| 15.1°C Dublin

Close

Premium


Perspiration of Big Jack's success story mirrored in economic boom

Robert Butler


Trinity of graft, work rate and luck kickstarted Irish miracle on and off field, writes Robert Butler

Close

Jack Charlton. Photo: Sportsfile

Jack Charlton. Photo: Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Jack Charlton. Photo: Sportsfile

May 1988. My first visit to Lansdowne Road. Republic of Ireland 3 Poland 1. It was the penultimate warm-up game for Euro '88 and the beginning of Ireland's arrival on the world football stage. Not long after, I was brought on return trips to Dublin 4 to see Malta, Wales and the Soviet Union. It was easy to fall in love with the place. The stadium was alive. The atmosphere infectious. And Ireland always seemed to win.

Lansdowne Road then was nothing like the Aviva Stadium is today with its corporate hospitality and spacious foyers. The upper tier of the old West Stand was a wooden bench. Metal dividers separated the seats every two feet or so. The best two things about being there were the atmosphere and the results. Qualifying for major tournaments was the natural progression.

The summer of 1988, to our famous night in Rome in June 1990, was a lesson in European geography for me as a child. Cities I knew little of forever became associated with Jack Charlton's Boys in Green. Stuttgart. Gelsenkirchen. Hannover. Palermo. Cagliari. Genoa. Iconic places. Wonderful memories.