Now Playing

Now Playing IconNow Playing:

Evolve Radio

Artist Name

Album Art

Tributes paid to former footballer Chris Nicholl, who has died following dementia battle

Tributes have been paid to the former Northern Ireland, Aston Villa and Southampton footballer, Chris Nicholl, who has died aged 77 after a battle with dementia.

Nicholl, who captained Villa to glory in the League Cup in 1977 and also managed Southampton, had been living with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which he put down to brain damage caused by repeatedly heading balls over his long career.

His death was confirmed by 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.”

Nicholl made more than 200 appearances for both Villa and Saints and played 51 times for his country, including at the 1982 World Cup.

He returned to Southampton as manager in 1985, giving young talents like Alan Shearer, Matt Le Tissier and Rod Wallace their first team starts.

More on Dementia

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

Le Tissier added: “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.”

Chris Nicholl as Southmpton manager in the 1988/89 season. Pic: Rex
Image: Chris Nicholl as Southmpton manager in the 1988/89 season. Pic: Rex

Nicholl’s most famous goal was a 40-yard piledriver for Villa in the 1977 League Cup Final, as they beat Everton 3-2 in a second replay at Old Trafford.

In a series of posts on the club’s official X account, Villa said they were “deeply saddened” to learn of his death.

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

“Rest in peace, Chris.”

Walsall, who he also managed, said on X it was an “incredibly sad time.”

Read more from Sky News:
Blood proteins ‘could predict dementia risk’
Viagra could cut Alzheimer’s risk in men – study

A statement on the Northern 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.”

In a 2017 BBC documentary, Nicholl told Shearer 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.”

A 2023 Swedish study found footballers are 50% more likely to develop dementia than the rest of the population.

But goalkeepers – who rarely head the ball – had no increased risk of Alzheimer’s or dementia, “supporting the hypothesis that mild head impacts sustained when heading the ball could explain the increased risk in outfield players,” the study concluded.

Sky News Source