He was actually born a second time when he survived a plane crash on a layover in Munich on February 6, 1958, when Manchester United were returning from a Champions Cup match in Belgrade against Red Star.
He was one of the few left from the famous hatchery of trainer Matt Busby called The Busby Babies, which was starting to conquer Europe. Perhaps as fate would have it, it was Charlton who, after the demise of most of the team, moved from the wing to midfield and became a playmaker, spreading his legacy and filling it with glory.
On the club field, but also on the national team.
In 1969, the late British Queen Elizabeth II. she pinned the state’s highest decoration, the Order of the British Empire, to her chest, four years later she added another cross with a ribbon to her neck.
He became a noble, a lord, a sir. However, he remained a normal person, the son of a miner who did not exalt himself above anyone.
The biggest club in the world
It was a very rare visit in the spring of 1990. Not only football, but also social, literally classy. After the fall of the totalitarian communist regime and political changes, Czechoslovakia breathed in a free atmosphere and became interested in the democratic world. The football federation, under the leadership of Václav Jíra, an official of the European format, won a lucrative opponent – England – for the preparatory match before the World Cup in Italy.
And as the ambassador of the national team of the country that invented football, the most rare person arrived – Sir Robert Charlton, the 1966 world champion.
The editors of the weekly Gól took advantage of his presence, the English lord did not refuse the request for a unique interview – it lasted almost two hours. The first question was intended to create a friendly atmosphere, targeting his beloved club Manchester United, which he was an ornament for twenty years and achieved the greatest success with.
Only with a hint of flattery to the rare guest came the description that it is one of the biggest clubs in the world. “The greatest ever!” the club legend dismissed any doubt that the subject could be discussed. “The greatest ever!” repeated Charlton categorically.
It wasn’t about being cocky. “Only about the relationship with the club, which opened the world of football to him,” recalls Jan Tauber, a great expert on British football, who conducted the interview. “Charlton was a noble person of mining origin, who didn’t play around, but was proud of what he had achieved,” the Czech counterpart recalled, that the interviewee came from a mining town in the northeastern part of England.
About two hours – minutes were not exactly counted – passed in a very nice atmosphere. “One of my greatest experiences,” admits Tauber, who has interviewed many other British footballers.
There was no doubt that Manchester United was the biggest football club in the world. His legend, who has a statue in front of the Old Trafford stadium, did not allow such filth.
Kufr and liberals
The fact that the English football ambassador’s suitcase did not arrive at the airport in Ruzyna could disturb the pleasant meeting. “He was kind of pissed off about it,” recalls Tauber. “It does happen, and he himself admitted that he had also encountered it before, but he was understandably not happy about it,” he adds.
However, his personal belongings appeared in the Palace Hotel in the center of Prague, where he was staying, during an interview with the Gól weekly. “He was visibly upset,” recalls Tauber. The atmosphere immediately became friendlier.
The rare guest also complied with the requests of other media representatives, a press conference was held with him at the hotel. His observations on the ambitions of the English team, which subsequently defeated the Czechoslovak team 4:2 in the preparatory match in April in London and eventually finished fourth at the Italian championship, were apt and quite critical.
Although such stars as Gary Lineker, Paul Gasciogne, Peter Shilton, Bryan Robson, David Platt and Chris Waddle shone in coach Bobby Robson’s staff, he did not trust him much. He discovered the root cause: a smart stopper to direct the defense. As the German world champions had Klaus Augenthaler, the Czechoslovak team of Ján Kocián (Jozef Chovanec and Miroslav Kadlec were also ready to take over the role), the English defensive brain did not run around with a constructive transition to the offensive on the turf.
The English lord put it clearly: “We have a problem with the pound!” But the interpreter, who had no knowledge of football, did not know the term. She helped herself: “England is in trouble with the Liberals!” The subsequent apology that she worked for the Czechoslovak embassy in London was accepted…
On the other side
Unlike his brother Jackie, two years older, also the 1966 world champion, who as a coach led the Irish national team to their first participation in the European (1988) and World (1990) championships and became a recognized great in this field, his more famous brother in an attempt to sit down he actually burned on the bench.
He tried as a player-coach in a late-career stint at Preston North End as well as an exotic stint in Australia, but failed. Cult gunner Gary Lineker called him the best English footballer in history, but he tactfully kept quiet about the coaching career.
“He didn’t have the character for it,” says Czech expert Tauber. “Not all great players are good coaches,” he points out, an experience that many have gone through. “He was an excellent official, completely devoted to his Manchester until 2020, when advancing Alzheimer’s disease prevented him from further activity,” he points out, noting that he has since completely withdrawn from public life.
However, he was close to football, for the 1992 European Championship in Sweden he took advantage of the offer of British television to co-comment the tournament. He sat down at the counter, surrounded by other greats such as former Swedish goalkeeper Ronnie Hellström, German decathlete Hans-Peter Briegel, Danish midfielder Sören Lerby.
However, he was not very happy with his team, which was led by Graham Taylor. He finished last in Group A, the future champions Danes, the home team Swedes and the French swung over him. Two points for two goalless draws (Denmark and France) was a pathetic result. “In Mr. Taylor’s presentation, it was not football, but fightball,” he said by confusing the word “foot” with “fight” and aptly expressed the English tactic, which did not lead to success.
Robert „Bobby“ Charlton (11. 10. 1937, Ashington – 21.10. 2023, Manchester)
Manchester United (1953-1973), Preston North End (1973-1975), Waterford FC/Ireland (1976), Newcastle KB United/Australia (1978), Perth Azzurri /Australia (1980), Blacktown City /Australia (1980)
England national team: 1958-1970 (106/49)
Achievements: European Ballon d’Or 1966, runner-up 1967 and 1968, world champion 1966, European Championship bronze 1968, Champions Cup winner 1967/1968, three-time English league champion 1956/1957, 1964/1965, 1966/1967, FA Cup winner 1963
Preston North End (1973-1975), Wigan Athletic – asistent (1983)
Most Excellent Order of the British Empire 1969 and 1974, Knight Bachelor 1994, Order of the Rising Sun (Japan) 2012