Jack Charlton: A World Cup hero with England and Ireland

11 July 2020, 09:15 | Updated: 11 July 2020, 19:56

Jack Charlton, who has died at the age of 85, was one of football’s great characters.

Not the most naturally gifted of players, he nevertheless collected a World Cup winners' medal alongside his younger and more celebrated brother Bobby as England triumphed in 1966, and was a key member of the Leeds side which threatened to take both the domestic and European game by storm during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

  • Jack Charlton dies aged 85
  • Football pays tribute to Jack Charlton

But if Bobby enjoyed the greater share of the limelight - they fell out later in life before reconciling - it was Jack who proved more suited to management.

Revered in Middlesbrough after guiding the club into the old first division as champions, it was on the international stage where he rose to prominence with the Republic of Ireland.

Charlton's love affair with his adopted country and its football fans proved a marriage made in heaven as a nation which came to know him simply as 'Big Jack' revelled in the success he brought, the Republic establishing themselves as a force in world football and their manager as a household name all over again.

Born in the Northumberland colliery village of Ashington on May 8, 1935, the eldest child of miner Bob and his wife Cissie, a cousin of north-east football royalty Jackie Milburn, he learned his football with Ashington YMCA and Ashington Welfare before joining the ground staff at Leeds in 1950.

It was an association which was to prove both lengthy and hugely successful as he went on to make a record 629 league appearances for the Elland Road club before eventually hanging up his boots just weeks before his 38th birthday.

During more than two decades at Leeds, punctuated by a spell on national service with the Horse Guards, he won the First and Second Division titles, the FA Cup, the League Cup and the Inter Cities Fairs Cup twice and was named the Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year in 1967.

However, it was with England, for whom he earned 35 full caps, that he wrote himself into the history books.

He was fast approaching 30 when he made his full debut in a 2-2 Home Championship draw with Scotland in April 1965 and, a little more than a year later, played his part in what remains perhaps the most famous day in the nation's sporting history.

One of the abiding images of the 4-2 World Cup final victory over West Germany on July 30, 1966, is that of the 6ft 3in defender sinking to his knees at the final whistle before embracing his younger brother, although he would later admit he did not remember too much about it.

He said: "There's a picture of me at the end down on my knees. I don't remember if I was saying a prayer or just knackered.

"I had chased after Geoff Hurst to give him a hug and chased our kid (Bobby) to give him a hug and then collapsed to my knees, so I suppose I must have been knackered."

Martin Tyler pays tribute to Jack Charlton

"Obviously as player he was one of the boys of '66, we've lost another one.

"Bobby Charlton was much more famous earlier but he was Bobby's older brother and that's how he was first brought into the limelight.

"Then he established himself. Alf Ramsey, the manager, saw something in him as a player quite late on in his career and suddenly he was catapulted alongside Bobby. It was an extraordinary family feat and such a football family, the Charltons and the Milburns.

"My sympathies go to all of them. Jack was unique, absolutely unique. As a player he was no-nonsense and as a man he was no-nonsense.

"I got to know him very well, I commentated with him on England games early in my career and he put me straight a few times and he was always a pleasure to be around.

"He was always open, he'd always got something to say but he didn't mince his words.

"Sometimes he got his words a bit muddled up actually. He was famed for getting one or two of the players names wrong, and those who played under him would tell you that as well, but that was all part of his charm.

"And then of course he became a very successful manager in his own right. He'd done a little bit of television and then he was a club manager and then taking the Republic of Ireland to the World Cup quarter-final in 1990 was a remarkable feat.

"It was just a unique way of doing it. It was simple way of playing, a straightforward way of playing, Jack's image really."

Following his retirement as a player, Charlton was appointed manager at Division Two club Middlesbrough in May 1973 and won promotion at the first attempt before ending his four-year spell on Teesside and then taking up the reins at Sheffield Wednesday.

He spent almost six seasons at Hillsborough and later had brief spells back at Boro and with Newcastle before Ireland came calling in February 1986.

In almost a decade at the helm, Charlton built a side to be reckoned with as he made use of the qualification rules to boost his squad with players born outside the country and moulded them into a team which feared no one, even while sometimes struggling to remember their names.

Mercurial midfielder Liam Brady recalled: "Jack Charlton's first words to me were, 'You're number eight, Ian'. I said, 'Ian Brady was the Moors murderer, Jack'."

It was at Italia '90 that Charlton enjoyed his finest moment as a manager, Ireland eventually bowing out to the hosts in the quarter-finals. They were at it again four years later as Ray Houghton fired them to a glorious 1-0 win over the Italians at Giants Stadium in New Jersey, Charlton's men making an impression at a second successive finals, although his resignation in December 1995 brought an end to a remarkable era.

Awarded the OBE in 1974, he was made a freeman of the city of Dublin 20 years later, and the affection in which he was held on both sides of the Irish Sea was reflected in the rapturous reception he received when he was presented to the crowd at the Aviva Stadium ahead of the friendly between Ireland and England in June 2015.

A man who combined his football with a love of outdoor pursuits - Charlton was as happy fishing and shooting as he was in the dug-out - he suffered ill-health in later life but remained a charismatic and popular figure with football fans across the generations.

He is survived by wife Pat, who he married in 1958, and their three children, John, Deborah and Peter.

'Jack Charlton led the band'

Others who knew him well have also paid tribute to Jack Charlton, as a person, player and manager.

Sir Geoff Hurst, who played in the same England World Cup-winning side, tweeted: "Another sad day for football. Jack was the type of player and person that you need in a team to win a World Cup.

"He was a great and lovable character and he will be greatly missed. The world of football and the world beyond football has lost one of the greats. RIP old friend."

Former Arsenal and Manchester City striker Niall Quinn - one of the stalwarts during the Jack Charlton-era of the Republic of Ireland - spoke of a man who did so much for his adopted country.

"I'm sure I'm not the only Irish person who shed a tear or two this morning," said Quinn. "I'm devastated. I am finding it very hard to put into words what Jack meant to the whole country, not just to me and to those of us lucky enough to have played for him in an Ireland shirt.

"Jack Charlton led the band. He brought us, as players and fans, to places we never thought possible beforehand and gave us so many precious moments. He changed lives. For his players, he gave us the best days of our lives."

Mick McCarthy, who was captain of Ireland when they reached the World Cup quarter-finals at Italia 1990 and who took over from Charlton as Ireland manager six years later, said: "I loved the bones of the man, I am devastated with this news and my heart goes out to Pat and the family.

"English fans will always remember Jack as one of their World Cup winners in 1966 but what he did with Ireland will, I suspect, mean even more to our fans and the country.

"He turned a really good team into a team that qualified for tournaments and made an impact at them. He changed my life, he changed everything for all of us who played for Ireland and just look at the memories we have.

"We will always have Stuttgart and Genoa and Giants Stadium thanks to Jack. That's how we will remember him, with a great big smile on his face. I know this is a sad day but we will remember the great days as well."

John Sheridan was another player given the opportunity to play on some of world football's biggest stages by Charlton, most notably at the 1994 World Cup in the USA.

"He turned things around massively for Ireland. His record speaks for itself," Sheridan told Sky Sports News.

"A small country like Ireland was competing with the top teams in the world, so I have massive respect for what he achieved.

"We had some great times and there were some great characters in the team. No one ever pulled out of a squad, you always wanted to be there in case you were missing something."