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England World Cup winner Nobby Stiles dies aged 78

Soccer – Barclays Premier League – Manchester United v Middlesbrough – Old Trafford
(Image credit: Martin Rickett)

Nobby Stiles, part of the England team which won the World Cup in 1966, has died aged 78 after a long illness.

Stiles was also part of the Manchester United side which became the first English club to win the European Cup two years later, 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.

Stiles, far right, kisses the Jules Rimet after England won the World Cup in 1966

Stiles, far right, kisses the Jules Rimet after England won the World Cup in 1966 (Ron Bell/PA)

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

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.”

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 the Red Devils in 1965 and 1967, before the continental success the following year.

A statement from Manchester United 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.”

Stiles won the European Cup in 1968 with Manchester United

Stiles won the European Cup in 1968 with Manchester United (PA)

Stiles left United in 1971, going on to play for Middlesbrough and Preston. He later managed the Lilywhites 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.

Preston posted on Twitter: “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.”

West Brom added on social media: “Farewell to the most famous grin in English football.

“A FIFA 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.”

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

Stiles holding his 1966 World Cup winner's medal

Stiles holding his 1966 World Cup winner’s medal (Dave Thompson/PA)

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.

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.

Former England striker Gary Lineker paid tribute to Stiles, singling out the former Manchester United player’s heart.

“Saddened to hear that Nobby Stiles has passed away,” Lineker tweeted.

“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.”