|Date of birth||23 August 1973|
|Place of birth||Sutton Coldfield, England|
|Date of death||25 November 1995(aged 22)|
|Place of death||Peterborough, England|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
Nicholls started his career as a trainee at Wolverhampton Wanderers but never made the first team. He later played for non-league clubs Cradley Town and Cheltenham Town, before returning to the professional ranks when he was signed by Peter Shilton, who was then manager of Plymouth Argyle, for £15,000 before the start of the 1993/94 season. During his time at Plymouth, Nicholls's form was so impressive that Shilton was forced to play him - even though Shilton was himself chasing the 1,000 league appearances record. After his first season in professional football, Nicholls was called up to the England Under-21 team and played in the Toulon Tournament in the summer of 1994.
In his two years at Plymouth, Nicholls played 79 games for the club, gaining a reputation as a brilliant but larger-than-life footballer who was often in trouble off the pitch. After Shilton left Plymouth, Nicholls struggled with injuries and clashed with new manager Neil Warnock - who was keen to bring his own players into the club. In 1995, Nicholls was released by Warnock after a series of off-the-pitch indiscretions. He subsequently moved to Gillingham, and was technically still on trial at Priestfield Stadium when Stalybridge Celtic contacted the club to ask if they could borrow him to cover a suspension.
On 25 November 1995, Nicholls played for Stalybridge in a 3-1 win at Dover Athletic. After the game, Nicholls left with his friend Scott Lindsey, and Scott's brother, Matthew, and their father. Nicholls travelled in the car with Scott and his father, while Matthew followed on his motorbike. About an hour into their journey, Nicholls offered to travel on the back of Matthew's motorbike to keep him company. Soon afterwards, Matthew lost control of the bike near Peterborough and careered off the road. Nicholls and Matthew were killed instantly.
Nicholls is buried in the grounds of St Paul's Church, Blackheath. The Three Lions emblem of the England national team is engraved on his headstone, as well as an action shot of him in goal.
- James, Stuart (19 November 2015). "Alan Nicholls, the maverick goalkeeper who should have played for England but died far too young". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 November 2015.
- The Independent article, 28 November 1995[dead link]
- Vital Plymouth: Furnell is Argyle's best keeper