Chris Nicholl (1946-2024)



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 gritty, uncompromising centre-back, he was powerful in the air and had excellent positional sense. He was a dominant figure at the heart of Villa’s defence for over five seasons.

Born in Wilmslow, Cheshire, on 12th October 1946, Nicholl began his career with Burnley in 1965 but after failing to make the first team at Turf Moor, he played for non-League Witton Albion, followed by spells with Halifax Town and Luton Town before signing for Villa in March 1972.

He scored in only his second match, helping the club to the Third Division title, and over the following four seasons he hardly missed a game, helping Villa to League Cup glory and promotion from the Second Division in 1974-75. By the time to joined Southampton in the summer of 1977, he had clocked up 252 appearances and scored 20 goals.

Despite his solid, reliable performances at the heart of the defence, Nicholl is best remembered for his incredible feat against Leicester City at Filbert Street in March 1976. He scored all four goals in a 2-2 draw – including two into his own net. Only Sam Wynne, for Oldham Athletic against Manchester United in 1921, had previously done so, and it hasn’t happened since.

Just over a year after that incredible game at Leicester, Nicholl scored with an amazing dipping shot from 35 yards as Villa beat Everton 3-2 at Old Trafford in a League Cup semi-final replay. Brian Little’s extra-time winner meant that Nicholl became third Villa captain to lift the trophy, following Vic Crowe in 1961 and Ian Ross in 1975.

Nicholl finished his career with Grimsby Town, where he became assistant manager before returning to Southampton in the same capacity. He then managed the Saints from 1985 to 1991 and Walsall from 1994 to 1997.

A Northern Ireland international, he was capped 51 times, scoring on his debut against Sweden in Stockholm, and later worked as assistant to his former Saints boss Lawrie McMenemy with the Ireland team.

He also managed the Aston Villa Old Stars before ill health forced him to return to the south coast.

Rest in Peace, Chris.


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