Arsenal FC Blog Guest Post: Remembering “Champagne” Charlie Nicholas

With the international break in full swing crawling along, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to put out one of the guest posts sent to me recently in the hope of keeping you all awake.

Today’s guest post comes from Peter Dalison – or Dally as he is know on the blog – a 46-year-old Arsenal fan from England who currently lives in Ankara, Turkey. Peter takes a trip down memory lane with a really nice article about his memories of “Champagne” Charlie Nicholas, a player who brought flair and creativity to Arsenal well before my time.

Enjoy the post and I’ll be back tomorrow with a beer in hand and some pre-World Cup qualification thoughts. Cheers.

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"Champagne" Charlie Nicholas

“Champagne” Charlie by Pete Dalison

I thought it would be a good opportunity to write about flair players and how they have affected the Arsenal Football Club. I am going to start off with what could become a bit of a series by writing about Charlie Nicholas. I have chosen Charlie as I still remember all the hype surrounding his signature for the club and you must remember we didn’t have this internet thingy back in those days.

Some will say that Nicholas or “Champagne” Charlie as his name became was not a success but at the time of his arrival he was amazing. The Arsenal fans needed a new playmaker after losing Liam Brady and the signing of Charlie Nicholas was just what we needed. Or so we thought.

Terry Neil somehow managed to capture the signature of Charlie who arrived at Highbury in June 1983 after he has scored 50 goals for Celtic the previous season. Charlie was only 21-year-old and a huge weight was put on his shoulders as he was expected to bring back trophies to Arsenal after four seasons without silverware. Sound familiar?

As already said  the departure of Liam Brady in 1980 had hit the Arsenal supporters hard but Nicholas’ arrival gave us all new hope. Charlie had the artistry and skill which we had been missing and he soon became the new darling of the North Bank. Before signing for Arsenal he had also turned down both Manchester United and Liverpool and in those days there were a lot of Scots playing for Liverpool which made it a surprising choice for Charlie. I think the lure of London rather than Arsenal was behind his decision.

Champagne Charlie did not bring the trophies that the Arsenal fans longed for but he gave excitement back to the team the flair and flamboyance that he played with.

Charlie started the season as he had finished the previous one for Celtic scoring two goals against Wolves in his second start for the club but he didn’t get on the score sheet again until Boxing Day. I and my Spurs-supporting step-mate were lucky enough to be there on that amazing day. We used to go up and watch the Arsenal v Spurs game togerther, which were either on Boxing day or New Years day. In 1983-1984 season it was a Boxing day fixture away so off we went to White Hart Lane, on the tube, quite cheap in those days.

We never had tickets before we got there but that never seemed to be a problem, it wasn’t all seating then. We also used to change where we stood, one year with the Spurs supporters, very difficult, and then the next one Arsenal and then on the sides, I can’t be certain but I am pretty sure that we were with the Spurs supporters on this day so I had to be pretty quiet.

I don’t remember much about the other scorer – Meade was his name scoring the other two in a 4-2 win. I do remember one of Charlie’s goals though. As he collected the ball  I was directly in line behind him, he saw the Spurs goalkeeper off his line and chipped him from what looked at the time to be about 30 yards. Time does have a habit of changing your memories but it was certainly one of the best goals I have seen live.

Unfortunately even though the darling of the North Bank could mesmerise opponents with his extraordinary skills he also suffered from a lack of consistency which restricted his influence on games. This was reflected in the number of goals he managed to get for Arsenal; he scored 50 for Celtic in one season and only managed 54 for Arsenal in total, only just breaking double figures in each of his first three seasons at Highbury.

After Terry Neil’s sacking in December 1983 and after surviving Don Howe’s reign the arrival of George Graham in the summer of 1986 was the beginning of the end for Champagne Charlie with his departure in January 1988 after being dropped for George Graham’s new signing Alan Smith, what a decision that turned out to be. Charlie Nicholas had been brought in to bring trophies back to the Arsenal and he finally succeeded with two against Liverpool in the league cup final in 1987 securing Arsenal’s first trophy in eight years.

Well we all remember Charlie Nicholas the darling of the North Bank but the big question is – was he a success? It’s a difficult question to answer, he certainly brought the flair back to the team that had been severely lacking since the loss of my all time favourite Liam Brady, but he also brought with him a bit of controversy, hence the name “Champagne” Charlie. He may not always have produced on the pitch and he certainly didn’t bring the goals that we all craved but I will always remember that chip against Spurs.

What are your memories of “Champagne” Charlie? Let me know in the comments.



  1. We nearly bought him two years earlier but he broke his leg.

    After he left Arsenal I saw him playing for Aberdeen at St. Mirren and I wished the pillock had been in that shape playing for Arsenal; he would have achieved so much more if he hadn’t lived it up so much in London!

  2. Great goals. What about that free kick! Arsenal playing some good stuff there. Charlie Nicholas was just a bit before my time but he’s one of those names you always hear about. It’s good to have players like that in your history – a bit of class – even if they’re not always ‘a success’. As you say, they bring a it of flair to the team and really, that’s what we love to watch most of all.

  3. Charlie Nicholas was before my time. I have been an arsenal supporter since the turn of the millenium. I have only turned 17 and so the players I know about are Vieira, Pires, Ljungberg, Bergkamp, Henry, Adams, However I know about how good Liam Brady was and when did 50 greatest gunners I have to admit I didnt know many until it got down to the top 15.
    Talking about if he was a success you have to ask yourself is playing with the flair and the way arsenal do better than winning silverware, barca will say it is, united will say its not. But as arsenal fans would we like to lose our flair and just win silverware, for me i dont think i would. I have only known arsenal to play the way wenger likes and thats part of the reason I became a fan. To get to no. 28 on the list, means he must have been the man that didnt always get the goals but got the team moving!

  4. @Jay-Jay
    For one so young, god I must be ancient, you do write well and make some good points. I started supporting Arsenal in 1971 and so have seen many teams come and go and also many managers. Don Howe, George Graham will not exactly be remembered for there contributions to the beautiful game, 1-0 to the Arsenal, and we didn’t exactly win loads of silverware either. Under Wenger we have won a whole host of silverware and have been able to watch the beautiful game as well. I have a feeling that silverware will come our way this season as well, win our game in hand and we will only be three points of 1st place, we have already travelled to manchester twice, we are well placed in Champions league, keeping the players fit will be our main task.

  5. Charlie Nicholas good to hear about him. When arsenal signed him I to was on the planet on the same year. But its good to hear about some arsenal greats. Just hope AA23 doesn’t emulate him. AA23 is good but still he needs to be consistent.
    On On. Great piece to hear from you @Dally. It would have been such an pleasure to write about an player who you like the most. I would just jump up and down if somebody ask me to write about HENRY.

  6. I have to confess that I also switched to being Arsenal fan at the the beginning of this decade. Believe it or not I was ManU fan when they won the treble in 1999. I had an Engish man friend later on who couldn’t understand why I would switch. He is from Wigan, but ManU fan until Wigan got promoted. Only Wenger’s style of play got me to switch. At the time, here in the US, you couldn’t find any way of watching international football. ESPN would show only Real Madrid or ManU’s champions league games, that was it. Some times they even cancel scheduled games and show some dog shows, for crying out loud!

    Anyways, I grew up in Africa, so I know one thing or two about football as I grew up playing it and watching it with passion. But, boy it took a generation to become readily available on TV here. So, I don’t identify with the history of some of the players that you’re talking about. I read ‘Fever Pitch’ and got some background about the fans and all that, even if it was one man’s perspective.

  7. these shorts!! my god, does anybody know in which year the length of the shorts has changed?, awful, :mrgreen:, 😉 , I’m a very recently football fan 🙂

  8. i feel old peeps, i started supportin the gunns in 89. the game was played on a friday for some reason i was in my grannies house and my uncle was watchin his beloved arsenal tryin to score 2 goals away from home against the pool. loved it good post dally its nice to get a bit of back ground to peoples arsenal obsession.

  9. @ Dally – Thanks for the compliment 🙂 What is your views on the points I made. Do you believe being a success is winning trophies or playing the way our beloved arsenal do? As i said I only know the Wenger way and I also believe silverware is coming our way this season although I cannot predict where from. Europe? Possibly, I think we can make the semis, but its all about player fitness, possible january transfers by then. Premier League? I reckon we will finish top 2. Between arsenal and chelsea i think this year. Carling Cup? I think youth is very good at the moment. Players like Ramsey, Vela and Wilshere can win matches on their own, will be exciting. FA Cup? All depends on draws and how we play on the day. I think Wenger is after the Champions League most of all so if laster in the season he has to prioritise, he will go for the european title.

    @ ALGunner – I would have to agree, i would probably write about Henry.

  10. Charlie Nicholas is the reason i started supporting Arsenal in 1985. back then in Australia they did a hour long highlights package on monday nights at 10 or 10.30 on the abc. For a 10 year old, it was hard to stay up and watch the show. i was fortunate enough to get a video off a mate called ‘Soccer 85, the first 6 months of the english div 1’, i loved that video and watched it every day after school, I knew all the comentary and i’ve been hooked on Arsenal ever since. i wrote to Arsenal a year of two later and got a signed photo of George Graham.

  11. @Jay Jay
    When I was a kid it wasn’t about who won the trophy at the end of the season it was all about whether your team beat your mates team so you could have a go at them on Monday morning at school. I guess it is still the same these days but there is so much money in the sport these days that fans demand a trophy at the end of the season. With regard your phiolosophy on whether it is better to win ugly or play exciting attacking football is very difficult to answer, I remember the last cup we won which was on penalties against a much better, on the day, manure team and at the end of the game in a way I wish we hadn’t won it as it was false, manure deserved to win the game that day, but if we had played well and lost I think it is better than playing badly and winning, strange I know but true.

  12. @ Dally
    You make a very good point. And it is very much the same, i have friends who support Liverpool, United, Chelsea, Spurs etc and you feel worse when your team lose and you have to face your friends because you know your going to get stick from them. Coming back to the point you made, Arsenal havent been able to win ugly for a while and too see the game against Fulham and us actualyl win the game was like we got past a barrier. If im honest, I would do anything for a trophy, and that means win a trophy like how we won the FA Cup in 2005. That win over Manure didnt bother me because we won the Cup. However if winning a trophy or winning ugly meant the stop of the beautiful way we play then i dont want it. It sends shivers done my spine when I see arsenal on their day because they are just unstoppable, you cannot predict what will happen and it looks so good. Games like Slavia Prague 7-0, Milan 2-0 and games this season against Everton and Blackburn, when i watch them back, i just cant stop smiling you think this is what makes us different. You can win the FA Cup and everyone will be happy but that just makes you the same as all the past FA Cup winners, but playing how the arsenal do, thats the real arsenal, thats the reason why we love this club so much, they offer something that no other club (bar Barca) can give and this season they have upped it in the new 4-3-3 formation. To answer your question in less words I would have to say I would love to win a trophy this season (dont care how we win it) because Arsenal are a top club and I think the beautiful way we play deserves a trophy to its name and with the way we have started this season I cant see that being too much to ask.

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