Chichester City mourn former captain and FA Cup hero

One of the heroes of Chichester City's famous FA Cup run of 60 years ago - former captain Nigel Hillier - has died aged 84.

Wednesday, 8th September 2021, 7:59 am
Updated Wednesday, 8th September 2021, 8:00 am
Nigel Hillier in his playing days with Chi City

Nigel captained Chichester City’s first Sussex County League title in 1959/60, and the following season, he helped retain the title and also win the Royal Ulster Rifles Cup, before going into management with Chichester City first team and reserves, and also first team manager at Selsey.

He is fondly remembered for his part in the City team’s run that reached the FA Cup first round against Bristol City in front of 12,000 fans at Ashton Gate in 1960.

First, City had a 4th qualifying round tie against a very good Dorchester side standing in their way. On the morning of the match, Nigel announced his engagement, then scored a hat trick in a convincing 4-1 win that made Chichester City history reaching the first round proper for the first time. A feat not to be repeated for 59 years.

Nigel reflects on the 1960 Cup run when City reached the 'proper' rounds again in 2019 / Picture: Kate Shemilt

Nigel died in St Richard's Hospital with his wife at his side. He had a four-year fight against lymphoma and had been in hospital since August.

In 2019, when City reached the second round of the Cup, Nigel recalled the 1960 run: “At the time, the Dorchester game was the biggest one most of us had played in. We were all lads from the Chichester area. We’d been winning games all that season. It was a big game but we went out thinking we could win it.”

In the 1st round against Bristol City, a third division full time professional team, the Robins beat City 11-0, and the dream had come to an end.

Nigel remembered: “In a short space of time it became obvious we were going to get a good hiding. The fact it was the first round of the FA Cup, though, was big in the overall picture of the club. As players we could never have imagined we’d play in front of 12,000.

Nigel, front row second from left, in the Chi City 1960-61 line-up

“We might have set up differently in hindsight. We all went with the thought we were going to give it a good go, but we didn’t get enough of the ball to be honest. I don’t think anybody ever realised how much of a difference there was in those days between pros and amateurs.”

Fast forward 59 years, Nigel and City team mate Fred Knotts were guests of the club when the FA Cup draw went out live on national television, and the pair witnessed the club making history again with a second round draw away at League One Tranmere Rovers.

Nigel said at the time: “I’ve been to watch Chi this season and I like the way they play. They seem to have a very good spirit. They’ve played very, very well to get this far. Just enjoy it for all it’s worth because it doesn’t happen very often.”

Tributes have flooded in. Chichester City legend Neal Holder told the Chi City website: "It’s very sad, as he was a great guy. He was manager for the reserves when I first played senior football and I played under him for the first team in the early to mid-eighties, I think we won promotion from Div 2 and the Div 2 cup.

"A great servant to the football club, he played and managed the first team and reserves and was also a fantastic sportsman in both cricket and football. I later played golf with him and he was a fair player at that as well.

"I played youth football with his son Tim both at school and Chichester City, he was always there watching, he refereed a few games as well, but was always supportive. Great guy to talk to about football, he knew the game extremely well. Always cheerful, always positive and a good man manager. Created a really good team spirit when he managed the first team, that’s for sure. The players who played for him that I see still talk about that era and all have the highest respect for him. A great guy and he’ll be sadly missed."

Report by Neil Holmes