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'He lifted the pride of the whole nation' - the life of Jack Charlton

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Charlton was named Footballer of the Year by the Football Writers’ Association in 1967 (PA)

Charlton was named Footballer of the Year by the Football Writers’ Association in 1967 (PA)

Charlton was named Footballer of the Year by the Football Writers’ Association in 1967 (PA)

Jack Charlton’s importance to the Irish people went beyond football.

He lifted the pride of the whole nation at a time when it had been mired in a gloomy economic recession.

Today, tributes poured in as his family confirmed that the legendary Ireland football manager Jack Charlton died at 85 years of age.

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Charlton married his wife Pat in 1958, with the couple going on to have three children (PA)

Charlton married his wife Pat in 1958, with the couple going on to have three children (PA)

Charlton married his wife Pat in 1958, with the couple going on to have three children (PA)

Charlton had been diagnosed with lymphoma in the last year and was also battling dementia.

In a statement, his family said: "We cannot express how proud we are of the extraordinary life he led and the pleasure he brought to so many people in different countries and from all walks of life."

The impact he made on the lives of Irish people was evident. He was a household name and could not walk down any Irish street without being stopped over and over again for autographs.

Charlton could have been a miner instead of a footballer. Born on May 8th 1935 in Ashington, Northumberland in England, he was the eldest of four boys.

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Jack Charlton fishing in Galway in 1993

Jack Charlton fishing in Galway in 1993

Jack Charlton fishing in Galway in 1993

His father Bob was a miner. Charlton’s footballing skills came from his mother Cissie’s side of the family.

She was an avid football fan whose four brothers who were professional footballers and was a cousin of Newcastle great Jackie Milburn..

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Growing up Charlton was not particularly good at school and was always up to some money making scheme – a paper round, selling chopped wood, making pig swill and selling fish he had caught.

He got his first football boots at the age of seven but his early career was very much overshadowed by his talented younger brother Bobby who later played for Manchester United.

By the age of 15 the future football manager had started work in Linton Colliery where his dad worked but he quickly decided this was not what he wanted from life.

In 1950 he signed for Leeds United and began a career that lasted 23 years. He was named the Football Writers Association footballer of the year in 1967.

Just days before his 30 birthday Alf Ramsey called Charlton up to play for England and he went on to score six goals in 35 international games.

Charlton and his brother Bobby went on to be part of the England team that won the 1966 World Cup.

The footballer bought his parents a house with his £1,000 World Cup winnings.

He later admitted he had a strained relationship with Bobby and said in his autobiography he felt Bobby began to drift from the Charlton family after his marriage to Norma, who did not get along with their mother.

He previously said their relationship was “OK like. If he’s up at a game in Newcastle I go to meet him and we chat about family things. Neither of us is getting any younger”.

When Charlton retired as a player he went to manage Middlesbrough where he won the Manager of the Year award in his first season.

Next he managed Sheffield Wednesday and then Newcastle United before being asked by the FAI to take over the management of the Irish team in 1986.

He was the first non-Irishman to be appointed to the job and over the next decade led the team to qualify for the European Championships in 1988 and Ireland’s first ever World Cup in 1990 where they reached the quarter finals.

Four years later the team qualified for the World Cup again.

Charlton left the Ireland job in January 1996 and went into retirement. His original appointment as Irish manager was not greeted with huge excitement but within two years he had won the nation over as Ireland qualified for their first ever European Championship and announced their arrival with a famous victory over England.

“We trained hard and we played hard but if the lads wanted to go for a pint and relax, I made time for that too”, he said of his management style.

He knew when he took over the job that they would be unable to beat the best world teams “so we invented a game that was totally different to everything world football had seen before".

“They’ve given it a fancy name because they don’t want to tell us that we started it but we did. They might call it ‘pressing’. We called it ‘put people under pressure’,” he explained.

His break with the Irish team in 1996 came as a shock.

“I didn’t retire, I got sacked, really. I went to a meeting and was told that they didn’t want me anymore. I thought they might give me more time to make up my mind".

‘’I just went to a meeting as a manger and came out of it and I wasn’t the manager.

‘’They voted me out and I wasn’t happy about that. I thought it was all a bit tough, when you think about what we’d achieved.”

He decided to retire completely from football management but continued to give after dinner speeches all around England “just telling the stories”.

Throughout his career Charlton received many honours including an OBE from Queen Elizabeth in 1974.

He was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2005.

But it was in Ireland that he was showered with praise for his outstanding work with the Irish team.

The year he retired he was granted honorary Irish citizenship, which the highest award the State can give and is rarely given.

Two years earlier he had been made a Freeman of the City of Dublin and given an honorary doctorate by the University of Limerick.

The statue of Charlton in fishing gear with the salmon at Cork airport is testament to how the ordinary people regarded him.

A stained glass pane with the initials ‘JC’ hanging over the fireplace in his home was given to him by friends at the Hill 16 pub in Dublin – an indication of how ordinary people felt about his role with the Irish team.

During a visit to Dublin in June 2015 with his wife, Pat, for the opening of the Jack Charlton suite at the new Aviva Stadium the crowd gave Charlton a standing ovation.

He said the experience was “overwhelming”.

In recent years his health deteriorated a little and when he developed problems with his balance he was told he could not drive any more.

He still attended events but was no longer able to stand and speak to the crowd.

His passion for fishing was also affected as he could no longer enjoy the sport alone. Charlton is survived by his wife Pat, his three children John, Deborah and Peter and his grandchildren.


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