Former Celtic, Arsenal, Aberdeen and Scotland striker Charlie Nicholas was inducted into the Scottish Football Hall of Fame at a dinner held at Hampden last night and the Sky Sports pundit admitted that he had been taken aback by his inclusion and also by his reaction to it.
Nicholas was voted Scotland’s Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year in 1983, his annis mirabilis. He scored 52 goals in all competitions, including one on his Scotland debut in a 2-2 draw against Switzerland.
That was also the year in which he left Celtic for Arsenal in a record-breaking £750,000 move. He made his final appearance in a dark blue jersey in a 2-1 victory over Cyprus in a World Cup qualifier in April, 1989.
“I got a call from [PR man] Russell Kyle informing me that I was being inducted and I was quite surprised,” he said. “To be honest, individual honours have never meant much to me in terms of prestige.
“But I was always proud to play for my country and I always made myself available. I was particularly proud to make my debut alongside Kenny Dalglish.
“I had to work damned hard to get my 20 caps and I only started seven or eight times. But I’m only three behind Jimmy Johnstone so that’s not too bad.”
Nicholas was joined in the Hall of Fame by the late Dundee and Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper Bill Brown, Leeds United hotshot Peter Lorimer, Rangers winger Davie Wilson and McCrae’s Battalion, the Royal Scots group which included 16 Hearts players as well as professionals from Dunfermline, Falkirk and Raith Rovers.
“When I heard about this honour I thought about it and realised just how much representing Scotland meant to me and that’s why I decided to come and accept it,” he said.
“I managed to get to the World Cup finals in 1986 and I was lucky to do that because Kenny Dalglish pulled out at the last minute. David Speedie thought he was ahead of me and maybe he was but I got a game in a friendly in Israel and then I got the call.
“For me, it was an absolutely amazing six weeks with Alex Ferguson and Walter Smith. It was all very sociable and we were all together.
“I was ever so grateful that I got that opportunity, even though I was injured by a tackle from behind in our opening game against Denmark. Fergie then threw me in for the final game against Uruguay, even though I was nowhere near fit.
“Now that we haven’t reached a major finals since 1998, I appreciate that experience all the more and playing against that great Danish team was pretty special for me.”