When people and experts look back into the glory days of Manchester United, Denis Law, George Best and Bobby Charlton are the names that are usually chalked up, and once more Nobby is forgotten. All rights reserved. Nor was he above some minor criminal activity. The two young tyros were of one mind, determined practical jokers who regarded it as their job to keep spirits high in the camp. And it wasn't just the players. Another World Cup and, for the lads of '66, more work. That was the accepted norm. The only time I had doubts was after the French game.". With no media camp at the gate of the team hotel and no mobs of fans, players could wander out into town as they wished. Physically accurate though that adjective may have been to describe the gap-toothed Mancunian, anyone who had been on the wrong end of it would be loath to call his tackling toothless. After England's first win of the tournament, against Mexico, he insisted on wearing the same shirt, tie, shoes, socks and underpants every day around the camp. You had George Best who was the master of dribbling, Denis Law who had almost perfect overhead kicks, Bobby Charlton who could score from distance, and finally Nobby Stiles and Pat Crerand who were the master minds of every United attack. Theirs is a unique selling proposition and these guys have never been more popular; they have even just been recruited en masse by Flora pro.activ for a campaign to lower the nation's cholesterol levels (Alan Ball started with the highest at 7.1, Martin Peters the lowest at 4.1). I was under so much spotlight it was unbelievable. Bobby Charlton obviously was named the first and the captain of the side, and quite obviously as well, Ramsey chalked up Stiles’ name in the squad to compliment his captain. I had the hardest two weeks' training I've ever done in my life. “”…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”.” - 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. "I'm sure Nicky Butt would agree, you can't play if you haven't got the ball. He also lost his front teeth in a juvenile fight, requiring him to wear a set of false ones for the rest of his life. In today’s era of football, advertising and commercialism has become very prominent. But that was Alf.". In fact, he was so violent that his front few teeth had to be removed due to a fight. He will forever be a legend at Manchester United and England. Stiles was still in the Manchester United Youth academy during the club’s purple patch, which saw the Busby babes leave oppositions stunned, crowds entertained and experts eating their own words when they doubted the lads of Manchester. It came with a warning that another transgression and England would be deprived of their terrier for the rest of the tournament. "It wasn't until '70 in Mexico that there was any hint of medical stuff. The Toothless Tiger they called him. As it turned out Stiles did not let anyone down against Argentina, opponents he describes as "appalling". The atmosphere was unbelievable. But others spotted Stiles's intervention. "Alf was great about it," Stiles recalls. By the age of 15, he had lost his teeth, he was balding prematurely and comparatively short at 5 and a half feet. I'm not sure early on many in the country believed him. © 2020 Guardian News & Media Limited or its affiliated companies. Upon winning the World Cup. Even for World Cup winners, it seems, some things should remain private. ", "Very negative the press was, very negative," recalls Stiles. With all these factors coming into play, Nobby Stiles must have considered himself a lucky man to play in an era which gave more importance to a player on the field rather than his off field activities, with the only exception being George Best. I won't dignify the paper what printed that by naming it - it wasn't the Guardian by the way, mate - but what a load of rubbish. Being born in a lower middle class family deprived him of the upbringing he would have wished to have. Mon 27 May 2002 18.33 EDT Everyone concerned with England was doing it for Alf. First published on Mon 27 May 2002 18.33 EDT. Hey, if you don't let goals in, you don't lose matches. In his lucky suit Stiles was reckoned the squad's good-luck charm. "It was all much simpler than today - naive, looking back on it," Stiles says. Things around the tournament headquarters were not, Stiles says, like those experienced by today's England squad. To be fair, though, I felt great at the end of it.". No wonder. I know it's a cliché but I never looked beyond the next game. Nobby Stiles in typically bullish pose “discussing” a decision with the referee at West Ham, “If someone kicked you, you kicked them back. I never found that out till he'd died, Alf. The Toothless Tiger they called him. Against France in England's final group match, which the hosts won 2-0, his tackle on Jacques Simon put the French playmaker out of the game. Still, it wasn't until going on the coach to the semi against Portugal that I realised something was going on in the country.