By Tony Attwood
Peter Nicholas was one of Terry Neil’s most effective signings, seemingly turning a team that couldn’t buy a win into a team that couldn’t be beaten – and all this for £500,000.
He had started out with Crystal Palace as a youth player, and was part of their second division title winning team in 1979. He also became a Welsh international (having been born in Gwent), and ultimately won 73 caps for his country.
Peter played as a central defender, or a defensive midfielder, and in both positions he was what is euphemistically called a “no nonsense” defender which in essence means if he’s on your team you nod appreciatively as the opponent goes down, while if he’s on the other side you howl for the ref to get a grip of the game. Put another way again, he destroyed opposition creativity. Is that a good thing? Well…. But any way ’twas ever thus.
He joined us when we had won a grand total of three of the last 14 games played. After that we played nine, and only dropped two points and Peter didn’t play on the losing side. The difference can be seen in the league table. When he joined we were 7th, 11 points behind the leaders, with Tottenham just one place behind us. By the end of the season Arsenal were 3rd, seven points behind the leaders, while Tottenham had dropped down to 10th.
He had two full seasons as a regular for Arsenal but a series of injuries in the 1982/3 season reduced his potential and he left in October 1983 to re-join Crystal Palace having been on loan since August.
His return fee was £150,000, but in 1985 he was on the move again, going to Luton Town, playing for them over 100 times.
Such was his improvement at Luton Town his value went up again, and in 1987 he was worth £350,000 – going to Aberdeen. After that it was second division Chelsea and Watford, before retirement from playing in 1993.
Since retirement he was at first a youth coach, first at Chelsea and then at Palace, later becoming assistant manager. He was then manager of Barry Town, then Newport County, and finally Llanelli – with all these clubs either winning or being runner up in their competitions. However in 2009 he left Llanelli, and I have no trace of him thereafter. If you know, do tell.
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