Nobby Stiles’ widow speaks out for the first time about his battle with dementia

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Kay Stiles, widow of England’s World Cup-winning legend Nobby, speaks out for the first time about his ‘horrible’ battle with dementia as she backs Sportsmail campaign to properly tackle the debilitating illness

  • Sportsmail has launched a campaign for English football to address dementia
  • Nobby Stiles passed away in October at 78 after suffering from Alzheimer’s
  • His widow Kay has revealed how much he suffered and has backed our campaign

The widow of the World Cup winner Nobby Stiles has spoken for the first time about his battle with dementia.

Stiles passed away in October at the age of 78 after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.

Now his widow Kay has revealed how much the former Manchester United, Middlesbrough and Preston player suffered. The Stiles family have already backed Sportsmail’s campaign for change on the issue and today Mrs Stiles has called on football to look at the dangers of the heading the ball in particular.

Scarves and flowers are placed to honour the late Nobby Stiles following his death in October

Scarves and flowers are placed to honour the late Nobby Stiles following his death in October

Stiles (right) suffered from Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia before his death at 78. His fellow World Cup winners Sir Bobby Charlton (left) and the late Jack Charlton (centre) have also lived with dementia, along with a number of former professional footballers

Stiles (right) suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia before his death at 78. His fellow World Cup winners Sir Bobby Charlton (left) and the late Jack Charlton (centre) have also lived with dementia, along with a number of former professional footballers

Mrs Stiles said: ‘The first thing they tell you with dementia is that you won’t get better.

‘With Nobby it just progressed and progressed and got worse as time went on. It’s a horrible thing, actually.

‘It really bugs me when you see adverts on TV with two old people sitting side by side saying that one can’t remember things.

‘It’s worse than that, a hundred times worse than that.

‘It’s agitation, it’s fear, it’s stress. All sorts of things they go through. It’s a horrible illness, absolutely horrible.

‘I don’t understand why dementia is classed as a condition and not an illness. When someone can’t look after themselves they are a danger all the time as they don’t know what they are doing.’

His widow Kay has now revealed how much Stiles suffered in the later years of his life

His widow Kay has now revealed how much Stiles suffered in the later years of his life

Stiles (centre) won the World Cup with England in 1966 and famously played for Man United

Stiles (centre) won the World Cup with England in 1966 and famously played for Man United

Sportsmail last month launched a campaign for English football to properly address the dementia issue amongst former players, issuing a seven-point charter for change.

This morning Kay and her son John – himself a former player – spoke to Garry Richardson on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Asked about the dangers of heading the ball, Mrs Stiles said: ‘Nobody wants to spend the last years of their lives in the state these lads are in. Nobody would want that. No matter how much money they are earning, you can’t buy a new brain. You just can’t.’

Talking about his late father’s final years, John Stiles said: ‘I live in Doncaster and would drive over to see my dad. I would have knots in my stomach and feel sick. It was a living nightmare to see such a lovely man disappear in such a brutal way.

Stiles lights up the big screen at Wembley on November 12 as the players pay their respects

Stiles lights up the big screen at Wembley on November 12 as the players pay their respects

Stiles during 1966 World Cup final against West Germany at Wembley, which England won 4-2

Stiles during 1966 World Cup final against West Germany at Wembley, which England won 4-2

‘There has been criticism of the PFA. They say they are going to start helping players more. I hope that’s the case.

‘What has really got us is that dementia is treated differently to other illnesses. We want to see a system created that recognises the injustice of dementia.

‘Families are having to pay for the care and they shouldn’t have to. The NHS says free care for everyone. That disappears when it comes to dementia.’

Recently it was revealed that another United legend, Sir Bobby Charlton, is suffering from dementia. The Stiles family today revealed they have spoken to his wife Lady Norma and she has agreed to support the fight for more help.

John Stiles said: ‘Sir Geoff Hurst is backing us. He believes the scandal should be over. George Cohen, another World Cup winner, is also backing us and I spoke to Lady Norma Charlton today. They are all backing us in this.

‘We are calling for a change. Families shouldn’t have to worry about the cost and what’s going to happen. That’s not right.’

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