THE BILLY NICK REPORT
Place: Planet White Hart Lane
Stardate: August 8th, 2001
Occasion: [Sir] William E. Nicholson's Testimonial
Tottenham Hotspur v Fiorentina
Attendance; 35,877 [all standing as one to acknowledge the man who
changed the face of British football],
a constellation of Spurs legends, and
one tearful Spurs fanatic with a lump the size of a golf ball in his throat.
Yes, 35,877 idolatry Spurs fans of all ages; standing as one to acknowledge the man deservedly known as Mr Tottenham Hotspur. Compare that with the 12,000 who crept sheepishly into Highbury for Tony Adams 'great' night, and that should tell you something about where the real passion for football lies in North London!
They came in their droves. A reverberating White Hart Lane, bulging to the seams with people eager to pay their respects to a man very much alive, and still revered by managers, trainers, players, fans; and a global football world still learning from the philosophies of the king of panache.
I took my seat in the Park Lane upper, feeling a humbleness that I'd rarely experienced in my life. The man gave me so much. As a small lad, I was bought up in enemy territory. Bill's teams enchanted and mesmerised; enticing me across the river like a moth to a very bright lamp. Greaves, Gilzean [they tripped off the tongue as naturally as coffee and cream or day and night], Blanchflower, Jones, Chivers, Jennings and Knowles. Football people. Spurs people. Great people. People who lived, breathed and ate a Nicholson induced brand of swashbuckling, flamboyant football. Even his first game in charge, which I was lucky enough to attend ended 10-4!
After experiencing such a great era in my chosen football team's history, then living through the sheer torture of the last dozen or so years, my eyes started to fill up. The famous old words go; "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the cups at White Hart Lane...", well for a few moments last night, I couldn't really see a thing. I tried to hold back the tears to no avail. I sprang to my feet as the great man took to the pitch, held upright by the still commanding figure of big Martin Chivers. I knew in my heart how much that would have hurt "Nick", having to walk out in front of that crowd assisted by a steadying arm. After all, that's exactly what he gave our great club. A steadying arm through an era of 'firsts' that would shake the modern game to its core.
I went to last night's game with a lapsed Crystal Palace fan. "I used to go when they were good" she told me. "I used to go when they [Spurs] were great" I told her. Encapsulated in my small moment of unbridled gloating dwelt my reasons for supporting Spurs. Bill Nicholson made us great. He gave us pride. He turned a crumbling, poor, yet bustling part of North London into one of the most passionate couple of acres in the world. Without Billy Nick's ideals and values, Spurs may not have been the global attraction that they became over the duration of his leadership. We certainly would never have attracted the players from the various corners of the world who have graced the white shirt with such style.
As I stood, looking up in awe at the man who had affected my childhood even more than my own father, I couldn't help but hope that all his sterling work would not go in vain. We mustn't waste his efforts or what he has built here, I thought to myself. This is Tottenham Hotspur. My Tottenham Hotspur. A hotbed of passion; A proud, burgeoning history of entertainment and style; A vertiable world of fantasy in a universe gone mad.
In many ways, last night was an important pivotal point in the future of our great club.
With Bill Nicholson at the top, and loved by all; With new owners, obviously working tirelessly for our future; with new players, young and younger; and the prodigal welcomed back to the manager's chair. I genuinely feel for the first time in a dozen years that Tottenham Hotspur are on the way back to their rightful place at the head of British football.
Mr Nicholson, I hope I speak for every Spurs fan that ever visited the ground, or listened to, or watched your teams on countless TVs and radio sets around the world. Thank you. Thank you very much for touching each one of our lives.