Sunday, October 24, 2004


Bill Nicholson, who died this weekend, epotimises the spirit of Tottenham Hotspur FC. In the 1960s, Spurs were by far the best and most attractive London soccer team.

"Bill Nick", as he became affectionately known, was a Spurs man through and through. Though born in Yorkshire, he starred for Spurs played on their 50-51 championship side, then managed the glorious 60-61 double winning side.

His belief was in "glory football". But, he owed a great debt to his manager in that early fifties side, Arthur Rowe. The latter "invented" push-and-run, that delightful passing style which was in such contrast to the "scientific" long ball style prevalent at the time taken to the extreme by the highly successful Wolves side.

The Glory Game, indeed.

Nicholson's approach was as much about style as about the players needed to achieve results. He was a shrewd judge of talent, bought wisely and - in a contrast to today's Spurs - had the funds to build a great side.

As well as being able to bring in some of the best players, Nicholson also inherited the great Danny Blanchflower. Just the mention of Blanchflower's name sends shivers down the spines of every Tottenham fan.

Blanchflower was Nicholson's alter ego on the pitch. He can lay claim to the title of greatest captain ever. Of the many of the Blanchflower stories, one of the best is the famous cup match at Roker Park. Spurs were strolling to the league title (it was said that they could have declared at half time of some matches), 1-0 up, but Sunderland equalised, the crowd invaded and the double looked to be slipping from their grasp. "Let them get it out of their system" said Blanchflower. After a long delay, the match resumed, but Sunderland had shot their bolt. Spurs won the replay 5-0 and strolled on to the semi-final and eventually easily beat Leicester in the final.

Nicholson signed great players seemingly at will and, famously, frequently at motorway service stations. Jimmy Greaves, Mike England, Ralph Coates, Terry Venables, Martin Peters and Pat Jennings. Nicholson sides frequently included 11 internationals and he was able to bring others in to improve the side.

Under Nicholson in the 60s, Spurs lowest finish was 8th. They were always there or there abouts, a strong challenger for league or cup. But, that double season proved too much of an act to follow. Nicholson's Spurs were first British side to win a European trophy. They won the cup again in '67; another European trophy on 1971; but no league successes.

Glory, however, was not enough. Nicholson was surpassed by contemporaries Shankly, Busby, Catterick and Revie. Perhaps only Busby's United side could claim to be as an attractive side.

In the end, Nicholson fell out with the board. He railed against the new style professional. (His battles with Martin Chivers were legend.) And, refused to make under the table payments to fix transfers.

His legacy hangs still over White Hart Lane. With the exception of perhaps Keith Burkinshaw, no other manager has come from behind Bill Nick's shadow.

Good bye, Sir Bill.

:: Posted by pete @ 22:23