Chelsea legend Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris pays tribute to Nobby Stiles and claims England’s World Cup winner would have been the ‘first name on the Manchester United teamsheet’
- Ron Harris says Nobby Stiles would have been a regular starter for Man United
- Harris had often clashed with the World Cup-winning former England midfielder
- Harris called Nobby a ‘legend of English football’ and a ‘fantastic competitor’
- Nobby’s family confirmed he passed away on Friday aged 78 after a long illness
Legendary Chelsea hardman Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris believes Nobby Stiles would have been the first name on Manchester United’s star-studded teamsheet.
Harris often clashed with the World Cup-winning former England midfielder, who passed away on Friday aged 78 after a long illness, during battles between Chelsea and United in the 1960s.
United won the European Cup under Sir Matt Busby when beating Benfica 4-1 at Wembley in 1968, two years after Stiles helped England to World Cup final glory at the national stadium.
Ron Harris (above) believes Nobby Stiles would have been a regular starter for Man United
Although Busby’s side was famed for the mercurial talents of Sir Bobby Charlton, Denis Law and George Best, Stiles’ defensive midfield prowess made him indispensable for club and country.
Former Chelsea captain Harris, who made a club record 795 appearances for the Blues, said: ‘Nobby was a legend of English football and I can only pay tribute to his memory and achievements at this sad time.
Nobby Stiles, part of the England team which won the World Cup in 1966, has died aged 78
Stiles (second from left on back row) helped England win their first and only World Cup after beating West Germany 4-2 at Wembley Stadium
‘In my time playing against Nobby, I would imagine he was the first name on the Manchester United teamsheet.
‘He was a fantastic competitor from the first minute to the last and had an incredible will to win.
‘If he was playing 5-a-side on a Friday then I’m sure he would be exactly the same.
‘United had great players like Denis Law, Bobby Charlton and Bestie, but you need lads like Nobby in any successful side – that balance is vital.
‘I go back to my time at Chelsea and we had three exceptional players in Peter Osgood, Alan Hudson and Charlie Cooke.
‘Then there were guys like myself and Webby (David Webb) who were competitive and it was the same with Nobby.
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 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.
‘He wasn’t a destroyer, but he played as if his life depended on the result.
‘He was a little guy of 5ft 6in, but they used to say ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get tougher’ and that was Nobby.’
Harris, 75, fondly remembers clashing with Stiles when Chelsea faced United, adding: ‘We used to always do well at Old Trafford and United seemed to do better when they came to Stamford Bridge.
‘Nobby was always in the thick of things and back then you really did need to stand up and be counted when you went away from home.
‘There were some fearsome battles and Nobby never took a backward step.’
Harris has called Nobby a ‘legend of English football’ and a ‘fantastic competitor’
Unlike Stiles, Harris never won an England cap despite his incredible Chelsea career.
He added: ‘That appearance record will never be beaten at Chelsea because back then we played through the pain barrier.
‘People don’t play with pain now, like they did when Nobby and I played.
‘I captained the England youth side that won the junior World Cup and also the Under-23s.
‘I never got into any of the senior sides, although obviously I’d have liked to, but I’m proud of what I achieved and I still work at Chelsea now doing the hospitality.
‘I’m grateful for what Chelsea have done for me and I keep busy during the week as well, so I’m enjoying life.’
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