ENGLAND World Cup hero Sir Geoff Hurst has paid tribute to lifelong friend Sir Bobby Charlton following his shock dementia diagnosis, as well as late teammate Nobby Stiles.
The sporting icon opened up after 48 hours of tragedy for the triumphant 1966 squad following Nobby’s passing from prostate cancer and dementia on Friday, aged 78, and Sir Bobby’s brave revelation on Sunday.
Speaking for the first time about Sir Bobby’s health battle, Sir Geoff, who works closely with the Alzheimer’s Society, told The Sun: “Dementia is a cause that is very close to my heart having seen it affect my 1966 World Cup-winning teammates.
“I was deeply saddened by the recent passing of Nobby and the announcement that Sir Bobby, has been diagnosed with the condition. I played with Nobby for England under 17s and under 23s as well as the national team so we go back a long way.
“I’m also sending my thoughts and best wishes to Sir Bobby and his wife Lady Norma and want to thank them for shining a spotlight on dementia, so that other families don’t feel alone during this difficult time.
“The England team of 1966 had a special relationship that will always remain special because of what we achieved as a group of people. That was down to our camaraderie and I hope that people across the country will embrace that team spirit and come out in force to unite against dementia.”
In a sad twist of fate, Sir Geoff, 78, recalled that one of his final meetings with Nobby, who played every minute of England’s 1966 campaign and was made in MBE in 2000, was at the funeral of their teammate Martin Peters, who died in December 2019 aged 76 following a long battle with Alzheimer’s.
He said: “I think the last time we were in touch was sadly at Martin’s funeral where his wife Kay was there and his son, so we spent a fair bit of time with them afterwards having a glass of wine. It’s tough losing these players. I know it’s been very difficult for his family.”
In July, Sir Geoff, 78, told The Sun of his wish for Sir Bobby’s older brother Jack, who lost a battle with dementia and lymphoma in July, aged 85, to receive a posthumous knighthood.
He said: “You couldn’t get a better character to be put forward with his warmth, character not to mention the success he achieved on the pitch.
“You could argue that all the team should be knighted.”
A fifth member of the 1966 World Cup squad, Ray Wilson, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s prior to his death in May 2018.
Kate Lee, Chief Executive Officer at Alzheimer’s Society said: “We send our heartfelt thoughts and best wishes to Sir Bobby Charlton and his family following the announcement that Sir Bobby is living with dementia, which can be such a devastating condition for so many.
“Their bravery in speaking out helps so much to shine further light on the condition, for which we are hugely thankful.
“The team of ’66 will never be forgotten – sadly it’s now for another reason as well, but we hope that this can be put to good use in highlighting the help that is out there.”
Sir Geoff is supporting Alzheimer’s Society’s Christmas appeal, which aims to raise funds for the UK’s 850,000 dementia patients who are suffering from the isolating effects of Covid, in tribute to his teammates.
- Donate to Alzheimer’s Society’s Christmas Appeal at alzheimers.org.uk. For information and support about dementia you can call Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Connect Support Line or visit their website.
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