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I always assumed I’d know exactly what to say when the great man finally left us. I was wrong. Nothing I or anyone else can say can truly do him justice. How do you define a legend? It’s hard to find the words.
He’s always been there. Always. Trialist. Ground staff boy. Trainee. Player. Coach. Manager. Scout. President. Fan. Legend. I doubt there are many people alive today who can remember a Tottenham before Billy Nick. I know of a bloke who’s 90 and first went to a game in 1926. He remembers Tottenham before Bill. That’s how old you have to be.
Bill turned up in Tottenham in 1936 aged just seventeen, wide-eyed and new to the ways of London town. He didn’t leave until sixty-five years later, and only then due to health considerations. I hear they almost had to drag him away.
During the years in between, he changed the world according to Tottenham Hotspur.
I don’t need to list his accomplishments - you know what he did. He achieved greatness for Tottenham, for London, for English football, and for himself – although he would forever be far too modest to admit it. And therein lies the essence of the great man. Others have achieved similar greatness, but none have done it the way he did - with equal measures of groundbreaking vision and inventiveness, single-minded determination, style, daring, honesty, dignity and complete integrity. Who dares wins – and he did.
He blazed a path for the rest of English football to follow. In those halcyon years of the early sixties Tottenham Hotspur ruled English football and Bill took the club, the players and the fans on a glorious ride. Everyone willingly followed, because they knew that he was someone very special, and his was the right way to do things. This was what football was all about. The cockerel crowed. Boy, did it crow.
English football has moved on since those days. Always ahead of his time, he saw it coming and got out before the game he lived for became something he didn’t think it should be. It became more cynical, mercenary, less about the love of the game. The game is now ruled by satellite TV schedules, commercial considerations, corporate decisions and cold hard cash. Loyalty is a thing of the past. The league is a closed shop where two or three clubs with seemingly bottomless pockets and charmless, arrogant managers rule the roost. Petty pre-match mind games and post match whingeing abound. Bill would want no part of that.
But that was alright because even after he stepped down he was still around, keeping a watchful eye on the place. Whenever times were bad for Tottenham - and there have been many bad times since he retired – we could always content ourselves that we still had the great man there in the background. A link to the golden era of football, and a constant reminder of past glories and better times. No matter how bad things got, with Bill still around we had the right roots. And what roots they were. He’d been around so long that his influence reached out and touched every single part of his great club. Yes, his club. Others may hold the title deed but it belongs to him, and it always will. He built it, after all.
But now he’s gone, and I feel a little bit of the club has gone with him. Things will never be quite the same again. However, I know his legacy will live on. He is the heart and soul of Tottenham Hotspur. Everything we are about came from Bill and his ideals. The Tottenham way is the Bill Nicholson way. As long as there is a Tottenham Hotspur, the great man will live on in the hearts of all who love the club. Tales of his deeds will be passed down from father to son and the legend will grow as it passes through the ages.
I’m not a religious man - I don’t know if heaven exists or not. If it does, I imagine it’s exactly what the departed wants it to be. Heaven for the great man? An eternal season ticket for Tottenham Hotspur. On match days the weather is always sunny and his seat just happens to be right next to Danny Blanchflower’s. Tottenham win more often than not but even if they don’t, they always play stylish, swashbuckling football to entertain the fans, because that’s the most important thing. Oh yeah, and they always beat that lot up the road.
Bill Nicholson – a man of his people, a man of honour and one hundred per cent Spurs. A gentleman, a winner and a legend.
Farewell Bill. Tottenham loves you and you will never, ever be forgotten.