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'I said 'Jack, are you mad? The players will go f***ing mad'. He said 'Ah f*** them'' - Eamon Dunphy remembers Jack Charlton


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Jack Charlton waving to the crowd at the World Cup in 1994. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

Jack Charlton waving to the crowd at the World Cup in 1994. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

Jack Charlton waving to the crowd at the World Cup in 1994. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

As Eamon Dunphy sat at home and reflected on Jack Charlton's life yesterday there was no sense of regret over the infamous flying pen incident during Italia 90, and very little thought of tactics. Dunphy remembered ''Big Jack'' as a revolutionary. A cultural phenomenon.

He thought of Charlton's nature - how even in the face of criticism from his most prominent detractor, he could show kindness and steel. Dunphy recalled a dinner they shared after Charlton's Ireland qualified for a major tournament for the first time, Euro '88 in Germany.

"When we drew with Russia in 1988 I had flown out and I was staying in the same hotel as them. He saw me at the bar as he was going in for a meal. The team had its own private dining room and he came over with [physio] Mick Byrne and [assistant] Maurice Setters and he asked, 'Are you on your own?' I said I was and he said, 'Why don't you have dinner with us?'

"I said 'Jack, are you mad?'" I had been critical of the players under the previous manager, especially people like Mick McCarthy and Frank Stapleton. I said: "Jack, they'll go f***ing mad'. He said: 'Ah f*** them. You are coming with me.'

"He grabbed hold of me and dragged me in to the private room. What happened? Mick McCarthy and Frank Stapleton got up and walked out of the room. I said, 'I told you,

Jack'. He said, 'Get in there and eat your dinner'. He was a force of nature."

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Jack Charlton with Mick McCarthy on board the open-top bus through Dublin
city after returning from Italia ‘90. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Jack Charlton with Mick McCarthy on board the open-top bus through Dublin city after returning from Italia ‘90. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Jack Charlton with Mick McCarthy on board the open-top bus through Dublin city after returning from Italia ‘90. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

But it is for Italia '90 that Jack Charlton will be best remembered in Ireland.

"The big game was the penalty shootout against Romania," said Dunphy. "To get a sense of what that meant you just need to look at the great Irish Times journalist John Healy. He was their political correspondent from Mayo, who wrote a great book lamenting emigration [No One Shouted Stop!].

"There was an EU gathering at Dublin Castle on the day of the Romania game and there is a piece of video of the great and good watching the penalty shootout. John Healy is among them. He was a GAA man, but when David O'Leary scored he burst into tears. It's remarkable.

"This worldly, cynical, political correspondent, no interest in soccer, but for him it was a moment of overwhelming poignancy. Absolutely bawling.

"One of the things about those times and that Irish team is that there were a lot of people playing who had not been born in Ireland. John Aldridge and Ray Houghton for example were the sons of emigrants and I think that moment brought home to Healy this team, full of the children of children and grandchildren of emigrants, had done this. He got the significance of it. We are not talking football here. We are talking culture, folklore, folk memory.

"You could take the Robert Emmett quote about Ireland not being a nation until we take our place among the nations of the world - well here was Ireland, through the Irish soccer team, taking its place among the world, performing on a global stage, and giving a sense of pride to people.

"The economy was in rag order, the politics was dirty. [Charles] Haughey was in charge and it was a bad time generally. Unemployment was very high and here comes this magical thing of the Irish soccer team and their adventures, and it was a huge adventure."

Dunphy may not have enjoyed Charlton's tactics, but the public did. "During that whole thing I was having a coffee in the Westbury. There was a taxi rank outside with five cars on it. I opened the door of the first taxi and the guy said, 'you can f*** off. I'm not taking you'.

"We all remember where we were for the penalty shootout against Romania. It was phenomenal. And who got the goal? Dave O'Leary. The man Jack didn't rate.

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David O’Leary reacts after the ball hits the net from his match-winning penalty

David O’Leary reacts after the ball hits the net from his match-winning penalty

SPORTSFILE

David O’Leary reacts after the ball hits the net from his match-winning penalty

"I don't think Jack was big on irony. He had simple tastes. He liked the fishing, he liked the odd pint and he liked to go do his after-dinner gigs - which he called earners, and they were earners. He loved the Irish way, how people would approach him and the informality. It was very different to the English way. He loved that and the Irish people loved him in return."

Dunphy insists this is the Charlton that will live on in his memory, not the manager with the 'put 'em under pressure' tactics. He will remember the Charlton everybody loved.

"I think he should be remembered for bringing a lot of pride and joy to the country. For his teams always behaving impeccably, whether they won or lost.

"Jack and what he did, touched something profound in the Irish psyche, to do with emigration, losing and not standing on our own two feet. Culture matters so much and this is popular culture at its most powerful." Jack lifted a nation."

Sunday Independent