Former Aston Villa and Northern Ireland defender Chris Nicholl dies at age of 77

By Sports Desk February 25, 2024

Former Southampton and Northern Ireland defender Chris Nicholl, who captained Aston Villa to League Cup glory, has died at the age of 77.

Nicholl, who also managed Southampton before taking charge of Walsall, had been living with dementia, specifically chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which he attributed to brain damage caused by repeatedly heading balls over his lengthy career.

The former central defender’s death was confirmed in a family statement on his daughter Cathy’s Facebook account.

It said: “It is with a heavy heart that we write this. Chris Nicholl (our dad) sadly passed away peacefully on Saturday evening in hospital.

“He fought a very long battle with CTE, caused by his dedication to football. Words can’t describe how much we’ll miss him.”

Wilmslow-born Nicholl, who was capped 51 times by Northern Ireland and represented them at the 1982 World Cup finals in Spain, began his career at Burnley, but made more than 200 appearances for both Villa and the Saints.

A dependable defender, he famously scored with a 40-yard piledriver as Villa lifted the 1977 League Cup with a 3-2 second replay victory over Everton which went to extra time at Old Trafford.

In a series of posts on the club’s official X – formerly Twitter – account, Villa said: “Aston Villa is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former player Chris Nicholl, who has died at the age of 77.

“The thoughts of everyone at the club are with Chris’ family and friends at this difficult time.

“A two-time promotion and League Cup winner, Chris Nicholl’s achievements in claret and blue will never be forgotten.

“He was a dominant figure at the heart of the Aston Villa defence for over five seasons, making 252 appearances and scoring 20 goals.

“Rest in peace, Chris.”

After hanging up his boots, Nicholl moved into management at the Dell when he was appointed as Lawrie McMenemy’s replacement during the summer of 1985, and it was he who promoted the emerging talents of Alan Shearer, Matt Le Tissier and Rod Wallace to the Southampton first team.

Shearer said on X: “RIP Chris Nicholl. You believed in me and gave me my chance. Thank you.”

Le Tissier added: “The thoughts and prayers of my family go out to the family of my first manager Chris Nicholl, who has sadly passed away.

“I’ll always be eternally grateful to Chris for having the faith in me as a 17 year old boy to give me my opportunity to prove I was good enough to be a professional footballer. Gone, but never forgotten #RIPChris.”

Nicholl parted company with the Saints in May 1991 and spent three years out of the game before taking the hotseat at Walsall.

The Saddlers said on X: “We are devastated to learn that former manager Chris Nicholl has passed away.

“Chris led the Saddlers from 1994 to 1997 and won promotion to Division Two in what was a memorable 1994-95 campaign.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this incredibly sad time.”

Nicholl was reunited with McMenemy during his spell in charge of Northern Ireland, serving as his assistant manager.

A statement on the Irish FA’s X account said: “We are saddened to learn of the passing of Chris Nicholl. He played 51 times for us, including the 1982 World Cup in Spain.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time”

In 2017, Nicholl told Shearer as part of a BBC documentary of his fears over the damage he had suffered during his playing career.

He said: “I am brain-damaged from heading footballs. My memory is in trouble.

“Everyone forgets regular things, where your keys are. But when you forget where you live, that’s different.

“I’ve had that for the last four or five years, it is definitely getting worse. It bothers me.”

Related items

  • Mikel Arteta salutes ‘unbelievable’ Kai Havertz after another impressive display Mikel Arteta salutes ‘unbelievable’ Kai Havertz after another impressive display

    Mikel Arteta hailed an “unbelievable” performance from Kai Havertz after his two goals helped Arsenal move three points clear at the top of the Premier League with a thumping 5-0 win over Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium.

    The 24-year-old, who struggled in his early appearances after swapping Stamford Bridge for north London in the summer, gave a superb display against his former side as the leaders heaped more misery on visiting manager Mauricio Pochettino, who saw his ninth-place team slump to a worst-ever league defeat against Arsenal.

    Havertz struck twice as part of an 18-minute blitz in the second half as Arteta’s team won for the second time in four days, continuing their recovery from successive losses to Aston Villa and Bayern Munich.

    “He (Havertz) was unbelievable, in all departments,” said Arteta.

    “For a nine to score two goals the way he scored, his contribution was great. It’s a question for him but I’m sure he’s very pleased.”

    The Arsenal onslaught began after only four minutes, Declan Rice sliding the ball into a channel on the left of the penalty area from where Leandro Trossard took over, dinking past defender Alfie Gilchrist, on his first Premier League start, and thudding it through the legs of Djordje Petrovic.

    Thereafter Chelsea competed gamely, going close to equalising when Axel Disasi just failed to reach a flick-on from a corner and again when Nicolas Jackson’s effort was deflected onto the post by Gabriel, but in the space of under 20 minutes after the interval they fell to pieces.

    First, Ben White reacted quickest to sweep home after Rice’s shot was blocked, then Havertz got his first of the night with a lofted finish over the goalkeeper.

    The former Chelsea forward made it 4-0, his shot pinging in off the post with Petrovic rooted, before White provided the moment of the match with a cross-shot that sailed across the face of goal and in from Martin Odegaard’s pass.

    “It was a big performance, collectively and individually,” said Arteta, whose side moved clear at the top ahead of Sunday’s derby against Tottenham but have played a game more than Liverpool and two more than Manchester City.

    “I thought we were really good, against a really good team that was in great form and were going to ask us a lot of questions. I think we responded really well.

    “From the start we were really determined, really flowing, playing with a lot of courage and making things happen. Really happy with the result. It’s a big day for our supporters.

    “It’s great for us, for the confidence and for the belief that we can do it, we can come to these stages against big teams and win games the way we’ve done it tonight. So enjoy it, then it’s back to work tomorrow because we have a big one on Sunday.”

    Chelsea boss Pochettino, for whom Arteta admitted to have “all the sympathy in the world,” gave a downcast assessment of his team’s prospects of qualifying for Europe after a humbling loss.

    “Now it is difficult to see the future because after this game we feel disappointed,” he said. “It is difficult to talk about objectives.

    “If we compete like Saturday (in the FA Cup semi-final defeat to City), OK. But if we compete like today, I think we deserve to go into Europe? I think in this way, no.”

  • Reggae Girl Van Zanten eyes strong comeback from season-ending injury Reggae Girl Van Zanten eyes strong comeback from season-ending injury

    The thought of being sidelined for an entire season is almost too much for some players to bear, but Jamaica international Kalyssa ‘Kiki’ Van Zanten has embraced her darkest hour with confidence that she will emerge stronger than before.

    Van Zanten, 22, who represents Houston Dash in the United States’ National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) was placed on the season-ending injury list, after she suffered damage to her left foot in the match against the Washington Spirit last Friday.

    The American-born Reggae Girlz winger, made the revelation on social media, as she expressed her readiness to take on whatever obstacles came her way on what will be a challenging road back to enjoying her passion.

    “Absolutely devastated that my rookie season has been put on hold. I’ll come back better and stronger,” Van Zanten captioned the post, which included an X-ray image of the injury.

    Van Zanten was drafted with the number 21 overall pick in the 2024 NWSL Draft and signed with Houston Dash on March 15. She paraded her skills in four games this season and earned her first start on March 30, when the Dash earned three points on the road against Bay FC.

    Prior to her professional move, Van Zanten strutted her stuff for University of Notre Dame in the NCAA Division 1 Women’s tournament, where she made 95 appearances and scored 27 goals.

    On the international stage, the soft-spoken player, whose mother is Jamaican and father of a Dutch descent, made her Reggae Girlz debut during the Concacaf Women’s World Cup qualifiers in 2022. She scored her lone international goal against Costa Rica in Jamaica’s Concacaf Women’s Championships third-place finish in Mexico.

    Van Zanten known for her speed and flair on the channels, was also a part of Jamaica’s history-making team that secured a famous Round of 16 finish at last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

    While she grapples with the reality of her injury, Van Zanten finds solace in the support of her teammates, coaches, and fans. Their words of encouragement and unwavering belief in her ability to come back stronger provides the comfort and strength required to face the long road to recovery.

    “Thank you to my team, family and friends for all the support,” she said.

  • Enzo Maresca delighted as ‘fantastic’ Leicester move to brink of promotion Enzo Maresca delighted as ‘fantastic’ Leicester move to brink of promotion

    Enzo Maresca praised his Leicester players for the 5-0 thrashing of Southampton that put the Foxes a win away from clinching automatic promotion.

    Ghana winger Abdul Fatawu scored three of them, with Wilfred Ndidi and Jamie Vardy also on target.

    Leicester need only to win at Preston on Monday, or at home to Blackburn on the final day, to make sure they will finish ahead of at least one of Leeds or Ipswich. Indeed, if Leeds lose at QPR on Friday Leicester will be up before they take to the field again.

    Maresca, in his first season as City manager, said: “I don’t think that was the best performance of the season but the performance was fantastic, very good on and off the ball.

    “We could have been better on the ball but we are all very happy because the opposition are a fantastic team.

    “The good thing about tonight is that now we know that with one win we get promoted.

    “It was a good feeling at the end, the fans have been fantastic.”

    Fatawu, on loan from Sporting Lisbon, opened the scoring in the 25th minute when Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall played him through. The 20-year-old might have been offside but the flag stayed down. Southampton manager Russell Martin was also aggrieved that a challenge on Saints striker Che Adams by City defender Wout Faes was not given as a foul by referee Robert Madley.

    The second half belonged to Leicester though, with Ndidi charging in to head home a cross from Stephy Mavididi to double the lead.

    Fatawu struck again in the 75th minute when he accepted a pass from substitute Hamza Choudhury before smashing past goalkeeper Alex McCarthy.

    Fatawu set up Vardy for a well-taken fourth and completed the rout with an emphatic finish after the former England striker returned the favour.

    Maresca, however, joked: “I just said ‘next game you will be on the bench’ because with Abdul and young players especially, after three goals he is already thinking he is a top player.”

    Saints – famously beaten 9-0 by Leicester in the Premier League in 2019 – must now pick themselves up for the play-offs barring an extraordinary combination of results and scorelines.

    Martin made it clear he would not be doing that for them though, so disappointed was he with their capitulation.

    “The players need to show a bit of love for each other and pick each other up, I’m fed up of doing that,” he said.

    “They need to feel some pain – the same pain that I’m feeling right now.

    “Rolling over like that, it’s actually pathetic, losing 5-0. They have to rally round as a group and show some care for each other.

    “I did not like what I saw from my team one bit at 2-0 down. Self-preservation, our body language and people throwing their hands up in the air.

    “It surprised me actually. What can you do? I told them I didn’t like it.

    “I told them Che Adams is out of contract this summer and the one person who has the excuse if he didn’t really want to be all in and not work hard for his team, but he did that more than anyone. So it was inexcusable for anyone else not to do that.

    “The fans were amazing, they were still clapping at the end and deserved better than that.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.