FORMER Ireland manager and England 1966 World Cup winner Jack Charlton passed away last night at his home in Northumberland at the age of 85 following a long-term illness that he finally succumbed to.
A larger than life character, Charlton was a Leeds United legend, playing as a centreback for the club, making a record 773 appearances over a 23-year period as a player, becoming one of the all-time great central defenders in the game. He joined Leeds at the age of 15 in 1950 as part of the ground staff, before signing professional terms and was handed a debut against Doncaster Rovers on Saturday April 25 1953 in a 1-1 draw at Elland Road.
Fondly known as Big Jack, Charlton was part of the club’s most successful era to date, first helping win promotion from the Second Division twice, as runners-up in 1955/56 and as champions in 1963/64. Following this, he was part of the side which won the League Cup in 1968, the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1968 and 1971, the First Division in 1968/69, the Charity Shield in 1969 and the FA Cup in 1972.
Charlton won his first England cap against Scotland on April 10 1965 and was part of Sir Alf Ramsay’s England World Cup squad in 1966. With the Three Lions, Charlton played in every match during the 1966 tournament which England went on to win, defeating West Germany 4-2 in the final at Wembley.
A year later in 1967, Charlton, who was born on May 8 1935, was named as the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year. He retired from playing at the end of the 1972/73 season, with his final game coming against Southampton on April 28 1973.
Along with his record total of 773 appearances, Charlton scored 96 times for Leeds, making him the club’s ninth highest scorer in its history. He won a total of 35 caps for England, scoring six goals for his country and was awarded an OBE in 1974.
At the end of his playing career, Charlton went into management, with spells in charge of Middlesbrough, Sheffield Wednesday, Newcastle United and the Republic of Ireland. He led Ireland to their first ever World Cup tournament in 1990, when the team reached the quarter finals and also took the team to USA 94.
A statement from the Charlton family said: “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.
“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.”