Football legend Jack Charlton, England World Cup winner and Irish hero, passes away

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Jack Charlton, a soccer World Cup winner with England who became the darling of Ireland after leading their national team to unprecedented success as manager, has died aged 85.

A family statement said that the former Leeds United defender, who helped England beat West Germany to become world champions in 1966, died peacefully on Friday at his home in Northumberland, northern England following a long-term illness.

“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,” it read.

A man lays flowers on the ground in memory of Jack Charlton at Leeds United Stadium Elland Road, in Leeds, Britain, on July 11, 2020. (Reuters)
A man lays flowers on the ground in memory of Jack Charlton at Leeds United Stadium Elland Road, in Leeds, Britain, on July 11, 2020. (Reuters)

Charlton led Ireland to their first major soccer finals at the 1988 European Championship and also guided them to the World Cup quarter-finals in 1990.

Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin was among the first to tweet his reaction.

“So saddened to hear of the passing of Jack Charlton who brought such honesty and joy to the football world” he said.

“He personified a golden era in Irish football - the Italia 90 campaign being one of pure joy for the nation. He gave us magical memories. Thank you Jack.”

Charlton, the elder brother of Manchester United great Bobby, was a tough tackling center back who graduated from the Leeds academy and spent his entire playing career at the club.

He helped the Yorkshire side win the second division in 1963-64 and then the top-flight title in 1968-69.

All-time great defenders

Charlton finished his career as one of the all-time great defenders, making a record 773 appearances for Leeds and scoring 96 goals. He played 35 times for England, netting six goals.

His finest moment in the national team colors came in 1966, as he helped Alf Ramsey’s England side lift the World Cup on home soil, playing every match at the tournament.

Charlton is the sixth member of England’s World Cup final team to have died after captain Bobby Moore, Martin Peters, Gordon Banks, Alan Ball and Ray Wilson.

He was named the Football Writers’ Association Player of the Year in 1967 before retiring in 1973.

As a manager he guided Middlesbrough to the second division title in 1973–74 and the Anglo-Scottish Cup in 1975–76 before spells with Sheffield Wednesday and Newcastle United.

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But it was with Ireland that Charlton, who is survived by wife Pat and their three children, achieved hero status.

“The FAI (Football Association of Ireland) is deeply saddened to learn of the death of Jack Charlton, the manager who changed Irish football forever,” the FAI said on Twitter.

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