One of the abiding images of England’s World Cup win in 1966 is the moment when Nobby Stiles – no front teeth and socks rolled down to his ankles – skips around Wembley clutching the Jules Rimet Trophy.
Yet how many people know that less than a decade earlier, the young Norbert Stiles, as he was named, had been playing in South Shields, before a crowd of more than 12,000 football fans?
And how many of those thousands, I wonder, would have guessed that they would have been cheering on Nobby and his team-mates when Sir Alf Ramsey’s team took on the West Germans in the World Cup final?
The connection was made by Time of Our Lives’ reader John Bland, who got in touch after I featured a photo of a South Shields’ boys team a few weeks ago.
Mr Bland said the photo was taken on the town’s Recreation Ground, ahead of a much-anticipated cup match between South Shields Boys and Manchester Boys.
“We were training for the game which was due to take place on Saturday, February 2, 1957, at Simonside,” explains Mr Bland, who was part of the squad.
“We used to train every Tuesday and Thursday. It was hard work, we were only 15 and 16 at the time.”
Mr Bland, who played left-half in the game against Manchester, said when the match kicked-off, at 11am, the ground was brimming with between 12,000 and 14,000 supporters.
“We thought we were the better team, but we ended up getting beat.
“I believe the score was either 3-1 or 3-2 to Manchester.”
Mr Bland said he was delighted to see the picture of the Shields Boys team, who he names as: (from the left, Palmer, Roland, Mizen, Brian Mullen, Bob Stephenson, Lawrie Chapman, Derek Walls, (the next two, he thinks are Derek Nelson and Crake), Charlie Cook, himself and Ronnie Kelly.
Lining up on the opposite side was, as previously mentioned, a young man called Norbert Stiles.
“We didn’t know it at the time, of course, but he turned out to be a good one.”
Although 73-year-old Mr Bland, who now lives in Marsden, didn’t go on to become a professional footballer – he went on to become a miner – he says he has “some brilliant memories of those times”.
Meanwhile, our story about Sir Stanley Matthews’ appearance in South Shields prompted Denis Turbitt to get in touch.
Mr Turbitt, of South Shields, became friends with Sir Stanley, and the two of them kept in touch over the years.
As a result, he has a wonderful collection of signed photos of the footballing legend, one of which he shares with us today.
Mr Turbitt explains how the friendship began.
“I met him in a hotel in the Persian Gulf.
“Over the years he signed 80 photos for me. Sir Stanley was a smashing bloke, there was nothing snobbish about him, he was a really down-to-earth bloke, and a brilliant footballer.
“I was in regular contact with him for around 20 years until he died.
“As a result, I built up quite a collection of his memorabilia.”
Another footballer who Mr Turbitt became friends with was one-time Busby Babe John Downie, who he used to play golf with.
They became such close friends that when John Downie died, his family gave Mr Turbitt his First Division championship medal – which he still treasures to this day.
Also included in Mr Turbitt’s collection of football memorabilia is a programme from the 1953 FA Cup final (known as the Matthews’ Final) when Blackpool beat Bolton Wanderers 4-3.
Mr Turbitt’s programme is not only autographed by Sir Stanley, but also by Shields lad Stanley Mortensen.
“He went to Stanhope Road School with my mother Arabella Stewart,” reveals Mr Turbitt.