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United legend Stiles looking for England heroes
Published : 07 Jun 2010 11:49:08
World Cup winner Nobby Stiles reckons there is a hidden hero somewhere within the England squad waiting to take South Africa 2010 by storm. All eyes will be on traditional big-guns Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard as Fabio Capello's men go in search of glory. But Collyhurst-born Stiles believes the key to success could be the supposed lesser lights stepping up to the world stage and shining brightly. The affable Mancunian said: I think all the players are very good. But I do believe if we're going to be successful, certain players will come through that you don't expect. Our main striker in 1966, everybody thought, was Jimmy Greaves, yet it finished up with Geoff Hurst getting the hat-trick in the final. And the best player in that final at Wembley was my room-mate young Alan Ball, God rest his soul. He was everywhere. The side that starts the tournament won't always be the side that finishes if we're successful. Stiles captured the mood of a nation when he danced along the Wembley turf in the wake of England's historic win 44 years ago. He was an unlikely sporting hero, with his gap-toothed grin, short-sightedness and bald head, the polar opposite of sleek skipper Bobby Moore. But say what you like about Stiles' appearance or his dancing you cannot argue with the fact he was a winner. A fearless terrier in midfield, Stiles played every minute of the victorious 66 campaign, and in the semi-final marked renowned Portuguese playmaker Eusebio out of the game. He also tasted glory with his beloved Manchester United, winning two league titles and the European Cup. Winning has not come so naturally to England in recent history. On the contrary, they have honed the World Cup sob story down to a fine art. Be it Maradona's Hand of God' in 1986, Gazza's tears in 1990, or the red cards shown to David Beckham (1998) and Wayne Rooney (2006) most of the iconic moments of the modern era are ones to forget rather than remember. But Stiles is a man who knows what it takes to get over the line so what was the difference back in 1966? Alf Ramsey, said Stiles without a moment's hesitation. Stiles view He picked people that I don't think other managers would have picked. Geoff Hurst was, I think, wing-half at that time and he finished up getting a hat-trick and Martin Peters ended up on the left-hand side. People come in who you don't expect. But I honestly believe we've got a great chance this time, especially with Fabio Capello in charge. I met him a couple of weeks ago and he's his own man the same as Alf Ramsey was. I was very impressed. One of the most talked about roles in England's South Africa campaign is Gareth Barry's. The City man is Capello's preferred choice in the holding role a position Stiles knows a thing or two about. Stiles added: I doubt Barry will be getting forward much. It was the same for me. My job was to win the ball and then give it, and let the others get on with it. For United I played alongside Bill Foulkes in the same position as Bobby Moore did for England. For England, Ramsey put me in midfield and at times Bobby and I interchanged, so if he went forward I would drop back we had that understanding. As a proud Mancunian, Stiles is delighted to see both the Red and Blue halves of the city so well represented in the England squad. United have Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick, while City have Barry, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Joe Hart in the camp. Stiles added: It's great. I'm very proud to be a Mancunian. Where I grew up in Collyhurst we were outnumbered two to one by City they were the big club in the late forties and fifties. When I was at school and we played in the play ground it was 20 against 10 in City's favour. All my mates were City fans so I used go and watch them, and we'd go and watch the Babes as well. United would have had one ace up their sleeve in South Africa had England skipper Rio Ferdinand's tournament not been cruelly ended by a knee injury. Beset by fitness problems all season, Ferdinand's body finally gave way in a challenge with Emile Heskey, denying Rio a crack at a fourth World Cup. As one of the few genuinely world-class players in the squad, Ferdinand's loss will be felt keenly by Capello, but Stiles believes England can survive without him. He added: They'll miss him, I think the players are there to come in and cover for him and do the job. But I feel for the lad because there's nothing like playing in the World Cup, it's absolutely fantastic. :: NOBBY Stiles was talking at Kitbag's World Cup store on Market Street. Open for just 12 weeks to celebrate the world's greatest football tournament, the state-of-the-art store stocks the home and away shirts for all qualifying teams and a selection of limited edition and exclusive products unavailable anywhere else in the world. What are your memories of Stiles in a United shirt? Have your say.