Ex-Southampton manager Nicholl dies aged 77

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The former Northern Ireland, Southampton, and Aston Villa defender, Chris Nicholl, has passed away.

The 77-year-old, originally from England, began his football journey with Burnley but is most notably recognized for his stints at Aston Villa and Southampton.

He served as manager for Southampton for six years and held the position of Walsall boss from 1994 to 1997.

Nicholl earned his first international cap for Northern Ireland in 1974 and went on to accumulate 51 appearances for his country.

He was a pivotal member of the Northern Ireland squad that qualified for the World Cup finals in 1982.

“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,” the Irish Football Association wrote on X (formerly Twitter).

In a professional career that spanned 19 years, Nicholl additionally featured for Halifax Town, Luton Town, and Grimsby Town.

Following his playing career, he took on managerial roles, leading Southampton from 1985 to 1991 before spending three years as the manager of Walsall. He later served as assistant manager to the Northern Ireland team from 1998 to 2000.

During his time at Aston Villa, Nicholl made 210 appearances, securing two League Cups. He notably scored all four goals in a memorable 2-2 draw with Leicester, including two own goals. After his tenure at Villa, he went on to make 228 appearances for Southampton.

“Aston Villa is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former player Chris Nicholl, who has died at the age of 77,” a statement read on the club’s X account.

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

In the 2017 BBC documentary Dementia, Football and Me,Nicholl told Alan Shearer, who played under him at Southampton, he was “brain-damaged from heading balls”.

Nicholl said: “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.”

Nicholl’s former Northern Ireland team-mate John O’Neill said he was “very saddened to hear the news about my good friend Chris”.

“When I first got into the Northern Ireland squad Danny Blanchflower the manager put me into room with him. Then I only knew him as a wonderful player not as a person,” said former Leicester City defender O’Neill.

“Danny said he will teach you everything you need to know about playing centre half and he most certainly did.

“He was a hell of a player, a really tough, old school competitor. But most of all he was one of the good guys and will be sorely missed.”