Chris Nicholl: Former Aston Villa and Southampton footballer dies aged 77 after dementia battle

Tributes have been paid to former Aston Villa and Southampton footballer Chris Nicholl
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Tributes have been paid to former footballer Chris Nicholl, who has died aged 77. Nicholl, who had played for Northern Ireland, Aston Villa, and Southampton, died following a battle with dementia, his family announced.

Nicholl, who led Villa to victory in the League Cup in 1977 and later served as manager for Southampton, was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). He attributed this condition to brain injuries sustained from frequently heading footballs throughout his extensive career.

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His death was confirmed by a family statement on Facebook on Sunday. His daughter, Cathy Nicholl wrote: "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.No funeral arrangements have been made yet. Paul Nicholl Jane Nicholl Andy Ellison. He’s made his final transfer."

Former Aston Villa footballer Chris Nicholl has died aged 77Former Aston Villa footballer Chris Nicholl has died aged 77
Former Aston Villa footballer Chris Nicholl has died aged 77

Nicholl made over 200 appearances for both Aston Villa and Southampton, and represented his country 51 times, notably in the 1982 World Cup. Following his playing career, he took on the role of manager at Southampton in 1985, where he nurtured emerging talents such as Alan Shearer, Matt Le Tissier, and Rod Wallace, providing them with their initial opportunities in the first team.

One of Nicholl's memorable moments on the field was his remarkable 40-yard strike during the 1977 League Cup Final for Villa, securing a 3-2 victory over Everton in a second replay held at Old Trafford.

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

Aston Villa also paid tribute to Nicholl. It said on X: "A two-time promotion and League Cup winner – Chris Nicholl's achievements in claret and blue will never be forgotten. "He was a dominant figure at the heart of the Aston Villa defence for over five seasons, making 252 appearances and scoring 20 goals. Rest in peace, Chris."

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 BBC documentary aired in 2017, Nicholl told Shearer about his concerns regarding the injuries he had endured throughout his time as a player. He said: "I am brain-damaged from heading footballs. My memory is in trouble.

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"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."

What is Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)?

According to the NHS, CTE is a brain condition thought to be linked to repeated head injuries and blows to the head. It slowly gets worse over time and leads to dementia, but the right help and support can manage the symptoms.

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