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Jack Charlton, England soccer 1966 World Cup winner, dies at 85

Jul 11. 2020
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By Syndication The Washington Post, Bloomberg · James Cone

Jack Charlton, the World Cup winning England player who later led the Republic of Ireland to its first ever appearance in soccer's showpiece tournament, has died. He was 85.

The central defender footballing legend died at home on Friday in his native Northumberland in northeast England, surrounded by his family.

Charlton, whose brother Bobby also played in the 4-2 victory against West Germany in the 1966 World Cup final at London's Wembley stadium, was a colorful and straight-talking player and manager who, as well as helping his nation reach soccer's pinnacle for the only time, was a feared part of the Leeds United side of the 1960s and 1970s.

"Big Jack," as he was known, made a record 773 appearances for Leeds and won 35 England caps. In 2006, Leeds United supporters voted him into the club's greatest ever XI. He also became Ireland's adopted son after steering Irish teams to Euro 88, Italia 90 and USA 94.

As a player, he was always overshadowed by younger brother Bobby, or "wor kid" as Charlton would say. While Bobby was the epitome of the English sporting gentleman, blessed with style and grace, the elder Charlton was a rough, tough defender everyone wanted at their side.

"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." his family said in a statement. "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."

"We are devastated," the England team said on Twitter.

John 'Jack' Charlton was born in Ashington, north east England, on May 8, 1935, into a soccer family. Charlton's uncles were Jack Milburn (Leeds United and Bradford City), George Milburn (Leeds United and Chesterfield), Jim Milburn (Leeds United and Bradford Park Avenue), and Stan Milburn (Chesterfield, Leicester City and Rochdale). Bobby would go on to play for Manchester United.

The legendary Newcastle United and England footballer Jackie Milburn was his mother's cousin.

After National Service in the Household Cavalry and a job in a coal mine, Charlton signed for Leeds United in 1950 after rejecting a recruitment interview with the police force. He spent his entire 20-year playing career at the Yorkshire club.

Charlton, a center-back, was almost sold after the appointment of Don Revie as manager in 1961, though none of the interested clubs, including Liverpool and Manchester United, matched Leeds' asking price. He then helped the club gain promotion to the elite Division One in 1964 after a four-year absence from the top flight.

In 1965, Leeds just missed out on the championship and in May lost 2-1 to Liverpool in the F.A. Cup final. Charlton, who set up Billy Bremner for his team's goal in that match, had made his England debut the previous month at the age of 29.

Charlton became a defensive regular in Alf Ramsey's England team over the next year alongside West Ham's Bobby Moore and was named in the 22-man squad for the 1966 World Cup. He played in every minute of England's six matches.

Charlton handled the ball on the goal line in the semifinal against Portugal to concede a penalty kick, though his brother Bobby scored both goals in a 2-1 win.

After the West Germany game, in which Geoff Hurst scored the only World Cup final hat-trick, Charlton was photographed sinking to his knees with his head in his hands as he was too exhausted to chase the striker to congratulate him on his third goal in the final seconds.

The following season, although Leeds again failed to claim any trophies, he surpassed Ernie Hart's record of 447 league appearances for the club and was named as Footballer of the Year. His acceptance speech received a standing ovation.

A year later, his wait for a club trophy ended as Leeds won the League Cup and Europe's Fairs Cup, a precursor to the UEFA Cup. A league title followed in 1969, with the team losing only two matches.

Charlton was again selected for the World Cup in 1970 and made his only appearance at the tournament in a 1-0 group stage win against Czechoslovakia. It was his 35th and final game for England, during which time he had scored six goals and the team had conceded 21 times.

He added the Fairs Cup in 1971 and F.A. Cup in 1972 to his trophy collection, before being forced to quit because of injury aged 38.

After retiring as a player he enjoyed success as a manager at Middlesbrough, helping the club achieve promotion to the top division in 1974, at the end of his first season in his charge. He was named Manager of the Year, the first time that the honor had ever been awarded outside of the top flight.

Charlton quit Middlesbrough in 1977 and after applying unsuccessfully for the England job joined Sheffield Wednesday. He spent six years at the club before returning to Middlesbrough for a brief spell and then had a short time away from the sport.

In 1984, he was appointed manager by Newcastle, the club he supported, but left a year later after protests against him from the club's fans.

He returned to management after being asked to take charge of Ireland's national team and helped them qualify for the 1988 European Championship, the country's first appearance at a major tournament.

Charlton, who strengthened his resources by encouraging players such as John Aldridge and Ray Houghton to use their Irish ancestry to represent the team rather than their nation of birth, also secured a first World Cup finals appearance in 1990.

Ireland drew its three group games and reached the quarterfinals, but after another draw was eliminated on penalty kicks by Romania. Four years later, it advanced to the last 16 of the World Cup tournament hosted by the U.S.

Charlton quit following Ireland's 2-0 defeat against the Netherlands in a playoff to reach Euro 96. "Nobody left afterwards and I remember standing there looking (at the fans), and I knew I was leaving and I cried," Charlton told a television documentary in 2012. "I just remember, I just cried."

During his stewardship, Ireland beat almost all the major football nations, including Brazil, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and England. Charlton was granted honorary Irish citizenship in 1996.

After leaving soccer management, Charlton, who was a keen exponent of hunting and fishing, worked as an after-dinner speaker and an occasional pundit. In 2012, he underwent surgery after breaking his hip in a fall at home.

He is survived by his wife Pat, who he married in 1958. The couple had three children, John, Deborah and Peter.

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