Looking back at Nobby Stiles' time as a manager and player at Preston North End

The tidal wave of tributes paid to Nobby Stiles after his passing last Friday centred mainly on winning the World Cup with England in 1966 and being in the Manchester United side which won the European Cup two years later.

Tuesday, 3rd November 2020, 3:00 pm
Nobby Stiles gets some treatment off PNE trainer Harry Hubbick during his time as a player at Deepdale

Among Preston North End fans, he will fondly be remembered for his time as manager at Deepdale, along with those superb exploits as a player which rightly earned him legend status.

Stiles was the king with the PNE faithful in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

“When we get promotion, this is what we’ll sing, we all love you, we all love you, Nobby is our king,” was the chant on the terraces as the Lilywhites battled for promotion from the Third Division in 1977/78.

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Nobby Stiles and Bobby Charlton have a brew and a chat on the Deepdale pitch

The lyrics changed slightly to ‘Now we’ve got promotion......,’ when indeed PNE did go up.

Like most PNE managers over the years, Stiles worked on a limited budget in his time in charge.

Hence promotion was a fine achievement, so too guiding North End to seventh place in their first season up in the Second Division and 10th the year after.

Only in 1980/81 did it go wrong, a lack of backing in the transfer market coming home to roost.

Nobby Stiles runs out of the tunnel at Deepdale

Even then, relegation was cruelly dealt as North End won their final game of the season at Derby only for relegation rivals Cardiff to take a point on the same night to stay up.

It was Stiles’ links with United which brought him to Deepdale.

He’d left Old Trafford in 1971 to join Middlesbrough, their manager at the time Jack Charlton.

When Bobby Charlton landed the job as Preston boss in 1973, Stiles moved to Lancashire to join up with his former United and England team-mate.

Nobby Stiles (right) with his PNE assistant Alan Kelly (far left) during a promotion visit to a local brewery

Francis Burns and David Sadler were two other former United players to sign that season – Burns coming from Southamptonhaving served United between 1965 and 1972.

As well as playing for the first-team, Stiles coached the reserves who played in the Central League.

Charlton’s departure as PNE manager in 1975 saw Stiles leave too but he soon came back to coach under Harry Catterick.

Stiles was named North End manager in July 1977, with Alan Kelly his No.2.

They formed a brilliant partnership, both talented coaches and loved by the players.

He liked his side to play attacking football, passing the ball properly.

He favoured a 4-3-3 type system, Alex Bruce and Mike Elwiss up front – over the course of the promotion season, John Smith, Ricky Thomson and Mick Robinson giving them support in the attack.

Stiles’ signing of Sean Haselgrave was a big factor in winning promotion, the ex-Nottingham Forest man a key component.

Having got North End up, Elwiss was sold to Crystal Palace – Stiles promoted the talented Robinson to play next to Bruce.

Stiles had an eye for a player, Eric Potts, Steve Elliot, Don O’Riordan, Bruan Taylor and Graham Bell among his signings.

In his life, Stiles gave so much to the football world.

Rest peacefully Nobby, you gave the PNE faithful so much to cheer about.