On This Day in 2004 Bill Nicholson Passed Away

Born at Scarborough on January 26, 1919, William Edward Nicholson was the second youngest of nine children. He attended Scarborough Boy’s High School, playing in the school team at centre half. On leaving school he worked as a laundry assistant for six months and played for the Young Liberals side in a local league. Recommended by his manager to our York based scout, he was invited for a trial by chief scout Ben Ives in a letter dated February 29, 1936.

The Tottenham Weekly Herald dated Friday, March 13 announced in a six line paragraph:

“On Trial. Spurs are giving a month trial to an amateur, Wm. E. Nicholson, an inside right of Scarborough Working Men’s Club. He recently celebrated his 17th birthday. His height is 5ft 8ins and weight 10st 12 lbs.”

The Herald’s first mention of Bill wearing the Club colours was in a 3-5 defeat of our A team at Guildford City on March 21. Assigned to the White Hart Lane groundstaff, Bill scored a hat-trick on his second outing for our A team, in a 7-1 victory over Brentwood Mental Hospital on November 19, 1936. He also featured for Northfleet Amateurs during 1937 and it was about this time that he switched from playing at inside forward to left back. He made his debut for our London Combination reserve team in a 3-0 home win over Bournemouth & Boscombe Athletic on January 1, 1938 and was given a professional contract with the senior nursery club Northfleet United. On April 18, 1938 he gained a Kent Senior Cup winners medal in the final against Dover.

Bill signed professional forms for us during August, 1938 and added a further nine appearances to his second XI tally prior to making his Football League debut at Ewood Park in a 1-3 defeat by Blackburn Rovers on October 22. He picked up a thigh injury and spent the latter part of the match playing at outside right but was fit enough to return to reserve team duty the following week. At the time he was the tenth youngest player to have featured in our League team.

During the war Bill served the Durham Light Infantry, rising to the rank of sargeant. He worked as an instructor in infantry training and physical education as well as playing plenty of Service football. Extended spells as a guest player at Newcastle United and Darlington were supplemented by briefer stints with Hartlepools United, Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Fulham. After the war he served the Central Mediterranean Forces HQ at Udini, Italy. On returning to civvy street he attended FA coaching courses at Birmingham University and passed his Full Badge at the first attempt.

By 1948 Bill had settled in to the right half berth and was a regular reserve for the England team. During December that year he scored the first of his six League goals – in 314 appearances for us – at Fulham, which was also the Club’s 2,000th in the Football League.

The 1949-50-51 Push and Run campaigns saw Bill miss just four games as we lifted the Second and First Division championships in consecutive seasons. In 1950 he travelled to the Brazil World Cup as a member of the England squad having played three times for the A team and gained FA and Football League representative honours. His only Full cap was gained at Goodison Park against Portugal on May 19, 1951. Bill scored within the first 30 seconds of a 5-2 victory. In all, he stood by as a reserve on 22 occasions.

Under invitation from the FA, Bill coached the varsity and Pegasus teams during the early Fifties. When his playing career ended in 1954 he switched to a coaching role and assisted with the England Under-23 team. Appointed assistant manager at Tottenham in 1955 he took over as manager on October 11, 1958 to enjoy a 16 year stint at the helm. The early years saw him continue a role helping with the England Full and Under-23 side.

The Double of 1961 saw him join the short list of men to have won the championship as both a player and manager, the FA Cup was retained in 1962 and the European Cup-Winners Cup won in 1963. Our fifth FA Cup triumph was secured in 1967, the Football League Cup in both 1971 and 1973 and the UEFA Cup of 1972. These feats brought many firsts; the first Double of the 20th century was followed by the first European trophy win by a British club; the first British team to win two different European competitions and the first to win the League Cup twice.

Bill used 79 players as manager, 37 year old Danny Blanchflower being the eldest and Neil McNab, aged 16, the youngest. Bill Dodge was the first of 57 players given their Spurs debut by Bill and Alfie Conn the last. Pat Jennings was selected more often than any other player, making 480 senior appearances.

Eight of the players selected by Bill had also played alongside him in our League team, namely Peter Baker, Johnny Brooks, Dave Dunmore, Tommy Harmer, Mel Hopkins, Tony Marchi, George Robb and Alfie Stokes.

On August 29, 1974 Bill announced his retirement as manager. He remained in charge until September 13. Following a spell on the scouting staff at West Ham United he returned to serve us as a consultant and chief scout in July, 1976. His connection with our scouting department continued until his retirement in July, 1997. During July, 1991 he was appointed Club President.

Bill also served the South East Counties League, the organisation which our youth teams participated in. Elected a Life Member in1986, he acted as Vice Chairman from 1989 until 1994.

Amongst his personal honours, Bill received an O.B.E. in 1975, the PFA merit award in 1984 and in September, 1970 was voted Bell’s scotch whisky manager of the month. Macmillan published his autobiography Glory, Glory, My Life With Spurs in 1984. In December, 1998 he received the Freedom of the Borough from Haringey Council and the road leading to the Club from Tottenham High Road was renamed Bill Nicholson Way. The official unveiling of the newly named road took place in April, 1999 and is now incorporated into the club address.

On Sunday, August 21, 1983 we staged a testimonial match in his honour against West Ham. Alan Brazil equalised Dave Swindlehurst’s opener in a 1-1 draw, before a crowd numbering 20,101. Our line-up was:
Clemence, Hughton (Mabbutt), Thomas, Roberts, Stevens, Perryman, Ardiles (Hazard), Brazil, Galvin (Archibald), Hoddle (Price), Falco.

The main match was preceded by an exhibition game of 20 minutes each way between teams of former players. Tony Parks and John Lacy guested for the Blues who were beaten 3-0 through goals from Martin Chivers, Eddie Clayton and Phil Holder. The two sides were:

Yellows: Jennings, Kinnear, Knowles, Bond, England, Holder, Neighbour, Dyson, Chivers, Peters, Clayton.
Blues: Parks, Naylor, Henry, Robertson, Lacy, Collins, Pratt, Greaves, Gilzean, Brooks, Jones.

A near sell out crowd numbering 35,877 delayed the kick-off for 10 minutes when we staged a second testimonial for Bill against AC Fiorentina on Wednesday, August 8, 2001. An emotion-charged evening saw Les Ferdinand, Gustavo Poyet and Steffen Iversen score our goals in a 3-0 victory. Our team was:

Sullivan, Taricco (Piercy 88), King, Freund (Davies 61), Doherty (Perry 69), Bunjevcevic, Clemence, Ziege, Ferdinand (Iversen 46), Poyet, Rebrov (Etherington 84).Subs (not used): Kelly, Thelwell.

Bill became the first inductee into the Tottenham Hotspur Hall of Fame at a dinner held on March 11, 2004. The event was attended by 10 members of our Double winning squad. He was similarly honoured a couple of months later by The National Football Museum based at Preston.

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