“He was a Loiner adopted beyond a shadow of a doubt; the impact he has left on all of us as Leeds United fans has made him one of us. He will always be one of us, ”said Scowen Sykes, as bouquets of flowers piled up behind him, a few meters from the memorials erected for Norman Hunter, his long-time center back who died in April.
Beyond West Yorkshire, Charlton would reach greatness on the world stage, winning the World Cup with England in 1966 as half of Britain’s largest pair of sports siblings, the other being his younger brother Bobby.
Far away adopted, Charlton would also achieve the equally rare feat of becoming an honorary Irishman by reinventing the Republic of Ireland as a crazy football nation and guiding them to the quarterfinals of the World Cup at Italia 90.
The news of his death from a long-term illness drew tributes from the entire football family. His English teammate Sir Geoff Hurst, who had a hat-trick in the 4-2 victory over Germany in the 1966 World Cup final, lamented that the national match had “lost one of the greatest”.
Another English attacker, Gary Lineker, said he was “saddened” by the death of Charlton, who was diagnosed with lymphoma last year. The current England football team has announced that it is devastated by the news. Their words followed a statement by Charlton’s family released on Saturday morning that the footballer had died peacefully in Northumberland with relatives by his side. “We cannot express how proud we are of the extraordinary life he has led and the pleasure he has brought to so many people in different countries and from all walks of life,” he said.
The statement also inspired a steady stream of football fans to congregate outside Elland Road, most of them eager to praise a player who has spent his entire 21-year career playing Leeds United and made a joint club record of 773 appearances before retiring in 1973.
Barry Winter, whose father was born in the same coal village as Charlton – Ashington in Northumberland, was among those who paid tribute to them.
“It is a dark day for English football, but especially for Leeds United and this city. The word “legend” is overused in sport but Big Jack, there is no better word to describe it. He was a nice giant who gave everything he had for this club and this city, ”added Winter, against a soundtrack of horns from passing cars.
Nearby was Linda Thompson who met Charlton, member of the club’s most successful era under the direction of Don Revie, on several occasions. “You would be hard pressed to meet a kinder and more humble human being. He was a superstar around Leeds – few people who are not from this city love Loiners like Jack. Leeds will never forget it. ”
Although Charlton also led Sheffield on Wednesday, Middlesbrough and Newcastle, it is his fate as head of the Republic of Ireland that he will remember most.
The Football Association of Ireland described him as a man who “changed Irish football forever”.
After leading the country to two World Cups and a European Championship, his team’s victory over Italy in New York at the 1994 World Cup remains revered by supporters.
The team’s trip to the Vatican was also legendary shortly before playing against Italy in 1990. During the meeting, Pope John Paul II, formerly a goalkeeper in Poland, discussed the position with Irish goalkeeper Packie Bonner. In the match against Italy, Bonner made the mistake that sent them home.
Charlton’s response provides a glimpse of the spirit and warmth recalled by many. Hiding his overwhelming disappointment, Charlton congratulated his players before turning to Bonner and saying, “By the way, f ****** Pope would have saved that! ”
Yet among all the tributes, it may have been the presence of a supporter of Manchester United – Leeds United’s fiercest rivals – outside Elland Road on Saturday afternoon that summed up the wide appeal from Charlton.
“I always felt it was fair to come and pay tribute because of what he had done for the match. He and his brother, two guys from the North who won the World Cup together, “said Jim Bates, as the retirees and the kids arrived behind him to pay tribute to them.
Bates added, “It’s incredible and it’s unheard of. An immense respect for man. “