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'A legacy of outstanding leadership': Tributes paid to Ireland legend Jack Charlton

The Englishman who guided Ireland to the quarter-finals of Italia 90 died yesterday aged 85.

File photo of Jack Charlton in a pub in Dublin in 1998.
File photo of Jack Charlton in a pub in Dublin in 1998.
Image: Rollingnews.ie

THE TAOISEACH AND the president of Ireland have led tributes this morning following the death of Jack Charlton, an “iconic figure” in Irish football.

The former Ireland manager who guided the country to Euro 88, Italia 90 and USA 94 died at the age of 85 yesterday.

Charlton had been diagnosed with lymphoma in the last year and was also battling dementia.

He spent his entire 21-year playing career at Leeds, making a joint club record 773 appearances, before retiring as a player in 1973 and going on to enjoy a successful and colourful career as a manager. 

The president of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, and his wife Sabina offered their “deepest sympathies to his family, friends and his legions of Irish fans”.

“The news of the death of Jack Charlton will have been received with great sadness by those of us who took him to their hearts as he brought Ireland to some of our most celebrated moments in Irish sporting history,” Higgins said in a statement.  

“He leaves a legacy of outstanding leadership of a group of players of many diverse talents, which he moulded into the successful team that captured the imagination of the nation.

Jack’s endearing popularity also had much to do with the warmth and personality of the person who quickly became such a legendary sporting icon.

jack-charlton-former-irish-soccer-managers File photo of Jack Charlton in 1998. Source: Rollingnews.ie

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said Charlton “came to personify a golden era in Irish football”. 

“It is with great sadness that I learned of the passing of Jack Charlton, one of the great characters of the football world,” Martin said.

“He was an iconic figure on and off the pitch, in England and Ireland.

The Italia ‘90 campaign was more than just a football tournament for us all, it was a time of unbridled joy and celebration throughout the nation.

Martin added that these moments are “embedded in a generation’s memory”. 

“We thank Jack for his honest, workmanlike and no-nonsense contribution to football and to Irish life,” he said. 

Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht, Catherine Martin, offered her sympathies for a man who “was an iconic figure in Irish life”. 

“The heady days of Italia ‘90 are a placemarker in Irish history and at the heart of it all was Jack Charlton, his natural charm and Northumberland wit instilling in so many of us an enduring affection for Irish soccer and the Boys in the Green,” she said.

“At a difficult time in the relationship between these islands, Jack Charlton – a defensive lynchpin in England’s 1966 World Cup-winning team – became known for his dedication to the development of Irish soccer and his grá and affection for Ireland.”

file-photo-next-wednesday-is-the-25th-annivesary-of-the-return-home-to-dublin-of-the-italia-90-irish-soccer-team Packie onner waving to a crowd in College Green during Ireland's homecoming from Italia 90. Source: Eamonn Farrell

The interim Footall Association of Ireland (FAI) deputy chief executive, Niall Quinn, told FAI.ie: “I’m sure I’m not the only Irish person who shed a tear or two this morning.”

“I’m devastated. I am finding it very hard to put into words what Jack meant to the whole country, not just to me and to those of us lucky enough to have played for him in an Ireland shirt.

Jack Charlton led the band. He brought us, as a players and fans, to places we never thought possible beforehand and gave us so many precious moments. He changed lives. For his players, he gave us the best days of our lives.

Team captain when Ireland reached the World Cup quarter-finals at Italia 90, Mick McCarthy, said Charlton “changed the way the country looked at Irish football”.

“I loved the bones of the man, I am devastated with this news and my heart goes out to Pat and the family,” he said.

“Jack’s passing will touch Ireland, England and the football world but the loss to football will be felt in Ireland more than anywhere else.”

One of his grandchildren, ITV reporter Emma Wilkinson, said she was “beyond sad to say goodbye”. 

“He enriched so many lives through football, friendship and family,” she said on Twitter.

He was a kind, funny and thoroughly genuine man and our family will miss him enormously.

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Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said on RTÉ Radio One this morning that he was “filled with sadness” at the news, and gave his condolences to Jack Charlton’s family and friends:

He said that Italia 90 lifted Ireland at a time “when Ireland didn’t have much to cheer about”.

Sinn Féin leader, Mary Lou McDonald, described him as “Ireland’s most beloved English man” in her tribute. 

“He kept ‘em all under pressure and kept us all cheering the boys in green on,” she said on Twitter.  

Leader of the Labour Party, Alan Kelly, said Charlton was “larger than life” and “defined sport for a generation”. 

“It is a sad start to the weekend to hear of the death of football legend Jack Charlton but over 85 years he lived a full and successful life,” Kelly said. 

“The memories of the World Cup’s in Italy, and the US, along with Euro 88 have entered our folk memory. It was a golden age for Irish football.” 

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