Nobby Stiles death: England 1966 World Cup winner dies

Former Manchester United, Middlesbrough and Preston North End midfielder passed away after a long illness

Jack de Menezes
Sports News Correspondent
Friday 30 October 2020 19:12
England 1966 World Cup winner Nobby Stiles speaks in 2014 at medal auction

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

The former Manchester United, Middlesbrough and Preston North End midfielder was revealed to be suffering from dementia in 2016, having also been diagnosed with prostate cancer three years before.

A family statement on Friday afternoon confirmed the news, which sees Stiles become the latest member of the 1966 World Cup final-winning side to pass away in recent years following Jack Charlton, Ray Wilson and Martin Peters.

Only four members of the starting XI that day remain alive today in Sir Bobby Charlton, George Cohen, Geoff Hurst and Roger Hunt.

A statement 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 hailed for playing a defensive role in the 1966 semi-final, which saw him neutralise the threat of Portuguese star Eusebio to help Sir Alf Ramsey’s side into the final, where they would go on to beat West Germany 4-2 in extra-time. 

The campaign came among Stiles’s 28 international caps, which proved the lowest of any of Ramsey’s World Cup side. Although he was selected for both the 1968 European Championship and 1970 World Cup in Mexico, he had seen his place in the side taken by Tottenham rival Alan Mullery. 

His one international goal proved the winning goal against West Germany in a 1966 friendly, just five months before the World Cup triumph. 

Nobby Stiles (right) celebrates the 1966 World Cup win with Sir Alf Ramsey and Bobby Moore

As well as the 1966 success – which remains the only time England have made it to the World Cup final, let alone win the tournament outright – Stiles was a part of the famous 1968 United squad that won the European Cup for the first time in the club’s history. 

Born in Collyhurst, Manchester, in May 1942, Stiles joined United in the wake of the 1958 Munich Air Disaster, in which eight players were killed the year before his arrival. Stiles helped the club to remarkable league title triumphs  in 1965 and 1967, before they defeated Benfica in the 1968 European Cup final at Wembley to become the first English club to conquer Europe.

Stiles eventually left the club in 1971 after making nearly 400 appearances for United, and joined Middlesbrough in the second division, where he made 69 appearances across two seasons. Stiles played the final two years of his career with Preston North End across the second and third divisions, before retiring from the game in 1975. However, he embarked on a coaching career soon after, returning to Preston to manage the Lilywhites between 1977 and 1981 before stints with Vancouver Whitecaps and West Brom between 1985 and 1986. Stiles eventually returned to United as a youth team coach in 1989, spending four years back at Old Trafford under the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson.

Stiles was part of England’s first European Cup-winning side with Manchester United

Health issues soon hit Stiles, who suffered a small stroke in 2010 and later suffered from cancer and dementia. He took the decision following the stroke to put his winners’ medals up for sale in order to leave his family an inheritance, with United coming forward to purchase them for £200,000. The medals remain in the club’s museum. 

Tributes quickly filled social media following news of Stiles’s death, with the Manchester mayor Andy Burnham describing him as “one of the greatest-ever Mancunians”.

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

Former England captain Gary Lineker said: “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.”

United bought Stiles’s winners’ medals in 2010 and they remain in the club museum

Manchester United said: “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.”

Former England midfielder Peter Reid was one of the first to pay tribute to Stiles on social media. “Nobby Stiles RIP,” he tweeted, alongside a heart emoji.

The Football Association said: “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.”

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