Ex-Doncaster Rovers star calls for dementia action after death of dad Nobby Stiles

A former Doncaster Rovers star has called for action in tackling dementia in football following the death of his World Cup winning England hero dad Nobby Stiles.
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The 1966 legend died last month at the age of 78 – and is the fifth member of England’s World Cup winning team to battle dementia.

Now his son John, who played for Rovers in the late 80s and early 90s, is calling for more action to tackle the problem in the game.

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Previous research has shown that ex-footballers are three and a half times more likely to die of dementia than the general population.

John Stiles is calling for action following the death of his dad Nobby, who suffered from dementia. (Photo: BBC/Getty).John Stiles is calling for action following the death of his dad Nobby, who suffered from dementia. (Photo: BBC/Getty).
John Stiles is calling for action following the death of his dad Nobby, who suffered from dementia. (Photo: BBC/Getty).

Stiles' family said they were proud of "what he achieved, but more importantly, the man he was".

But they added: "There is a need for urgent action.

"These older players have largely been forgotten and many are in ill health, like dad.

"How can it be that these players are left needing help when their own union has tens of millions of pounds available today?

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"How can it be that these players are struggling when the Premier League receives £3bn a year?

"The modern player will never need the help required by the older lads. How can it be right that some of the heroes of 1966 had to sell their medals to provide for the families?

"These older players are dying like my dad - many don't have medals to sell.”

Stiles made 397 appearances for Manchester United between 1960 and 1971, later going on to play for Middlesbrough and Preston North End.

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In a statement, the Football Association said: "We continue to work closely with the Alzheimer's Society and, alongside other sport governing bodies, we are pleased to be a part of their Sport United Against Dementia campaign to help raise awareness and gain support for their valuable work.

"Collaboration across football's governing bodies is key in order to better understand this important issue collectively, and we firmly believe that all areas of football should come together for this meaningful cause."

It has long been claimed that heading is a cause of dementia in footballers – but there is no definitive link.

But Stiles says he is "utterly convinced" heading had caused problems to the members of the 1966 World Cup team who have been diagnosed with dementia, including Sir Bobby Charlton.

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He told BBC Sport: "It's blatantly obvious that heading the ball has given [the World Cup players] dementia.

"There's nothing else that they have done, although all I hear from football authorities is that they need more studies. But while they are doing that the players aren't getting the help they need and they need it now.

"The research should continue, there is plenty of money to do it, to make sure that current players and youngsters coming through don't suffer the same fate as my father. But more importantly, players should be getting care and support now, substantial support and care.”

The former Manchester United midfielder was a key part of the Three Lions’ 1966 triumph on home soil at Wembley more than 50 years ago.

John, now 56, played for Doncaster Rovers between 1989 and 1992, making 89 appearances and scoring two goals.

A nephew of football legend Johnny Giles, he also played for Leeds United.