The footballing world is in mourning from the death of the legendary Jack Charlton at the age of 85.
His legacy differs depending on which side of the water you are from. In England he is a beloved member of their 1966 World Cup winning squad. A Leeds United legend who has played well over 600 games for the club. Winning an FA Cup, First and Second Division title and a league cup in the process. Also, as a former military man who spent two years in the British Army in his younger days.
While not reaching the heights of his brother Bobby Charlton. Jack is still loved in England from is playing and managerial career from 1952 until 1985 in the country. He was even given an OBE in 1974 and talk of a knighthood now to come. Jack was later inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2005 for his contributions to the English game.
But in Ireland he isn’t just loved. He is adored beyond words.
He was made an honorary Irish citizen in 1996. The highest honour the Irish state can give out. He was also made Freeman of the city of Dublin. You can even find a life size statue of the great man outside Cork airport. All 6ft 1 of him.
He gave the people of Ireland more happiness than any other sporting figure ever has. He took the Irish people on a journey that is still talked about today. Beautiful tributes and hilarious stories have poured in since the tragic news of his death. Even if you aren’t a football fan you know who Jack Charlton is.
He is a vital part of Irish history along with his famous teams. I can confess that Euro 88 and Italia 90 were before my time. But even growing up I was told these stories of the country coming to a standstill during these tournaments. Shown videos of the Walkinstown roundabout in Dublin been taken over in post-match celebrations.
Streets up and down the country been a sea of green, white and orange. As a kid that missed that boom you are still told to respect Jack and these players. Well its hard not to. Looking back at old videos you must be in awe of the way Jack Charlton brought our country together through football.
Major Tournament Moments
Even if you weren’t a huge football fan you made sure to be in the pub on a matchday during Italia 90 with a tricolour wrapped around you. All eyes were on a television when Jacks lads took to the pitch.
If you were lucky enough to go to Euro 88, Italia 90 or USA in 94 its something you will talk about for the rest of your days. Again, listen to the stories of people who went on these trips. When the Irish came to town, they took the place over.
These moments are a part of Irish folklore now. Ray Houghton sticking the ball in the Irish net in Euro 88 will always arise a cheer from an Irish crowd.
The entire Italia 90 run that seen Ireland get to the quarter final of a World Cup. To other more success national teams that might not be cause for celebrations. To use it is we still talk about it in 2020. Rightfully so we didn’t win the tournament, but it was a win for our proud country.
This time of Italia 90 is nostalgically etched into Irish society. It made national treasures out of Packie Bonnar, Paul McGrath, Tony Cascarino and all the lads. David O’Leary slotting away the winning penalty against Romania is one of our most famous sporting moments.
Even at World Cup 94 in America the images of the Irish team walking out in Giants Stadium are unbelievably. Beating the Italians and eventually getting to the last 16.
All these tournaments are a part of Irish pop culture. Christy Moore tune Joxer Goes to Stuttgart and films like The Van based off the Roddy Doyle novel all bring back the best kind of nostalgic goodness. If you play the song Put ‘Em Under Pressure in Ireland, you will still get a reaction.
The Man Himself
Jack Charlton gave us that. That was his gift to us. While it wasn’t the most glamorous football to watch that doesn’t matter, he made every Irish man, woman and child have a team they could be proud of.
Jack was one of us. He wasn’t an honorary Irish man by name but by nature. He was a relatable working-class gentleman with legendary wit and most importantly enjoyed the craic. Everyone that I know that had the pleasure to meet him had nothing but good words to say. You won’t find any Irish person with a bad word to say about Jack Charlton.
He set out his Irish teams like that too. The group of players he had were probably the most relatable group of players to ever wear the Green jersey. Most of them became household names. Stories of them going on the beer are a product of their time but they made these men so likeable.
The togetherness in the group has been made clear by the beautiful tributes made by former players. Along with the great stories being told by players who played under Jack. Plenty of tales of craic have been told which seem to perfectly sum up the type of character Jack was.
Stories of almost fining the whole Irish squad for not inviting him to the pub with them. Joking around while him and his Ireland players met the Pope. Allowing the lads to go for a few pints in the hotel after a trip to a water park during the 1994 World Cup. A few pints meaning 10 or 12. All paint a great picture of the man himself.
The people of Ireland loved him for this, and he seemed to love them in return.
He would often pay with cheques at establishments in Ireland. Knowing they wouldn’t be cashed as his money was no good to the Irish people. Most of the owners would put it straight up on their wall once he signed it.
He would even own a pub in Dublin. The Baggot Inn on Lower Baggot Street. Many an Ireland fan would visit the pub in hope to meet Jack inside having a pint. Many of them did.
Jack Charlton spent ten years as Republic of Ireland manager from 1986 until 1996. During that time, we qualified for Euro 88, got to the quarter finals of Italia 90 at our first ever World Cup and the last 16 at the 1994 World Cup.
His time as Ireland manager would come to an end after failing to qualify for Euro 96 in England. Jack said he felt he got all that he could out of that squad. That some of his older plyers gave him all they had.
Jack even admitted to tearing up when leaving his post as Ireland manager.
Since then Ireland have qualified for three major tournaments. Along with having good and successful managers.
But there hasn’t been anyone better than Jack Charlton. Nobody has had a longer spell as manager. No manager has won more games and had their team scored more goals. Only Brian Kerr has better percentages as manager but his spell only lasted two years. Jack has a win percentage of 50.5% and a loss percentage of 18.3% as Ireland manager.
He came into the job with a good reputation. Especially from his time as Middlesbrough manager where he helped his team win the Second Division in 1973/74.
He did much more for Ireland he gave the national team arguably its golden period. Looking back, he did have a very good squad of players, especially in midfield. But still got the best out of each of them. Jack arrived into the job on the 7th of February 1986 as a good manager. But left on the 21st of January 1996 as a saint to the Irish people.
The news of his passing has left a hole in both Ireland and England. In terms of Ireland it may seem to be the end of an era. With the leader of our golden age of national football passing. Part of people’s childhood and fandom may have died with Jack. While many tears will be shed with the passing of Jack lets celebrate his life rather than mourn his death.
Remember all he gave to Ireland and all the deserved love he got in return. Read stories about the man and have a laugh at his wit and funny nature. Watch documentaries on Italia 90 to reminisce or to learn.
The FAI have opened a virtual book of condolences that will be sent to his family. It can be found on their website. It could be the perfect place to thank Jack Charlton for all that he done and say goodbye. As his funeral is expected to be kept quite due to the current pandemic.
Honestly, this could go on and on, but we will finish on a simple note.
Thank you, Jack. Truly for all that you have done. You have given our nation endless amounts of joy and happiness. We were lucky to have you.
May you rest in peace.