During this period the club did not employ a "manager" but Nicholson undertook many of the duties currently associated with a modern-day football manager. Born in Attercliffe in Sheffield Nicholson was originally a lawyer"s clerk who was active with the Sheffield and Hallamshire FA as well as secretary of Attercliffe F.C. In 1899 he was offered the post of club secretary at when the club became a Limited Company and remained in the role until his death. Although the team was coached by a trainer and selected by a committee, Nicholson ran the club on a day-to-day basis, dealing with transfers and other finances, liaising with the Football Association and looking after the players general affairs
Regarded as one of the most respected men in football at the time he had a vast number of contacts throughout the game and was an expert in the rules, laws and regulations of the sport.
Nicholson presided over the most successful period in The Blades history, winning four s in 1899, 1902, 1915 and 1925 (also reaching the final in 1901) and maintaining United as a dominant league force, although winning the Championship eluded him. Despite never holding the post of manager at The Blades he was offered just such a position at Manchester City in 1926 but turned it down, preferring to remain in his home town.
Nicholson died in 1932 after being knocked down by a lorry whilst crossing the road outside Sheffield Midland Station whilst on his way to join the team who were heading off to Birmingham to play a match against Aston Villa. Local newspaper reports estimated that over 6,000 people attended his funeral.