Saturday, 31 October 2020

Nobby Stiles dies after a long illness aged 78

 World Cup-winning England midfielder Nobby Stiles has died aged 78 after a long illness.

The former Manchester United player had prostate cancer and advanced dementia.

Stiles is the seventh member of the England team that started the 1966 World Cup final against West Germany to die, after captain Bobby Moore, Alan Ball, Ray Wilson, Gordon Banks, Martin Peters and Jack Charlton.

Manchester-born Stiles was made an MBE in 2000.

A statement issued by his family said: "The Stiles family are sad to announce that Nobby Stiles passed away peacefully today surrounded by his family after a long illness.

"The family kindly ask for privacy at this sad time."

Stiles won 28 caps for England and played a key role in neutralising Portugal star Eusebio in the 1966 semi-final, before another fine showing in the dramatic 4-2 extra-time win over West Germany.

"Hugely sad to hear Nobby has passed away," said Sir Geoff Hurst, who scored a hat-trick in the final.

"Great character, and the heart and soul of the team, he will be sorely missed."

At club level, Stiles won two English league titles and the 1968 European Cup during an 11-year career with Manchester United.

He made almost 400 appearances for the Red Devils between 1960 and 1971, going on to play for Middlesbrough and Preston North End before retiring in 1975.

He moved into management with Preston between 1977 and 1981, then had a brief and unsuccessful spell in charge at West Bromwich Albion during the 1985-86 season.

In 1989, United asked him to return as youth team coach, and he helped develop players such as Red Devils legends Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville.

"Rest in Peace Nobby. Thank you for all you did for us. You taught us how to fight for everything in that red shirt," said Neville.

"Saddened to hear that Nobby Stiles has passed away," said former England striker Gary Lineker.

"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."

The England national team said they were "incredibly saddened" to learn of Stiles' death and that "all of our thoughts are with Nobby's loved ones".

Brian Kidd, who was one of the goalscorers when United won the European Cup in 1968, told BBC Sport: "It is so sad. We went to the same school and he was in the same class as my brother, so I have known him since I was a young boy.

"What you saw was him - a humble and modest human being. He was so down to earth.

"He was a very demanding team-mate. He expected you to produce, he didn't mollycoddle you.

"As a coach he was unbelievable. He was an icon at the club and the kids all looked up to him."

Former Manchester United goalkeeper and Stiles' team-mate Alex Stepney said the midfielder was "a real diamond".

"A lot of people thought that he was just a hard man, but in a team there are certain times when a player has to mark someone for 90 minutes and Nobby could do that immensely," he told BBC Sport.

"We saw that with Eusebio in 1966. He could read the game tremendously well and knew it.

"He would tell me off during a game if I made a mistake. If he told you, you didn't do it again. He just wanted to be a winner.

"Manchester United was in his heart and they were his team."

After leaving Old Trafford in 1993, Stiles became a popular after-dinner speaker.

But he moved away from the public spotlight as his health deteriorated - he had a minor stroke in 2010, and was then diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and prostate cancer.

In 2010, he sold his World Cup and European Cup medals, which Manchester United bought for a combined total of more than £200,000.

A road was named after him in Collyhurst - the inner-city area of Manchester where he grew up - in May 2016.

In a BBC documentary screened in 2017, Stiles' son John told former England captain Alan Shearer he was "utterly convinced" heading a football was responsible for his father's dementia.

Former Preston and Liverpool defender Mark Lawrenson said Stiles "more than anyone made me into a player at Preston - absolute gentleman as well. Love to the family, a very sad day".

Preston said that everyone at the club is "saddened to learn of the passing of former player and promotion-winning manager Nobby Stiles - our thoughts are with Nobby's loved ones at this incredibly sad time".

Middlesbrough paid tribute to "the toothless tiger" and called Stiles "one of the most colourful characters ever to wear our shirt".


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