Touching tributes have flooded in from across the sporting world after Nobby Stiles, a World Cup winner with England in 1966, died aged 78.
Stiles passed away on Friday after a long illness – and a statement revealed the Manchester United icon had been surrounded by his family.
The legendary midfielder was also part of the Manchester United team which lifted the European Cup in 1968 at Wembley, making them the first English club to win the competition.
Legendary former England and Manchester United midfielder Nobby Stiles has died aged 78
Sir Geoff Hurst, who scored a hat-trick in the legacy-defining victory over West Germany, played alongside Stiles often on the international stage.
Famed West Ham talisman Hurst, now one of just four of the 1966 heroes still alive, has paid tribute to a ‘great character’.
He wrote: ‘Hugely sad to hear Nobby has passed away. We were playing together way back for the U17s, U23s, and of course, for England, in fact, it was my first cap when Nobby scored, I think he was wearing No. 9!
Sir Geoff Hurst and Gary Lineker are among those to have paid touching tributes to Stiles (L)
‘Great character, and the heart and soul of the team, he will be sorely missed.’
Gary Lineker is also among those to have penned an emotional social media message to remember Stiles’ legacy.
The former Three Lions striker wrote: ‘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, who Stiles memorably represented for 11 years, hailed him as a ‘titan of the club’s history.
‘We are extremely saddened to learn of the passing of Nobby Stiles MBE,’ the club statement said.
‘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.’
England also shared their condolences online. Their post read: ‘We’re incredibly saddened to learn of the passing of Nobby Stiles, a key member of our @FIFAWorldCup-winning squad, at the age of 78.
The iconic Three Lions star (R) passed away on Friday after years of battling with Alzheimer’s
‘All of our thoughts are with Nobby’s loved ones.’
Gary Neville, another iconic former United player, says that Stiles showed him how to represent the club on the field.
‘Rest in Peace Nobby,’ he said. ‘Thank you for all you did for us. You taught us how to fight for everything in that red shirt.
‘Your studs are your best friends out there.’
His former Red Devils team-mate Wayne Rooney, who also captained the Three Lions, also offered his condolences.
‘Sad news. Thoughts with all the family and friends of legend Nobby Stiles.’
Sportsmail columnist Chris Sutton has paid tribute too, and urged the football authorities to do more to deal with Dementia and Alzheimer’s.
‘Such sad news about Nobby Stiles,’ he wrote. ‘A World Cup winner and one of the games great characters lost to Alzheimer’s.
‘Thoughts go out to the Stiles family. Eventually football will wake up show some real urgency in the fight against Dementia and Alzheimer’s.’
Mark Lawrenson, the former Liverpool and Republic of Ireland defender, also paid his respects and praised the man who had helped him break into Preston’s first-team set-up in 1974.
He said: ‘Terrible news re Nobby Stiles. He more than anyone made me into a layer at PNE,’ he said.
‘Absolute gentleman as well… Love to the family… Very sad day…’
Peter Schmeichel, the ex-United goalkeeper, wrote: ‘Really sad news that @ManUtd legend Nobby Styles has passed away. A great hero and an inspiration for all United fans.’
And Robbie Savage also posted a message of condolence, saying: ‘As a 16-year-old boy at Manchester United, it was a privilege to be coached by a legend of the game and a true gentleman.
Stiles was awarded 28 England caps, the lowest amount for any of the World Cup-winning heroes.
He forever ensured a spot in the national team’s history, however, after the win over Benfica.
Stiles was notably pictured holding the Jules Rimet trophy in one hand and a set of his false teeth in the other.
World Cup winner Stiles passed away after an illness on Friday and was surrounded by family
More success came after United’s league titles in 1965 and 1967, before Stiles left the club in 1971.
Spells with Middlesbrough and Preston followed, and Stiles even went on to manage the Lilywhites between 1977 and 1981. His future coaching career spanned tenures with Vancouver Whitecaps in Canada and West Brom between 1985 and 1986.
Stiles later returned to Old Trafford in a youth coaching capacity under Sir Alex Ferguson in 1989.
He leaves behind his wife Kay and their three children.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE BOYS OF ENGLAND’S GREATEST TRIUMPH?
Gordon Banks – Finest English keeper of all time, who played mostly for Leicester City and Stoke City as well as a spell in the United States. He died aged 81 after battle with kidney cancer.
George Cohen – Hailed as ‘the greatest full back I ever played against’ by George Best. A one club man for Fulham, where has a statue after making 459 appearances. The 81-year-old is one of four members of the team still alive.
Jack Charlton – Brother of Sir Bobby and a star defender in his own right, he played only for Leeds United in his career. Went into management and took Republic of Ireland to the knockout stages in two World Cups. Passed away in July this year at the age of 85.
Bobby Moore – Peerless defender and captain of England considered the greatest ball-playing centre-half in history. Tragically died aged just 51 in 1993 due to bowel cancer. He was the first of the 1966 team to pass away. There is still great upset that he was never knighted.
Ray Wilson – At 32, Huddersfield’s most capped England international was also the oldest member of the team that beat West Germany 4-2 in the final on July 30. He died in May 2018 aged 83 after suffering with Alzheimer’s disease for 14 years.
Nobby Stiles – His toothless dance after victory at Wembley has become iconic in English football, as were his ferocious midfield displays. The Manchester United mainstay passed away today after battling Alzheimer’s.
Alan Ball – Was the youngest member and man of the match in the 1966 final but sold his winners medal to provide for his family – like eight of the 11 players did. Played for 13 clubs before transitioning into management. Died of a heart attack in 2007 at the age of just 61 while trying to put out a blaze.
Sir Bobby Charlton – Survived the Munich Air Disaster before helping England to win first the World Cup. With his majestic left foot and crucial 1966 goals, many have said he may be the greatest footballer England has ever produced. Still working at Manchester United at the age of 83.
Martin Peters – Scorer of the second goal in the final. Started a second career in insurance in 1984 following 67 caps for the national team and spells with West Ham, Tottenham and Norwich. Died on 21 December 2019, aged 76.
Sir Geoff Hurst – Still the only player to score a hat-trick in the World Cup final, Sir Geoff was part of an army of West Ham players who dominated the 1966 England team. Knighted in 1998, the 78-year-old is retired and lives in Cheltenham with his wife Judith.
Roger Hunt – One of Liverpool’s greatest-ever players, Hunt joined his family’s haulage company after retiring from playing in 1972. After being overlooked for years, he was made MBE along with Ball, Cohen, Stiles and Wilson in 2000 after a campaign to recognise their achievements in 1966. Now lives in Warrington, aged 82.
Sir Alf Ramsey – National hero and mastermind behind the team of ‘wingless wonders’, the manager had predicted England would win the 1966 World Cup when he took the helm in 1963. Lost his job after failing to qualify for 1974 World Cup and retired in 1980 to a quiet life in Ipswich. Died following a heart attack in 1999, aged 79.