On this day thirty eight years ago, 29th August, 1974, Bill Nicholson shocked everyone connected with Tottenham Hotspur and the footballing world by resigning from his position as manager. It brought to an end his association with the club which stretched back over thirty eight years to 1936 when he joined the club as a young player at seventeen years of age. He had been manager for sixteen years and during his time with Spurs he had known success as a player, a coach and a manager.
As a player he had been a member of the ‘Push and Run’ team which won the 2nd Division and 1st Division titles in successive seasons between 1949 and 1951. As manager he won his first match in charge by 10 – 4 against Everton at White Hart Lane in October, 1958. He went on to become the club’s most successful manager, guiding the team to the historic League and FA Cup ‘Double’ in 1960-61, the FA Cup in 1962 and 1967, the Football League Cup in 1971 and 1973, the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1963 and the UEFA Cup success of 1972. Bill Nicholson dedicated his whole life to Tottenham Hotspur.
The 1974-75 season had started in disappointing fashion for Spurs with four straight defeats. Tottenham had lost the opening game at home to Ipswich Town, at Manchester City in midweek and at newly promoted Carlisle United the following Saturday. All three defeats had been by a single goal and the goal which Martin Peters scored against Manchester City at White Hart Lane the following Wednesday was their first of the season but Spurs lost 1 – 2. City had taken the lead early in the second half. Peters brought the scores level five minutes later but a very late goal in the final seconds by City condemned Tottenham to a fourth defeat and their worst start to a season for many years. The following day, Nicholson announced his resignation.
Changing Times in Football:
Nicholson cited the need for a rest from football as his reason for leaving. He had found the circumstances of Tottenham’s defeat in the previous season’s UEFA Cup Final in Rotterdam against Feyenoord extremely stressful. Going into the second leg level at 2 – 2, rioting among the fans and terrible scenes on the terraces during the match had left Nicholson at a very low ebb – disillusioned and very disappointed. He was also finding it increasingly difficult to relate to the ‘modern’ player and having been unable to strengthen his side during the summer, he decided it was time to step down.
Writing in his book, ‘Glory Glory, My Life with Spurs’, Bill Nicholson commented on his resignation in 1974.
‘Numerous reasons were put forward as to why I resigned in 1974, including contract disputes with players, the failure to buy new players, the first defeat in a Cup Final under my managership when we lost to Feyenoord on that disturbing night in Rotterdam, my trouble with Martin Chivers and the League defeats at the start of the season.
All of them may have been contributory factors but the simple truth was that I was burned out. I resigned because I sensed I needed a long rest, I had no more to offer. It was really nothing to do with Martin Chivers or anyone else.’
Although the Board and the players tried to persuade him to change his decision, he was not for turning but agreed to stay on until his replacement was appointed.
Bill Nicholson set the standards for Tottenham Hotspur Football Club and many Spurs’ managers and teams have found him a hard act to follow. The club has been striving to reach his level of success ever since.
It was a sad end to a glorious managerial career with Tottenham and unfortunately the Board of Directors chose to sideline him when it came to selecting his successor, ignoring his suggestions concerning the appointment. For the players it was a shock too. John Pratt is quoted in, ‘Mr Tottenham Hotspur. Memories of a Spurs Legend’ by Steve E Hale, published in 2005, after the death of Bill Nicholson said’
“It was such a shock. We all thought that Bill would be at Tottenham forever.”
Fans were left in a state of total disbelief and shock that Nicholson would no longer be the manager of Tottenham Hotspur. In Hale’s book the supporters also had an opportunity to pay tribute to Mr Nicholson. One fan, Greaves on the Topspurs website wrote,
“His legacy is to have left forever something that all Spurs teams and staff should aspire to: that is to play football in a correct, honourable and entertaining manner.”
Bill Nicholson is remembered for many memorable quotations and one that I used when setting up blog is,
“It is better to fail aiming high than to succeed aiming low. And we of Spurs have set our sights very high, so high, in fact, that even failure will have in it an echo of glory.”
Bill Nicholson – Tottenham Hotspur Legend (8)
#knowyourtottenhamhistory 28th August, 1950