Bill Nicholson (1919—2004)


It was nine years ago today (23rd Oct) that one of Spurs greatest managers died: Bill Nicholson. A gentleman in football where the word “gentleman” is sometimes hard to use where football managers are concerned, more so in the modern game.

Spurs fans still talk about the great Bill Nicholson. He is so great that Spurs even named a road after him at the entrance to their ground. A ground where he brought us so much glory.

So Bill Nicholson was, or is still, our greatest manager. That is taken as read. However, that is sad in its own way. That tells us nobody has come along and taken us to another level. Which means, for the moment, we have to look backwards into the past to talk about our Glory nights and great managers we have had (we also mustn’t forget Arthur Rowe as well, who brought us our first League Division one Title and started the Spurs revolution).
Look at the great managers United has had. If I reeled them off today people would probably say “who?” that is because of Alex Ferguson coming in and putting past managers in the shade (he is now their greatest manager-ever!). The same with Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal. So on one hand Bill Nick is a great Spurs manager and should be remembered for past achievements. On the other hand to say that Bill Nicholson is our greatest manager is deflating news; nobody, since he retired, has even dared to walk out of his shadow (Burkinshaw came close). For a club like Spurs, yes we should honour our greats, but only in glancing back and paying homage to our past. He should have been way down the list, like the great Matt Busby is down the list of Manchester United managers. Or even Bill Shankly who is almost forgotten to the modern generation because of the great managers that followed him. It only shows us that we’ve got some catching up to do to walk in the same footsteps of the likes of United, Arsenal, Liverpool and the Chelsea’s of this world.

To me, I know where we went wrong. When Bill retired he suggested to the Tottenham board that Danny Blanchflower should take over. In the boards wisdom they dismissed his recommendation and waved him good bye. A disgraceful treatment of such a loyal servant to our club. If he had been allowed to play a part in the selection of Spurs’ next manager we might have saved ourselves of the humiliation of picking an Arsenal man (Terry Neil), and also might have taken a different path that could have built upon Bill Nicks greatest achievements. Bill Nicholson had to wait until the noggins on the Spurs board were finally amputated from their lofty perch and replaced with more forward thinking chairmen. In 1991 he was awarded the title of Club President. Anyway that is in the past.

Let us hope that AVB knocks Bill Nicholson off his perch (and I mean that in the nicest possible way). Bill Nicholson who? Oh, yes… didn’t he win the double For Spurs (the first club to do so in the 20th Century) and a few Cup trophies on the way …. Oh, and also became the first manager in Britain to win a European trophy? Yes, I remember him. But not as good as what AVB (?) had achieved…!!!!! But God bless Bill Nicholson for his services to a great club with great traditions. One day, hopefully we will be able to say that… for the time being we’ve only got the past to look back upon for those Glory, Glory memories to bring the tears to our eyes and the smile to our faces. All thanks to that great man Bill Nicholson. A true gentleman.

In the meantime let us have a silent prayer for that great man who put the Glory, Glory days into White Hart Lane. Rest in peace: Bill Nicholson (1919-2004), you won’t be forgotten.

Have something to tell us about this article?

Previous articleVilla Park, the whippet and beyond
Next articleVIDEO: AVB & Holtby press conference ahead of FC Sheriff
In the 90's, I was a writer for many of the top Spurs Fanzines (The Spurs, Spur of the Moment, MEHSTG and many others). A Spurs loyalist since the 60/61 season and now a season ticket holder (Premium). I run a Spurs Facebook page (“Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ voice” and co-run another one with Don Scully called “Tottenham Hotspur FC: Inside Track”). There is also a Spurs Twitter account (@HotspurVoice). I travel with Spurs to away games (including Europe). I have my a Blog (My blogging travels with Tottenham Hotspur Premium). The articles that appear on the blog also appear on SpursWeb and other applications.


  1. Great article. Total cock-up in the replacement of Nicholson and the subsequent demise of Spurs, minus the loss of the goalkeeper who would end up being the best keeper at both Spurs and Woolwiich.

    Thankfully, we are a more determined, more successful thinking outfit now, and with a fair wind we can once again become the Mighty Spurs and then push on for to be the great bastion of football that the Club has inspired to be for many decades. COYS

  2. good article to a great man, and possibly AVB will at least rise to those same heights. Glad to read the author included Rowe and Burkinshaw. But I do question one major point in this article. Matt Busby down the list of great united managers????? Come on Neil, get real. Between them Busby and Fergie ruled the roost for damn near Fifty years or more. Managers came and went between those pair and never achieved anything remotely near those two's successes. It is something I sincerely hope will happen again now Fergie has gone, that United go through managers tenfold get relegated and take years to get back up, bitchy? yes but will be a joy to witness!!!

  3. Venables could have been one of our great managers/coaches, and in place a long time, if he hadn't forgotten why he was AT the club, and had simply buried his arguments with Alan Sugar and stuck to coaching, instead of fighting for control in the boardroom. Burkinshaw was a top top manager who achieved much for us, and left us sooner than he should have. It's a hard one really. The likes of Billy Nick, Busby, Shankly, Stein etc. were giants, and proper old fashioned 'managers' in a different era where players had little power or freedom, and these managers were immune to the musical chairs of 'coach' changes that we see today in the PL. Fergie and Wenger are incredibly rare exceptions to the way things are now. Liverpool had two or three top managers who followed Shanks in the 70s and 80s, but Man Utd? For a couple of decades they were like us ..struggling to replace Busby as we struggled to replace Nick! Leeds never replaced Revie and look where they are now! Forest and Derby never replace Clough! It's a pity we couldn't find someone like Fergie in the mid 1980s, however, to replace Burkinshaw. But at least we had Billy Nick for a key part of our history (13 years) and for that I'm proud! He was there through thick and thin, and he was Tottenham through and through. It's different today ..a Spurs coach, British or foreign, may one day win us the CL, not just the PL, but would it make him better than Bill or more remembered 50 years down the line? I don't think so ..unless he stayed loyal for 10 years or so to the cause.

  4. Agree with much of the article and many of the comments, particularly the praise for Keith Burkenshaw and the lament for what Terry Venables might have built had he stuck to football. But I'm not sure about the idea of
    Danny Blanchflower being a saviour had he succeeded Bill Nick. I never actually saw him play but hear he was a great player and a man of legendary quotes. One of these, to the effect that the game should be about glory and not boring the opposition to death, pretty much sums up what Spurs fans have been brought up to believe. (I also seem to recall him once memorably describing an opponent as being "more deceptive than he looks"). But as a manager? Didn't he have a pretty disastrous spell at Chelsea?

    • When Bill Nick nominated Blanchflower he didn't nominate him on his own. He nominated Blanchflower and another player. Somebody like Jimmy Armfield (?); but it wasn't a Spurs player. Blanchflower knew the system at Spurs, at Chelsea he had problems, I agree. But that doesn't really mean anything.

      You could also say; didn't AVB 'have a pretty disastrous spell at Chelsea' as well?


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.