Jack Charlton had a reputation as a fascinating character and one that will truly be missed following his tragic passing on Saturday.
Charlton came to manage the Republic of Ireland in 1986 and over the course of almost nine years, transformed the fortunes of Irish football. Before his arrival, Ireland had never qualified for a major tournament. By the time he left, the country had experienced the highs of beating England and Italy at a major tournament as well as reaching a World Cup quarter-final.
His managerial credentials were exemplary but it was Charlton’s character that attracted the Irish to him. Often portrayed, probably rightly so, as a grumpy sort of chap, Charlton was well known to have been quite a relaxed manager who built a good rapport with his players.
Following the tragic news of his passing, clips have resurfaced online of ex-players speaking about the 1967 Footballer of the Year. None portray Charlton’s unique character and amazing sense of humour more so than the story of Ireland getting knockout out of Italia 90 by the host nation, Italy.
John Aldridge begins by claiming that Charlton told the players that if they reached the quarter-final they would get to meet the Pope which duly happened.
What happened next was brilliant on so many levels as Andy Townsend explains:
“He wished us good luck for the game at the weekend against Italy, but not too much luck. He said ‘which one is the goalkeeper?’
“Pat [Bonner] put his hand up and said ‘me’, and he said ‘I’ll be keeping a special eye out for you, because when I was a young boy living in Poland, I too was a goalkeeper…’
“Jack came in and said ‘thank you for all you’ve done, you couldn’t have given me any more, I’m proud of each and every one of you, the country are so proud of what you’ve done’.
“He turned to Packie said ‘go on Packie, get in the shower’. He sort of trudged off to the shower, he’s got a fag in his hand.
“He looked at me and took a drag of his fag with a big smile on his face and he said ‘Andy, the f*****g Pope would have saved that.'”
— Irish Football Pics (@irish_pics) July 11, 2020