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Nobby Stiles: After the Ball

Release date: 18th August, 2003
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton General

List Price: £18.99
Our Price: £13.29
You Save: £5.7 (30%)
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Nobby Stiles is one of those famous ex-footballers whose image has the distinction of being timeless. If he were playing today, no doubt his management advisers could market the Stiles 'brand', but it would be difficult to see him in a sarong. Nobby's range of merchandise would reflect the player's style: as hard as nails, tough and uncompromising, the type of thing you may wear to track somebody down.

The image of Nobby dancing around Wembley holding the Jules Rimet trophy on top of his head after the 1966 World Cup Final is one of great joy and spontaneity, still emblazoned in the minds of those of us who remember it 'live'. It was the first thing I looked for in the extensive picture section of his autobiography, "After the Ball", but sadly, it isn't featured.

One thing which does feature throughout this quite superb book, written in conjunction with James Lawton of the Independent, is Nobby Stiles' religious beliefs. In much the same way as he never pulled out of a tackle, so he doesn't shirk talking about the strength of his Catholicism. Clearly, his faith was central to helping him turn his life around following a motorway accident when he was at his lowest ebb.

We imagine that all of the 1966 World Cup winning team have enjoyed the life of Riley ever since, but Stiles describes how this is not necessarily the case. The regular 1966 reunion photo shoots show a group of middle aged men who will be forever famous, but unlike today's stars, they are by no means rich.

Nobby Stiles is one of only two Englishmen to have lifted the World Cup and the European Cup and this fact alone would, you might think, have justified an earlier publication of an autobiography. Yet without the urgings of his son, John, the project would almost certainly not have got off the ground. We should be glad that it did, because Stiles has seen most things in football and writes about them with an insight that could only be described as candid.

The tragedy of the Munich air disaster, the rebuilding of Manchester United under Sir Matt Busby, league championship success, World Cup success and then European Cup success are tempered by Stiles' modest record as a manager and coach. Along the way, he played with some of football's all time greats - Charlton, Law, Best, Moore and then oversaw the development of players such as Beckham, Giggs and Scholes.

The book is not without a number of amusing observations on life outside of sport which, when woven into the footballing narrative, gives it pace and makes for an enjoyable read. Just like Stiles the player, this makes his autobiography quite unique.

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