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Charlie Nicholas. Legend.


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http://www.afc.co.uk/articles/20100213/former-players-interview-_2260392_1965339

 

Not letting me copy and paste it and it's a lengthy article anyway... but well, well worth a read. Obviously holds us in high regard as well as his peers from a very good side Dons side. Also nice to see Stevie Gray get a mention even if it was more directed towards his off-field activities!

 

Charlie was always a favourite of mine, absolutely brilliant player for us. Remember reading the news in The Herald, I was only 8 at the time and it remains the most excited (not to mention surprised) i've ever been about a Dons signing and he didn't let us down.  His last minute winner v the Huns at the Merkland Road end will live with me til the day I die.

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FORMER PLAYERS INTERVIEW - CHARLIE NICHOLAS

 

Charlie NicholasA signing in January, a legendary striker, one of the great goalscorers, leaving behind the English top flight and the lure of one of North London's elite football clubs to come to Scotland, to take on the top division, a signing that came from out of nowhere, shocked the nation, and ignited a fresh wave of interest in the game. Yes, that was what happened when Charlie Nicholas walked out of Arsenal to join Aberdeen in 1988. Well who did you think we were talking about?

 

It would take a signing of Keane-like proportions these days to give younger fans a sense of just how exciting it was to be an Aberdeen fan back then and to hear hat Scotland's great goalscorer, Charlie Nicholas, was coming back to this country and to play for the Dons. It was barely believable, even in a decade when Aberdeen had regularly lived days that were beyond their wildest dreams, all over Scotland, over in Germany, especially in Gothenburg.

 

Charlie was a special, special talent in front of goal, seen in his early years at Celtic Park as the natural successor to Kenny Dalglish, embraced at Pittodrie almost a decade later as the man who heralded the return of those glory days we had enjoyed under Alex Ferguson. It was always too much to expect that those exceptional days might come again as football's finances began to change but Nicholas' two and a half years at Pittodrie were undeniably heady times.

 

It was appropriate that Charlie eventually came to play his trade at Aberdeen for even from his earliest days in the reserves at Celtic, the Dons were certainly on his radar.

 

"My first visit to Pittodrie was a long time ago, back in 1978, when I was in the reserves at Celtic. We had an outstanding team coming through the ranks there and Aberdeen did as well with boys like Simpson, Cooper, Hewitt, Eric Black a year or two later. So right from then, we were always very, very competitive with each other because we could see how things were going to pan out in the future. We thought our batch of youngsters was a wee bit special and Aberdeen were up there with us, so we knew that through the next few years, Aberdeen had a very bright future too, and that they'd be the side to beat. Charlie Nicholas

 

"I got into the first team properly in '81 having been on the bench a few times before that. By that time, Fergie was making his impression on Celtic and Rangers up at Pittodrie, but down in Glasgow, he was starting to get results as well and that's when people really started to take notice. You could feel the intensity in Glasgow, the Old Firm had lost the edge, there were suddenly two teams from up north, and especially Aberdeen, who were really beginning to get among the prizes.

 

"I remember when I was still a reserve team player, the night Steve Archibald scored a hat-trick in the cup against Celtic and sitting down as a Celtic fan afterwards and just thinking about how they had outplayed my team. That's when it was getting real! From there, moving Archibald on, bringing in Strachan and McGhee, Fergie was starting to identify players to add to the group, building a team rather than just getting individuals. That's when you realised this was one seriously bright man."

 

Although the paths of Nicholas and Ferguson never crossed at Aberdeen, the two spent quite some time in each other's company in 1986 and, if Charlie had had his way, the whole course of football history over the last 20 years might have been very different.

 

Charlie Nicholas"I spent six or seven weeks with Fergie in Mexico in the summer of 1986 when he was in temporary charge of Scotland through the World Cup. I was doing ok at Arsenal, but we at a bit of a loss and we needed a new manager. We had a lot of internationals, but we couldn't quite gel as a team and we were having a problem how that worked, how you put the right people together. That summer, before I went to Mexico, some of the people at Arsenal were speaking to me about Fergie, what I thought of him. I don't suppose my recommendation at that age was worth very much to the board members, but my opinion was that Fergie would be an absolute perfect fit.

 

"Aberdeen at that time had reached the point where they were having to sell a few of their boys, a few players had ambitions outside Scotland, and it was time for him to move on as well and get on the bigger stage. Fergie would have been perfect to get Arsenal back to the glory years, it had been a long time for them without winning much, or really threatening in the league.

 

"In Mexico, he spoke to me and asked me about the club. I gave him a glowing report on how stylish it was, how everything was very professional, done right at the Arsenal. By asking me, he more or less made it clear they'd shown an interest in him, but then shortly after that, Manchester United showed their hand and that was it!

 

"It was a bitter blow for me actually because I got on incredibly well with the man and I'd have loved to spend some time working with him. I'm close to guys like Willie Miller from that era and they tell me that he could be absolutely volatile, but I'm the type of guy that likes somebody to be completely honest with you. If a manager thinks he can get more out of you, then fine. Fergie's way was the way I was brought up at Celtic. If you were strong enough, you could cope with it and if you weren't, you fell by the wayside and you weren't really the kind of player he needed.

 

"All the guys at Aberdeen, they'll moan and they'll groan, I've heard Strachan complain about him, but there's no way they could ever turn round and say that he didn't take them to the ultimate achievement. For that reason, the man would have been a star at Arsenal and I'm sure he would have done there what he's done at Manchester United."Charlie Nicholas

 

In the wake of Ferguson's departure for Manchester United in 1986, things drifted a little bit at Pittodrie for twelve months or so as people struggled to come to terms with the end of an era. But towards the end of the following year, Aberdeen were ready to make another push, and were looking for a figurehead to help recapture those early 1980s glories. When the club finally showed their hand, it came as a complete shock to the football world.

 

"To be honest, it was a bit of a surprise for me as well!" remembers Nicholas of the move that was announced at Hogmanay. "I got to the stage where I was being left out of the team at Arsenal. I had a bit of a fall out with George Graham, though saying that, I could never get a meeting to have a conversation with him! George was a disciplinarian but he wouldn't want to talk to you, he wasn't a great communicator once he'd made his mind up on you. I went to Nice agreed a deal with them and he reneged on it, I had a couple of offers from England, from Brian Clough at Nottingham Forest and from Derby, and I genuinely wasn't thinking about coming back to Scotland at all.

 

"Two or three months went on and before I knew, it was December, I wasn't playing, and I wanted to get on the pitch. I'm not the kind of guy who would sit on the bench and take money for the sake of it, not that it was big money then. But I was frustrated with not playing and I asked if anyone else was interested in me. George didn't want me to go to an English club, he was making that difficult, and then Aberdeen came in with an offer that Arsenal accepted.

 

Charlie Nicholas"I spoke to them a couple of times then eventually came up to meet Dick Donald and Ian Porterfield. I liked Ian, God rest his soul, he was a really, really nice fella, and we sat and spoke about the players they had, about trying to get the club back to ambitious levels again, competing with Celtic and Rangers, and that got me thinking. It was a nice challenge, I had two or three days to think about it and that was it, decision made.

 

"The transfer was kept very quiet. Myself and my agent, Jerome Anderson, had got to the stage where we were being messed about at Arsenal. We had great respect for the board there, but George was making it tough, and we wanted to put it behind us. Jerome was captivated by Dick Donald and anybody who ever met Dick will understand that because he was a fabulous guy, lovely man, and between the two of them, they started getting a deal together.

 

"Jerome told me Dick was looking to see if I was going to make the move and the one day after training, I phoned him and said, "You can tell Dick that I'll be very pleased to sign for the club". Dick wasn't the kind of guy that would phone a press man and give him an exclusive, he treated everyone the same, very professional, loved his club, happy he was getting somewhere, but took nothing for granted because we hadn't even talked contracts. I wasn't going to make it overly difficult to be honest, I just wanted to play football, to sign for a couple of years, then let's see what happens. We signed it off and it was basically announced on the BBC at New Year that I was signing as I was on the plane back to London to collect a few things."

 

As has been said time without number over the years, there could hardly be a tougher job in football than replacing Alex Ferguson at Pittodrie, and Charlie has plenty of sympathy for Ian Porterfield.Charlie Nicholas

 

"Aberdeen could never have been easy for Ian because for a spell after Fergie went, obviously some of his players were looking to go as well. But the greatness of Leighton, McLeish and Miller was still there, the core of the team, and there was something to build on. The hard thing for me was I'd been out of competitive football for three or four months, not playing much, so it took a wee bit of time to get sharp, get match fit. We had to work away at it but the next season, before you knew, you had Celtic and Rangers coming to Pittodrie and getting a tough time.

 

"We had boys who could cope with big situations, like those three, myself, Jim Bett and we helped the other guys. We got to a point where we needed to add in just one or two positions and we wouldn't be very far away. It was never going to be as it was in '82, '83, but it was a team with a chance of building. The introduction of the likes of McKimmie, Robertson who was a fine left-back, the fantastic ability of Gillhaus, there was a real good structure at the club then. There was youth as well, Jess, Booth, players of that quality, Brian Grant was very consistent, Stevie Gray even though he was a nutcase! There was a nucleus there that could have taken things on."

 

Charlie NicholasThe Souness revolution at Ibrox, the change in football finances and even the economic downturn in Aberdeen after the initial oil boom all had their impact on the situation, and in 1990, Nicholas was on the move again. But not before he'd helped put some silverware on the table first.

 

"My last kick of the ball for Aberdeen was in the shoot out in the Scottish Cup Final against Celtic, taking the fifth kick. If I missed, Celtic won the cup. Walking up to take it, knowing I'd agreed to go back to Celtic in principle in the summer, there was a heck of a lot of pressure on that one, I have to say! It's a thing I'm very proud of, scoring that penalty and helping win the trophy.

 

"All the fans knew I was a Celtic supporter, I never celebrated when I scored against them, but the Aberdeen fans gave me great respect for that, never was there a negative word about it, nobody was trying to change me, they knew the situation. But one of my proudest days was when we had the open top bus after the game with the cup, and they all realised I was moving back to the club I'd been brought up with, but I'd helped them win the cup, helped put Celtic out of Europe for the first time in about 40 years, and they respected that. I took great professional pride in that.Charlie Nicholas

 

"I didn't turn up here as the guy who was supposed to revive the season the way Robbie Keane is being talked about now. I came here to do a job, I was here purely to add to what was already there, what was a decent side, to boost morale a little bit and to be a sign of intent on the kinds of players the club was in the market for to try and push it forwards again and I think I did my bit.

 

"I've always been the kind of guy that keeps a dressing room buzzing, have a few laughs, but I was never a leader as such. McLeish, Miller, McKimmie, they'd be leading it, me and Jim Bett would be having a laugh, and that's how it blends together. After that you add the likes of Gillhaus, Mason, Snelders, and people look back now and see what a very good side it was. Even the year after I left, they should have won the league that year, they should have wrapped it up before going to Ibrox.

 

"I think the Aberdeen fans will always look back and say they could never fault my commitment. I'll always have a look for Aberdeen's results, I make no bones about that, I love to see them do well, and I just dearly wish they could kick on with Mark McGhee and Willie Miller. The budgets are tight, it needs time, but with those two at the helm, I feel Aberdeen do have a chance. It'll take longer than people would like.

 

"I've looked at Aberdeen very closely in my job with Sky in the last few years and I have to question some of the players down the years because they can beat Celtic and Rangers, but they'll turn up against Hamilton or St Mirren or some of those cup games in the past, and it's just a mess of a performance, as if they lack a true belief that they can be up there.

 

"And then as you're trying to build, you lose players from the team because they want to go and play in the lower leagues in England. Why? Where's your ambition? For an extra thousand a week you'll go and play in League One? Willie must sit here and think to himself, "You're going where? What for? You're going to play in Europe or have a chance at a cup final there?" Ok, if it's a team with a run at the Premiership, like Lee Miller has gone to at Middlesbrough, you can't blame him. But to play at the bottom of the Championship? That does terrify you. These times are harder than ever in Scotland for keeping players. Fergie fought tooth and nail with Black and Strachan about them leaving, but now you can't get away with that!"

 

Charlie NicholasWith football managers having to deal with more and wider issues than ever they did in Ferguson's prime at Pittodrie, that side of the game has yet to attract Charlie. Instead, he's made his name in recent times as a straight talking pundit for Sky Sports, a job that suits a man who is fearlessly honest.

 

"I don't have the pressure of management in my job at Sky now. We have pressure because people like to rub it in when you get it wrong, they don't like to hear you criticise their club at times. So you can tread on eggshells and play the politics or you can be opinionated the way I believe you should be.

 

"Recently I've slagged off a few managers about the level of coaching in this country and they didn't like it too much - I'm pretty sure my old mate Alex Smith didn't like my comments, but I'm not there to please the world, I'm there to give an opinion and if it's an honest one, I think that's fair enough.

 

"I seriously enjoy my job, I work hard at it, but I do guarantee you one thing - my life is easier than Mark McGhee's or Tony Mowbray's or Walter Smith's or any of those guys!"

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Absolutely superb article.

Still remember clearly picking up the Retard on 1st or 2nd Jan and reading on back page that Ncholas had signed. Things were done differently back then and in some respects it was more enjoyable, without the constant media attention, and just finding out it had happened after the event.

Oh to have Nicholas and Gillhaus at their peak playing for us up front just now.

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That's a really good read, champagne charlie was just before my time as I got into football quite late. I can't say I've always agreed with him as a pundit but he's got it spot on with his assesment of player leaving for diddy english teams just for a little extra coin.

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Funny that it was clearly written shortly after the close of the january transfer window but only being published now. Surely they wouldn't have been worried about fans thinking that our transfer dealings were less than thrilling?

 

Who needs out of favour Arsenal players when we can attract a 5 goal striker on loan from Plymouth? ;)

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That's the best interview with an ex player i've read in a long time, shows the class of the guy and that he wasn't purely in it for the money.

 

Our present players should each be given a copy and told to read it a 100 times.

 

I think you have to bear in mind that football in 1988 is so far removed from what it is today it might as well be a different sport. the extra grand a week that Charlie is talking about is probably equivalent to his highest wage as a player. Christ Doesn't Zander live on Rubislaw den? McLeish lived on Deeside Garden FFS.

 

Anyway, I remember being in (I think) P5 when he signed and instantly deciding to support Arsenal (in England), going back to school and my best mate had done the same thing. I also remember there being folk in my class who didn't know and didn't believe we had signed him.

 

Just for the record the supporting Arsenal thing only lasted a week or two.  ;D

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Funny that it was clearly written shortly after the close of the january transfer window but only being published now. Surely they wouldn't have been worried about fans thinking that our transfer dealings were less than thrilling?

 

Who needs out of favour Arsenal players when we can attract a 5 goal striker on loan from Plymouth? ;)

 

I'm fairly sure I read that article a couple of months back but I can't remember where.

 

Charlie Nicholas was well before my time unfortunately.

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I'm fairly sure I read that article a couple of months back but I can't remember where.

 

Charlie Nicholas was well before my time unfortunately.

 

Yeah it's a couple of months old.

 

 

Am I right in thinking he made his debut at Easter Road? I remember going and there was thousands of reds, sure we won 2-0.

 

I'm pretty sure that's right, hundreds of Dons fans locked out. Thankfully my old man used to get us in to the ground for 2.15 just to shut me up and so I could see them warm up!  ;D  Seem to remember his home debut was 0-0 though, either v Dunfermline or Motherwell, can't remember which.

 

The one piece of utter genius that I always think just sums up Charlie Nicholas was his control, turn and pass on the half way line at Hampden in the League Cup Final of 88 to put Jazzer through at 2-2.  The fact Bett missed was criminal, the set up was utterly genius.

 

Had he stayed for one more year with us he'd have won the lot with us and changed the future of Scottish Football forever, possibly.

 

What a wonderful player and one of the biggest superstars to ever play for us and yet he never acted like it on the pitch.  Seeing him go through the motions in a shite Celtic side when he was only 28/29 when he could have been winning the league with us was hard to take.  He went from a great player in a great side to a great player in a terrible side and he never, ever looked comfortable again in his career.  That was a travesty for both us and him.

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Am I right in thinking he made his debut at Easter Road? I remember going and there was thousands of reds, sure we won 2-0.

 

Was the score not 0-0, I was there but forget? I read abou Charlie signing on teletext after the bells at Hogmany and was ecstatic, couldn't believe it.

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Was the score not 0-0, I was there but forget? I read abou Charlie signing on teletext after the bells at Hogmany and was ecstatic, couldn't believe it.

Think you could be right, as the years go by the games all interweb into one fading memory  :-\

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I think we've had several players who had the potential to be at least as good as Charlie Nic, but the "Aberdeen factor" got the better of them and they ended up being good-at-best, horse-shite-at-worst. Names who spring to mind who've been with us since Charlie include:

 

- Eoin Jess (had the ability to destroy ANYONE ... just didn't have the mentality to do it regularly)

 

- Hicham Zerouali (had skill that this Dons fan has not seen since the Smith/Scott era, but like Jess he just seemed to lack the mentality to use it on a regular basis)

 

- Noel Whelan (when he wasn't injured, he showed signs of his EPL quality. Problem was he spent too long either on the treatment table, or getting match-fit after being out injured).

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Noel Whelan??  Looked a shadow of his former self while with us.

 

Anyway, great interview with Charlie.  I remember watching a Hogmanay show from Aberdeen when one of the presenters came on and announced we'd signed him.

 

The goal involving him, Snelders and Gillhaus that didn't touch the ground was very special!

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Noel Whelan??  Looked a shadow of his former self while with us.

 

Anyway, great interview with Charlie.  I remember watching a Hogmanay show from Aberdeen when one of the presenters came on and announced we'd signed him.

 

The goal involving him, Snelders and Gillhaus that didn't touch the ground was very special!

 

Bobby Mimms if you don't mind!!  ;)

 

Charlie was possibly the most intelligent player i've ever seen play for us.  He was so good he didn't even have to run.  That always impressed me. Still does, actually...

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Charlie was possibly the most intelligent player i've ever seen play for us.  He was so good he didn't even have to run. 

 

Can't really disagree with that :thumbsup:

was at the game at Fester Road when he made his debut, but like others fucked if I can remember the score.

Do remember driving back up to Inverness in a total white out afterwards though

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