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Football News: Legends of the Game Part 5: Jack Charlton, Irish Saviour? page 1

Legends of the Game Part 5: Jack Charlton, Irish Saviour?
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Jack Charlton


"Nothing is given to you. You've got to work for it" - Jack Charlton

John Charlton, known as Jack to all, was born on the 8th of May 1935 in Ashington, Northumberland as part of a famous footballing family. His mother, Cissie, was footballing royalty, being a member of the Milburn family that produced four uncles who were professionals, Jack, George, Jim and Stan, plus her cousin was the most famous of all, the Newcastle legend 'Wor' Jackie. Their dad Bob was a coal miner with no interest in the beautiful game, but Cissie was, as befits a Milburn, was a massive football fan who would play football with the boys, coached a local school team and would take them along to watch football matches.

Cissie would mostly take them to see Ashington and Newcastle United play, which is why Jack ended up becoming a lifelong Newcastle supporter. He was always in trouble at school, maybe due to his belief that his mother favoured Bobby over him, he was jealous of her devoting most of her time to him and said that "she never said she was proud of me. I was driven to try and please her". Maybe his rebellion in school was an attempt to get attention, he even once shot a fellow pupil with his air rifle in the playground.

While younger brother Bobby was the child prodigy, Jack was not as convinced of his own talent and, at the age of 15 he rejected the offer of a trial with Leeds United to take up a job working down the pit with his dad Bob as a coal miner. Mining was not for him, Jack hated every moment of his time down there and only lasted a few days before he quit. Not sure what to do now he applied to the police force and asked Leeds if he could take that trial after all. Leeds arranged a trial match for him and the police force offered him an interview, but the two clashed and he chose football.

The trial was against Newcastle's youth team and Jack impressed enough to be signed to the ground staff, as was the custom in those days with players under the age of 17. After playing for Leeds' youth team in the Northern Intermediate League he impressed enough to be moved up to the third team in the Yorkshire League, a physically demanding league. At 16 he coped well enough with those demands to be promoted to the the reserves, just one step away from the first team, though he was still unsure if he had a future in the game.

In those days clubs had to retain or release the youngsters on the ground staff by their seventeenth birthday, so Jack reported to the club secretary, Arthur Crowther's, office to await a decision over his future in the game on 8th May 1952. With manager Major Frank Buckley away on tour with the senior team in Holland, it was left to Crowther to deliver the verdict.

Jack says: "At that point, I honestly had no idea what to expect. Nobody had ever said to me that I had a future in the game, least of all Major Buckley. So, when I walked into Arthur's office, I could not guess what lay ahead. He got straight to the point. 'Jack,' he said, 'the boss has instructed me to offer you a contract. You'll have ten pounds signing-on fee, eighteen pounds a week in season and fourteen pounds off.' The first thought that crossed my mind was, 'that's senior team money!' I left the office feeling ten feet tall."

He left the office and wandered across the road to a newsagent's shop directly opposite the ground, where he was told by the shopkeeper that a dozen scouts had been in the shop just that morning, enquiring about Jack. All wanted to know what Charlton was doing, whether he had signed or would be available. "I was stunned," says Jack, "and in that moment, for the very first time in my seventeen years, I realised that I might have a very real future in the game."

The day before the final game of the 1952/53 season Jack was scanning the team sheets pinned up on the door, looking for his name, but could not find it anywhere in the thirds or the reserves. Then he spotted it, J. Charlton, it was in the first team, as the legendary Welsh defender John Charles was moved up to play centre forward, Jack was to take his place in the heart of the defence. Big shoes to fill for a youngster. Doncaster Rovers were the opposition as Jack Charlton made his very first step towards the league appearance record for Leeds United in a 1-1 draw on 25th April 1953.

Unfortunately Jack was not able to build on his appearance, as he was called away for two years National Service in the Household Cavalry. While he was there he captained the Horse Guards to victory in the Cavalry Cup in Hannover. His commitments to National Service meant he managed just one appearance in 1954/55 season before returning to the club for the following one under a new manager, Raich Carter.

"Soccer is a man's game, not an outing for namby-pambies." - Jack Charlton

Charlton returned to the first team in September 1955, and, before going out onto the pitch, he asked Raich Carter what he was expected to do. Carter told him: "See how fast their centre forward can limp." Jack was changed by his time away, the two years of National Service had seen, in his own words, the boy that went away grow into a man and he was not about to let himself be pushed around. In fact Jack admits he was a bit too full of himself. Which led to an early run-in with John Charles, when the Welshman dropped back to help defend a corner, he was organising the defence and telling the defenders where to go. Jack ended up telling him where to go, but not in so many words. After the match, Charles pinned him against the wall and, pointing a finger at him, said, "don't ever speak to me like that again!"

Despite that episode, Charles tutored Jack in the art of defending, teaching him the tricks of the trade and that was enough to shore up a previously leaky defence. Now the goals John Charles was scoring at one end were not being cancelled out and Leeds' form saw them go unbeaten in 34 home games as they earnt promotion from the old Second Division and into the top flight by finishing second behind Sheffield Wednesday. Things were not straight forward though as Jack was living the high life, surprisingly in light of later events Jack was spending a lot of time with brother Bobby, staying out late, boozing and womanising. The pair would double date, go to the pictures together and play golf.

His partyboy lifestyle led to him being dropped for large portions of the season, playing just 21 league games in the 1956/57 season. At the end of that season John Charles was sold for a world record £65,000 fee to Juventus, leaving a big hole up front, to add to the gap at the back due to Jack's absence. Luckily for Leeds, Jack met Pat Kemp and being in a relationship settled him down, and he returned to the team in the 1957/58 season playing 40 times. His form returned and he was picked to represent the Football League in October 1957 as they took on the League of Ireland, scoring in a 1-1 draw. On 6th January 1958 Jack married Pat with Bobby Charlton as his best man, "not through convention but because he was my best friend."

Jack lived across the road from the ground in a club house, and supporters of the time remember seeing him walk across the road on match days, wearing a tweed overcoat, cigarette in his mouth as he walked through the fans. He was a stickler for discipline, refusing to sign autographs for for those queueing up for them until the autograph hunters got into a straight line. Kids of the time obeyed his directions without question, such was his aura. He had also begun taking coaching courses, even though he was still a young player.

Leeds were struggling for goals without John Charles, leading to the manager, Raich Carter, leaving when his contract was not renewed. One of his coaches, Bill Lampton, took over in his stead, but failed to even last a year as unrest amongst the players saw him sacked and replaced with Jack Taylor. Unfortunately things were still not improving and Jack was frustrated and unhappy with the club, which he felt lack professionalism. He became difficult to manage and the club as a whole struggled badly, being relegated at the end of the 1959/60 season, Taylor could not turn things around and resigned in March 1961 with the club mired near the bottom of the old Second Division.

It was then that Leeds put the first block in place which was to lead to their glory years, they appointed Don Revie as player-manager, though it was not immediately successful. Revie was struggling with Jack, he had criticised his attitude when they were both players and now he felt Jack was spoiling it for everyone because he had a chip on his shoulder. Jack admits he was feeling sorry for himself and needed some discipline.

"I remember what Don told me during one practice match. I used to go charging up the field for corner kicks and I ran about all over the park during the play. The crowd liked it when I ran with the ball, although half the time - no 90% of the time - I'd overrun the bloody thing. Totally unprofessional. Anyway, I'd gone charging up the field with the ball and Don said to me afterwards, 'if I was manager, I wouldn't play you - you're always messing about'. 'Well you're not manager,' I said, 'so what the hell?' And then, lo and behold, Don became manager! I was, well....I couldn't have been one of Don's favourites in those early days."

Jack's attitude was not improved when Revie put him up front, in an attempt to replace John Charles' goals. Charlton was not happy playing up front, he felt really uncomfortable and remembers vividly Joe Shaw of Sheffield United laughing at his attempts to play as a centre forward. Jack had run-ins with all the backroom staff, becoming very unpopular amongst the backroom staff, while Revie bought Freddie Goodwin from Manchester United to take Jack's place in defence. The team continued to struggle, and was perilously close to dropping into the 3rd Division, only a final day 3-0 win over Newcastle United saving them from relegation.

Things got so bad that Jack came close to a move away from Leeds. Jack said, "Revie called me into his office one day and announced: 'I'm prepared to let you go.' I said, 'wait a minute, are you letting me go as a centre forward or a centre half, 'cos I've been playing for you for 15 games or whatever as centre forward, which is not my position. But I've been doing it because you asked me - when really I should be coming back to my own position if I'm in the side.' I started playing for the reserves. The funny thing was that, though Don had said that he was prepared to let me go, he never did put me on the transfer list." Despite not being on the transfer list that did not mean there was no interest in signing him from other clubs.

First it was Liverpool wanting him, as Jack said: "Bill Shankly telephoned me to say that he was negotiating with Leeds to buy me for Liverpool. 'I have offered them £28,500 and they want £30,000,' he said. 'I'm not going to be held to ransom - so the deal's off, for the time being. I'm sorry, son, but that's the way it is.'" £1,500 was enough to be a deal breaker in those days, less than a modern day player's daily wage! However it was not just Liverpool that were keen on Jack, Manchester United were keen to team him up with his little brother Bobby.

Jack tells the story: "I'd been told that Manchester United were interested in signing me, too. They were on a tour of America at the time, but it seemed they were going to come in for me at the end of the summer. So I refused to sign a new contract with Leeds. It caused an unpleasant feeling at the club. Syd Owen took me by the arm and asked me what the problem was, but I told him to shove off. Then I got a message to go over and see Matt Busby....We sat talking in his office, and he explained that, while they were in America, they had played a young lad at centre back, someone who had just come into the side, and Matt wanted to wait until the season started so that they could have a look at this lad before giving me a decision. I couldn't believe what he was telling me. 'I have caused ructions at Elland Road, I have refused to sign a new contract, nobody there is speaking to me,' I said. 'I have caused bloody havoc in the club, I have been offered a deal and turned it down - and now you are telling me I have got to wait until the beginning of the new season, until you have had a look at someone else? No,' I said, 'I am not going to do that, I am going back to Elland Road, and I am going to apologise for what I have done. I am going to sign a new contract and I am not bloody well coming here!' I was most upset when I walked out of Busby's office. I went straight back to Leeds to see Don. 'Have you got a contract for me to sign?' I asked him. He said yes, he had. 'I have caused you enough problems at this club,' I told him, 'and I won't cause you anymore.' And I signed."

"I would have a blazing row with Jack on Saturday. We would even be grabbing each other by the throat, especially because Jack has a short fuse. But, on Monday, he would genuinely have forgotten about it." - Johnny Giles

From then on Jack was moved back to centre half, where he was happier and given the role of leading the defence as the senior partner at the back, alongside Norman Hunter. Despite his unhappiness and dislike of the role Jack had not actually done so bad up front as a number 9, scoring 12 times in 21 appearances. Jack believes the turning point for Leeds under Revie happened against Swansea in September 1962. Having just avoided relegation the previous season, Revie made the brave decision to move the old guard out of the team and turn to younger, fresher players, with Jack the leader at the back.

Revie left out a lot of the senior players in favour of younger ones, such as Gary Sprake in goal, Norman Hunter and Paul Reaney. Jack spoke to Don before the game and said, "well I'm not going to play the way you've been playing with Fred, I don't want to play man-to-man marking. I want to play a zonal system where you pick up people in your area. I'll sort out the back four for you the way I want them to play." Revie agreed and it was at that moment that Jack Charlton became a key figure in the new Leeds that was being built. Jack was one of the first players to stand in front of a keeper at setpieces to hinder him from coming out to collect the ball.

Revie told Jack, "listen you silly bugger, if you play the game properly, you could play for England." Revie even offered Charlton the captaincy, but Jack turned it down as he was extremely superstitious and liked to always be last out of the tunnel, where a captain leads the team out. With Jack organising the team's zonal marking and setpieces, form improved and they ended the 1962/63 season in 5th. Jack took Norman Hunter under his wing, as they were both Geordies and built up a partnership with him, though Hunter liked it when a centre forward hit Jack early in a game to make him angry, as otherwise his attention could wander.

Norman Hunter also remembers how Gary Sprake was coming out for a ball and shouted, "mine....Jack", then "Jack.....yours" and came out and punched both Jack and the ball. Jack's nose was broken and blood went everywhere, leaving Jack grumbling "why doesn't that stupid ***** shout for the ball?" Charlton played for 6 weeks with a broken nose and the team would should at him every time an aerial ball came in "go on big man.....head that one....head this one". He would head each and every one of them, but, if it missed his forehead it would hit his nose and you would hear him swearing to his teammate's great amusement.

The 1963/64 season Leeds won Division 2 to return to the top flight, with Jack a corner stone of the team. The following season they were challenging at the top, battling with Man Utd as the two clubs both chased a league and FA Cup double. Despite Leeds only gaining promotion the previous season, they went top of the league with a 25 game unbeaten run, only to lose the lead when Man Utd beat them at Elland Road. They managed to get back on top and went into the final game of the season, away at Birmingham City, with every chance of taking the title. It only took four minutes for them to concede and they went further behind in the second half, conceding a further two goals. With 15 minutes to go, they began a fight back and Jack equalised with 4 minutes left to play, but were unable to go on and get the winner they needed and so Man Utd lifted the league on goal difference. Jack thinks that this was the game that gave them a reputation for choking that they gained at this time.

The FA Cup saw the two clubs face off in the semi final at Hillsborough, a bad-tempered 0-0 with Jack having a number of clashes with someone he considered a good friend away from the pitch, Denis Law. The replay saw Leeds triumph thanks to a Billy Bremner winner. The final saw them face Liverpool, but they froze up, hanging on to reach extra time with the score 0-0. Three minutes into extra time, Roger Hunt gave Liverpool the lead, but Leeds managed to hit back, when Jack charging upfield headed a Norman Hunter lob down to Bremner for him to volley home an equaliser. They were not able to hold on and with 9 minutes left to play, Ian St John met an Ian Callghan cross to win it for Liverpool and leave Leeds empty handed after a promising season.

Another promising season followed as Leeds embarked on their first ever European campaign and still managed to finish second in the league, despite the extra games, this time behind Liverpool. The first game was an Inter Cities Fairs Cup game against Torino, in Turin, Jack recalls, "I remember it very vividly - Bobby was lying there, the referee wanted to move him off the park, and the Torino players were trying to bundle him off. I wouldn't let them move him; I knew if Bobby Collins wouldn't get up he must have something broken. I stood over him, whacking one Italian and punching another to keep them back, until, eventually the referee realised that Bobby must be seriously hurt and called for a stretcher. We won the game 1-0 but Bobby was never the same player for Leeds again."

They reached the third round and faced Valencia, in a game that was even more eventful, as the first leg at Elland Road saw Jack embroiled in controversy. After going up for a corner, the ball was cleared and Vidagny kicked Jack across the ankles, causing him to stumble and fall. Seeing red, Jack got up to chase him. Vidagny ran and hid behind the net while some of his Valencia team-mates blocked Jack from gettting to him. As Jack tried to force his way through, the Spaniard's goalkeeper punched him in the mouth. Jack turned on the keeper instead, who backed away kicking at him to keep him back just long enough for a policeman to bring Jack down.

The referee, a Dutchman called Leo Horn, called a halt to the game and took all the players off the pitch. Horn went into the dressing room and told Jack not to bother coming back out when play resumed, as his game had ended. Vidagny also never reappeared when the game restarted. Jack and Leeds were slaughtered by the press afterward and the FA launched an inquiry. Don Revie spoke in defence of Jack, telling the panel that Jack had been provoked by the constant kicking he received. Surprisingly ref Leo Horn took some of the blame after admitting he saw Vidagny kick Jack but failed to act. Jack was handed a £20 fine. Leeds reached the semi-finals but lost a replay to Real Zaragoza.

1966/67 was a frustrating season for Leeds, who finished 4th in the league, and went out in the FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea, a game Jack missed through injury. On a personal note though, Charlton was voted the Footballer of the Year, a year after little brother Bobby had picked up the award. The awards dinner led to a lucrative career in after dinner speaking, thanks to some advice from cricketer Fred Trueman on charges. Normally footballers just gave a short speech saying thanks, something Jack had also intended to do, after being notified in advance that he had won it. However driving down to London with an ex-rugby player named Dave Croft: "On the way down," according to Jack's account, "we came to a place where the road was up on one side, and there was single lane traffic controlled by traffic lights for about two hundred yards. We were at the head of the queue, and, when the lights changed to green, we started driving through, but suddenly a guy on a moped appeared coming in the other direction. Dave had to slam on his brakes, and the other guy fell off his moped. Dave was very angry. He rolled down the window and shouted, 'what the hell are you coming through for? Didn't you see those lights were red?' 'Yes,' said the other guy, picking up his bike, 'I did see the lights were red, but I chose to disregard them.' I just collapsed laughing....When the time came to speak, I didn't read the notes, I just started telling them about the guy on the moped. They all seemed to enjoy that, so then I told them some other stories. Apparently I spoke for 15 minutes or so, and it went down extremely well. No other footballer had ever made a proper speech, apart from the usual thank yous. I got a standing ovation at the end."

They did reach the final of the Fairs Cup, which was played at the beginning of the following season, enabling Jack to return from injury to take part in. They faced Dinamo Zagreb over two legs, losing the first 2-0 and being held to a 0-0 at Elland Road, with one effort cleared off the line and a goal scored by Charlton disallowed.

The following season also saw Leeds lose in the FA Cup semis, this time to Everton, but they finally picked up a cup with a 1-0 win over Arsenal in the League Cup final in March. That month also saw Jack break the league appearances record for Leeds, which had previously been held by Ernie Hart, with his 447th league match against Newcastle United. The game ended in a 1-1 draw. At the beginning of the following season they went one better in the Fairs Cup and became the first British side to win it by beating Ferencvaros 1-0 on aggregate over the two legs. Finally their chokers label was beginning to be lost.

It was the 1968/69 season that they truly cast the label aside. Leeds lost just 2 league matches all season and clinched the title with a 0-0 draw at Anfield in April. Jack said: "you've got to remember that Liverpool were THE big team of the time, and they were pressing us hard in the championship even though we had built up a record number of points. The atmosphere in the crowd was incredible, and we were still out on the field enjoying the cheers twenty minutes after the end of the game. I have to admit it surprised me that Liverpool fans reacted the way they did that night; I hadn't expected them to be so generous. They called me 'Dirty Big Giraffe' - but it was affectionate, and Anfield became my favourite away ground after that. Shanks came into the dressing room to congratulate us afterwards. 'You're worthy champions,' he said generously. 'If it wasn't going to be us, you're the next best.'"

"I've seen them on television on a Sunday morning most days of the week." - Jack Charlton

With a World Cup in Mexico to follow, it was a foreshortened season, which made it difficult for Leeds who were entering their first ever European Cup campaign, knowing that the season was to end 3 weeks early to allow the England team to acclimatise at altitude. A 2-1 win over Manchester City, with Charlton scoring the winning goal, gave Leeds the first trophy of the season, the Charity Shield. A month after that victory over one half of Manchester, a game against the red side gave Jack a personal landmark of 500 league appearances.

Don Revie was looking to play a more progressive and open style of play, which led to their first two European Cup games to end in a 10-0 and 6-0 victory over Lyn Oslo. However a toll was taken by having to play lots of games in a shortened season, as the club progressed in the FA Cup and European Cup games were coming thick and fast. There were 3 hard fought, gruelling battles with Man Utd in the FA Cup semis, which Bremner eventually won for them, which left them playing 8 games in 15 days! The title was conceded to Everton while they played Celtic in the European Cup semi-final first leg. The FA Cup final ended 2-2 following extra time, requiring a replay. They lost the second leg of the European Cup to Celtic, so the FA Cup was all they had left to play for.

The final replay was played at Old Trafford at the end of April, Chelsea the opponents, the score at 1-0 to Leeds when there was a moment that Charlton blames himself for. Jack was up for a corner when a Chelsea player whacked him in the thigh with his knee. Jack, as so often happened with him, saw red and chased him over to the right, hobbling because of his thigh. Chelsea knocked the ball forward long and Jack, realising he needed to get back, started trying to recover his position, but was too slow to get back and Peter Osgood nodded home. The game went into extra time where a goal from Dave Webb gave the Londoners the lead, the first time they had been in front in 224 minutes of football, but it was enough to win them the cup. Jack was distraught and stormed off to sit in the dressing room (and sulk). He sat there for ages before the rest of the players began to wander in with their losers' medals. It was only then that he realised he had not collected his own medal and he was never sure what happened to it, or if he ever got it.

1970/71 saw Leeds gain a 7 point lead in the league, only to lose it to Arsenal, in their league and cup double season. With Jack now 36, Revie looked to replace him for the next season, bringing in Roy Ellam from Huddersfield Town, but Charlton was not an easy man to dislodge from the team. That 1971/72 season saw Jack and Leeds complete major milestones. A week after Leeds beat Southampton 7-0 with seven different goalscorers, including Jack, he played Coventry City, scored the only goal and made league appearance 600. Leeds itself finally got the FA Cup, winning the Centenary final versus Arsenal 1-0.

The final league game was just two days later, on Charlton's 37th birthday, with Leeds only needing a draw for the title. There were two other teams in contention for the league title, Liverpool, who faced Arsenal on the same night, and Brian Clough's Derby County, who had already finished their season. In those days the league had not set up to play all the games on the final day on the same date and time to reduce the chances for match fixing. Leeds were upset at being forced to play so soon after the cup final, not giving them any time to celebrate or rest. They faced Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux, going behind just before half-time, Wolves extended their lead in second half. Bremner pulled one back but, despite pushing hard for the equaliser, Leeds were unable to equalise. With Liverpool failing to beat Arsenal, Derby were champions, with Leeds once again runners up.

During the summer, Revie once more brought in a centre half, this time Gordon McQueen, with the intention of, as he explained it to Charlton, using him to replace Jack in the first team from time to time as "the problem with you," Don told Jack, "is that you can now only motivate yourself for the big games." Charlton realised that Revie was right and, though he fought for his place, realised his days were coming to an end. He was coming up to his 38th birthday and then a hamstring injury ruled him out of the end of the season, which made his decision for him. Jack told Revie he wanted to retire, Revie responded by offering him a new two year deal, but Jack turned it down.


Legends of the Game Part 5: Jack Charlton, Irish Saviour?
Legends of the Game Part 5: Jack Charlton, Irish Saviour? page 2

Written by Ed001 - August 23 2018 11:48:54