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The Bill Nicholson years - player to manager - 1954-60

Fri 24 October 2014, 17:05|Tottenham Hotspur

As we build up to the Bill Nicholson Anniversary Match against Newastle on Sunday, celebrating the life of the great man on the 10th anniversary of his passing, we've put together a four-part series detailing his 68-year association with the Club.

Part Two sees Bill switch from playing to coaching and management - the glory, glory years were approaching...


When Bill Nicholson's playing days ended in 1954, he switched to a coaching role at Spurs and assisted with the England Under-23 team. Appointed assistant manager at the club in 1955, he took over the reigns as manager on October 11, 1958 and his first match in charge gave an indication of the glory days to follow.

Struggling at the time with three wins in 11 in Division One, Everton were put to the sword 10-4 in front of 37,794 fans at the Lane. Bobby Smith led the scoring with four goals.

Bill took up the story of how he took over in his autobiography.

Early in October 1958 he (Jimmy Anderson, then manager) called me into his office and told me that Fred Wale, the vice-chairman, wanted to see me at his works, Brown's of Tottenham.

"What's it all about, Jim?" I asked.

"You go down there," he said. "You'll soon find out."

I drove to Mr Wale's premises and he welcomed me into his office.

"Jimmy Anderson isn't going to carry on as manager," he said. "Would you like his job?"

There was no suggestion at the time that Anderson was ill, but when the announcement was made three days later, on the morning of a home match against Everton, it was said he had retired through ill health.

Mr Wale made no mention of a pay increase or a contract. And I didn't raise the subject either. I never had a contract in my life as manager. I reasoned that if I wasn't good enough to do it, they would sack me. A contract wouldn't make any difference. I told Mr Wale I would like to do the job. I had been coaching at the club for four years and felt I could do it. "Fine," he said.

The 1958-59 campaign was a still a struggle but a run-in of just three defeats in 12 games saw the team climb away from the threat of relegation and finish 18th of 22.

The double team was starting to take shape. By now Bill had signed Dave Mackay, Bill Brown, Cliff Jones, John White and Les Allen and kicked-off the 1959-60 campaign with a 12-match unbeaten run on the way to third place in Division One.

There was talk of the double.

Bill said in his autobiography. "Danny Blanchflower claims it was around this time he first talked of Tottenham being capable of doing the double. I do not remember that, but I do know we had the makings of a good side.

"Our defence had let us down in the past. Now, with Bill Brown behind such sound defenders as Peter Baker, Maurice Norman, Dave Mackay and Ron Henry, I felt we had a chance. I was optimistic."

Tomorrow: The glory, glory years...

INFOGRAPHIC - Bill's timeline at Spurs

Wear White for Bill