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Jimmy Nicholson

As a young attacking wing-half, Jimmy Nicholson was earmarked as the successor to two of the games greatest in that position, Duncan Edwards at Manchester United and Danny Blanchflower for Northern Ireland...

Name: James Joseph Nicholson
Born: 27 February 1943, Belfast
Height: 5.09 ft
Weight: 12.04 st
Position: Wing-Half

Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 41 Full Caps / 6 Goals (1960-1971); 2 B Caps (1959-1960); 4 Under-23 Caps (1962-1965); Youth; 3 Schoolboy Caps (1957-1958).
Club Honours: (with Huddersfield) Football League Division Two Champion 1969/70; (with Bury) Football League Division Four Fourth 1973/74 (promoted).

Club Career:
FA Cup
FL Cup
Boyland YC
Manchester Utd
58(0)/ 5
Huddersfield T.
79(4)/ 0
Stalybridge Celtic

A creative, hard-working wing-half, Jimmy Nicholson was earmarked for greatness from a very young age. At just 16 he played for Northern Ireland in a B international against France, and within a year had made his senior club debut for Manchester United and senior international bow.

This rapid elevation put untold pressure on the youngster. United were still a club rebuilding following the Munich Disaster and Northern Ireland were entering their own lull following their successes at the 1958 World Cup finals in Sweden. Through the 1960/61 season the 17 year-old Nicholson was a regular at Old Trafford, weighing in with five goals, but from there it was all down hill for his career with the Reds, in the seasons that followed he suffered ill-luck with injuries and watched as a succession of players emerged to cement first-team places in his stead, notably Paddy Crerand and Nobby Stiles.

A fluid passer and strong tackler, Nicholson lacked pace and his comparatively heavy physique was often commented on. By the time he left United in December 1964, still aged just 21, he had not featured in the first team for two years. He was out of shape and low on confidence, but still the £7,500 fee that Huddersfield paid for him proved to be one of the bargains of the century.

While Nicholson's club career faltered, so too did his international standing. He had won ten games before his twentieth birthday, showing glimpses of the talent that saw him likened to a young Danny Blanchflower, with just the blot of a sending-off following a melee in a match against Greece to sully his reputation. But, with a lack of first-team chances at club level, Bertie Peacock felt unable to continue to select the youngster and there was a two-and-a-half year cap between caps ten and eleven, though Nicholson continued to feature in Under-23 internationals in this period.

Nicholson's new club were Huddersfield, a team a long-way short of their pre-World War Two heyday, but still among the strongest in the Second Division. He got of to an inglorious start at Leeds Road, scoring an own goal on his debut on Boxing Day 1964 in a 3-2 defeat by Ipswich at Portman Road. Manager Tom Johnston still recognised Nicholson's talent, and worked hard to whip the new-boy into shape. The club in general were pushing hard to claim promotion, and were spending big to make that push from nearly-men to champions, but still the sixties were to be a frustrating decade for the Terriers, though Nicholson's talents were obvious for all to see.

With his club career on the up, Nicholson returned to the international set-up. He was part of the Northern Ireland side, appearing in various defensive and attacking midfield roles, that came frustratingly close to qualifying for the 1966 World Cup. His dynamic midfield displays saw him become a regular goal threat too, and by the time of his final cap he was Huddersfield's most capped player with 31 international appearances.

In 1970 Nicholson, as captain, was an ever-present as Huddersfield finally clinched the Second Division title and promotion back to the top-flight after fourteen frustrating years. It was a stunning season for Town as they lost just one home game and finished seven points clear of runners-up, Blackpool. Sadly, injury frustrations were to return for Nicholson when he finally made it back to the First Division and he was seldom able to string together a run of appearances. It was these same injury problems that brought a premature close to his international career as he marked his 41st and final appearance for Northern Ireland with a goal in a 1-1 draw with the Soviet Union at the age of just 28.

Without the regular services of Nicholson, Huddersfield suffered successive relegations in 1972 and 1973. He left for Fourth Division Bury in December 1973 and helped them to promotion that season and mid-table respectability in the third tier over the following few seasons. Nicholson brought his league career to a close in 1976, but he continued to pull on his boots at non-league level for as long as possible. With his days as a professional footballer behind him, he worked as a leisure centre manager in Manchester.


Northern Ireland Cap Details:
09-11-1960 Scotland... A L 2-5 BC
12-04-1961 Wales...... H L 1-5 BC
17-10-1961 Greece..... H W 2-0 WCQ Sent-Off
22-11-1961 England.... A D 1-1 BC
11-04-1962 Wales...... A L 0-4 BC
09-05-1962 Netherlands A L 0-4 FR
10-10-1962 Poland..... A W 2-0 ENC
20-10-1962 England.... H L 1-3 BC
07-11-1962 Scotland... A L 1-5 BC

28-11-1962 Poland..... H W 2-0 ENC
17-03-1965 Netherlands H W 2-1 WCQ
31-03-1965 Wales...... H L 0-5 BC
07-04-1965 Netherlands A D 0-0 WCQ
07-05-1965 Albania.... H W 4-1 WCQ
02-10-1965 Scotland... H W 3-2 BC
10-11-1965 England.... A L 1-2 BC
24-11-1965 Albania.... A D 1-1 WCQ
30-03-1966 Wales...... A W 4-1 BC
22-06-1966 Mexico..... H W 4-1 FR.
1 Goal
16-11-1966 Scotland... A L 1-2 ECQ 1 Goal
12-04-1967 Wales...... H D 0-0 ECQ
21-10-1967 Scotland... H W 1-0 ECQ
22-11-1967 England.... A L 0-2 ECQ
28-02-1968 Wales...... A L 0-2 ECQ
23-10-1968 Turkey..... H W 4-1 WCQ
11-12-1968 Turkey..... A W 3-0 WCQ
1 Goal
03-05-1969 England.... H L 1-3 BC
06-05-1969 Scotland... A D 1-1 BC
10-05-1969 Wales...... H D 0-0 BC
10-09-1969 USSR....... H D 0-0 WCQ
22-10-1969 USSR....... A L 0-2 WCQ
18-04-1970 Scotland... H L 0-1 BC
21-04-1970 England.... A L 1-3 BC
25-04-1970 Wales...... A L 0-1 BC
03-02-1971 Cyprus..... A W 3-0 ECQ 1 Goal
21-04-1971 Cyprus..... H W 5-0 ECQ
1 Goal
15-05-1971 England.... H L 0-1 BC
18-05-1971 Scotland... A W 1-0 BC
22-05-1971 Wales...... H W 1-0 BC
22-09-1971 USSR....... A L 0-1 ECQ
13-10-1971 USSR....... H D 1-1 ECQ 1 Goal

Summary: 41/6. Won 15, Drew 8, Lost 18.

Nicholson celebrates scoring against the Soviet Union in his final appearance for Northern Ireland, October 1971
Northern Ireland B Cap Details:
11-11-1959 France..... H D 1-1 FR
16-03-1960 France..... A L 0-5 FR

Summary: 2/0. Won 0, Drew 1, Lost 1.

Northern Ireland Under-23 Cap Details:
07-02-1962 Wales...... H D 0-0 FR
27-02-1963 Wales...... A L 1-5 FR
05-02-1964 Wales...... H D 3-3 FR
10-02-1965 Wales...... A D 2-2 FR

Summary: 4/0. Won 0, Drew 3, Lost 1.

𝗝𝗶𝗺𝗺𝘆 𝗡𝗶𝗰𝗵𝗼𝗹𝘀𝗼𝗻 𝗰𝗲𝗹𝗲𝗯𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗲𝘀 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝗣𝗮𝘁 𝗥𝗶𝗰𝗲, 𝗧𝗲𝗿𝗿𝘆 𝗡𝗲𝗶𝗹𝗹 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗕𝗿𝘆𝗮𝗻 𝗛𝗮𝗺𝗶𝗹𝘁𝗼𝗻 𝗮𝗳𝘁𝗲𝗿 𝗽𝘂𝘁𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗡𝗼𝗿𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿𝗻 𝗜𝗿𝗲𝗹𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝟭-𝟬 𝗮𝗵𝗲𝗮𝗱 𝗮𝗴𝗮𝗶𝗻𝘀𝘁 𝗨𝗦𝗦𝗥 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗘𝘂𝗿𝗼 𝟭𝟵𝟳𝟮 𝗤𝘂𝗮𝗹𝗶𝗳𝗶𝗲𝗿𝘀 𝗮𝘁 𝗪𝗶𝗻𝗱𝘀𝗼𝗿 𝗣𝗮𝗿𝗸 💚

Posted by Irish Football Memories on Friday, 15 January 2021


Unknown said…
As a young teenager I was a big fan of Jimmy. However, I was very disappointed one evening when Jimmy appeared in an Under 23 International game for Northern Ireland at Windsor Park, I approached Jimmy asking for his autograph. Jimmy refused to sign a photograph I had of him and I walked alongside him for a long way well outside the stadium, pleading with him for the autograph. He continued to refuse but eventually relented. He signed the photograph upside down. I never forgot that.