It was announced on Friday that Nobby Stiles, a key member of England’s 1966 World Cup wining squad, has sadly died aged 78 after a lengthy battle with prostate cancer and dementia.
A statement from the Mancunian’s loved ones read: “The Stiles family are sad to announce that Nobby Stiles passed away peacefully today surrounded by his family after a long illness.”
Stiles was famed for his jig of delight on the Wembley pitch after holding the Jules Rimet trophy, and despite his diminutive 5ft 6in frame he grew into a colossal figure for Sir Alf Ramsey’s side – producing a number of crucial tough tackling displays in midfield and marking the legendary Eusebio out of the semi-final victory over Portugal.
Famous for the huge gap in his front teeth, Stiles was also a success in club football with his beloved Manchester United, where he won the European Cup in 1968 as well as a pair of Division One titles.
In the end, he made more than 400 appearances for his local team in a spell spanning more than a decade, before stints down the road at Preston and at Middlesbrough.
After hanging up his boots, Stiles tried his hand at management at Preston and West Bromwich Albion, but it was in coaching where his real passion lay – he returned to Manchester United as a youth team coach in the late 1980s and oversaw the young side of which Ryan Giggs, David Beckham and the Neville brothers were a part.
He retired from football in 1993 and became a popular after dinner speaker, regaling audiences with his tales from the glory years with his typical wit and warmth. In 2000, he was awarded an MBE for services to the game.
A Tiny Giant Years Ahead of His Time
In many ways, Nobby Stiles was a footballing innovator.
He has been described as a defensive midfielder before the role was really deployed, and his hard running and tough tackling made him a nightmare for the opposition’s creative talents.
Stiles was also one of the first players to ever be tactically assigned a man marking role in midfield, and he would often be seen trotting after his target and even standing next to them as they tied their boot laces.
To this day, he remains only one of three Englishmen to have World Cup and European Cup winners’ medals, and who knows if that exclusive club will ever expand in size.
Taking to Twitter, the official Manchester United account pad tribute to Stiles by writing: “We are extremely saddened to learn of the passing of Nobby Stiles MBE. An integral part of our first-ever European Cup-winning side, Nobby was a titan of the club’s history, cherished for his heart and personality on and off the pitch. He will be sorely missed by us all.”
We are extremely saddened to learn of the passing of Nobby Stiles MBE.
An integral part of our first-ever European Cup-winning side, Nobby was a titan of the club’s history, cherished for his heart and personality on and off the pitch.
He will be sorely missed by us all. pic.twitter.com/aT0Mk47cEl
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) October 30, 2020
Gary Neville wrote ‘rest in Peace Nobby. Thank you for all you did for us. You taught us how to fight for everything in that red shirt,’ while Robbie Savage – another who came through the United set-up under Stiles, tweeted ‘as a 16-year-old boy at Manchester United, it was a privilege to be coached by a legend of the game and a true gentleman.’
Rest in Peace Nobby. Thank you for all you did for us. You taught us how to fight for everything in that red shirt .
“ Your studs are your best friends out there “ pic.twitter.com/njE02x7yDx
— Gary Neville (@GNev2) October 30, 2020
And Gary Lineker summed up the mood of the nation when he quipped: “Another of our 1966 World Cup winning heroes leaves us. He had a heart that was even bigger than the gap in his teeth. RIP Nobby.”
Saddened to hear that Nobby Stiles has passed away. Another of our 1966 World Cup winning heroes leaves us. He had a heart that was even bigger than the gap in his teeth. RIP Nobby.
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) October 30, 2020