Recently it has been announced that World Cup hero, Nobby Stiles is unwell, suffering from Alzheimer’s, which has affected him for quite a few years.
I had the pleasure of spending an evening with Nobby back in 2002 when I was club captain at Ganstead Park Golf Club. One of the usual expectations of the club captain is to organise a sportsman’s dinner during the year, but I decided it would not be ‘over-milking’ it, if I arranged two such occasions.
I liaised with Malcolm Lord (no, not Mally, ex Hull City) who is well known in the north of England for pulling these sorts of events together. Malcolm is quite a comic in his own right, with a wealth of sporting stories, that he recounts at gatherings of like-minded people – usually blokes.
Anyway, for the first dinner, we settled on Steve Kindon, former Burnley player, and then an excellent and very popular after dinner speaker, who also answered to the nickname of ‘Tank’. I’d seen and met Tank a couple of times before, so I knew how good he was. Then Malcolm offered Nobby Stiles for the other date, and I couldn’t say ‘yes’ fast enough. Just think, one of England’s all-time sporting heroes, a key member of Sir Alf Ramsey’s 1966 world cup winning team, was going be speaking at Ganstead Park Golf Club, and I would be sitting next to him. What an honour!! (for me that is, if not for Nobby).
So, ticket sales went well, which was very important, bearing in mind that any proceeds were destined for my chosen charities for that year. The big night was upon us and, as anyone who has arranged one of these things will understand, I was a bit on edge until I knew everything was in place. Will Malcolm and Nobby get here on time? No problems on the M62 or elsewhere on the journey from Lancashire to East Yorkshire? Will all the guests turn up, especially those who had elected to pay on the night? Will the food be OK? And so on.
Well, everyone turned up and we all began to have some nice pre-dinner drinks; I had not touched any alcohol up to this point. By the time we sat down to eat I was quite happy that things were going according to plan, and I could relax. Food seemed to go down well, Malcolm and Nobby had their parts sorted out and I had said my piece at the beginning, so the only outstanding functions I had to perform were the usual thankyou’s after dinner, and to pay Malcolm and Nobby with the cheques I had organised earlier in the week and which the club secretary had prepared for me for the night. Aaaaaaaarrrrggghhhhh!!! I had forgotten to organise the two cheques for Malcolm and Nobby. I almost choked on a mouthful of food as I realised my error. “You OK, Rob, you look a bit pale” enquired Nobby. “Oh, fine thanks Nobby” said I, with my brain working overtime. Then, thankfully, after consulting my very able vice captain, Bill Orr (himself a Hull City supporter for many years) we worked out how the issue could be resolved.
I mentioned earlier that many people end up paying for their ticket(s) on the night, so this meant I had about four pockets full of readies – surely enough to pay off Malcolm and Nobby later on. A quick escape to a backroom, count the dosh and heave a sigh of relief as I have plenty. Back to the table and continue to ‘relax’ but without getting as ‘relaxed as a newt’!!. However, the story doesn’t end there.
I duly paid Malcolm and Nobby and wished them a safe journey back to Lancashire, while many of us continued ‘relaxing’. After the better part of an hour, I received a call from Malcolm. Have they broken down? Been a problem on the M62? Couldn’t get out of Yorkshire without their passports? No such thing. “Rob, Nobby’s not too happy – you short-changed him fifty quid!!” reported Malcolm. Oh no, my efforts to relax must have adversely affected my ability to count!! “ Tell Nobby I’m ever so sorry, and there’ll be a cheque on its way to him tomorrow” I told Malcolm.
It was a great evening, but I feel sure that Nobby would have thought of me as the cheating Yorkshire bugger, who tried to short-change him!! I saw Malcolm a couple times over the next few years and, fortunately, we were able to laugh off the incident, although I still have a vision of Nobby showing me his studs as he moves in to tackle me!!
I wish Nobby Stiles and his family all the best during these difficult times, and I continue to hold happy memories of the time I met a sporting hero.
Club Captain 2002
Ganstead Park Golf Club