FA Cup: Darnall cemetery tribute hopes for Sheffield United legend John Nicholson, four time cup winner

You would never know it from a first look at the headstone.

Tuesday, 14th June 2022, 11:13 am

But hidden away in a now disused cemetery lies the grave of one of the most important figures in Sheffield’s footballing history.

To look at the headstone, you would not realise that John Nicholson was a remarkable man.

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Volunteers at the Friends of Darnall Cemetery want to raise awareness of what Sheffield United legend John Nicholson achieved, and are hoping to work with the club to do that, so that those who visit the cemetery understand who he was. Norman Zide is pictured next to Mr Nicholson's headstone.

Having outlived his wife, Mary, his name appears on the stone a couple of lines below hers on a stone marking what is a family plot.

There is no clue to Mr Nicholson’s remarkable story.

In the early days of the 20th century, he was one of the most successful football managers in the country – and perhaps the most successful ever at Sheffield United.

With four FA Cup wins, he has been described as the fifth most successful English manager in the competition in history.

Volunteers at the Friends of Darnall Cemetery want to raise awareness of what Sheffield United legend John Nicholson achieved, and are hoping to work with the club to do that, so that those who visit the cemetery understand who he was.

Famous graves in Darnall cemetery

Now, the team of volunteers at the Friends of Darnall Cemetery want to raise awareness of what Mr Nicholson achieved, and are hoping to work with the club to do that, so that those who visit the cemetery understand who he was.

Norman Zide, from the friends group, says John is one of a number of important people in sport who are buried in the cemetery. Former Sheffield Wednesday footballer Charles Brelsford is also buried there, along with an Olympic walking medallist, George Littlewood.

He is hoping to work with Sheffield United to find a way to make it clear who John was, realising that at present there is nothing to show that he was once one of the most well known people in the city.

Norman said: “He was the most successful manager of Sheffield United – he was from Attercliffe originally. He’s buried here in Darnall Cemetery with us and we’d like to get Sheffield United involved. We have had contact with Sheffield United and their historian, and they said they were going to get involved with us.”

How they will work together has not been decided yet – but the club is keen to get involved.

The Blades’ heritage manager John Garrett is very much aware of John Nicholson, known as Honest John in his day.

Club’s most successful FA Cup manager

He ran the club as an old style club secretary-manager from 1899, winning the FA Cup in 1899, 1902, 1915 and 1925.

He said Mr Nicholson was regarded as the boss and was a very influential man, adding that at one stage he was approached to take over at Manchester City – an offer which he rejected.

But he died in tragic circumstances, added Mr Garrett.

The team had been on the way to a match at Aston Villa, but had forgotten something. Mr Nicholson left the team at a cafe at Sheffield Midland Station and went to collect it. He picked it up and got on the tram back to the station.

Tragically, as he stepped off the back of the tram at the station, he was struck by a lorry, and killed. He was aged 68.

Thousands attended his funeral in 1932.

Mr Garrett said: “The club would like to work with the friends group to remember our famous former manager.

"A lot of work needs to be done though, including finding out if there are any family and getting their views.”