Nobby Stiles: The dancing destroyer who became England’s forgotten hero

Nobby Stiles was, in his own words, the fella with no teeth who danced round Wembley.

The sight of the diminutive midfield terrier doing a jig on the famous turf, Jules Rimet trophy in one hand and false teeth in the other, is one of English football's most cherished memories.

Stiles, who has died aged 78, played every minute of England's victorious 1966 World Cup campaign, doing the dirty work so the likes of Sir Geoff Hurst and Sir Bobby Charlton could steal the show.

In the semi-final win over Portugal, Stiles marked the great Eusebio out of the game and he was also a key figure in the final against West Germany, his energy a galvanising force as the contest headed into extra-time.

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Nobby Stiles
Manchester United footballers left to right: Nobby Stiles, George Best and Bobby Charlton pose with Italian agent Gigi Peronace at Old Trafford. Circa 1966. (Photo by Syndication/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images)
Viscount Montgomery shakes hands with England's Nobby Stiles as he is introduced to the England team before the match (Photo by S&G/PA Images via Getty Images)
The ball has stuck in the mud and deceived Arsenal goalkeeper Kelsey, but centre-half Snedden is there in the nick of time to kick away from the onrushing Manchester United right half Nobby Stiles in the First Division match at Highbury, London. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
Manchester Utd FC. (l-r) Back row: Maurice Setters, Bill Foulkes, Shay Brennan, Harry Greg, Noel Cantwell and Jim Nicholson. Front Row: Albert Quixall, Nobby Stiles, Alec Dawson, Mark Pearson and Bobby Charlton. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
UNITED KINGDOM: England and Manchester United player Nobby Stiles circa 1965. Stiles was part of the 1966 England World Cup winning team. (Photo by Don Morley/Allsport UK/Getty Images)
England football team training session at Stamford Bridge ahead of the British Championship international match against Scotland at Wembley. Manager Alf Ramsey talking to his three new caps Barry Bridges, Jackie Charlton and Nobby Stiles. 8th April 1965. (Photo by Charlie Ley/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)
Manchester United and England footballer Nobby Stiles tends to his car engine at Old Trafford after a training session, 9th March 1965. (Photo by Eastwood/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)
FA Cup Semi Final match at Burnden Park, Bolton. Everton 1 v Manchester United 0. Dejection for United's Nobby Stiles as he leaves the pitch at the end of the match, 23rd April 1966. (Photo by Staff/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)
Mr Alf Ramsey, the team manager has gathered 27 players together at Lilleshall, Shropshire, for 12 days of training. He will name 22 next Friday for the Continental tour, and these men, he says, "will be the World Cup squad." The problem is, which 5 to leave out? Mr Ramsey hopes to find the answer during the training, "although it will be the hardest decision I have ever had to make." Our photo shows the players being put through their paces during a training session. Nobby Stiles leads the way in a traditional dribbling exercise. 9th June 1966 (Photo by Coventry Telegraph Archive/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images)
The possible members of England's World Cup squad gather around a fountain at Lilleshall: (standing, l-r) Bobby Moore, Ian Callaghan, Jack Charlton, Peter Bonetti, Gordon Banks, Gordon Milne, Ron Flowers, John Connelly (leaning), Bobby Charlton, Jimmy Armfield, Nobby Stiles, trainer Les Cocker, coach Wilf McGuinness, Norman Hunter, trainer Harold Shepherdson, Gerry Byrne, George Cohen, Ron Springett; (sitting, l-r) Johnny Byrne (back), Peter Thompson, George Eastham, Geoff Hurst, Martin Peters, Keith Newton, Alan Ball, Terry Paine (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
(L-R) England's Nobby Stiles and Roger Hunt, wearing their official England World Cup suits (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
French football player Robert Budzynski (L) kicks the ball against his British opponent Nobby Stiles (Norbert Stiles,R) on July 20, 1966, during the match France / England of the football World Cup, at the Wembley Stadium, in England. / AFP / STRINGER (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images)
The England team to play Portugal in the World Cup semi final: (back row, l-r) trainer Harold Shepherdson, George Cohen, Martin Peters, Gordon Banks, Alan Ball, Bobby Moore, Nobby Stiles; (front row, l-r) Bobby Charlton, Roger Hunt, Geoff Hurst, Ray Wilson, Jack Charlton (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
Captain Bobby Moore celebrating with his England team mates (Nobby Stiles, Bobby Charlton, Gordon Banks, Roger Hunt, Martin Peters and Jack Charlton) after their 2-1 victory over Portugal in the 1966 World Cup semi final at Wembley 27th July 1966. (Photo by Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
England 4 v West Germany 2, after extra time. England players left to right: Bobby Moore, Nobby Stiles, Jack Charlton and Bobby Charlton celebrate after the third goal, scored by Geoff Hurst. 30th July 1966.
HRH Queen Elizabeth II (fourth r) is introduced to the England team by FIFA President Sir Stanley Rous (second r) before the opening match of the Finals. The England players are (l-r) George Cohen, Gordon Banks, Alan Ball, Ray Wilson, Bobby Charlton, Nobby Stiles, Roger Hunt, John Connelly, Jimmy Greaves, Jack Charlton (hidden), Bobby Moore (far r) (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
16th July 1966: Nobby Stiles and Bobby Moore chatting to each other during the England versus Mexico 1966 World Cup match. (Photo by Express/Express/Getty Images)
England footballers Nobby Stiles and Alan Ball shake hands with Sean Connery during the England World Cup team visit to Pinewood Studios to spend time on the set of the new James Bond film You Only Live Twice . 12th July 1966. (Photo by Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images)
England football team at Roehampton training camp during the 1966 World Cup tournament. A bespectacled Nobby Stiles tries his hand at batting during a game of cricket with Martin Peters as wicket keeper, 21st July 1966. (Photo by Monte Fresco/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)
(R-L) England's Gordon Banks, Ian Callaghan, Roger Hunt, Bobby Charlton, Ray Wilson and Nobby Stiles walk out before the match (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
Eusebio of Portugal jumps with England's Nobby Stiles during the World Cup semi-final at Wembley, London. England won the match 2-1 (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
Nobby Stiles and Gordon Banks celebrating Englands 2-1 victory over Portugal in the 1966 World Cup semi final at Wembley 27th July 1966. Captain Bobby Moore is in the foreground. (Photo by Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
England footballer Nobby Stiles travels to Wembley with the rest of the England team from Hendon Hall hotel for the World Cup Final. 30th July 1966.
Celebrations following England's win over West Germany in the 1966 World Cup held at Wembley. The England captain, Bobby Moore, holds the Jules Rimmet Cup which the team manager, Alf Ramsay is about to kiss. A delighted Nobby Stiles is also shown. (Photo by Hulton-Deutsch/Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis via Getty Images)
England Manager Alf Ramsey (left) celebrates his team's 4-2 victory in extra time over West Germany in the World Cup Final at Wembley Stadium. With him is captain Bobby Moore (1941 - 1993), holding the Jules Rimet Trophy, and team mate Nobby Stiles, 30th July 1966. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
England's Nobby Stiles, Martin Peters, Jack Charlton, Alan Ball, Gordon Banks, Geoff Hurst, Bobby Moore (captain, holds aloft the World Cup (Jules Rimet Trophy). Ray Wilson, George Cohen and Bobby Charlton celebrate victory. (Photo by S&G/PA Images via Getty Images)
England 4 v West Germany 2 after extra time. Geoff Hurst holds aloft the World Cup trophy joined by teammates (left to right) Nobby Stiles, Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Roger Hunt on a lap of honour around the Stadium after the match. 30th July 1966. (Photo by Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images)
(L-R) Exhausted England players Bobby Charlton, Nobby Stiles, Bobby Moore and Ray Wilson after the game (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
England manager Alf Ramsey (third l) is congratulated by trainer Harold Shepherdson (l), squad members Ron Springett (second l) and Jimmy Armfield (c), and Nobby Stiles (r) as captain Bobby Moore (second r) presents him with the Jules Rimet trophy after England's 4-2 win (Photo by Ron Bell - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Nobby Stiles of Manchester United (left) keeps a close eye on Tottenham Hotspur's Jimmy Greaves (right) (Photo by Don Morley/EMPICS via Getty Images)
Manchester United manager Matt Busby (sixth l) holds the League Championship trophy aloft as he and his players parade it around Old Trafford: (l-r) Nobby Stiles, David Sadler (arms raised), Shay Brennan, John Aston, Denis Law (hidden), Bobby Charlton, Busby, Alex Stepney, Pat Crerand, George Best, Jimmy Ryan, Tony Dunne (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
Old Trafford goes wild in a salute to the champions and the man in the centre of it all is manager Matt Busby. His players and top football league officals join in the tribute as the great man comes out for his medal. Left to right David Herd, Johnny Aston, Bobby Charlton, David sadler, George Best, Nobby Stiles, Bill Foulkes, Pat Crerand, Tony Dunne, Shay Brennan, Alex Stepney and Denis Law. Eric Howarth assistant secretary of the Football League, Sir Joseph Richards, past president of the Football League, Len Shipman president of the Football League and Louis Edwards chairman of Manchester United, 15th May 1967. (Photo by Staff/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)
Manchester United's Nobby Stiles smiles to himself as he walks off the pitch at half-time (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
Manchester United's Alex Stepney (l), George Best (c), Pat Crerand (second r) and Nobby Stiles (r), and Manchester City's Mike Doyle (second l), leave the pitch at half-time (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
Manchester United's Nobby Stiles (left) and Tottenham Hotspur's Jimmy Greaves in a tussle for the ball during the First Division match at White Hart Lane, London. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
English soccer players Bobby Charlton and Nobby Stiles of Manchester United FC, UK, 1st August 1968. (Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
(top row l-r) Ian Ure, Alan Gowling, Jimmy Rimmer, Alex Stepney, Brian Kidd, Steve James. (middle row l-r) Paul Edwards, George Best, David Sadler, John Aston, Francis Burns, Carlo Sartori. (front row l-r) Tony Dunne, Denis Law, Willie Morgan, Bobby Charlton, Pat Crerand, Nobby Stiles, John Fitzpatrick (Photo by Peter Robinson/EMPICS via Getty Images)
Nobby Stiles, Middlesbrough (Photo by S&G/PA Images via Getty Images)
Standing (left to right): Nobby Stiles, Ray Wilson, George Cohen, Jackie Charlton, Roger Hunt, Geoff Hurst, Gordon Banks, Martin Peters, Les Cocker (assistant trainer). Sitting: Bobby Charlton, Bobby Moore, Ramsey, Harold Shepherdson (trainer), and Alan Ball. July 1974 74-4559-001 (Photo by Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images)
Nobby Stiles, Middlesbrough (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
The Walk Of Fame started today at Old Trafford with (l-r) Nobby Stiles, Pat Crerand, Denis Law and Sir Bobby Charlton dipping their feet in resin to make a mould for a cast of their famous feet (Photo by Magi Haroun/EMPICS via Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 26: Nobby Stiles greets Eusebio at the Manchester United and Benfica reunion dinner, which reunited the two teams who played in the 1968 European Cup Final ahead of the two teams meeting again, at Old Trafford on September 26 2005 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)
1966 World Cup winner Nobby Stiles is presented with an award on the pitch prior to kick off (Photo by Martin Rickett - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
England World Cup winner Nobby Stiles holds his 1966 World Cup tournament cap, alongside the Alan Ball's 1966 England shirt, right, during a photocall at the Premier Inn Hotel in Old Trafford, Manchester. (Photo by Dave Thompson/PA Images via Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 24: the face of Nobby Stiles next to a fish and chip stall before the Premier League match between Manchester United and Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on August 24, 2019 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mark Leech/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

A naturally shy man, Stiles was transformed on a football pitch and was loved by his team-mates, both with England and Manchester United.

He was born in the working-class north Manchester area of Collyhurst on May 18, 1942 in the cellar of the family home during an air raid.

His father Charlie managed an undertakers' parlour, while his mother Kitty worked as a machinist. A staunch Catholic, he spent the morning of the World Cup final in church.

A Manchester United supporter, his talent was recognised when he played for England Schoolboys aged 15 and he was given an apprenticeship by the club in 1959.

Eusebio and Nobby Stiles go head to head during England's 1966 semi-final win over Portugal
Eusebio and Nobby Stiles go head to head (PA)

It could have been considered a risk for United given Stiles stood barely 5ft 6in tall and was severely short-sighted. He wore contact lenses during matches and thick glasses off the pitch that seemed to cover half his face.

But Stiles soon established himself in the side, converting from a full-back into a holding midfielder – an unorthodox position at the time.

The greatest moments of his career came in a cluster during the mid-to-late 1960s.

He only won his first England cap a year before the World Cup finals, but quickly became a firm favourite of Sir Alf Ramsey.

Nobby Stiles celebrates Mancheser United's European Cup final victory over Benfica in 1968
Nobby Stiles celebrates Man Utd's European Cup final victory (PA)

His place appeared in jeopardy after a particularly fierce tackle in a group game against France put playmaker Jacques Simon out of the match.

The referee did not punish Stiles, but the Football Association wanted him dropped for the quarter-final against Argentina.

Ramsey refused, and Stiles only found out after the manager's death that he had threatened to resign over the issue.

He won his first league title with Sir Matt Busby's United side in 1965 and another two years later, while 1968 brought European Cup glory with victory over Benfica.

Stiles again found himself facing Eusebio, but by now the hard man's knees were not what they were and he was unable to shackle the Portuguese star with such efficiency.

Stiles had also lost his place in England's first-choice side to Alan Mullery of Tottenham and his final tally of 28 caps was the lowest of all the World Cup-winning side.

He left Old Trafford in 1971, spending two-year spells at Middlesbrough and then Preston, where he was player-coach with Charlton as manager.

He followed Charlton in resigning in 1975 over the transfer of defender John Bird to Newcastle, but returned to the club as manager two years later and stayed until he was sacked following relegation in 1981.

Stiles struggled with aspects of management. He hated telling players they had not been selected, or were not going to make it.

He stuck at it, though, moving to Canada to coach the Vancouver Whitecaps and then spending a brief, unhappy spell as manager of West Brom.

Nobby Stiles sold his medals in to raise money
Nobby Stiles sold his medals to Manchester United in 2010 (PA)

Stiles was struggling financially and mentally, experiencing depression that left him feeling suicidal.

Salvation came in the shape of a call from Sir Alex Ferguson in 1989 offering a coaching role with United's youth team, but he lasted only four years.

After that Stiles kept afloat through after-dinner speaking, but that became increasingly difficult when his health began to fail.

He suffered a heart attack in 2002 and the first signs of dementia emerged shortly afterwards. In 2013 he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

In 2010, after a mini-stroke, he decided to sell his medals in order to leave something to his family. Manchester United bought them for £200,000 and the medals are now housed in the club's museum.

Stiles married his wife Kay, the sister of United and Leeds midfielder Johnny Giles, in 1961. He is survived by her and their three sons – former professional footballer John, Peter and Rob.

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