Nobby Stiles: England World Cup-winner dies aged 78 after long illness

Nobby Stiles won 28 England caps and played every minute of victorious 1966 World Cup campaign; Stiles also part of Manchester United side which became first English club to win European Cup in 1968; Man Utd describe Stiles as a "titan of the club's history"

England World Cup winner Nobby Stiles dies aged 78
Image: England World Cup winner Nobby Stiles has died aged 78

England World Cup-winner Nobby Stiles has died aged 78 after a long illness, his family has announced.

Stiles was also part of the Manchester United side which became the first English club to win the European Cup in 1968, when they beat Benfica in the final at Wembley.

A statement issued by the Stiles family read: "The Stiles family are sad to announce that Nobby Stiles passed away peacefully today (30/10/2020) surrounded by his family after a long illness.

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

Stiles was credited with playing a key role in neutralising the threat of Portuguese star Eusebio in the 1966 World Cup semi-final.

Sir Geoff Hurst, whose hat-trick helped England to victory over West Germany in the 1966 final, paid a glowing tribute to Stiles.

"Hugely sad to hear Nobby has passed away," he wrote on Twitter.

"We were playing together way back for the U17s, U23s, and of course, for England, in fact, it was my first cap when Nobby scored, I think he was wearing No. 9!

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

In total he won 28 caps, the lowest number of any of the World Cup-winning side.

Nobby Stiles
Image: Nobby Stiles played every minute of England's victorious campaign at the 1966 World Cup

England offered their condolences on Twitter. Their post read: "We're incredibly saddened to learn of the passing of Nobby Stiles, a key member of our FIFA World Cup-winning squad, at the age of 78.

"All of our thoughts are with Nobby's loved ones."

FA chairman Greg Clarke said: "Nobby Stiles will forever be remembered as a major part of English football's proud history especially as a Wembley winner on two very notable occasions.

"He may not have been the most imposing player on the pitch, but he was certainly a formidable presence for club and country.

"The sight of him celebrating the World Cup triumph on the Wembley turf still lingers more than half-a-century on from that famous day and is remembered as much as his commanding semi-final display against Portugal."

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Bryan Robson says fellow Manchester United and England legend Nobby Stiles was a 'great player', who may have been somewhat under-appreciated because he did not play in such an attacking position as some of his contemporaries.

The FA said a tribute would be paid to Stiles ahead of England's friendly against the Republic of Ireland next month.

Manchester United released a statement in which they paid tribute to Stiles, who played for the club from 1960-1971.

It read: "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."

Current United club captain Harry Maguire wrote: "Sad day, a true Man Utd and England legend has passed away. RIP Nobby Stiles MBE."

Stiles was born in Collyhurst, Manchester, in May 1942, during an air raid.

He agreed apprentice terms with United in 1959, at a time when the club was still recovering from the Munich air disaster a year earlier in which eight players were killed.

He won league titles with United in 1965 and 1967, before the continental success the following year.

Stiles' former United team-mate Denis Law was "desperately saddened" to hear of his death.

Law added, in a statement released through the club: "Nobby was a top player and a top man. He was such a popular guy in the dressing room.

"Everyone knew Nobby would be there when the going got tough on the pitch, but you shouldn't underestimate what a good footballer he was too."

Stiles left United in 1971, going on to play for Middlesbrough and Preston.

He later managed Preston between 1977 and 1981, before coaching Canadian side Vancouver Whitecaps and then West Brom between 1985 and 1986.

He returned to United as a youth team coach under Sir Alex Ferguson in 1989 for a four-year stint.

Former England midfielder Peter Reid was one of the first to honour Stiles on social media.

"Nobby Stiles RIP," he tweeted, alongside a heart emoji.

Former England striker Gary Lineker said on Twitter: "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."

Former England goalkeeper Peter Shilton sent his condolences.

He tweeted: "So sad to hear the news of Nobby Stiles a great person who I admired very much one of the great 66 Legends England RIP."

Stiles suffered a series of health issues in later life, including a dementia diagnosis.

In 2010, after a mini-stroke, he decided to sell his medals in order to leave something to his family.

United bought them for £200,000 and the medals are now housed in the club's museum.

A number of Manchester United players who worked with Stiles in the 1990s took to social media to pay tribute to the World Cup winner's impact on their careers.

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

"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," wrote Robbie Savage.

"Really sad news that @ManUtd legend Nobby Styles has passed away. A great hero and an inspiration for all United fans," wrote Peter Schmeichel.

West Brom, who Stiles managed between 1985-1986, posted a tribute on Twitter.

It read: "Farewell to the most famous grin in English football.

"A World Cup winning Lion who we are proud to have serve at The Hawthorns as manager for a brief spell in the mid-1980s.

"Rest in peace, Nobby."

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham described Stiles as "quite simply one of the greatest-ever Mancunians" on Twitter.

"From humble beginnings to a European & World Cup winner," he tweeted.

"Much-loved in Greater Manchester & by millions across the country. We will miss you, Nobby, but thanks for all the memories. Our love to family and friends."

Preston, who Stiles played for between 1973-1975 and managed between 1977-1981, added their own tribute.

The posted on Twitter (with a heart emoji): "Everyone at Preston North End is saddened to learn of the passing of former player and promotion-winning manager Nobby Stiles at the age of 78.

"Our thoughts are with Nobby's loved ones at this incredibly sad time."

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