A brief overview of new Dundee assistant manager jimmy nicholl's journey through football.
Although born in Canada, Jimmy Nicholl made 73 appearances for Northern Ireland - including being part of their legendary 1982 World Cup campaign, where they beat hosts Spain on the way to the second round - in a distinguished playing career that saw him win honours in both England and Scotland. Rising through the Manchester United academy, Nicholl would go on to make just under 200 appearances for the club from 1974 until his departure in 1982, winning the FA Cup in 1977. Although many could argue that the United sides that Nicholl appeared in underachieved - the teams featuring, amongst many others, home internationalists such as Lou Macari, Joe Jordan, Gordon McQueen, a certain ex-Dee in Arthur Albiston, Steve Coppell, Gary Bailey, Sammy McIlroy and Mickey Thomas, - they were still an impressive outfit.
On leaving the club Nicholl spent a short time on loan at Sunderland, before turning out for Toronto Blizzard. At the end of the 1982 Canadian season, the full back would return to Sunderland, before spending the 83/84 season back in Toronto. However, at the end of that term Nicholl would make the move that would begin to shape the rest of his career, with a brief spell with Rangers. The switch to Ibrox would initially be a short one with the defender spending the next two season back in England with West Bromwich Albion, but a return to the royal blue side of Glasgow would see the Northern Irishman make Scotland his home.
Winning two league titles with the Ibrox club, Nicholl’s no nonsense style would make him a firm favourite with the Rangers fans but in 1989 he made the switch to Dunfermline Athletic, before travelling along the road to Kirkcaldy to become the player manager of Raith Rovers. As a full back Nicholl would make just under 130 appearances for The Rovers, but it will be as a manager that he is remembered most fondly. Building a young team that contained the likes of Colin Cameron, Paul Hartley, Danny Lennon, Stevie Crawford and Shaun Dennis, he supplemented their number with older heads like his own, Owen Coyle, and Raith legend Gordon Dalziel.
Gaining promotion to the top flight in 1994/95, that feat would be bettered the same season when the Fife club would lift the League Cup, beating Celtic in the final on penalties and ensuring Nicholl’s name would go down in Raith Rovers history. And as unlikely as it seems now, that cup triumph would see the Kirkcaldy club enter the UEFA Cup and take on the mighty Bayern Munich the next season. Losing the first leg, which was played at Easter Road, by two goals to nil would see the team head to Munich with their heads held high and when they took the lead through a Danny Lennon strike in the return leg, the impossible dream looked a reality. The German giants, however, had other ideas, scoring twice, but for Raith losing the tie 4-1 on aggregate was no disgrace.
Nicholl would stay in Kirkcaldy until January of 1996, but taking on the role of manager at Millwall – a club in decline who would burn their way through bosses at an incredible rate for the next few years – proved a step too far, with the London club being relegated to the third tier of English football at the end of the season. Looking to re-find the magic formula he’d created before, the Northern Irishman would head back to Raith for two seasons, but with the club failing to win promotion out of the First Division, Nicholl would depart in 1999, beginning a period of over a decade where he stepped into the number two position at a number of Scottish clubs – Kilmarnock, Aberdeen and Dunfermline (the latter of which he would take caretaker charge of for 28 days) – before moving back into the big seat at Cowdenbeath. Relegation from the First Division saw the manager part ways with the club, but Nicholl’s experience and reputation soon saw him back as assistant at Kilmarnock, before he took on the same role at Hibernian.
The sacking of Pat Fenlon saw Nicholl take caretaker charge of the Edinburgh club in 2013, however, with a new managerial team appointed, Nicholl rekindled his love affair with Fife with a second spell in charge at Cowdenbeath. This time he would keep the Blue Brazil in the second flight of Scottish Football - now called The Championship – beating his ex-club and firm favourites to win the tie, Dunfermline Athletic, in the play-offs. However, with Hearts, Rangers and Hibernian all in the league for the 2014/15 season, Cowden would find it tough and after automatic relegation, albeit by only two points from both Alloa and Livingston, Nicholl would resign.
During 2015 Nicholl would also be asked to be assistant manager of Northern Ireland – a post he holds to this day – while also assisting ex-Dundee manager Paul Hartley at Falkirk. Graeme Murty would then ask Nicholl to take up the same position at Rangers, but when Murty was sacked he took caretaker control of the Ibrox club (along with Jonatan Johansson) until Steven Gerrard was appointed manager. Nicholl then, in 2018, moved on to take up the assistant’s role under Oran Kearney at St Mirren until he would be asked to become part of new Dundee manager James McPake’s backroom team at Dens, a post he readily accepted.
Jimmy Nicholl arrives at the club with an obvious wealth of experience as a player, assistant and manager, and looks to be the perfect partner for first time gaffer, James McPake.