholson again put Spurs in the history books when they became the first British club to win a major European trophy. In Rotterdam on 15 May 1963, Spurs defeated favourites Atlético Madrid 5-1 to win the European Cup Winners Cup.
In 1967 Nicholson's Spurs won their third FA Cup in seven years by beating Chelsea in the first-ever all-London final. This was followed by a string of trophies in the early 1970's – the League Cup was won in 1971 and 1973, and the UEFA Cup in 1972. [ar]
With a general change in attitudes in British football in the early 1970s, in particular negative tactics and player power, Nicholson felt that the industry was in contrast to his upbringing and personality. He therefore resigned as manager of Spurs in September 1974, shortly after Spurs had lost the 1974 UEFA Cup final to Feyenoord and he then spent a year assisting neighbouring team West Ham.
Managerial Honours at Tottenham Hotspur
1961 FA Cup and league championship winners (The first "double" of the 20th century), Charity Shield winners
1962 FA Cup winners, Charity Shield winners, European Cup semi finalists
1963 European Cup Winners Cup winners, League championship runners up
1967 FA Cup winners, Charity Shield winners
1971 League Cup winners
1972 UEFA Cup winners
1973 League Cup winners, UEFA Cup semi finalists
1974 UEFA Cup runners up
When Keith Burkinshaw became Spurs' manager in 1976, one of his first requests was that Nicholson be brought back to White Hart Lane as a consultant. His knowledge and experience were invaluable, and he showed that he still had an eye for players by recommending several to Burkinshaw, including Graham Roberts, Tony Galvin, Gary Mabbutt and Glenn Hoddle.
Nicholson continued to work as a consultant until 1991, when he was awarded the title of Club President. In 1999 an approach road to White Hart Lane was named Bill Nicholson Way in his honour.
In 2003 Nicholson was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in recognition of his impact as a manager. Spurs fans had also campaigned for many years to have Nicholson knighted in recognition of his outstanding achievements and contribution to football but they were unsuccessful.
Bill Nicholson died on 23 October 2004 after a long illness.
Bill Nicholson - Mr Tottenham Hotspur