London (AFP) – Jack Charlton, a member of the England 1966 World Cup winning side who went on to become a cult hero in Ireland, has died aged 85, his family announced on Saturday.
Charlton — elder brother of his fellow World Cup winning team-mate Bobby — was an integral part of the great Don Revie managed Leeds United side that won the 1969 League title and the 1972 FA Cup.
English football’s governing body the Football Association (FA) said they were “devastated” by the news.
Charlton also enjoyed a fairytale spell as manager of the Republic of Ireland guiding them to several major finals — advancing to the 1990 World Cup quarter-finals.
Such was his achievement with Ireland that he was awarded the Republic’s most distinguished award, honorary Irish citizenship in 1996.
“He was an iconic figure on and off the pitch, in England and Ireland,” wrote Irish prime minister Micheal Martin in a fulsome tribute.
“He came to personify a golden era in Irish football at a European and World level from the late 1980’s onwards.
“The Italia ’90 campaign was more than just a football tournament for us all, it was a time of unbridled joy and celebration throughout the nation.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson paid tribute with a tweet: “Jack Charlton was a football great whose achievements brought happiness to many”.
His family had earlier released a statement announcing his passing.
“Jack died peacefully on Friday, July 10 at the age of 85. He was at home in Northumberland, with his family by his side,” read a family statement.
“As well as a friend to many, he was a much-adored husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather.
“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.”
Leeds issued their own tribute to ‘Big Jack’ whose uncompromising style as a defender epitomised the rugged side to the Revie era.
“Leeds United are deeply saddened to learn club legend Jack Charlton passed away last night at the age of 85 following a long-term illness,” read a Leeds statement.
“Charlton made a club record 773 appearances for Leeds United over a 23-year period as a player, becoming one of the all-time great central defenders in the game.”
– ‘Best manager I played under’ –
Brother Bobby’s club Manchester United also paid tribute.
“We are extremely saddened by the passing of Jack Charlton, brother of Sir Bobby and member of England’s 1966 World Cup-winning team,” they said.
“Our deepest condolences go to all the Charlton family for their immensely sad loss.”
His grand daughter Kate Wilkinson gave an insight into the private side of the outwardly gruff man who is the sixth member of England’s 1966 winning side to die.
“Yesterday was a very sad day. My grandad, Jack Charlton, died peacefully at home.
“He was kind, playful and genuine, and I’ll miss him so much.”
The 35-times capped Charlton managed at club level too but it was by turning Ireland from no hopers into a respected national side — though with a distinctly no frills and direct style — that he will be remembered.
A memorable win over England at Euro 1988 was followed by a run to the last eight in the 1990 World Cup where they lost to hosts Italy.
They also reached the last 16 in the 1994 World Cup — the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) said in homage he had “changed Irish football forever”.
Charlton secured the likes of Scotland-born Ray Houghton and England-born Andy Townsend and Liverpool great John Aldridge after unearthing some family links to Ireland.
“What a football man, loved and adored, especially in Ireland. The best manager I was lucky to play for,” said Aldridge.
“The times we had on and off the pitch were priceless. My thoughts are with Pat and the family. RIP my good friend. Never forgotten.”
The players reflected the thrill he had given them in tributes earlier this year when he turned 85.
Former Chelsea star Townsend poked affectionate fun at him and his famed outdoor hobbies.
“I hope you’re behaving yourself and you’re not out shooting and fishing and going to the pub during this lockdown,” wrote Townsend.
Charlton is the third member of Revie’s Leeds side to die this year after Norman Hunter and Trevor Cherry.
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