Nobby Stiles, a member of England’s 1966 World Cup winning team, died on Friday aged 78 after a long illness, his family announced.
Stiles was a tough tackling midfielder and an integral part of the Manchester United side under Matt Busby who became the first English club to win the European Cup in 1968.
He played every minute of the World Cup campaign and is largely credited for keeping Portugal’s superstar Eusebio under wraps in the semi-final.
Known as ‘The Toothless Tiger’—for his physical appearance not for his whole hearted tackling—Stiles suffered a series of health issues in later life, including a dementia diagnosis.
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 ($259,000) and the medals are now housed in the club’s museum.
“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,” read a family statement.
“The family kindly ask for privacy at this sad time.”
Stiles, who also won two league titles with United, is the latest member of Alf Ramsey’s 1966 team to pass away.
Jack Charlton died earlier this year and Norman Hunter — who did not play in the final but was in the squad — also passed away.
Only George Cohen, Geoff Hurst, Roger Hunt and Stiles’s fellow Manchester United icon Bobby Charlton remain alive of the starting XI.
Although Stiles featured throughout the 1966 tournament, he ended up with just 28 caps, the lowest number of any of the World Cup-winning side.
Stiles, born during a Second World War air raid in May 1942, was one of the most instantly recognisable faces of the team with a grin which revealed a number of teeth missing.
He is also famed for his celebratory dance on the Wembley pitch with the trophy.
“The image of Nobby dancing is the most iconic moment in British footblal history aside from Bobby Moore lifting the trophy,” former United great Gary Neville told Sky Sports News.
“Such gregariousness was not really his style.”
England’s official Twitter account tweeted their condolences.
“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. All of our thoughts are with Nobby’s loved ones.”
Stiles left United in 1971, going on to play for Middlesbrough and Preston.
He later managed Preston 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 Alex Ferguson in 1989 for a four-year stint where he encountered the class of ‘92 including David Beckham, Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs.
“You suddenly realise at moments like these how special it is to spend time with people like Nobby,” added Neville.
“He was ferocious, never left anything out there when he played.
“Winning was doing everything possible to achieve that.”
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham—an Everton supporter—described Stiles as “Quite simply one of the greatest-ever Mancunians”.
“From humble beginnings to a European & World Cup winner,” he tweeted.
“Much-loved in Greater Manchester & by millions across the country. We will miss you, Nobby, but thanks for all the memories. Our love to family and friends.”