Jack Charlton, an uncompromising central defender who played alongside his brother, Bobby, in England’s World Cup-winning side in 1966 before enjoying coaching success with Ireland, has died. He was 85.
Nicknamed “Big Jack,” and celebrated for his earthy “beer and cigarettes” image, Charlton was Footballer of the Year in England in 1967. He spent all his club career at Leeds from 1952-73, tying its all-time record of 773 appearances. He won every domestic honor, including the league title in 1969.
Charlton died at home on Friday in his native Northumberland in northeast England, surrounded by his family.
“As well as a friend to many, he was a much-adored husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather,” the family said in a statement. “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.
“He was a thoroughly honest, kind, funny and genuine man who always had time for people. His loss will leave a huge hole in all our lives but we are thankful for a lifetime of happy memories.”
The England team Twitter account said “we are devastated.”
His biggest achievement came with the national team that beat Germany 4-2 after extra time in the 1966 World Cup final at Wembley Stadium.
Bobby, his younger brother, played in midfield. Jack celebrated the victory by partying in a random person’s house in north London, ending up sleeping on the floor. That was typical of the man who kept the common touch despite his fame and remained an affable character, fond of life’s simple pleasures.
“I got a lift back the following morning and my mother was playing hell as I hadn’t been to bed all night,” Charlton recalled. “I said, ‘Mother, we’ve just won the World Cup!’”
Charlton made 35 appearances for England between 1965-70, also playing in the 1968 European Championship and the 1970 World Cup. A very different player to Bobby, who was once all-time top scorer for both England and Manchester United, Jack was in the shadow of his brother during his playing career.
It was obvious from an early age that Bobby “was going to play for England and would be a great player,” Jack recalled in a 1997 BBC interview. “He was strong, left- and right-footed, good balance, good skills. He had everything, our kid. I was over 6 foot (1.8 meters). Leggy. A giraffe, as I finished up being called.”
Of all the England World Cup winners to go into management, Jack Charlton was easily the most successful. He had brief but impressive spells at northeast clubs Middlesbrough, Sheffield Wednesday and Newcastle before being hired by Ireland in 1986 as its first foreign coach.
Adopting a direct, physical and attack-minded style, Charlton got the best out of Ireland’s hard-working players and guided them to three major tournaments, including the 1990 World Cup where the Irish reached the quarterfinals. Ireland also played at Euro 1988 and the 1994 World Cup under Charlton.
“You get the ball forward, you compete, you close people down, you create excitement, you win balls when you shouldn’t win balls, commit yourself to the game,” Charlton said of Ireland’s style. “A lot of the pundits didn’t like it but the teams we played against hated it. They’d never experienced anything like what we were dictating to them … We were a match for anybody in the world.”
Charlton said his best memory as Ireland coach was beating Brazil 1-0 in a friendly at Lansdowne Road in 1987. He resigned in 1995 after losing in a Euro 1996 playoff to the Netherlands.
“He changed everything about Irish football because there was a stage where we hadn’t qualified for tournaments,” former Ireland and Liverpool midfielder midfielder Ray Houghton told talkSport radio on Saturday. “Jack came in and changed that mentality, got us through two World Cups and one European Championships. His legacy within Ireland is absolutely huge.”
He was awarded honorary Irish citizenship a year later. A life-size statue of him was erected at Cork Airport, depicting him wearing fishing gear and holding a salmon — recalling Charlton’s favorite pastime of fishing.
“I am as much Irish as I am English,” said Charlton, who was given the freedom of Dublin.
Born May 8, 1935, in a gritty area of northern England, Charlton worked down the mines as a teenager before going for a trial at Leeds. He grew up in a footballing family, cousin to Newcastle great Jackie Milburn while his uncles Jack, George, Jimmy and Stan all played professionally. “It left me no choice but to be a footballer,” Charlton said.