Finding Jack Charlton shows why he was loved in England and Ireland

Loved in England and adored in Ireland… poignant new film on Jack Charlton shows why the Three Lions World Cup winner from 1966 was the people’s champion

  • Enthralling new 90 minute film stories life of Jack Charlton behind the scenes
  • Footage captures his best moments throughout career as player and manager
  • The film stories his relationship with England team-mate and brother Sir Bobby 
  • It also takes a behind the scenes look at Charlton in his latter years at home
  • • Charlton passed away following a battle with lymphoma and dementia in July 

Jack Charlton stands in the hallway of his Northumberland home, his gaze fixed on a painting in front of him. It is the Boys of ’66 in their most glorious hour. Jack next to Nobby Stiles, how poignant that now feels. Bobby Moore trophy in hand.

His wife, Pat, is a few yards away, watching over the man she married more than 60 years earlier.

‘He’s not the same Jack,’ she says. ‘Now and again you see bits of him. It’s just that his memory is not there. It’s a shame, because he’s had some good memories. That’s the condition. It’s dementia.’

A new 90-film goes behind the scenes with Jack Charlton looking back at his wonderful career

Charlton, who suffered from dementia in his latter years before his sad passing in July, is reminded of his former glories by his loving wife Pat during the film

During 90 minutes plus injury-time of the enthralling new film Finding Jack Charlton, those memories are brought back to life. New ones, too, unseen and untold.

It is beautiful and it is brilliant because Jack Charlton – who died in July aged 85 – lived a life worth capturing. He is funny – can be ferocious – and is never anything but fanatical about the sport of which he was a world champion. But Jack the people’s champion is the real story.

When his Republic of Ireland side returned from World Cup Italia ’90 after defeat to the hosts in the quarter-final, tens of thousands of supporters gathered outside Dublin’s City Hall. ‘We want Jack, we want Jack,’ they chorused.

Nearly thirty years on, and sitting in their living room sifting through a treasure trove of letters from the Emerald Isle, Pat turns to Jack and says: ‘They think a lot of you in Ireland, don’t they?’

‘I’ve no idea,’ he replies. The evidence within this motion picture is indisputable. They loved him.

Charlton was loved by many within the game including in the Republic of Ireland after a successful spell managing the nation’s team between 1986 and 1996

Later, Jack sits at his kitchen table, watching on a laptop footage to be used in the film. It takes him back to that World Cup and a short-sleeved summer’s night in Rome after the 1-0 loss to Italy. Jack and his players are back at their hotel, the evening caught on video camera.

They sit on the terrace as song fills the night air. Striker Niall Quinn, eyes closed, leads them in the gentle sound of Irish folk. A sorrowful-looking Ray Houghton takes comfort in a pint of Guinness. Mick McCarthy larks about in a water fountain.

Chris de Burgh, the singer-songwriter, is among the party. He has his own version of Hey Jude. All present, be it players, staff, family or friends, they know where it’s going. ’Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah… Hey Jack!’.

Finding Jack Charlton will be available from November 23 on DVD and digital download

And then it’s Jack’s turn. Beer in hand. Standing tall. Silence at his feet.

‘Ohhhh me lads, you should have seen us gannin…’ and so he begins that unmistakable Geordie ballad, the Blaydon Races, forever proud of his North-East roots. Forever a showman, too.

Even amid the contemporary footage, there is a glint in his eye when the cameras are rolling. ‘Get your hat and coat on,’ Pat says. ‘The kids want to go and see the ducks.’ Jack flicks his eyebrows down the lens, a sliver of mischief pushing back the boundaries of his illness. There is another moment of jest as he signs a famous picture of himself in his Leeds kit puffing on a cigarette. Pat comments, ‘He tells me he doesn’t smoke’. ‘Ah shut up,’ he cracks.

For co-director Gabriel Clarke, it was an uplifting sight.

‘It was a privilege to be around Jack,’ he says. ‘We had to be sensitive, and we knew we could not interview him.

‘But I always felt that we were filming with him aware of the camera. He was there. He engaged with the camera, which he always did at his very best. He was a wonderful performer, so naturally gifted.’

He was a member of England’s World Cup winning squad from 1966 (back row, fourth right)

Making a sliding tackle he played in the 4-2 win in the final against West Germany at Wembley

Flanked by Bobby Moore, Charlton is pictured holding the famous Jules Rimet trophy

It was that jocularity which made Charlton both so endearing and entertaining. During one after-dinner speech in Ireland, he asks of his audience: ‘What is the greatest goal Bobby Charlton ever scored for England? Yes, Mexico, 1966, a 35-yard flier.’ With that, Jack whips his arm through the air. Whoosh. ‘But what you don’t remember about that goal was… I gave him the ball.’

And what of Jack and Bobby? Blood brothers but cut from very different cloths. In the end, their relationship was torn, never to be healed. Sunday brought the sad news that Bobby, too, is suffering from dementia.

‘Their relationship was obviously sensitive and I knew that from the archive footage,’ says Clarke. ‘But you can’t do a film without it. The family were able to talk about it in a way which showed there was clear regret. John, Jack’s son, said they would like a happy ending but these were two men who had said things they maybe shouldn’t have. Sadly, that never came.’

In one of those archived interviews, Jack says: ‘Suddenly Bobby just stopped going home. And I don’t know why. I couldn’t understand.’

Jack, two years older, once said of their childhood: ‘I could have done more things without him than I could have done with him. I liked the sea, the countryside. Bobby didn’t.’

Pictured with his brother Sir Bobby (right), whom Charlton endured a rocky relationship with

The pair (Jack on the right) battle for the ball in a clash between Leeds and Sir Bobby’s Manchester United in 1969

One scene captures that disparity of personality, albeit with magnificent innocence. It is December, 1973 and Jack is manager of Middlesbrough and Bobby the boss of Preston. They are outside of Ayresome Park after their fixture is postponed because of snow. Jack leans into the boot of his car and retrieves some gifts for Bobby – a pheasant and a hare.

‘Got a license for that?’ cautions Bobby.

‘Course I have,’ Jack shoots back, before advising his brother, ‘Leave them hanging for a week.’

Much like a football match in full flow, end-to-end and full of drama, Finding Jack Charlton swings from the sadness of dementia and his rift with his brother to the ebullience and joy of his 10 years in charge of Ireland, a period around which the film is framed.

His Irish adventure began with resistance to an Englishman and ended in worship of a man they adopted as one of their own. It had taken in one European Championship and two World Cups, including famous victories over England at Euro 88 and Italy at USA ’94.

Charlton made history after guiding Rep of Ireland to the World Cup for the first time in 1990

He remained in charge four years later when he took his team to another World Cup in the USA

But the retelling of that story raises a valid question – was Charlton, the manager, a pioneer of the modern-day press? His former player Quinn thinks so. ‘It’s hard for purists to accept that Jack was ahead of his time on this, but today’s way of playing, certainly without the ball, is exactly how he wanted us to play.’

Charlton’s take? ‘It worked like a charm – we beat Brazil!’

His family shared with the filmmakers hundreds of notes scribbled on scraps of paper from throughout his life. Clarke says: ‘They were a window into Jack’s soul, his mind and his thought-process.’

On one of them he has sketched a penalty box. ‘BIG LADS’ he has capped beneath arrows to the far post, and you can almost hear his broad Ashington twang relaying the instruction.

How ironic, then, that it was a little lad, midfielder Houghton, who scored those winning goals against England and Italy.

After that victory over England in Stuttgart, Charlton and his opposite number Bobby Robson, another son of the North-East, are off-camera before their post-match interview.

Charlton shakes hands with England boss Sir Bobby Robson after a 1-1 draw at Italia ’90

‘Hard luck,’ says Charlton, and he genuinely means it.

‘Don’t worry about that,’ says Robson. ‘You’ve won fella. That’s all you’ve got to be concerned about.’

It is a tender moment among many in a film that will make you laugh and cry. But dementia does not define Charlton, not when you see him making his grandchildren laugh by twisting one of his blue velvet England caps to a wonky angle atop his head.

But Clarke’s favourite moment is taken from a TV documentary Jack made about mining in his hometown.

‘I see the lads who go to the club,’ begins Charlton, ‘and I think, “Would this do for me?”. No, I couldn’t just go to the pit, go to the club and have a whippet. I’d need something more.’

Watch Finding Jack Charlton, and you’ll discover a life with a whole lot more.

***Finding Jack Charlton is out on DVD & digital download from 23rd November***

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