Paddy Crerand hails ‘great character’ Nobby Stiles as funeral takes place
Former Manchester United midfielder Paddy Crerand paid an emotional tribute to “great character” Nobby Stiles as the 1966 World Cup winner’s funeral took place on Thursday.
Stiles died on October 30 at the age of 78 following a long illness.
As well as his success with England, former midfielder Stiles was also part of the Manchester United side which became the first English club to win the European Cup in 1968.
The hearse carrying Stiles from the family home in Salford to Manchester Crematorium Southern Cemetery drove past Old Trafford, outside where Crerand was among those paying their respects, with tributes laid to the former United favourite.
“Nobby was one of the great characters of football and not just Manchester United. Everything was a laugh with Nobby,” said Crerand, 81, who made just shy of 400 appearances for the Red Devils between 1963 and 1971, winning six trophies.
“On the pitch he made tackles you would get arrested for today, never mind sent off. But he was a terrific footballer and did not get the credit of just what a good player he was.”
Crerand told the PA news agency: “Nobby could see the situations (in the game). He had a great football brain.
“He was a very, very under-rated player, maybe not by Manchester United fans, but he was respected by every player he played against.”
Crerand joined United from Celtic and played alongside Stiles in the 4-1 win over Benfica at Wembley as United conquered Europe in May 1968.
The Scot formed a strong bond with Stiles, whom he feels deserves to be remembered as more than just the toothless midfield terrier who danced a jig with the Jules Rimet Trophy.
“The thing about him off the pitch, he and his wife spent most of their time at home. You would never see them out and about in the restaurants on a Saturday night,” Crerand recalled.
“My two sons went to the same school as his two sons and I would see Nobby every day at half three when we picked the kids up.
“Nobby was such a great character and had a great football brain.
“You ask any player, some of the England lads who played with him in the World Cup final, and they will speak volumes about him.”
Because of Covid-19 restrictions, only a small group of Stiles’ family and close friends were able to attend in person at the crematorium.
There is also expected to be a tribute to Stiles at Wembley ahead of England’s friendly against the Republic of Ireland on Thursday night.
Former midfielder Stiles, who had 28 international caps, also won league titles with United in 1965 and 1967, before leaving Old Trafford in 1971.
Stiles went on to play for Middlesbrough and Preston. He later managed the Lilywhites between 1977 and 1981, was coach at Canadian side Vancouver Whitecaps and then took over at West Brom between 1985 and 1986.
He returned to United as a youth team coach under Sir Alex Ferguson in 1989 for a four-year stint, working with the famed ‘Class of 92’.
Later in life, Stiles suffered a series of health issues, including a dementia diagnosis.
In 2010, after a mini-stroke, Stiles decided to sell his medals in order to leave something to his family.
United bought them for £200,000 and the medals are now housed in the club’s museum.