The Sky football pundit and former Scotland international player pays tribute to his late father Charlie ‘Chic’ Nicholas and calls on fans to join the biggest team in football.
Soccer Saturday’s Charlie Nicholas puts his footballing success down to the unwavering dedication of his father, Chic. The former Scotland, Arsenal and Celtic star tells us how his dad followed him all over the place to help develop his career, and how he marched across his beloved Glasgow to raise funds for prostate cancer research in his honour.
“He was known as Chic, Cheeky Chic, and was quite a character. He was an Army man, then a night shift worker, and a printer in the newspaper industry for years. He loved his football, and was very passionate about his fitness and health.
My dad was my foot soldier. Because he worked a night-shift we could travel together after school. He didn’t drive so we’d get two buses to get to training and then go home afterwards. He would stay and watch, and he would try and make the last twenty minutes at every Celtic match. He sacrificed a tremendous amount following me around and trying to get me to the top.”
After trials at Wolverhampton Wanderers and Ipswich Town, Charlie and his father were invited to meet Celtic manager Jock Stein, a seismic moment for them both.
“On the day I signed schoolboy forms for Celtic for £5 a week, he was as proud as punch. When we were leaving, Jock Stein gave him ten quid and said “Chic, have a couple of pints on me”. Dad was going to his night shift, but I’m pretty sure he had a couple of pints on his way....”
Charlie went on to make over 200 appearances for Celtic and became a Scotland International. He also had successful stints at Arsenal and Aberdeen. But wherever he played, no team could match Chic’s feeling for his Glaswegian hometown club.
“When I was a young boy, he’d say, “50p a goal.” One day I scored eight, and on the bus home I asked him to cough up. By the time he’d been to the social club with his mates I don’t think he had four quid left. He still owes me. I know he’s up there listening - “Chic, I’m still waiting on my four quid!”
Charlie’s father made up for it in other ways, buying studs, boots and donning goalkeeping gloves to help develop Charlie’s skills.
“He spent a lot of time pretending he was a goalkeeper. When I was practising my shooting and kicking the ball non-stop, he was always there, probably knackered from the night shift. I have tremendous pride in what he did for me, as much pride as he probably feels about what I achieved.”
I have tremendous pride in what he did for me, as much pride as he probably feels about what I achieved.
“He was diagnosed at around 70. We were at home in Glasgow, he was a keen gardener and had gone up to trim a little branch and then fell off from a small height. Within weeks his body went into meltdown.”
After a series of visits to the hospital and various tests, Charlie’s father was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
“After his diagnosis he told me he'd had issues going to the toilet for months, but he didn't want to tell anyone. I don’t know whether it’s just older men and their upbringing, they didn’t like to go to the doctor or talk about anything personal.”
Chic died six years later in December 2009, he was 76. Charlie was at his dad’s bedside for his final few days.
“I was working at Sky and I got a call on the Saturday morning saying that my dad was coming to an end and it might be time to say goodbye. If I’m being really honest, as much as the pain comes after we lose loved ones - I found the last hour or so, those conversations, dramatically tough.”
Charlie wears the Prostate Cancer UK Man of Men pin badge on Soccer Saturday, alongside our ambassador Jeff Stelling, Matt Le Tissier, Paul Merson and Phil Thompson – and others.
“When I heard Jeff was doing the marches it really drove it home to me and my wife, Clare. We kept thinking, why do we keep all these things in?”
“It’s incredible how many people have become aware just from this little badge, everybody wants one and it’s come to represent love and understanding and awareness. The ‘Man of Men’ means an awful lot.”
Charlie joined all three of Jeff’s March for Men events. Last year, together with family members, he took part across Glasgow - including a walk down memory lane to Celtic Park.
“I’m a proud Glaswegian, I’m proud of what we stand for, the humour we have, the love we have, and the hate we have in a strange way... through football and your position to Celtic, Rangers, all that stuff. But there’s always a love, a humour and a warmth about Glasgow and I think that was so evident that day when Jeff was doing the walk.”
“Talking to others on the marches has been amazing. I could mention my dad, I could mention my sister who died of a different cancer, so I could understand them and they could understand me. One thing I thought was extraordinary was the stories we got from people we’ve never met who had the same experiences as me with dad. It’s been one of the best social experiences of my life.”
Help get prostate cancer research back on track by joining the biggest team in football. Get your Man Of Men badge today.
March for Men couldn't go ahead as planned this year because of lockdown restrictions. So this year it’s a bit different. We're calling on all family and friends to March the Month. Every day through September we’ll each take 11,000 steps for 11,000 men. Take the first step here.