The grandchildren of World Cup winner Jack Charlton paid tribute to “a proud Englishman, a proud Northerner and a proud honorary Irishman” at his funeral.
Before the private family service, there were notable scenes in his hometown of Ashington, Northumberland, where thousands of people lined the streets to pay their respects.
Charlton and his brother Bobby honed their skills in the old mining community years before winning the World Cup for England, spending many hours in the alley behind Beatrice Street.
The family said Bobby was not well enough to attend the service at Newcastle Crematorium.
Charlton’s coffin was draped in scarves from England, Ireland, Leeds and Newcastle United.
In their tribute, his grandchildren Emma, Kate and Tom Wilkinson said: “The footballer, friend, father we all knew was forged in Ashington, during a happy childhood with the parents and the three brothers he has always loved.
“As they spent hours kicking the ball around Hirst Park, Grandpa could never have imagined how remarkable his life was going to be.”
They spoke about his record-breaking career with Leeds United which coincided with the West Yorkshire side’s most successful years.
The grandchildren said he never expected to be called up for England. He was almost 30 when he won his first cap.
Their eulogy continues: “And on that famous day in July 1966, as the final whistle sounded over the most historic moment in English football, he fell to his knees, his head in his hands. Many often wondered what he was thinking – was it pure joy, was it the gravity of accomplishment? Was it a relief that a nation’s hopes had come true? Well he always told us he was just bloody.
Charlton turned to management, ultimately sealing his reputation with huge success as boss of the Republic of Ireland.
His grandchildren said: “Ireland was a great choice for Grandpa – the people, the ‘craic’, salmon fishing, Guinness and a little football.
“We were overwhelmed by the kind messages from Ireland. The one who really stood out said that grandfather “made politics almost impossible and transcended. Some called him the English Irishman, but why refer to the divisions and mountains above which he so graciously soared? Simply, he was both a man and a man.
They added: “His achievements in England and Ireland have earned him great recognition, but he has always had his feet on the ground. In fact, he found the fame of an endearing novel and he would have been truly blown away by all the beautiful things people have said about him over the past week.
“He was rightly proud of all of his footballing accomplishments and they helped shape who he was, but they are just parts of a life full of love, generosity and laughter.”
The family said they were touched by the many messages they had received from fans, saying: “It’s clear that the many fleeting moments of kindness he has shown to strangers have had a lasting impact, and we are extremely proud to be able to say the man everyone has met is the man we know. A man who has found the balance so perfectly between the football icon, fan favorite and loving family man.
After the service, the family added, “We would like to thank the people who have moved through the streets of Ashington. We were all overwhelmed and he would have been delighted by the outpouring of kindness.
Charlton passed away this month at the age of 85.