"Bill Nicholson is the name that is synonymous with Tottenham. His achievements, and the way in which he achieved them will always be remembered by anyone with a Spurs connection.
Off the field Bill is a gentleman in the true sense of the word, Bill lived a life which revolved around Tottenham Hotspur. Nobody had a bad word to say about him.
- Gary Mabbutt
As we search for the man behind the legend, maybe one of the keys to understanding Bill was that he seemed to remain the same quiet modest person chap throughout his life. At a time when some managers are media / image obsessed not for him the quip or sound-bite. Always showing respect to the other team. Was this in part due to growing up in a large family during the depression or by joining the army at twenty for six years during the war ? He lived in a modest house just a few minutes walk from White Hart Lane his whole adult life.
I read a story at the time of his passing. A supporter was standing watching a reserve game when someone walked up next to him and asked the score, he told him. The newcomer then asked how we were doing and the supporter made a few comments. The newcomer then asked what did he think of a certain player and was told. The newcomer thanked him and started to walk away when the supporter turned and realised if had been Bill Nicholson asking him, his opinion.
An estimated 8-10,000 attended his memorial service at White Hart Lane in November 2004. A number of speakers remembered the great man. It was his daughter Linda who told those present "My Dad loved you as much as you loved him." Before 85 white doves, one for each year of his life, were released.
Bill use to tell the story that when he was called to the Board room and appointed manager they did not mention a contract or a pay rise so he didn’t. Arriving home that day he did not even tell his wife, Grace, universally known as Darkie because of her hair, she only found out about it later from her mother. While she was an ardent Spurs fan, she and daughters Linda and Jean were banned from attending games because as Darkie once explained “I went to a match once early on and Tottenham lost so he told me not to come again."
The second in August 2001 was against Florentina. The kick off was delayed by ten minutes as an amazing crowd of 35,877 attended. You might like to consider that shortly before that Arsenal’s Tony Adam's testimonial drew 12,000. That’s only slightly more than Bills memorial service.
In July 1991 he was appointed Club President. In 2004 Bill was fittingly the first inductee into the Tottenham Hall of Fame. At his induction in his usual style he shared any credit saying “"What was achieved at that time was down to the players and staff plus a lot of hard work. This club has been my life and will always remain so.” Several months afterwards he was inducted into the National Hall of Fame.
He never received the Knighthood he deserved but I was proud to support the campaign.The OBE was followed by a PFA merit award in 1984. Then in December 1998 he received the Freedom of the Borough from Haringey Council. The short road leading to the stadium from Tottenham High Road was renamed ‘Bill Nicholson Way’ with an official unveiling of the newly named road in April 1999.
Acknowledgements will be listed at end of series. Images- Top- The Club Bill Made, 1,2,3 & 5 - THFC, 4- Popperfield/Getty images.
About the author:
Keith Harrison, Nilgiris, TN
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