Former Manchester United full-back Jimmy Nicholl looks back on his career in an interview first published in Inside United, the official club magazine.
I went over from Northern Ireland in the early 1970s for a couple of trials, aged 14, and was fortunate enough to be part of a group of 12 players given apprenticeships, which included Arthur Albiston. It was nerve-wracking at the time but then it was just a case of leaving Belfast and finding digs, settling in and seeing how things panned out.
I was a midfielder when I first arrived but then became a sweeper. I couldn’t get in the team because Martin Buchan was playing but he went off against Southampton at The Dell in April 1975 and I came on as substitute at centre-half for my first appearance.
My favourite game
Liverpool were strong favourites to beat us in the 1977 FA Cup final and go on to win the Treble. There was a lot of talk of them exposing me and Arthur Albiston as two young full-backs. It’s not often United are underdogs but that was the case. Liverpool won the league practically every year and we were just known as more of an exciting cup team, but you’ve still got to win things and I’m so glad we did it.
My favourite goal
Although I once scored a consolation goal against Manchester City’s Joe Corrigan from 35 yards [September 1977 in a 3-1 defeat], my best was in the 7-2 League Cup win against Newcastle in October 1976. I saw Gordon Burns, who worked for Granada Reports, in the players’ lounge and said: ‘I can’t wait to see my goal on the news.’ He said: ‘Sorry Jimmy but the weather was that bad that we had water in the camera and we lost your goal!’ My toughest opponent Willie Johnston, when he was playing for West Bromwich Albion. There were a load of good wingers like Peter Barnes, Clive Woods, Tony Morley and John Robertson. Yet I knew if I was having a hard time defensively, at least I could always contribute something going the other way. However, Willie even stopped you doing that as he was always in a good defensive position too.