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Born: Wednesday 8 May 1935, Ashington, England
Position: Centre Half/Manager
A one-club man who spent his entire club career with Leeds United, central defender Jack Charlton played alongside his younger brother Bobby in England's 1966 World Cup winning team. Later moving into management, he enjoyed great success at international level with the Republic of Ireland, who he led to the first three major tournament appearances in their history during almost a decade in charge.
Part of a talented footballing family, Jack Charlton was born in Ashington in north-east England on 8 May 1935. In addition to the success he and his brother went on to enjoy, four of his uncles also played professional football while his mother's cousin was Newcastle United legend Jackie Milburn. Growing up in a coal mining area, on leaving school he initially took a job in a mine while playing amateur football in his home town.
Charlton did not really want a career as a miner, eventually leaving and applying to become a police cadet. At the same time he attracted the attention of Second Division Leeds United and chose not to attend his police interview, instead going for a trial at Leeds on the same day. Impressed by the tall, strong defender, Leeds employed him on the ground staff before offering him a professional contract on his 17th birthday.
After completing his National Service, Charlton became a first team regular in 1955-56. Strengthening a previously shaky defence, he helped Leeds win promotion as Second Division runners-up. However, the team often struggled in the First Division and were relegated in 1960. When Don Revie was appointed manager in 1961, he struggled to find a role for Charlton. Revie tried him out at centre-forward and also considered selling him on, but eventually returned him to centre-half and build his defence around him, a move which paid off spectacularly.
Leeds returned to the First Division in 1964. They finished runners-up to Manchester United on goal average a year later, as well as reaching the FA Cup final where they lost to Liverpool. Towards the end of that season Charlton was finally called up to the England team for the first time, making his debut against Scotland just a month before his 30th birthday. He quickly established himself in the national team and was picked for the 1966 World Cup squad alongside brother Bobby.
Charlton was ever-present at the heart of an England defence which did not concede a goal from open play until the final. The only goal they did let in was a penalty which Charlton conceded against Portugal in the semi-final, handling the ball on the goal-line when goalkeeper Gordon Banks was beaten. In the final England beat West Germany 4-2 after extra-time, with Charlton earning a World Cup winners' medal just a year into his international career.
At club level, Leeds challenged regularly for the title through the late 1960s but fell short several times. They finished fourth in 1967, despite Charlton having a fantastic season in which he was named Footballer of the Year, succeeding his brother who had won the award the year before. Leeds again finished fourth in 1968 but did win both the League Cup and the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, Charlton's first major honours.
A year later Leeds finally won their first league title, losing just twice all season. They pushed for a historic treble in 1969-70, but a poor finish to the season saw them overtaken in the league and beaten in the semi-final of the European Cup and final of the FA Cup. That summer Charlton was selected for England's defence of the World Cup in Mexico, but was no longer first choice and appeared just once in the finals as England went out to West Germany in the last eight.
Although that was his last involvement with England, Charlton's club career lasted another three years. Twice Leeds missed out on the league title by a single point but they did win the Fairs Cup again in 1971 and added the FA Cup in 1972, enabling Charlton to complete a full set of domestic honours. When injury ruled him out of the following year's final he decided to retire at the age of 38, having played a club record 772 competitive games for Leeds.
Almost immediately, Charlton was offered the job of manager at Second Division Middlesbrough. In his first season, he led his team to promotion as champions by the remarkable margin of 15 points from second-placed Luton. Under Charlton the club became established at the higher level, but he became disillusioned by a perceived lack of local support and resigned in the spring of 1977.
Later that year Charlton took over at Sheffield Wednesday, who were bottom of the Third Division. Successfully avoiding relegation, he set about rebuilding the team and in 1980 won promotion to the Second Division. Having just missed promotion to the top flight in 1982 he resigned a year later and after a second short spell with Middlesbrough, took over at boyhood heroes Newcastle United in 1984.
Newly promoted to the First Division, Newcastle survived at the higher level but Charlton never settled in the job. Amid pressure from fans, he resigned and spent several months out of the game. It seemed as though his managerial career may be over, but out of the blue he was offered the job of managing the Republic of Ireland in 1986. Ireland had never reached a major championship, but Charlton took steps to strengthen the team by calling up players who qualified through parents or grandparents.
Although his team was often criticised for being defensive, Charlton was immediately successful as Ireland edged out Bulgaria to reach the 1988 European Championship in West Germany. In those finals, they famously beat England 1-0 in their first game and after drawing with the Soviet Union, needed only another point against the Netherlands to reach the semi-finals. Less than ten minutes from going through, Ireland conceded the only goal of the game and were eliminated but had made their first real impact on the international scene.
That success was followed up by a first qualification for the World Cup in 1990. In a very tight group Ireland drew all three games and qualified for the Second Round with an identical record to the Netherlands. Lots were drawn to decide their next opponents, with Ireland having to play Romania. Following a goalless 120 minutes, they edged through on penalties to a quarter-final against hosts Italy. Although narrowly beaten 1-0, once again Charlton's team had exceeded all expectations.
Despite being unbeaten in qualification, Charlton's team missed out on the 1992 European Championship after finishing a point behind England. They did however reach another World Cup in the USA in 1994 following a 1-1 draw with Northern Ireland in a volatile final qualifier. In their opening match in the finals, they gained revenge for the 1990 defeat by beating Italy 1-0. Again Charlton led his team through to the knockout stages, but this time saw them beaten by the Netherlands in the Second Round.
That proved to be the end of Ireland's run of success. They missed out on the 1996 European Championships in England after again losing to the Netherlands in a play-off match, with Charlton resigning soon after. He has since stayed largely out of the limelight, working mainly as an after-dinner speaker, but remains popular in Ireland having overseen by far the best period in the country's international history.
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- Published on Monday, 22 October 2012 19:03