The legendary Englishman, who captured the hearts of every Irish man, woman and child during the early 1990s, talks to Dara Martin and Fearghal Kerin about his love of football and the successes he has enjoyed to date.
We found the former Republic of Ireland manager in good form, on the eve of the launch of his new DVD, Italia 90 Revisited with Jack Charlton. He reminised about the highlights of his career as both a player and a manager, which included being part of the 1966 World Cup winning English team, as well as winning the League Championship and the FA Cup as a player with Leeds in their better days.
Of course the high point of his managerial career with Ireland was guiding them to the quarter finals of the World Cup against Italy in Rome during the summer of 1990. An unforgettable occasion for thousands of Irish people, the success of Charlton’s team in Italia 90 seemed to raise the spirits of the country during a time of economic difficulty, before the Celtic Tiger had kicked in.
Charlton himself comes from one of football’s most famous families, and to this day speaks fondly of his days growing up alongside his younger brother, the legendary Sir Bobby. “I used to beat him at headers because I was that much bigger than him, but when we put the ball on the ground he was a different class to me.” Both went on to play in the victory over West Germany at Wembley in the final of the 1966 World Cup.
When asked for his thoughts on the current Ireland team and their quest for qualification at the upcoming World Cup in South Africa, Charlton appears optimistic. “As long as Italy continues to win, I think we have a good opportunity to finish second in the group.” He singles out Ireland’s games against Bulgaria as being the key to our progression to the finals.
Big Jack also likes what he has seen so far from Giovanni Trapattoni. However, he urges the media to hold back in their critique until we see what he is capable of. “I hope he is given the opportunity to do what he wants to do,” hinting that he feels Trapatoni’s predecessor, Steve Staunton, was somewhat undermined by media pressure.
He dismisses the notion that Ireland should have won more comfortably in their recent game with minnows Cyprus, “1-0. What more do you want? A win is a win.” Charlton feels that certain members of the press haven’t earned the right to criticise Ireland managers in the way that they have done.
Although he did not mention any names, it easy to speculate that he is indeed referring to a certain RTÉ Sport pundit, when he says “It’s the guy that’s saying ‘he should of played the other player’ – what do you want to ask him for? He’s never bloody done anything in his life as far as football was concerned. He was a player who had nothing to do and I’m not going to mention his name, I don’t want to know the bugger”.
Charlton speaks highly of the majority of those he coached with Ireland at international level. Although Staunton’s tenure as Ireland manager may have came too soon, Charlton doesn’t rule out managerial success for Stan in the future, “He’s a bright lad, he knows the game. When Trapatoni goes, maybe he will have the experience and come back into the game.”
Many of the players who benefitted from the wisdom and guidance of Ireland’s most successful coach remain in the game today, whether in punditry or as managers; Roy Keane, Mick McCarthy and Dave O’Leary to name but a few.
Keane, a man who went on to captain Ireland under Charlton’s successor Mick McCarthy, was scathing in his assessment of Charlton in his book after the 2002 World Cup, and equally Charlton criticised Keane’s actions that led to his dismissal from the pre-tournament training camp.
Charlton is dismissive of Keane’s achievements to date at Sunderland, “The money he’s been given helps. I haven’t seen Roy since he took over at Sunderland. I don’t get on with Roy anyway so I don’t know much about him.”
Another player to incur the World Cup winner’s ire is Stephen Ireland, who has made himself unavailable for selection for the national team. Charlton reveals if he were the manager, Ireland would not be part of his plans, “I wouldn’t invite him in any way, shape or form. You can’t depend on him, no matter how good he is. Maybe if he phoned me up and apologised I might take him back, but if he doesn’t do that in the next six months I would say ‘fuck off’. I never heard any player say what he said, that he didn’t want to play for Ireland.”
With Charlton, you get the impression that he doesn’t keep too close an eye on the modern game, though it is clear he keeps in touch with his beloved national team. These days, he is more interested in fly fishing in Mayo than the rough and tumble of the modern dressing room.
Jack Charlton’s DVD, Italia 90 Revisited with Jack Charlton, is available now.