LONDON: Chris Nicholl, the former Northern Ireland, Southampton and Aston Villa central defender, has died at 77.

Nicholl made his international debut in 1974 and won 51 caps for Northern Ireland. He was a member of the who which reached the World Cup finals in 1982.

The Irish Football Association, in a statement, said: “We are saddened to learn of the passing of Chris Nicholl. He played 51 times for us, including the 1982 World Cup in Spain. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.”

Nicholl also played for Halifax Town, Luton Town and Grimsby Town in a professional career spanning 19 years. He managed Southampton between 1985 and 1991 before his three years in charge of Walsall and he was assistant manager to the Northern Ireland team from 1998 to 2000.

Nicholl made 210 appearances for Villa, winning two League Cups and famously scoring all four goals in a 2-2 draw with Leicester – including two at the wrong end – before playing 228 times for Southampton.

In the BBC documentary Dementia, Football and Me in 2017, Nicholl told Alan Shearer, who played under him at Southampton, he was “brain-damaged from heading balls”.

Nicholl said: “My memory is in trouble. Everyone forgets regular things, where your keys are. But when you forget where you live, that’s different. I’ve had that for the last four or five years, it is definitely getting worse. It bothers me.”