A ‘sporting icon’ and ‘father figure’
‘Big Jack’ left ‘legacy of outstanding leadership’ says President Higgins
Current Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny paid tribute to Jack Charlton yesterday, saying that the late 85-year-old “showed us how a successful Irish football team can lift and inspire the nation”.
It was a mark of the esteem in which Charlton is held both in Ireland and in England that tributes flooded in from all sectors of society for the man who guided Ireland to Euro 88 and the 1990 and 1994 World Cups.
Kenny and his coaching team are currently preparing for Ireland’s Uefa Nations League campaign which starts in September and goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly – who won his first cap under Charlton and was part of the 1994 Worlrd Cup squad – also spoke of the impact the former manager had.
“When he walked into a room, you waited to see what he was about to say. There was always a nugget in there when he spoke and always something worth listening to, no matter what the subject,” Kelly said.
On Saturday, former Ireland defender Paul McGrath said the 85-year-old “became a father figure to me”.
McGrath played an integral role in Ireland’s three major tournaments under Charlton Euro 88 and the 1990 and 1994 World Cups – and his performance in the 1-0 win over Italy in 1994 is regarded as one of the greatest any Irish team has ever seen.
“Today, I am truly heartbroken at Jack’s passing,” McGrath said in a statement released through the FAI.
“It is difficult for me to articulate what Jack meant to me both on and off the football field. Throughout his 10 years as manager of our international team, Jack backed me as a footballer and as a person – he became a father figure to me.
“He gave me his full support when I needed it most and for which I am forever grateful. He has been a hugely important person in my life.
“The Irish people warmed to him because of his big character and he gave us the belief in ourselves to compete in the big tournaments. I am very honoured to have been a part of Jack’s journey.
“Today is a sad day for the Irish football community and we all owe him a huge gratitude for the joy and memories he has given us. He is a man I genuinely loved. My thoughts today are with Pat and the Charlton family. “Thank you Jack – sleep well.”
Tributes poured in for the 1966 World Cup winner with former Ireland midfielder Ray Houghton saying that Charlton “changed everything about Irish football”.
Mick McCarthy was appointed Ireland captain by Charlton and went on to succeed the former defender as manager of the national side in 1996.
“It’s a real shock that he’s passed away and I’m very, very sad,” McCarthy said.
“It was the happiest time of my career, he made it simple for me and I’ll always remember him for that. I wasn’t the best player in that team, nowhere near. But he saw something in me and I’ll never forget him for that.”
Taoiseach Micheál Martin described Charlton as an “iconic figure” in both England and Ireland while President Michael D Higgins said Charlton “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.”