It's 50 years since Huddersfield Town made one of their most inspired post-War signings – midfielder Jimmy Nicholson.

A bargain £7,500 buy from Manchester United, he went on to skipper the last Town team to win promotion to the top flight, in 1970.

With 10 Northern Ireland caps already to his name with United, Nicholson also became Town’s most-capped international, with a further 31.

That’s one more than Ray Wilson won for England while a Leeds Road player.

Belfast-born Nicholson, now 71, was one of two key acquisitions early in the managerial reign of Tom Johnston.

Barnsley frontman Tony Leighton made a quicker impact after his £22,000 arrival, with a debut goal in the 2-1 defeat by Newcastle United at St James’ Park in the first Second Division (now Championship) match of 1965.

Nicholson had made his bow on Boxing Day 1964, unfortunately scoring an own goal against Ipswich Town at Portman Road, where Town lost 3-2.

He had arrived from Old Trafford, where he made 68 appearances but ended up a peripheral figure, out of shape and low on confidence.

It took three weeks for Johnston and his coach Ian Greaves, who was to manage the Division II title-winning team which Nicholson skippered, to get the new boy into shape.

But the 21-year-old’s talent soon became evident.

Huddersfield Town's Jimmy Nicholson
Huddersfield Town's Jimmy Nicholson
 

“Jimmy was a terrific player,” says Trevor Cherry, who was coming through the Town youth system when Nicholson arrived, and played in central defence in the promotion side.

“He was a great bloke on and off the pitch, a good skipper and a really good man to learn from.

“His big problem was that if he so much as looked at a lettuce leaf, he’d put on a few pounds.

“Times were different then, and I think he enjoyed a few pints after the match on a Saturday night and a fry-up on a Sunday morning.

“That meant he had to work hard on the training ground, but he did that and he led by example.

“The only attribute he lacked was pace. If he’d had that, I think he’d have been a regular at Manchester United.

“But while it didn’t work out for him at Old Trafford, it did at Leeds Road, and he was a massive part of the promotion team.”

Alongside keeper Terry Poole, full-backs Dennis Clarke and Geoff Hutt, centre-half Trevor Cherry, fellow midfielder Jimmy McGill and striker Frank Worthington, Nicholson was one of seven ever-presents as Town won the original Division II title.

In the days of two points for a win, they finished seven clear of nearest rivals Blackpool, winning 24 out of 42 games.

They lost just once at Leeds Road, 1-0 to Blackburn Rovers early in the campaign, and conceded only 10 home goals.

Hit by injuries, Nicholson played in only 38 of Town’s 84 top-flight games in 1970-71 and 71-72, when they were
relegated alongside Nottingham Forest.

Greaves’ side had slipped to Division III (now League I) by the time Nicholson was transferred to Bury in December 1973.

He had played 310 times for Town, scoring 28 goals, and went on to make 95 appearances for Bury, helping them win promotion from Division IV (now League II) in 1974.

After playing non-league football for Mossley (alongside ex-Town teammate Ellam) and Stalybridge Celtic, Nicholson became a leisure centre manager back in Manchester.