Short Stories

‘Jack Charlton’ By: Seán Creedon



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Jack Charlton is unique in this part of the world, as he was a hero in

England and a hero in Ireland.

Big Jack helped his native England beat West Germany to win the

World Cup at Wembley in 1966, and ten years later he took over as

manager of the Republic of Ireland and led us to the finals of three

major tournaments.

Jack, was born into a footballing family in Ashington,

Northumberland on May 8, 1935. Initially, Charlton was

overshadowed by his younger brother Bobby, who was taken on

by Manchester United while Jack was doing his National Service.

At the age of 15, Jack was offered a trial at Leeds United, where his

uncle Jimmy was left back, but turned it down and instead joined his

father in the mines. But he didn’t stay long ‘down pit’ and joined

Leeds in 1950.

He spent his entire playing career with the Elland Road club, making

a club record 629 League appearances in his 21-years. He wore

the famous ‘number 5’ jersey for Leeds and helped them win the Second

Division in 1963-64, the First Division in 1968 and FA Cup in 1972.

‘Big Jack’ was called into the England team days before his 30th

birthday and went on to score six goals in 35 international games and

to appear in two World Cups and one European Championship.

He was named Footballer of the Year in 1967.

At Leeds Jack used to annoy opposing goalkeepers by standing on the

goal line for corner kicks. He was outspoken and claimed that he had

a ‘little black book’ where he kept the names of opposing player, he

intended to hurt. But when charged by the FA for bringing the game

into disrepute Jack explained that he was misquoted and that there

was no black book.

Jack was offered the job as Middlesbrough manager on his 38th

birthday in May 1973. In his first season he got ‘Boro promotion to

the old first division in 1973-74 and stayed for four years. He later

managed Sheffield Wednesday and Newcastle United, but quit as the

Geordies manager during pre-season training for the 1985-86 season.

His appointment as Irish manager in February 1986 came about after

a strange sequence of voting in the FAI offices in Merrion Square,

where Bob Paisley was the early favourite. But that didn’t bother

Jack, who inherited a group of players from the old First Division,

(now Premier League) as he prepared for his first game, a 1-0 home

defeat to Wales in March 1986.

He took the Irish team to Iceland where we beat the home nation and

Czechoslovakia to win our first-ever trophy, the ‘Reykjavik 200.’

Jack’s motto was ‘‘put ’em under pressure’’ and the players bought

into his plan. He brought in new players from Oxford United- John

 Aldridge and Ray Houghton. We went through the Euro ’88

qualifying campaign unbeaten and finished with a 2-0 win over

Bulgaria at Lansdowne in October 1987, to put us a point clear at the

top of the group.

But with a home game against Scotland the following month it was

expected that Bulgaria would pick up maximum points. However, a

young man named Gary Mackay got a famous goal in Sofia and we

were through to the Euro ’88 finals.

We beat England in Stuttgart and the Irish fans did the country proud

with their exemplary behaviour. Next up was World Cup qualification

which was achieved at the 13th attempt when we beat Malta 2-0 in

Valetta in November 1989.

The Nation ‘Held its Breath’ in June 1990 when David O’Leary

converted his penalty to send us through the World Cup quarter final.

The team got to meet the Pope in the Vatican, but Schillaci ended our

dreams in Rome.

We went through the qualifying group for Euro ’92 unbeaten and had

a better goal difference than England. But England got a draw in their

last game away to Poland and ended up with a point more than Jack’s


Qualification for the 1994 World Cup in the USA was achieved at

Windsor Park, Belfast when Alan McLoughlin struck a wonder goal.

And who can forget another Houghton goal and the win over Italy at

the Giant’s Stadium in the summer of ’94?

The Charlton era ended at Anfield in November 1995 when we lost a

play-off for the Euro ’96 finals to Holland.

Record: P94, W47, D30, L17, F128, A63.

Jack continued to enjoy the country life-style and was a regular visitor

to County Mayo where he loved to fish. There was much sadness in

England and Ireland when Jack died on July10, 2020 at the age of 83.