Nobby Stiles

Nobby Stiles
Nobby Stiles (1966).jpg
Stiles in 1966
Personal information
Full name Norbert Peter Stiles
Date of birth (1942-05-18)18 May 1942
Place of birth Collyhurst, Manchester, England
Date of death 30 October 2020(2020-10-30) (aged 78)
Height 5 ft 6 in (168 cm)[1]
Position(s) Defensive midfielder
Youth career
1957–1960 Manchester United
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1960–1971 Manchester United 311 (17)
1971–1973 Middlesbrough 57 (2)
1973–1975 Preston North End 46 (1)
Total 414 (20)
National team
1965–1968 Football League XI 3 (0)
1965–1970 England 28 (1)
Teams managed
1977–1981 Preston North End
1981–1984 Vancouver Whitecaps
1985–1986 West Bromwich Albion
Men's football
Representing  England
FIFA World Cup
Winner 1966 England
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Norbert Peter Stiles MBE (18 May 1942 – 30 October 2020)[2] was an English footballer and manager. He played for England for five years, winning 28 caps and scoring one goal. He played every minute of England's victorious 1966 FIFA World Cup campaign. In the semi-final of that tournament against Portugal, he was given the job of marking the prolific Eusébio. His tough performance resulted in Eusébio being practically nullified for the entire game. Stiles also played in the final, which England won 4–2 against West Germany. His post-match dance on the Wembley pitch, holding the World Cup trophy in one hand and his false teeth in the other, was widely broadcast.

Stiles spent the majority of his club career for Manchester United, spending eleven years at Old Trafford, where he became renowned for his tough tackling and ball-winning qualities. Jonathan Wilson, writing for The Guardian in 2013, labelled Stiles as a type of holding midfielder he described as a "destroyer", a player who is primarily tasked with running, winning back possession, and distributing the ball to other players.[3]

With the Red Devils, he won two League titles and one European Cup. Stiles is one of only three Englishmen, alongside Bobby Charlton and Ian Callaghan, to have won both the World Cup and European Cup.[4]

Stiles also had short spells with Middlesbrough and Preston North End.

Early life

Stiles grew up in Collyhurst, a working class district of North Manchester, attending the local St Patrick's Catholic (Primary) School. He was born in the cellar of the family home during an air raid, the son of Charlie, a manager of an undertakers' parlour in a family business, and Kitty, who supplemented the family income working as a machinist.[5]

Club career

Manchester United

Stiles supported Manchester United and his talent was swiftly recognised when he played for England Schoolboys at the age of 15.[1] He achieved a childhood ambition when, in the same year, the club he supported gave him an apprenticeship in September 1959.[6]

Stiles was an unlikely-looking footballer in many ways – he was short, at a time when teenagers were being rejected by clubs purely because of their lack of height; he also had several teeth missing and wore dentures, the removal of which prior to matches gave him a gap-toothed expression which had the potential to scare.[6] He became significantly bald at a young age and sported a dramatic comb-over.[7] He was also severely short-sighted, and needed strong contact lenses when playing, and wore thick spectacles off the field.[1]

Nevertheless, Manchester United manager Matt Busby saw something in the tenacious youngster. Stiles was given his debut as a full back in October 1960 against Bolton Wanderers.[8] Stiles's simple passing game and fearless ball-winning skills saw his swift conversion into a "holding" midfield player of a type now a feature of all top teams but still a rarity at a time when forward lines consisted of five players and the midfield was restricted to covering half-backs.[9] His ability to gain and retain possession also allowed his teammates, such as Bobby Charlton and, later, George Best, to utilise more space on the field. Stiles's defensive skills were also utilised by United managers to great effect throughout his successful career.[8]

That said, Busby was not afraid to sacrifice Stiles when required and when United beat Leicester City 3–1 in the 1963 FA Cup final, Stiles was not picked for the game.[4] He began to make more frequent appearances in the seasons ahead, however, and won the First Division title in 1965.[8]

In 1967, Stiles won his second League championship medal with Manchester United, but greater club honours were to come.[4] United reached the European Cup final, which was to be staged at Wembley, and Stiles's old nemesis Eusébio was again someone he had to deal with as part of a fearsome attacking potential posed by opponents Benfica.[10] Stiles played well without keeping Eusébio wholly quiet, and with the score at 1–1 and just a few minutes left, the Portuguese legend got away from the United defence with just goalkeeper Alex Stepney to beat, yet only managed to slam the ball straight into Stepney's midriff. United won 4–1 and became the first English club to lift Europe's main trophy. [11]

Later career

After 395 matches and 19 goals, Manchester United sold Stiles in 1971 to Middlesbrough for £20,000.[12] Two years later, he became a player-coach at Preston North End when Bobby Charlton was manager.[13]

International career

On 10 April 1965, Stiles made his debut for the England national football team in a 2–2 draw against Scotland.[14]

1966 FIFA World Cup

With England hosting the World Cup in 1966, manager Alf Ramsey had no competitive qualifying campaign to prepare, and therefore he spent the prior two years meticulously assessing players in friendly matches and British Home Championship games.[15] With Bobby Charlton the only certainty for his World Cup midfield, he needed to create a trio of players to complement the Manchester United attacker and among those was the requirement for a "spoiler".[9] Stiles was tested out for this role in a 2–2 draw against Scotland at Wembley on 10 April 1965.[16] He kept his place for eight of the next nine internationals, scoring the only goal in a Wembley win against West Germany along the way,[17] and by the time Ramsey confirmed his 22, it was thought likely that he would be in England's starting team for the World Cup.[18][19]

Stiles won his 15th cap as England kicked off the competition with a goalless draw against Uruguay and maintained his place as the uncompromising hardman playing ahead of the back four and making sure there was space and time for the likes of Charlton ahead of him.[20] With Stiles not missing a minute, England progressed through the group with wins over Mexico and France and then scraped past a violent Argentina side in the last eight.[20] In the France game, Stiles seriously injured their midfielder Jacques Simon with a bad late tackle and there were calls from the media and FA for Stiles to be dropped. Ramsey publicly defended Stiles, being sure that the tackle was mistimed rather than malicious.[21]

In the semi-final, Stiles performed an effective man-marking job on the Portuguese playmaker, and prolific goalscorer Eusébio, to the extent that the immensely skilled player was essentially nullified for the whole match, which England won 2–1.[6] His tactics, despite the criticism they provoked from some, were effective; Eusébio's only major contribution was a late penalty, in a match where both sides were considered to have played attractive football in a good spirit with few fouls, and England progressed to the final.[22] In the dressing room afterwards, Ramsey praised Stiles's individual performance, a rare accolade.[23]

Stiles, winning his 20th cap, had no man-marking brief against West Germany but played a strong, tough match as England saw a 2–1 lead levelled with the last kick of the game before Geoff Hurst completed a hat-trick to win the competition in extra time.[24] At the final whistle, Stiles did a spontaneous jig with the Jules Rimet Trophy in his hand while holding his false teeth in the other.[25] Thirty years later this moment would be referred to by Frank Skinner and David Baddiel in the lyrics to "Three Lions", the England theme song written with the Lightning Seeds for Euro 96: in the 1996 version, a list of English football memories ends with "...Nobby dancing", and in the 1998 version, in a reference to the World Cup finals taking place in France, the middle section consists of the line: "We can dance Nobby's dance, we can dance it in France".[25]

UEFA Euro 1968 and 1970 FIFA World Cup

Stiles played in the next four internationals but was deemed to have performed poorly as England lost to Scotland at Wembley in 1967 and was dropped by Ramsey.[4] Stiles was selected for the England squad which contested the 1968 European Championships, but the holding role in midfield had been taken by Tottenham Hotspur's Alan Mullery.[9] England went out to Yugoslavia in the semi-finals, during which Mullery became the first ever England player to be sent off. Stiles was recalled for the otherwise meaningless third place play-off game against the Soviet Union,[26] but it was clear that despite his misdemeanour, Mullery was now Ramsey's first choice.[27]

Stiles played just once for England in 1969 and twice in 1970. He was selected by Ramsey for the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, but only as Mullery's understudy, and not only did he not get a kick during the competition as England surrendered the title in the quarter-final, he never played for his country again.[9] He ended with 28 caps – ultimately the least capped member of the 1966 XI – and one goal.[28]

Managerial and post-playing career

In August 1975, Stiles was appointed as caretaker manager of Preston when Bobby Charlton resigned in protest at the transfer of defender John Bird to Newcastle United, but he resigned a week later in support of his former Manchester United teammate.[29] Stiles returned to Preston to serve as manager from 22 July 1977 to 1 June 1981.[30]

Stiles joined the exodus of ageing and semi-retired European players to the NASL in 1981, to become coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps, spending three years at the Canadian club.[9]

On 29 September 1985, Stiles took over as manager of West Bromwich Albion; however, he was sacked the following February after the side managed only three wins under his leadership, and this was his final stab at management.[31] He later revealed his struggle with depression while in the job, finding it tough to cope with working in the Midlands and the daily commute from Manchester where his family lived.[32]

Between 1989 and 1993 he worked for Manchester United as their youth team coach, developing the considerable skills of teenage prodigies such as David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, and Paul Scholes. Nicky Butt and the Neville brothers, Gary and Phil, also came through at this time.[6]

In 2000, Stiles was awarded his MBE after a campaign by sections of the media who were surprised that five of the 1966 team had never been officially decorated for their achievements. Stiles duly joined Alan Ball, Roger Hunt, Ray Wilson and George Cohen in collecting his gong.[33]

Career statistics



Club Season League FA Cup League Cup Europe Other[nb 1] Total
Division Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Manchester United 1960–61 First Division 26 2 3 0 2 0 31 2
1961–62 First Division 34 7 4 0 0 0 38 7
1962–63 First Division 31 2 4 0 0 0 35 2
1963–64 First Division 17 0 2 0 0 0 2 0 21 0
1964–65 First Division 41 0 7 0 0 0 11 0 59 0
1965–66 First Division 39 2 7 0 0 0 8 1 1 0 55 3
1966–67 First Division 37 3 2 0 1 0 40 3
1967–68 First Division 20 0 0 0 0 0 7 0 1 0 28 0
1968–69 First Division 41 1 6 0 0 0 8 1 1 0 56 2
1969–70 First Division 8 0 3 0 2 0 13 0
1970–71 First Division 17 0 0 0 2 0 19 0
Total 311 17 38 0 7 0 36 2 3 0 395 19
Middlesbrough 1971–72 Second Division 25 1 6 0 2 0 33 1
1972–73 Second Division 32 1 1 0 3 0 36 1
Total 57 2 7 0 5 0 0 0 0 0 69 2
Preston North End 1973–74 Second Division 27 1 27 1
1974–75 Third Division 19 0 19 0
Total 46 1 0 0 0 0 46 1
Career total 414 20 45 0 12 0 36 2 3 0 510 22



Year Apps Goals
1965 8 0
1966 15 1
1967 1 0
1968 1 0
1969 1 0
1970 2 0
Total 28 1

International goals


Goal Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
1 23 February 1966 Wembley Stadium, London  West Germany 1–0 1–0 Friendly



Manchester United




Personal life

Stiles married Kay Giles in June 1963.[45][46] His wife was a sister of Johnny Giles and they were introduced to each other around the time they were teammates at Manchester United. They lived in Manchester and had three children. Stiles' son John was also a footballer, playing for Shamrock Rovers in Dublin and Leeds United in the 1980s.[47]

Stiles was a devout Catholic throughout his life, and even tried to attend mass on the day of the world cup final. In 1968, Stiles released his first autobiography, Soccer My Battlefield; his second, After the Ball, followed in 2003. In 2007, he was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame.[20]

Stiles's FIFA World Cup medal and a European Cup medal were bought by Manchester United for more than £200,000 at an auction on 27 October 2010. The World Cup medal, which Stiles won in the 1966 final against West Germany, sold for £160,000.[48] His European Cup medal, which he won with Manchester United in 1968, was also sold, realising more than £49,000. Stiles sold the medals so that his family could benefit from the proceeds.[2]

A teenage Stiles, then a Manchester United apprentice, was portrayed by actor Kyle Ward in a 2011 BBC TV drama, United, which was centred around the Munich air disaster in 1958, in which eight of United's senior players died.[49]

On 24 November 2013, it was announced that Stiles was diagnosed with prostate cancer,[50] and in 2016, it was announced that he was suffering from advanced dementia. He was too ill to attend a celebration dinner to mark the 50th anniversary of England's 1966 World Cup win.[51] In November 2017, a BBC documentary on the subject of brain injuries amongst retired footballers presented by former England striker Alan Shearer included an interview with Stiles' son.[52]

Stiles died on 30 October 2020, aged 78, after suffering with prostate cancer and advanced dementia.[53][54]

Explanatory notes

  1. ^ Includes appearances in the FA Charity Shield and Intercontinental Cup (1968).



  1. ^ a b c d "Nobby Stiles: The dancing destroyer who became England's forgotten hero". Press Association. 30 October 2020f. Retrieved 30 October 2020 – via Winsford Guardian.
  2. ^ a b "Manchester United buy Nobby Stiles's medals". BBC News. 27 October 2010. Retrieved 27 October 2010.
  3. ^ Wilson, Jonathan (18 December 2013). "The Question: what does the changing role of holding midfielders tell us?". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d Glanville, Brian (30 October 2020). "Nobby Stiles obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  5. ^ Lawton, James (2003). Nobby Stiles: After The Ball. Coronet Books / Hodder & Stoughton. p. 2 / 5 / 11. ISBN 0-340-82888-9.
  6. ^ a b c d "The 'toothless fella' who meant so much to fans". BBC Sport. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  7. ^ Reporter, Daily Express (18 June 2010). "England football hero Nobby Stiles has a stroke". Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  8. ^ a b c Powell, Jim (30 October 2020). "Nobby Stiles: his life and times – in pictures". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Wilson, Paul (30 October 2020). "Nobby Stiles was an enforcer who pioneered the holding midfield role | Paul Wilson". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  10. ^ "1966 World Cup winner Nobby Stiles dies". The Independent. 30 October 2020. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  11. ^ Richard Cox; Dave Russell; Wray Vamplew (24 July 2020). Encyclopedia of British Football. Taylor & Francis. pp. 181–. ISBN 978-1-00-014414-7.
  12. ^ Shaw, Dominic (30 October 2020). "World Cup winner and former Boro midfielder Nobby Stiles dies". TeessideLive. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  13. ^ Macpherson, Jon (30 October 2020). "Nobby Stiles, former Preston North End player and manager, dies aged 78". LancsLive. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  14. ^ "Nobby Stiles Hall Of Fame profile". Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  15. ^ "England football team players: British Home Championship 1965". Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  16. ^ "We're saddened to hear about the passing of 1966 World Cup winner Nobby Stiles". Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  17. ^ "England v West Germany, 23 February 1966".
  18. ^ "Ramsey Makes Four Changes Against Poland". Coventry Evening Telegraph (Last ed.). 5 July 1966. p. 38 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  19. ^ Duckworth, Tom (4 June 1966). "Winger's - Ramsey's Big Worry". Sports Argus. p. 5 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  20. ^ a b c "Nobby Stiles: England World Cup-winner dies aged 78 after long illness". Sky Sports. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  21. ^ Walters, Mike (30 October 2020). "Remembering Nobby Stiles, England's 'Toothless Tiger' who deserved better". mirror. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  22. ^ "Nobby Stiles: Did football fail one of its most famous sons?". Sky News. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  23. ^ "Nobby Stiles, linchpin of England's 1966 World Cup-winning team – obituary". Daily Telegraph. 30 October 2020.
  24. ^ Douglas, Steve. "Nobby Stiles, World Cup winner with England in 1966, dies". Washington Post. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  25. ^ a b White, Jim (30 October 2020). "Remembering Nobby Stiles: Tough and uncompromising but the nation's 1966 dancing hero was one of us". The Telegraph. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  26. ^ Broadis, Ivor (8 June 1968). "Wright, Stiles face Russia tonight". Aberdeen Evening Express. p. 5 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  27. ^ Thacker, Gary (21 August 2018). "REMEMBERING ALAN MULLERY, THE FIRST PLAYER TO BE SENT OFF FOR ENGLAND". These Football Times.
  28. ^ "Nobby Stiles Hall Of Fame profile".
  29. ^ "Preston want Catterick". Glasgow Herald. 26 August 1975. p. 22. Retrieved 8 February 2011.
  30. ^ "Preston North End Manager History and Statistics".
  31. ^ Chapman, Joseph (30 October 2020). "Ex-West Brom boss and England World Cup winner Nobby Stiles dies". BirminghamLive. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  32. ^ "Nobby Stiles MBE - Buckingham Covers". Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  33. ^ "Ex Man Utd, England WC winner Stiles dies at 78". 30 October 2020. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  34. ^ "Stiles career stats". Retrieved 16 February 2013.
  35. ^ "Stiles Man United stats". Stretford Retrieved 16 February 2013.
  36. ^ "Stiles". National Football Teams. Benjamin Strack-Zimmermann. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
  37. ^ "Nobby Stiles". EU Retrieved 16 February 2013.
  38. ^ "England v West Germany". EU Retrieved 16 February 2013.
  39. ^ "CHARITY SHIELD 1965: match details".
  40. ^ "Mind the bounce!". Football Association. 31 July 2012. Archived from the original on 11 August 2014.
  41. ^ "Sport: Football Legends list in full". BBC Sport. 5 August 1998.
  42. ^ Brennan, Stuart (16 November 2007). "Nobby backing England". Manchester Evening News.
  43. ^ "England Boys of '66 dominate your Team of the Century: 1907-1976". Give Me Football. 28 August 2007. Archived from the original on 22 October 2008. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  44. ^ "Cunningham Player of the Year". Irish Independent. 12 October 1998. Retrieved 22 January 2017.
  45. ^ Johnny Giles (2011). John Giles - A Football Man - My Autobiography. Hodder Paperbacks. ISBN 978-1444720976.
  46. ^ "Nobby Stiles: Get it, give it: how Mr Magoo met Jules Rimet". The Independent. 6 September 2003. Retrieved 16 May 2018.
  47. ^ Baker, Trevor (30 July 2014). "Nobby Stiles as fearless as ever during latest battle". Manchester Evening News.
  48. ^ "Manchester United buy Nobby Stiles' medals". BBC News. 27 October 2010. Retrieved 27 October 2010.
  49. ^ "United". IMDb. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
  50. ^ Thompson, Dan (24 November 2013). "Manchester United legend Nobby Stiles diagnosed with prostate cancer". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 25 November 2013.
  51. ^ "World Cup winner Nobby Stiles dies aged 78". Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  52. ^ "Alan Shearer: Dementia, Football and Me review – an impassioned and thoughtful documentary". The Daily Telegraph. 12 November 2017. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  53. ^ "World Cup winner Stiles dies aged 78" – via
  54. ^ "World Cup winner Nobby Stiles dies aged 78". ITV News. 30 October 2020.


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