Nobby Stiles

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Nobby Stiles
Nobby Stiles (1966).jpg
Personal information
Full name Norbert Peter Stiles
Date of birth (1942-05-18) 18 May 1942 (age 77)
Place of birth Collyhurst, Manchester, England
Height 5 ft 6 in (1.68 m)
Playing position 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
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Norbert Peter "Nobby" Stiles MBE (born 18 May 1942)[1] is an English retired footballer. He was born in Collyhurst, Manchester.

Stiles 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. His best performance in an England shirt was probably the semi-final of that tournament against Portugal, where 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 very well in the final, which England won 4–2 against West Germany, his post-match celebration featured Stiles dancing on the Wembley pitch, holding the World Cup trophy in one hand and his false teeth in the other.

Stiles played 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. 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 FIFA World Cup and European Cup. However, Ian Callaghan was only in the squad for the 1966 FIFA World Cup and did not play in the final so did not receive a medal at the time but received one later.

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

Early life[edit]

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.[2]

Club career[edit]

Manchester United[edit]

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

He 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 was also a wearer of dentures, the removal of which prior to matches gave him a gap-toothed expression which had the potential to scare, he became significantly bald at a young age and sported a dramatic comb-over. He also suffered from severe shortsightedness, meaning he needed strong contact lenses when playing and wore thick spectacles off the field.

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. Stiles' 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. Stiles was deployed in the middle of the park to snuff out the flair and peril of creative opponents, and this he did with much success, his ability to gain and retain possession also allowed his more skilled teammates like Bobby Charlton and, later, George Best to utilise more space on the field. Stiles' defensive skills were also utilised by United managers to great effect throughout his successful career.

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, he began to make more frequent appearance in the seasons ahead, however, and won the First Division title in 1965.

In 1968, he won his second League championship medal with Manchester United, but greater club honours were to come. United reached the European Cup final, which was to be staged at Wembley, and Stiles' old nemesis Eusébio was again someone he had to deal with as part of a fearsome attacking potential posed by opponents Benfica. 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.

Later career[edit]

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

International career[edit]

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

1966 FIFA World Cup[edit]

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. 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". Stiles was tested out for this role in a 2–2 draw against Scotland at Wembley on 10 April 1965, 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, and his place in the starting XI for the tournament seemed set in stone by the time Ramsey confirmed his 22.

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. 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. 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.

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. Purists bemoaned the lack of prettiness, but realists congratulated Stiles on his desire to win the battle against a difficult opponent.[citation needed] Ramsey, on being asked by a journalist about the way he had instructed Stiles to "deal with" Eusébio, questioned and objected to the terminology used, though he knew exactly why the reporter had referred to Stiles' display in such a manner.[citation needed] The 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. In the dressing room afterwards, Ramsey praised Stiles' individual performance, a rare accolade.

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 famous hat-trick to win the competition in extra time. 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. 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".

UEFA Euro 1968 and 1970 FIFA World Cup[edit]

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. 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. 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, but it was clear that despite his misdemeanour, Mullery was now Ramsey's first choice.

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. He ended with 28 caps – ultimately the least capped member of the 1966 XI – and one goal.

Managerial and post-playing career[edit]

In 1972, 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.[3] Stiles returned to Preston as manager from 22 July 1977 to 5 June 1981.

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.

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 would prove to be his final stab at management, 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.

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.

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.

Career statistics[edit]


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


England national team
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[edit]


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



Personal life[edit]

Stiles has been married to his wife Kay Giles since June 1963,[11][12] his wife is a sister of Johnny Giles and they were introduced to each other around the time they were teammates at Manchester United. They live in Manchester and have three children.[13] Stiles' son John was also a footballer, playing for Shamrock Rovers and Leeds United in the early 1980s.

In 1968 , Stiles released his first autobiography,"Soccer My Battlefield" and in 2003 his second one. After the Ball. In 2007, he was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame.

Stiles' 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.[14] 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.[1]

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.[15]

On 24 November 2013, it was announced that Stiles was diagnosed with prostate cancer,[16] and in 2016, it was announced that he is 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.[17] 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's son.[18]


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


  1. ^ a b "Nobby Stiles' England World Cup medal goes for £160,000". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. 27 October 2010. Retrieved 27 October 2010.
  2. ^ Lawton, James (2003). Nobby Stiles: After The Ball. Coronet Books / Hodder & Stroughton. p. 2 / 5 / 11. ISBN 0 340 82888 9.
  3. ^ "Preston want Catterick". The Glasgow Herald. 26 August 1975. p. 22. Retrieved 8 February 2011.
  4. ^ "Stiles career stats". Retrieved 16 February 2013.
  5. ^ "Stiles". National Football Teams. Benjamin Strack-Zimmerman. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
  6. ^ "Stiles Man United stats". Stretford Retrieved 16 February 2013.
  7. ^ "Nobby Stiles". EU Retrieved 16 February 2013.
  8. ^ "England v West Germany". EU Retrieved 16 February 2013.
  9. ^ "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.
  10. ^ "Cunningham Player of the Year". Irish Independent. Independent News & Media plc. 12 October 1998. Retrieved 22 January 2017.
  11. ^ Johnny Giles (2011). John Giles - A Football Man - My Autobiography. Hodder Paperbacks. ISBN 978-1444720976.
  12. ^ "Nobby Stiles: Get it, give it: how Mr Magoo met Jules Rimet". 6 September 2003. Retrieved 16 May 2018.
  13. ^ "Footballers' wives of 1966 relive the memories". Daily Mail. London. 8 June 2006.
  14. ^ "Manchester United buy Nobby Stiles's medals". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. 27 October 2010. Retrieved 27 October 2010.
  15. ^ "United". IMDb. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
  16. ^ Thompson, Dan (24 November 2013). "Manchester United legend Nobby Stiles diagnosed with prostate cancer". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 25 November 2013.
  17. ^ Wheeler, Chris (1 August 2016). "World Cup winner Nobby Stiles is 'very poorly' with prostate cancer and advanced dementia, reveals son". The Daily Mail. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
  18. ^ "Alan Shearer: Dementia, Football and Me review – an impassioned and thoughtful documentary". The Daily Telegraph. 12 November 2017. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  • Keeling, Peter (1971). Nobby Stiles. London, Wolfe, ISBN 0-7234-0456-9.
  • McKinstry, Leo (2006). Sir Alf. London, HarperSport. ISBN 978-0-00-719379-0.
  • Stiles, Nobby (2003). After the Ball: My Autobiography. London, Hodder & Stoughton, ISBN 0-340-82887-0.
  • Tyers, Alan (2007). The Sixties...Be Sure To Wear False Teeth In Your Hair, Football365

External links[edit]