Wednesday 21 February 2018

Flashback 1995: Jack Charlton announces his resignation

Game over: Jack Charlton relaxing with a pint in the Baggot Street Inn on December 21, 1995, after his role as Ireland manager came to an end
Game over: Jack Charlton relaxing with a pint in the Baggot Street Inn on December 21, 1995, after his role as Ireland manager came to an end

Ger Siggins

Twenty years ago this week Jack Charlton bowed out after 10 years in charge of the Irish soccer team. It had been a glorious era, with Ireland playing in the final stages of both the European Championship and World Cup for the first time. At their peak they rose as high as sixth in the FIFA rankings as England, Italy and Brazil were all vanquished.

But, despite all he had achieved, it was a chaotic exit. The Irish team had finished second in their group so to qualify for Euro '96 in England they would have to beat Holland in a play-off at Anfield on December 13.

As part of the preparations, a videotape of their opponents was sourced, which the team sat down to watch. Midfielder Alan McLoughlin's autobiography explained what happened next: "To my surprise, as the camera scanned across the two teams standing for the anthems it showed 11 anonymous faces in orange shirts surrounded by an empty stadium.

"I squinted at the Dutch team on screen, unable to make out Kluivert, Bergkamp or any of their other stars. After five minutes it became abundantly clear to everyone that this was a video of the Dutch under-21 team. Everyone, that is, apart from Jack and Maurice. The lads started nudging each other, laughter rippling, as we waited for Jack to realise.

"Up Jack leapt, pausing the video. He's finally realised, I thought…

- 'Now, watch Bergkamp'.

"Jack was pointing at the Dutch under-21 striker, who just happened, like Dennis Bergkamp, to have blonde hair.

- 'Now, watch the way he pulls away from his defender. Here…'"

On a bitterly cold Wednesday night Ireland were outclassed and the 2-0 defeat was widely seen at the time as the end of the Charlton era.

The Englishman went out on the pitch after the game to salute the fans who had spent much of the closing minutes of the game singing his praises. He had been in charge for 94 games, winning half of them and losing only 17.

After the game he said he would consider his position over Christmas, hinting that he would like to mark 10 years in charge on February 7. But for the FAI and there was a new World Cup campaign to be planned.

On Saturday the Irish Independent carried an exclusive story on page one, by Philip Quinn, headlined 'Charlton to quit next week after talks with FAI'. Over the weekend another report quoted an FAI spokesperson saying that if Charlton did not voluntarily resign then the FAI would have to consider its position.

"All I wanted was time to make up my mind and now it looks as if I'm not going to be given that time," Charlton said.

At the AUL offices in Clonshaugh the following Thursday he eyeballed five senior FAI officials and asked if they wanted him to stay. Once four had replied "no" he knew the game was up.

As he was driven into the city he passed Government Buildings, where another Englishman was making an important visit as the peace process gathered pace. Charlton rolled the window down and called out to the garda on duty, "Tell John I'm in the Baggot Inn if he wants a pint and a chat!"

Off he went to the pub he owned on Baggot Street, and was later pictured by Irish Independent photographer Steve Humphreys supping a pint of stout.

John Major didn't get to join him, preferring a bar closer to the Taoiseach's office.

In an exclusive interview, he told the Irish Independent "I've had 10 great years and I feel great tonight. I'm very happy with the way everything has gone."

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